A tree that never yields fruit has an odd dream. He has a dream that it is spring, and instead of fruit, red stones dangle from the tree's branches and that the girls come to gather the fruit and then go.
 

Fine Art Photography Collection and 20 short stories

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It always liked the first spring rain more than any other rain in the year. The feeling of the rain drops slithering over its bole to get to the earth was so delightful to it. It wished it could stretch its arms so vastly that it could embrace the first spring rain with all its being. It was so deeply in love with rain drops that counted every one of them falling on its trunk and branches. But whenever it was bare, it was ashamed of the sky.

When it was a little sapling, it was always afraid of nights and many other things; it was afraid of passersby, children, the old, birds, wind, and torrential autumn rains. To protect it at nights, it had named the stars and called them with their first names. But whenever the sky was clear, it took refuge in the moon light. It watched every event very carefully and questioned every incident, relevant or irrelevant. Now that it has grown up, it misses all the magic, fears and terrors of those childhood days, and nothing fears it any more but forgetting all those days. 

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At first, it cherished its loneliness and silence much better than anything else and treated its guests coldly till one day, some years ago, two birds came to it in the spring. They made a nest on one of its branches and chirped all day long. One night, a strong wind broke and tousled everything. To get rid of the birds’ chatter, it didn’t resist the prevailing wind flailing its branches. The high wind lifted their nest and pounded it forcefully on the earth and killed their unborn chicks. Since then, the two birds’ songs grew desolated, and those branches never sprouted again and remained bare and withered all along the years. It’s a long time now since it hates silence…

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It woke up one early morning with a bird’s twitter that was more tuneful than that of others’. But its trill was not as cheerful as it was before. At harvest times, many birds flooded there. Many of them had flocked there to yesterday. Its trunk had grown heavier than before. There were so many birds sitting on its branches that their leaves were almost invisible, and there were so many noises that it wished it were deaf. However, everywhere had grown silent by the morning. There was no sound except the call of that bird; a call even more plangent. After singing for quite a while and afflicting the tree with deep sorrows, the bird flew away. It never saw the bird nor heard its chatter again.  

Whatever it saw had a benefit. The wheat fields bore wheat, the fruit of the tree, the sky sent rain, and the sun heat. The more it thought of itself, the more it grew disappointed: it could not conceive of any benefits of its own. This made it so downhearted that sometimes its bole grew yellow right in the middle of the summer. One summer day, two cyclists who were passing through the wheat field stopped by it. They brought a piece of rug and spread it at its feet, sat there talking and laughing. It even saw one of them crying a little and embracing the other. It watched them asking itself why they had not spread their rug at the feet of the fruit trees yonder or in the middle of the wheat field. As the sun moved above their heads, they changed their place too. Suddenly, a great pleasure flushed over it, and it grew happier than ever. It gathered all its branches together right above their heads to throw them more shadow.

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It almost knew everybody there. It even knew their names. However, nobody knew it. It couldn’t remember anybody calling it even once. The land beside it was the wheat field for many years. Whenever the landowner was there to plant wheat, he lunched at its feet. At harvest times too, the landowner gathered with his workers at its feet to rest, talk, laugh, breakfast, lunch, or drink tea in the evening. But it was two years now since the land had been left deserted. One day, however, three people came there by early noon. It suddenly saw someone that it had witnessed his growth over the years. He always accompanied his father whenever they were to attend to the wheat. Now, he had grown into a man. Those people put their stuff beside the tree, took a few papers and a measuring tape to measure the land, and left a while later. It never saw that man nor his father again. There was no sight of them the next year either when it was the time for planting wheat. Nonetheless, it saw a few strange people who came to the land to plant corn instead.  

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It felt severe pain on its bole. The sharp end of a knife was cruelly cutting into its skin. It looked down and saw a girl and a boy. The girl had leaned close over the boy’s shoulders and kissed his neck incessantly. The boy cut into its skin laughing at the girl and singing to her. After they left, the pain of those gaping wounds tortured it for weeks unabated. One winter passed and it didn’t feel any pain any more. 

Two or three years passed. The spring breeze was flapping the wheat and cooled it too. It could see a boy and a girl running amid the wheat fields singing to each other till they reached it. It remembered the boy, but the girl was not the same girl it had seen before. 

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After each winter, its branches began to shoot with the coming of spring. But some of the branches that had got frostbitten during the winter either shoot later or didn’t shoot at all and remained desiccated. It could feel the branches that would shoot later but not the ones that had gone completely crusty. The worst time of its life was when somebody mistakenly cut the branches that would shoot later and severed them from its trunk. A terrible pain took all over its body, easing soon. 

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It had seen many girls and boys coming there to make love and then leave. It had even watched the birds that came, built their nests there, made love, lived there for a while, and then left. It had also heard many love stories from people. It heartily wished to experience love too. However, it always reminded itself that all the ones who fell in love with each other were from the same stuff: people fell in love with other people, birds with other birds; there was no tree near it to fall in love with it. 

One day, it felt some kind of different warmth on its trunk. Looked down and saw a convolvulus laying its head calmly over its bole and embracing it so tightly. It looked at the convolvulus for a few more times thinking about its own huge stature, not figuring out any congruence between the plant and itself. Therefore, began treating the convolvulus as unfavorably as it could. But was deeply happy that it had finally felt the warmth of another body. Every morning, the plant left a few beautiful violet flowers on its body. But the tree never talked to her. This happened over and over again. The plant kept silent trying to reach the top of the tree. The tree told itself “I’ll wait. If it is really in love with me, it should success in getting to the top of my body, and if it is only tricking, then we’ll have nothing to do with each other. We would be just two plants beside each other, that’s all.” The tree continued to be indifferent to and heartless towards the convolvulus. When autumn came, it didn’t feel the same warmth over its body anymore. The convolvulus had reached the top of the tree but had become numb and slack. It didn’t bloom anymore and just hung loosely over there. They were the saddest fall and winter of all its life and never again did it let any other convolvulus to twine around its body.

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Winter coarsened its skin, and spring softened it. When spring came, a strange tingling feeling ran all over its body. But that was the sweetest and most joyful pain of all its life. It could remember the first winter when it was a sapling. When the autumn had come and all its leaves had fallen, it had hardly slept because it had thought it would live stripped till the end of its life. When it woke up towards the end of the winter and saw the opposite plains, a huge heartache pressed his heart till its body began to prick for the first time. It thought it was going to die. It stayed awake at night and thought that it was spending its last days tolerated the pain till the weather got warmer, and the first sprouts shoot on its body. It was such a huge joy that it has never experienced the like. And now, every winter that it experiences the same stinging pain, the sweet memory of that first winter becomes its healing remedy. 

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It felt sick and wasn’t well at all. The sun grew more wearisome and hotter day after day. The more its roots searched the depth of the earth, the less they found water and left it much thirstier. It believed that it was going to die. It had seen many hard days but had never experienced a dryer summer. It grew fainter and feebler every day. Its branches died one after another. There was no rain at all. 

The landowner of the land behind was so grouchy and waspish. He had broken its live branches that he had thought were dead many times and had set fire to them to make tea in his unsightly smoky pot under its shade. Whenever it saw him, a great hatred gripped it.

It had grown so weak that didn’t pay attention to the passersby anymore. One morning, one of its roots felt the coolness of water, and it got its vivacity right back. Its rear roots had felt the water’s coolness first. When it looked back, it saw the same grumpy man whose mere sight convulsed it. He had diverted the route of water with his shovel and had made it pass by the tree. It wished it could embrace him and tell him that it had forgiven him. Since then, whenever he broke one of its live branches falsely, it just closed its eyes, tolerated the pain and opened its eyes looking at him as if it was looking at a fool with a kind heart who just didn’t know what he was doing.

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Its loneliness had sharpened its ears. It never intended to eavesdrop, but it could hear inadvertently the words of the people who came to sit under its shadow now and then. Nobody had taught it the word “sky,” it had discovered the name itself. Nobody had ever told it about books, but whenever it saw a book in someone’s hand, it recognized it. The end of spring which was the season of students’ exams was the best time for its learning. It had even memorized multiplication table. It knew what the earth looked like and why the seasons came and went. It could say the alphabet letters in order, read them, and even write them. One of the advantages of being a shade tree was that nobody came to it for its fruits. This had helped it to get a greater understanding of life via the same guests who sat under its shadow now and then. 

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At harvest times, there was a great hustle and bustle going around it. Whenever the workers gathered under its shadow to rest, it watched them carefully, enjoying their jokes and playfulness. He had witnessed many such days and knew all the people there. However, there was a young and shyly taciturn worker among the others that year whom it saw for the first time. His appearance was much untidier and poorer in comparison with the other workers there and was continuously teased for his clumsiness. He left much later than the rest of the workers in the evenings after changing his work clothes with the clean ones, hung over one of the tree’s branches. However, one evening, he didn’t come to change his clothes, although all the workers had left. But when the night came, he appeared with a few logs. He made a little fire there, sat beside it, took a piece of paper and a pen and started writing:

I don’t want to say hello since I hate you all. When I finish a long working day wearily here, I fall to sleep the moment I lay down. There are no servants here like the ones who serve you day and night. There are no parties either like the ones you hold to flaunt your wealth. There is no one here like my uncle who calls others a bunch of schmoes and idle fools. People are equal here. No body lies to the others for financial benefits. People are much happier and more contended here than you. 

He cried calmly as he wrote.

That night passed, and the young man stayed there for many years. He even bought the land on the other side of the river and came there many times with his wife to dine under the shadow of the tree. But that night remained a secret between the tree and the man forever. 

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When the autumn wind starts blowing, it brings about bitter days. Its leaves change their colors, get lifeless, and so afflict it with a feeling of great sorrow. Even when the autumn is still not in, it knows what will happen then. It tries to be attentive to all its leaves; it talks to them, and even teases them, no matter how heavy his heart might be. It knows that when the time comes, the leaves will leave inadvertently without a last goodbye. It always takes quite a while before it can get used to the bitterness of all those unilateral sad goodbyes.

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The first thing the workers did in the mornings was put their stuff beside the tree. Some of them who had already worn their work clothes went directly to the land, and some of the others changed their clothes first. Women workers left their stuff in front of the tree and the men workers behind it. Everybody brought something with them, some a bundle, some a basket, some a sack. They usually carried a small loaf of bread for their breakfast or a little rice for their lunch in those bags. 

One day, after everybody had left their stuff beside the tree and had gone to the land, a boy quickly reached for one of those bundles. He carried a few red roses arranged in a bouquet. He put it in one of the bundles and left quickly to the land. 

The tree was curious to know whom that bundle belonged to when everybody returned. The young boy was among the workers too. A young girl picked up the bundle. She had a disheveled, sad, and distracted appearance. The sun had burnt her cheeks, and her hands had coarsened and deformed by hard work like those of men’s. No sooner had she opened the bundle and had seen the flowers than she closed it quickly. The boy was inspecting the daughter stealthily not to make her aware of his gaze. The daughter looked anxious. One could read this in her pale face. Her eyes looked both happy and perturbed. She checked the complexions one by one, but couldn’t discern anything. When it was time to leave, she, together with an old woman, joined the group of other girls and women with the men following them. 

There was a mellifluous young worker among the others who sang to them at harvest times. He sang happy songs and others kept rhythm singing with him too. But his songs had grown trite and weren’t as interesting as what they were in the first days. He had chosen sadder and more lovelorn songs lately to seem a little different. He was the only man whom the girl thought had left the flowers, but she couldn’t discern anything in his behavior. She even came two times unexpectedly to the place their bundles were to see who would leave the flowers but saw neither a man nor any flowers.

This happened some time: the boy left the flowers, and the girl saw them. She had changed into an orderly woman. She attended more to herself recently, she had even grown much happier. Everybody could hear her laughter. However, the songs of that young worker had grown more forlorn. She had made sure that she was the sweetheart of that mellifluous worker, but the man showed nothing in his behavior. 

On the last day, when the landowner came to pay the workers, he called them one by one till it was the boy’s turn. The landowner gave him not only his wage but also that of his mother and his sister. 

The women walked in front of the men while the young mellifluous worker sang merry songs.

It was the end of autumn. Days repeated themselves in an old tiring fashion. One day by noon, it saw a middle-aged man who had held one of his hands on his chest shuffling over to it. No sooner had he reached the tree and had leaned against its trunk than he collapsed on the ground. He began wailing and cursing himself because of his cruel son who annoyed him relentlessly. Suddenly, his body began to twitch severely. There was a sparkle in his eyes while he gazed at the branches above. He writhed a little, grew numb, and then stopped moving completely. 

When it was autumn, most of the shepherds directed their herd to the lands around there and as usual, a herd was approaching the tree. The sheep dispersed in the lands near, and the shepherd came to rest at the tree’s foot. When he noticed the fainted middle-aged man, he ran to him, took him in his arms, and slapped him in the face a few times, calling to him for a while. Getting no answer, he tossed the man over his shoulders and left there not heeding his herd.

A few days later, a young boy came and sat under the tree exactly at the same point that the man had collapsed. He was murmuring something inaudible. Suddenly, he burst into tears and began shouting. Apparently, he was talking about a father whom he had just lost. He kept mumbling incessantly. Sometimes, he stood leaning against the tree, sometimes he walked, and sometimes leaned one of his hands against the tree and gazed at the ground and burst into tears. 

Many years passed. One day, it saw a man who was walking to it with a small child who ran after him. It recognized the man as soon as he got to the tree. He was the same young boy who had turned into a mature man now with a son of his own. He sat there awhile. His cheeks got wet. He shed a few tears and then, took his son’s hand and left. 

It thought of them all winter long: of the middle-aged man, the young boy who had turned into a mature man, and that little son of his.

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It had flourished and had grown bigger. Now, the passersby came more readily to it and sat by its side. It didn’t have a vast shadow, but it could lodge a few ones under it. Autumn was the harvest time for the pomegranate trees behind the river. Fruit pickers put the picked ones in wooden boxes and carried them by the road beside the river. It watched this scene each autumn and thought of its own barrenness all along. One winter when it was asleep, it dreamt of something strange:

It had changed into an oak tree somewhere like a hillside, among similar trees. There were no wheat fields around. It was completely green as if it was early spring. It had borne some stony red fruits which were hanging loosely from its branches with long strings. There were many red stones at its feet too. Sometimes, it saw some mirrors beneath it, but then they disappeared from its sight. The wind moved its fruits. Young girls came there to dance and pick its fruits and then left. 

When it opened its eyes at the end of the spring, it saw that it was still barren like so many past winters: no fruits, no leaves, no mirrors looking at the sun, and no dancing girls.

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A few weeks after the harvest time, it got hotter and sunnier. The heat caused poisonous snakes and other reptiles to get out of the soil. It had seen the snake that had made a hole right beside it many times. 

One day, three people who’d come to sit under its shadow talked about an event that had happened the night before. A snake had stung one of the sweetly singing workers, and he had died. They were talking of the worker’s many virtues, his unique voice, kind heart, and warmhearted father.  They could figure out how hard his death might have been for his family then. 

Many days passed and one day, a few women and girls who usually came there to walk sat under its shadow and spread a piece of table cloth there to eat something for the evening. Their presence was so sweet― no matter even if only once in the year it could see them― since whenever they went there, it could learn about all the events it was just ignorant of. Even if they frequented there for a few subsequent days, the things they talked about were still new. 

First, they began to talk about the wedding of one of those women’s daughters who was not there that day. Then, they talked about the row of one of the landowners with the husband of one of those women. Finally, they began talking about the late death of that good-natured and mellifluous worker and the suicide of a girl who had killed herself right after his death. They explained that one day when her brother and mother were not home, she had worn a white gown, had sat in front of a mirror, and had slashed her wrist. She had lost so much blood that all her white gown had turned crimson. The daughter’s mother had told one of those women that after hearing about the death of the young worker, her daughter had cried and wailed for two days incessantly. 

After that day, many people talked about their love, and the only ones who knew about the secret of the situation were the tree and the daughter’s brother. 

It wished it could talk to tell everybody how she had watched the mellifluous worker enthusiastically and anxiously at lunchtime on the last day of harvest. 

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It pulls out its head from beneath a large amount of soil painstakingly. There is still a little soil left on its shoulders. It is the first time that the sun touches its body. Looking above, it sees a huge, tall, and sturdy tree that is not the same green as it is.

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At these times of the year, it became thirstier than any other time in its life, and the heat increased its thirstiness. But it doesn’t feel any thirsty now. The heat doesn’t bother it either. Even its roots do not feel any coolness. It always passed the summer with the hope of getting satiated in autumn. But it just doesn’t know that it has been a long time since it has passed the last summer of its life.  

© 2023 REZA MILANI