The Evil Bonsai
Things were great, for once.
Somebody has put him in the living room, in front of a mirror and right next to the window. A few rays of sunshine would reach him for a few hours every day, bestowing his leaves with a bright orange hue, signaling that fall has just begun.
In daytime, the temperature was nice, neither too hot nor too cold. The air was a bit too dry for his tastes, though.
Little annoyance that was, though, when compared to worse things that have happened to him.
Way, way worse.
He has been in really seedy places, like that time where he was in a basement, the light of the day barely making its way through the bars of the small window, or that other time where he was on a terrace in full sun. He almost died of dehydration!
Every evening, however, he was terrified of the moment the man would light the fireplace. As always, he would exhale profusely; his leaves would slightly curl up until the fire died on its own during the night, ending his awful ordeal.
And yet, the fireplace aside, he loved this place! He loved being able to gaze at itself in a mirror for hours.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”
He prided itself on being the most beautiful tree on earth.
More handsome than his big brothers who populated the forests by the thousand.
Being tall would have made him so happy! To be a magnificent tree, several meters tall… The strollers would stop by to admire him.
He felt hatred again, and shook his leaves. The human. That abnormality of Creation, the walking monster that took it upon itself to tame nature and that prevented it from ever growing by ruthlessly cutting and tying up his branches.
But he knew that he will get his revenge soon. Nobody knew about his strange power, a power that grew every passing day and that would allow him to avenge his brothers in a very near future. Already he got rid of that bloody stinking four-legged hairy creature that slashed him with its claws.
The day the women and the child cried the death of the cat was truly moving.
His sharpened and jagged leaves started to quiver again.
A few days later
- Happy birthday, grandpa! Jean-Baptiste said.
The entire family was gathered in the old man’s dining room: children, grandchildren, and the brothers and sisters that were still alive.
He was celebrating his eighty-fifth birthday!
The grandchildren looked at him with respect and awe.
The two sons watched him, their eyes filled with greed, their intentions almost transparent:
This could be the last one…
Soon, your goods and your house will be ours…
“Do it, Dad, blow your last candle!”
The old man has been a widow for two years now. His only activities of the day were a bit of gardening and chopping woods for the kitchen stove, when his arthritis left him alone.
Then most of the nights he felt asleep on the couch, his feet on the coffee table, watching a movie he has already seen countless times.
And yet despite the years and the arthritis, he still felt as solid as a rock.
Time to unwrap his gifts.
Jean-Baptiste, five, the youngest of his grandchildren, came to him and gave him a little wrapped present. The old man hastily opened it. Inside was a weird pair of scissors.
He tried to hide his bewilderment and smiled.
- Is it for my hairs? He asked, amused. Too bad that I already lost most of ’em!
The little boy laughed.
Then it was his second grandson’s turn. The eight-year old boy gave him a bottle of fertilizers.
Again, he tried to smile, hiding his increasing perplexity.
- Got it! That’s for growing my hairs!
The boy bursts out laughing too.
His last gift was from his daughters-in-law; it was oddly shaped.
It was a miniature tree, more precisely a small Japanese maple tree with beautiful orange leaves.
He has been a lumberjack, then a forest ranger. He knew all the tree species that grew in the Ardennes. It was a maple tree indeed, but he has never seen one so small!
- That’s a Bonsai, said his eldest son. We thought that it would bring good memories to you…
In truth, it was for the son the opportunity to get rid of the tree, as his wife complained incessantly that the tree was just collecting dusts, and that having a tree indoor was not healthy. A friend offered her the plant a few weeks before, and she couldn’t decline the gift, out of politeness.
The old man shed a tear and blew the candles.
- It’s a wonderful gift! he said, moved.
After he quickly perused a little guide called “How To Take Care Of Your Bonsai
”, old Eugene walked toward the shrub, a big pair of scissors in his right hand.
He had the little maple put down on an old and finely carved cherry wood chest of drawers in the dining room. Right above it, hanging on the wall, was a huge crosscut saw. The two meters wide tool has been his main tool at work for decades.
And did he chop woods all his life! He vanquished even the most gigantic oaks using axes and the to and fro motions of two-man saws.
He wasn’t exactly made for fine works, and yet it was time to start a more “artistic” activity.
The guide instructed him that he could shape his tree as he wished; it was just a matter of how he cut the branches.
He was thrilled by the idea.
He held the tip of a branch firmly between his thumb and his index finger, then to cut it with the scissors in a sharp movement.
A stream of blood sprayed all over the chest of drawers.
The old man stared at the phenomenon in astonishment, his smile giving way to a terror-stricken face.
He didn’t cut the tip of the branch, he cut his little finger, and it just landed near his feet.
He ran to the kitchen to get a cloth and wrap it around his hand, then rushed to the phone right before his vision started to blur.
The pain was almost gone, but his left hand was still wrapped by a thick bandage, which left visible only the tips of his four remaining fingers.
The doctors said that microsurgery might have allowed them to join the lost finger to his hand if he had put it immediately under ice.
But at his age…
He wondered repeatedly why he has been so clumsy, but couldn’t find a convincing explanation. Was he suffering from a debilitating disease such as Alzheimer’s?
But he immediately dismissed that notion. That was a disease for old people, and he wasn’t that old!
Despite his occasional memory lapses and his hands that weren’t as firm as before, he still felt like a young man.
He was puzzled and sat motionless in a chair in the dining room, staring at the little tree.
The leaves seemed to shake slightly at times, despite the lack of draft in the room. That gave him the shivers.
He stood up and went to the kitchen to get the big pair of scissors that he put away in there, then came back minutes later, strongly determined to do what he had to do.
He stood in front of the shrub, laid down his bandaged left hand flat on the top of the chest drawer. This time, he would only use his right hand.
He was on the verge of cutting one of the branches when the huge crosscut saw that was hanging on the wall fell suddenly and cut the tips of the four remaining fingers of his left hand.
He was finally home after several days at the hospital.
His left hand was terribly painful, at least the part of it that remained, despite the massive painkillers the doctors gave him.
Nobody believed him when he said that the saw fell on its own from the wall and that the blade cut his hand like a guillotine.
Everybody thought it was yet another act of clumsiness, and that he was beginning to seriously lose his mind.
Marie-Noëlle, the kindest of his daughters-in-laws, even offered him to move with them.
He flatly rejected the offer.
He would always say to his children that he will remain in his house at old age, regardless of what would happen, and that he would never agree to live with one of them, or worse being sent to a nursing home.
He wasn’t old
His daughter-in-law suggested then resignedly that she could visit him every day to help him for his everyday chores and help him to make his meals.
That day, he waited until Marie-Noëlle left, and then rushed to the garage.
He looked carefully at all his tools, neatly lined up on their stands. He picked the big pruning shears, the ones that usually serve to prune his rosebushes.
He was not convinced that his misfortunes started the day this damned shrub was offered to him.
But he was not one to get discouraged, and he was determined to get to the root of the problem.
He summoned up his courage and walked towards the dining room.
He stared at the tree for a few seconds, making sure that there was no potential danger in its proximity.
He smiled sneeringly.
- You’ve got it coming to you, little bastard… This time, I won’t cut your branches, I’m gonna chop your trunk! He exclaimed.
No sooner had he approached the tree with the pruning shears that he felt a searing pain through his left leg, paralyzing it like a cramp. He fell and rolled on the ground. The pain was increasingly unbearable, and he barely managed, at great costs, to get up and to pick the phone.
He woke up in a hospital bed two days later.
The first thing he saw when he opened his eyes was his family, surrounding him and looking sorry for him.
He vaguely remembered being victim of a thrombosis, the doctors subjecting him to multiple tests then sending him to the operating room. And then nothing…
André, the eldest son, cleared his throat and said with a sinister voice:
- Sorry Dad, but they had no other choice. They had to cut your leg… because of gangrene, you know…
Old Eugene sit up, eyes wide open, and stared at the blanket, on which only a single shape can now be seen at the end of the bed.
His leaves were quivering with joy.
The drizzle from the spray had a rejuvenating effect on his foliage and moistened the soil. He felt fantastic and invigorated.
Then, to top it all, he was given a fair dose of fertilizer. He felt more energetic, but he also knew that soon the pot will be too small for nim.
The women came to water it many times during the time the old fart was gone, then she did some housekeeping. The glasses and the mirror were now perfectly clean, and it seems as though his beautiful golden leaves were even brighter.
And he grew bigger.
A month later
Old Eugene entered the house sitting on a wheelchair and accompanied by André and Marie-Noëlle. The entire house radiated with freshness and cleanliness.
His children called him a “stubborn old man” when he refused emphatically to spend his last days in a care home for disabled people. I’d rather die, he said.
The explored the house quickly and discussed the best way to lay out the furnishing so as to make it easier for him to move around with the wheelchair.
No sooner did the three of them reach the dining room that the old man’s eyes rolled upwards and his entire body quivered.
The bonsai appeared to have doubled its size. The sharp and jagged leaves were ablaze with the colors of the sunlight.
- Have you seen how pretty it is? Marie-Noëlle said, proud. Just like plants, you have to carefully water them and talk to them. I even gave it some fertilizers…
The old man went suddenly livid. He would have cried, but his mouth wouldn’t utter any sound.
There was no more doubt now. This damn little tree was the root of all his ordeals. Never had a tree given him such a hard time.
He never shared that realization with anybody, because they would have taken him for a fool.
Marie-Noëlle promised to come see him every day to help him with the meals and to get washed. He patiently waited for his son and his daughter in law to leave.
Finally he was alone. With great difficulty, he made his way to an old dresser where he stored all sorts of products.
He took and examined the bottles from a shelf one by one. He eventually selected a half-filled bottle of weed-killer. A sarcastic smile showed up on his face.
Then he walked towards the dining room, watched the shrub in fear for a moment before taking the stopper out of the bottle.
- Now it’s only you and me! I’ll show you, you little bastard. If you think you can take root in here and ruin my life, think again!
The branches of the little tree grew suddenly, like the tentacles of an octopus, wrapping around the old man’s arms and immobilizing him.
The old man started screaming, wide-eyed, just when another branch coiled up about his neck.
In his slow agony, he saw the eyes and the mouth of the bonsai, pulling a horrific wry face on him.
A few days later
The entire family was there for the old man’s funerals.
He was buried in the back of the cemetery, a bit apart from the other graves, in a relatively calm area.
His grandchildren laid down flowers on the grave, one by one, in tears.
- Admit that it’s a bit odd, said André. It all happened so fast! His health worsened almost overnight.
- You know, when you’re that old, everything can happen, said Jean-Paul, his younger brother.
For a while, they stared at the little bonsai that they had had planted at the rear of the grave, right behind the cross.
- This is such a great idea! He seemed to be really fond of that tree; it has probably some meaning for him. A symbol of his life as lumberjack.
Both of them sobbed, and then walked slowly toward the exit of the cemetery.
Meanwhile, the roots of the small maple tree were making their way deeper and deeper into the ground.
Slowly, they went through the thin wooden planks of the coffin, and then coiled up round the corpse of the poor dead man.
He needed fertilizer, if he were to become a big tree.
A very big tree.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Laurent Coos.
Published on e-Stories.org on 19.01.2014.