This is the first of a series which will be published on Mondays and Thursdays in the coming weeks.
Bryan Lane, a tall, dark-haired, bearded man reached forward with his trembling hand and touching the old, gnarled bark of an oak tree, he traced his finger around the heart engraved deeply in wood. The heart contained his name and the name of his girlfriend Abigail. As he picked up his heavy axe from the brittle ground, he could picture the moment, he and Abigail sat underneath the shade of the oak’s boughs and promised to each other that they would never be part, no matter what happened, even as age faded and their bones deteriorated and their hair grayed. His eyes watered with hot and salty tears and dipping his hand into his knapsack, he pulled out a flask and began to drink his whiskey. He took sips at first, and then gradually he chugged the burning liquid, until it was empty. Dropping his flask back in his knapsack, he placed both his hands around the coarse handle of his axe, and twisting his body sideways, standing in a batting stance, Bryan took in a deep, and long breath, uncoiled and swung his arms forward, and began to chop through the thick wood of the oak tree. He swung once. He swung twice. He swung a third time. And by the fourth try, he’d chopped so deeply into the wood that it started to break apart and crack in the middle of the giant tree. The heavy trunk slid forward and the wood snapped in half. Next, Bryan, using the axe again, began to chop away at the bottom of the heart, slicing away at the wood, one swing, two swing. Finally, after a half-hour had passed, he picked up the thick, round piece of wood and tossed it in the air, grabbing it with his strong hand. He touched the curves of the heart and traced the letters that said the name: Abigail.
He hopped into his car and drove to Arlington Cemetery. The walk to the grave was long and serpentine, the path filled with chipped stones and fallen flowers. When he reached a small, covered burial plot, he kneeled down to the ground and placed the heart-shaped piece of wood against Abigail’s gravestone. For a long moment, he could do nothing but put his face in his hands and sob violently, his whole upper body wracking with tremors and his heart beating rapidly. “I miss you dear,” he said in a quiet, imperceptible voice. And as soon as he spoke those word, the white clouds in the sky began to cluster together, and formed a bigger cloud, as rain poured down from its white puffy curls, raindrops plummeting down like tiny, heavenly elevators.
The rain plunged into the heart-shaped piece of wood and seeped around the letters of Abigail’s name. And Bryan stood up slowly to his feet and smiled gently, his eyes closing as the wind whispered into his ear: “Come back to me, Bryan.”
Andy Tran is a young professional working and living in the Washington DC metro area. His work has been featured in The Virginia. Normal, Defenestration Magazine, and Calliope, and currently at Queens Mob Teahouse. He's a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, and he has a degree in English.