Fiction, Story

The Tree of Pearls

Contact Sheet

There it stood. With its arms reaching out to the sky, the heaven, above, and with people surrounding its shiny bark, hard as metal, firm as metal, unbreakable as if it was a samurai’s sword, forged from the hardest of ores.
        The tree’s foundation as that of glue and concrete and cement. Nothing more. Just a puddle of hardened cement that had risen out of the ground, out of anybody’s sight. It had risen and then stretched its arms out and spiraled outwards, always reaching for the space above. All this, while people of all colors and genders and ages surrounded it and followed, with their different-but-yet-the-same colored eyes, its rising towards the sky. Never would they let it out of their sight. And perhaps it could be called the tree of life for all the lives that surrounded it with their eyes and their artificial eye.
        People without a home would sleep outside it, would lay their pillow resting on its concrete floor: not feeling the fear of sinking down for they had already sunk, sunk into another world the second they lost their home or bed.
        Children would climb in the metal tree, the tree of life, the tree of pearls to reach closer to the sky, and, in difference to adults whom could already reach for they were tall, the kids could not and therefore climbed closer.
        Some called it the tree of heaven for that was what it reached and reached for. And some would call it nothing and merely stand beside it with their arms crossed and their eyes gleaming dull at the seem.
        But some, only some, would see it for what it really was; a tree of pearls whom had risen from the ground. Perhaps...
        ...as a seed from a pearl found by a pearl fisherman that had dropped or forgotten the pearl in the ground for a long time and never dared to go back, for he was certain it was far gone and perhaps on the other side of the world; stolen. So he had left it. And after his death in his testament he had described the location and wished for his four children to find it and to make their poor souls rich on its greed. But they had searched, dug in the ground with shovels and all, but found nothing. And instead of finding it, they had actually nurtured it: for, of course it was there, they had just not looked close enough. They had rumbled the soil and brought the nutrient air down to the soil and made the dead, gloomy pearl full of life again, shiny and reflective of the sun. But they had not found it, and they had let it be, left it, for they thought that nothing had been left behind.
        Then when one after one of the four brothers and sisters died they marked and carved into their testament for their children to go look for the pearl: and everyone of them rumbled the soil and gave the pearl but more life to glow in the faint sunbeams that trickled through the dirt, and never found it when they had looked for it.
        And that way time moved on for generation upon generation, always marking the words down for the next children to go look for the pearl and make their poor souls rich. But none of them ever found it.
        Then a generation skipped, a childless generation. A generation in which the war sirens roared and roared and children no longer played in the sun but hid from anything that bright, hid from a sky opened up. And in all this the pearl rested and became furious(inflame) like the fire bombs dropped from the sky like solid lightning. And the pearl begun to wonderer, have they left me for dead. Slowly, it would begin to peek out of the ground with its shining and now hardened metal-like surface that people considered metal but was really a giant swirled pearl that grew from the seed buried deep inside every pearl.
        The pearl rose and poked first one eye out, one pearl fruit hanging on its branch, one branch, that then when winter stepped in the pearl fell to the ground and gave freedom to a lonely and poor soul that sat beneath the tree with his or her pillow.
        When summer slowly crawled closer, the tree peeked up again, and then this time when the winter arrived the tree did not succumb to the coldness or harshness of the winter’s gasps. Instead it strengthened its metal-like surface and tried to stretch further into the sky in hope of finding warmth hidden there, there above the clouds. But it was not tall nor warm enough to reach it so its limbs froze, stilled in the moment.
        This tree of life or tree of pearls or tree of whatever people might call it spiraled out its branched toward something no one could ever understand what it was. Perhaps it was nothing, but perhaps it was something. But no one could ever tell. ”Do you know?” men and women and children would ask standing beneath it and watching its branches grow, but stilled, with pearls of orange and green and white. ”Do you see!” others would say and tell, sometimes scream and cry, that the branch grew, but no one believed them. And this, this was the only fun the tree had during all those years it waited. To see how it could control its growth so only some saw it and then they called out that they had seen it and everyone standing around and not believing him or her or calling it the imagination of a child when, really, they had seen it. And the pearl tree, the tree of pearls, or the tree of life, or the metal tree would rumble its branches in laughter, and cry out in laughter with its pearls rustling in the sudden wind that blew over the sea and through the harbor and the shore where boats stood lined up.
        All these days that turned to months that in their turn turned to years and decades would pass and the tree of pearls would hear the screams of bells from churches in gloomy and misty mornings and middays and afternoons and then the fragile soil hitting a wooden coffin. It would hear the sirens of war and it would hear it all. Young men and women kissing by the fountain that flooded and had been created at its concrete roots to honor young men and women of some war. The tree would hear with its buried ears men and women, some old and and some far too young, weeping at its floor with a necklace or a ring or anything really that would remind them of whom they had lost in a fire, in a plane, in a car, or to the hand of god. But the tree, it lost no one. It merely waited. It waited for the generation of pearl fishermen to return and claim their pearl, to rumble its earth, that was now covered with cement, and give it new life with fresh air: for its mouth and face was beneath the surface, and only its teary eyes that grew more sad and desolated by each year was everything that managed to trickle its way out of the ground.
        The tree would cry because it saw its pearls fall to the ground and sink into the earth and die or be robbed away by a man or a woman or a child that was not of the fisherman kind but of a greedy such and not of the kind with torn faces and dry-yet-wet eyes that would flicker open and rise at dusk and flicker shut and fall at dawn, who would sit in their boat no matter how small or how big or how much the wind rustled the sails that were either there or not there. It would miss such people. And sometimes it would let the pearls that hung from its branches angle its eyes or eye toward the sea and by that see the boats of young and old coming to shore. The beach was for the poor and helpless and those filled with souls, while the harbor was for those who had perhaps sold their soul, either to the sea or to life itself and greed. But none of them, from shore or harbor, would be the man or women or child the tree of pearls looked for. All of them simply walked passed him or her or it and perhaps threw a coin at its feet as some kind of prayer before they rustled their sails to sea. They all had young faces these fishermen these days. Now that the first and second and all the wars before and after that were finished people rarely had their faces torn to bits by the sea or by the rain of bullets or shrapnel. All that walked by the tree had their faces pale and smooth as white silk and brushed their hair gently after a journey to sea and men and women scrubbed their finger nails.
        In all this the tree of pearls stood: still with all its pearls growing new and falling off each year from its branches, but its metal-like center loosing its shine and loosing its glow. People no longer threw their coins at him or her or it. And each year as winter and summer and spring and fall came and passed the branches who during all these years had stretched for the sky in hope of someone, the right one, the sons or daughters of fishermen would see its branches rise like a smoke signal of the ancient kin to the sky and he or she follow its trail, sank lower and lower in their, the branches, reach for the sky. And no one ever came. Just because of that childless generation where the war had struck, the first war, and those who survived it taken away in the second. A whole family, an entire generation, the lost generation as a man once called them. All gone, the entire family. Or, perhaps not all gone. For the pearl tree remained, did it not? As a form of drop from all those generations collected before and after the pearl had been lost and then orphaned. And for as long as the pearl tree lived on, the family of fishermen would live on in its memory and therefore always be alive and never die.
        A few nights later the stars shone on the heaven down the sky, and the sky clear and bright from the moonlight reflecting the sunlight. That night the tree sat wondering, or stood wondering with its branches sinking by each hour, and feeling its death approach. And as it stared up to the sky, it thought; I am all that remains of the fishermen, are I not. Is that so, it thought with its pearls rustling like leaves on a dying autumn tree, a tree going into the long rest. Is that so, it thought. Am I the single survivor of a lost generation, the lonely one that has taken the family name forth.
        In this moment that the tree of pearls thought it felt a loneliness come over it. It had never considered itself being alone. It had always thought there was someone out there that would find the pearl they had once lost, the heart of the tree of pearls, the forgotten child left of a forgotten generation, a forgotten land and a forgotten kind: the fishermen kind.
        And like that the night wandered on with loneliness as its tracing footsteps and the tree thought no more but only felt lonely until the sunlight took its first breathes and the tree of pearls opened its pearl-eyes that was the only thing sticking out of the ground and saw a young woman sitting next to its cement feet on the rim of the fountain that always poured round and round with water like the loneliness within the tree of pearls poured now. But there she sat with her cheek in her hand and looked out over the sea that today was clear and fine, almost seeming as fragile as the tree’s life at this point. And the tree, the tree swayed its pearls in the sudden wind and rustled them to see if the young woman would notice him or her or it and light the day and wash away the loneliness with a smile like the waves washes the dead and dry sand to life. But she did not and kept staring out to sea, never skewing her eyes from it and forever staring out to the waters, out, out to the great sea.
        Then a boat came forth from the horizon, rising as the sun rose and the young woman sat straight and stared out at it with eyes as warm as the sun. And she saw it approach, and so did the tree of pearls through its pearls.
        The little boat came to bay, to the poor peoples’ bay; not poor in their soul but poor in their pockets where no one ever really looked because they all looked at their souls, all souls, and then judged by them.
        The tree of pearls saw in one of its pearls, which hung from one of its branches which skewed its sight, that from the boat stepped a young man, perhaps a year or two older than the young woman. And with all the young man’s strength he pulled his boat, his torn and fragile fishing boat empty and cold and wet, onto the shore and with a choir of footsteps whispering in the sand hurried to the young woman. And embraced her in his arms.
        The young woman guided the young man to sit down at the cement feet of the tree of pearls that watched with eyes that seemed to glow now. And when she had sat him down, his eyes wondering and wandering, she climbed one then two then three of the branches of the tree of pearls, and the tree of pearls put all its strength like the young man who dragged his boat to shore in keeping its branches steady and not for a second failing the young woman that climbed them. And when she reached the highest pearl on the highest branch above all pearls and branches, a pearl that glowed in the sunlight that shone through the clear mist above the sea, she grabbed it and the tree let go of it, and then she climbed down and once again sat down on the rim of the fountain.
        She laid out her hand with the pearl rested in her smooth palm and at first the young man looked at her and then at the pearl and then at the other pearls in the tree who hung much closer to ground and then at the pearl in her hand once again. The young woman told him in calm and warm words that this pearl from the top had hung much closer to the sun’s glow and was as warm as the sun and as lively as a beating, alive and loving heart: our hearts. He too took the warm pearl in his hand and held it together with the young woman. And there they sat.
        The pearl in between both their palms was bright as the sun for now was just the beginning of the year with the snow just melted away. And the pearl was blank as a raindrop and reflected all the light and shone out all the light the same, and as the young man and the young woman turned the pearl around together they found it reflecting the eyes of the tree of pearls still watching with its mouth down in the ground smiling. And the two looked straight into its soul through the reflection of the pearl and felt its soul somehow and they shone their eyes afire back.
        They both stood up. Turned and then looked at the pearl and at the tree of pearls, and smiled toward the tree and walked away.
        And that was that.
        But down at the tree of pearls roots the tree smiled back with all its glow at their smile just before they walked away. And as they walked the tree of pearls felt its branches fall down down and further down until they trenched the floor and sunk into the ground, loosing all their might. And the tree stood blind by itself before the empty shore and the empty harbor and the empty land that it now could not see, but it did not sorrow or feel loneliness.
        Really, it felt relieved.
        Now it could die in peace. And as it did just that it whispered down into the ground where its mouth and lips were buried: A new generation of mine and the fishermen will start. A new generation of fishermen and fisherwomen, fishing for fish and pearls and shrimp, and those two will place my pearl. I can feel it. I know it. They saw me and I saw them and they took the pearl and they will plant it. I know it. And I will live on like that.
        The tree of pearls with the metal-like bark and skin fell into the ground as the sky was calm and the air was clean and the world, the world was free. And down at the poor man-shore more boats were dragged up, but those men paid no notice to the tree of pearls. They, they merely walked by.

Viktor Aronsson

Read more posts by me.

Stockholm, Sweden

Follow for more stories...

...essays, photographs and much more directly in your inbox.

comments powered by Disqus