Those Who Could Not Keep Faith

for Jen Dolan

Nuncio handed Hoopla a pruner’s knife, a long blade on a longer stick. “What’s this for then?” growled Hoopla, who was out of temper with the messenger’s humor, and weary with the clamor of crows and the weeping of the trees.

Nuncio grinned, all molars. “Go on, then, and take it, for it’s certain I can’t stand here forever holding it while you’re after arguing with me. Take it and dig into the flesh of one or another of these dolorous shrubs that darken a dark night. Lop a limb or two, if it’s energetic you’re feeling. A little honest toil might soothe that crabbed soldier’s soul you’re sporting.”

Hoopla swung with a will, and a shadowed branch came plunging out of the canopy to land at their feet, its end red as carnelion. “Damn you, and damn you further,” cried the tree, “what am I to you or you to me? An age and again an age has passed since my pennies bought me passage to this shore, and even here I am hounded and harassed! Has the world learned nothing? Is it not enough that these murderous birds dig and gouge for their supper? Must I be again the sport of fools?”

“Peace, brother tree,” urged Nuncio, “as it’s the shears that bring the growing.”

“Ravens take your eyes, Linnaeus; you know nothing of our horticulture! We grow no taller, bring forth no flowers, drop no seeds. Pass on, you fulminating–”

“What happened?” asked Hoopla, after a moment.

“It’s the blood, y’see,” Nuncio said. “While it runs wet and fresh, so do they.” He thumped the trunk with his stick and an aggrieved moan bruised forth. “As it dries, so do they. It’s a fine, fitting fate, for they made their best, wildest speeches in just such a way when they were nimbler creatures. Think on it, I pray; there’s meat there for the chewing.”

“Doubtless,” said Hoopla, and dropped the knife among the roots.