2021 'SHORT TAKES' PROSE COMPETITION
CATEGORY B -
Wishing by Christine Hill
Not far from where I live, down by the creek, is a wishing tree. I found it one cold, rainy day while walking the dogs. Well, they walk me really. They force me out of bed and into the fresh feel of early morning to face the thoughts of the day. While my mind wanders, they run, noses to the ground, sniffing out their favourite scent, rolling in it when they find that special one, and making it their own, like women at the perfume counter.
It was the kookaburras that made me stop. There were two of them, puffed out chests and sharp eyes, standing side by side on a low branch, looking at me and laughing, loud and strong. What have I done? I wondered. When I was a little girl, growing up on the farm, my uncle told me that kookaburras laugh at you when you do something silly, like forget to tighten the girth strap on your saddle or try to climb through a barbed wire fence. My uncle was full of cautionary tales. I thought laughing at the misfortunes of others was mean, even if you are a bird, so my uncle’s explanation was filed away under ‘Things that don’t feel right’. Over time, that file became so full it eventually exploded. While it was hard to forgive some of the adults who ruled my childhood, I could forgive the kookaburras. Now, I love their laugh; it makes me smile, although I still stop to look and wonder. That’s when I saw the tree.
It was down in the gully, almost opposite the old willow whose soft, gently hanging foliage and climbable branches allowed endless possibilities for small children and their imaginations. Close to a shallow and stone-
At first, I thought the tree was covered in rubbish, bits of plastic fluttering from its branches like tiny birds, but as I approached, I saw the neat lettering in white paint on its trunk: ‘Wishing Tree’. Now I must tell you that this was a very ordinary-
Baby please was inscribed in black on quilted toilet paper. I really hope for a play station said another, on paper ripped from a school exercise book. Securely attached luggage labels asked for Health and Happiness and World Peace, while a leaf of plain paper with spindly writing simply wanted somewhere to live.
Looking closer I found appeals for forgiveness, to see a loved-
I imagined a central wish-
This made me think of childhood prayers and how, if you really wanted something, you would go to church and pray. If you were an adult and desperate, you might improve your chances by putting money down to light a candle. While I gave up going to church many years ago – about the time the mind-
I was in another country when I heard that my uncle had died. Only then could I forgive. I entered the nearest church and lit a candle. The kookaburras would have laughed.
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