Short Stories

The big tree

Now here’s the story!

A very rich man has to go on a business trip. In his private plane that tears the clouds over a green country.

Feels tired. Every once in a while he looks out the window. Suddenly his eyes widen and he calls his private secretary.

– Warn the pilot to land here.

– On here?

– Yes Yes. Immediately!

As soon as the plane lands, it heads for a huge tree full of birds. He says to the secretary:

– I want her for me.

– Does that roll?

– No, crap, this tree.

The rich man decided to take the entire tree to plant it in his palace park by the pool.

The secretary has to call a water and forest engineer plus a team of 30 gardeners.

Gardeners dig around the trunk. For several days, root to root, they separate the tree from the earth that is its mother.

One afternoon, with the work almost done, the engineer tells the secretary:

– You can’t go on anymore. The last root is fused with that bush.

– Cut yourself.

– If we cut it, the tree dies of disgust.

– Then cut the bush.

– The result is the same.

Concerned, the secretary will soon explain to the rich man. The rich man gets very teased.

– If so, buy the bush too.

The bush, a few meters away, refreshes with its cool shade a house that seems to have centuries. In front of the house, an old lady sleeps in a wicker armchair. The secretary wakes her up, talks to her for a good half hour, and comes back later.

– You are a fool. I want this tree for me, this house and even this old lady, if any.

“But she refuses any proposal.”

The rich man slaps the secretary.

“I’ll deal with her myself.”

When he arrives at the little house, he sees the empty rattan armchair and the closed door. Knock. The old lady comes open and says:

“I was just waiting for you.” I made some tea and some almond cookies.

The man was surprised. No one had ever offered him anything. Everything you own had to buy it. And the truth is, you love almond cookies. Tea, had never tasted. Just very strong coffee.

Drink the tea and find it very good. He looks up from the cup, determined to ask the fateful question: How much?

Her gaze met hers. In the left eye the large tree is reflected and in the right the shrub, connected by thousands of very fine wrinkles.

The man feels blushing, cracks a cookie and stutters:

– How much, how … how long does it take to prepare these delicious cakes?

– Whole life. I am 80 years old today.

The rich man raises the cup and says:

– Happy Birthday!

Then he found himself asking a question he’d never asked anyone before.

– What gift would you like to receive?

The old lady hands her a shovel.

– Cover the roots of the large tree, which may catch cold. This is the gift I would like to receive.

The rich man returns to the foot of the tree and tells the secretary:

“Pay these men and send them home.”

– Are we leaving?

– Just you. I stay.

The plane takes off. The rich man stays. Start to work.

Day by day it covers all the roots one by one. At first the phone does not stop ringing. It responds almost automatically, then rings less and less, and finally never hears itself.

When you’re thirsty, the old lady brings you tea.

When hungry, prepare some snacks.

At night he sleeps in the barn. Sometimes it is hot and the earth is hard but light.

On rainy days the shovel buries easily, but the earth weighs more.

Until finally, one day, the work is over. The businessman sits next to the old lady and looks at the herb growing around the tree.

In her hand, now callused and wrinkled, the cup looks very fragile.

“I’m done,” he says.

“Precisely a year ago,” the lady replies.

– So, happy birthday! – and offers her a gift.

She picks it up and sees: it’s the cell phone. He says:

– Tomorrow I’m leaving. But I will come back.

A few weeks later, the phone rings. The old lady leaves the house and shouts at the big tree:

– It’s the rich man. Wants to talk to you. Remi Courgeon Le grand arbre Paris, Mango Jeunesse, 2002 Translation and adaptation

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