By Steven A. Yockim

Woody stood in the lush green expanse of the forest, near the beaten path and close to a babbling stream. Looking upwards, he viewed the verdant canopy of leaves, covering the sky and shielding him from the heat of the day and the storms of the night. Woody loved his time alone, the splash of water on rocks and the melodic singing of birds as they washed in the morning dew. It was a peaceful time, and Woody reveled in his place in the universe.


Suddenly, a crashing sound broke his harmony and intruded upon the morning. Sauntering down the path was Woody's nemesis, Keith, carrying his usual stick in his hand. Woody froze in place, hoping that Keith would walk by and ignore him today. As he passed, Woody breathed a little easier, but short-lived reprieve, as Keith turned and approached, stick in hand, raised and ready to strike. "En guard," Keith yelled, as he ran towards Woody and struck him mightily about the mid-section. Woody froze in place, incapable of moving away, powerless to cry out in protest, for fear that the attack would only get worse. Keith enjoyed his domination of Woody, striking him again and again, until he tired of the play and proceed down the trail.


Gathering his composure, Woody assessed the damage inflicted upon him by Keith, noticed the bruising and wept awhile. How he wished he could strike back, to be able to defend himself, or at least run away from the danger. But Woody knew that he could not. He was at the mercy of the bullying and had not the internal fortitude to end it.


Again, Woody heard the lumbering from afar down the pathway. In panic he realized Keith had returned. Looking about for a way to hide was to no avail, He froze again, hoping for the best, expecting the worst. As Keith rounded the corner, Woody sighed with relief, there was no stick in sight, perhaps Keith had tired of his persecution. Just then, to Woody's horror, he caught sight of a glint of sunlight on steel. Keith held a knife in his hand. Alarmed but in shock, Woody stopped his respiration and braced himself against the assault. Keith toyed with the knife, making it more ominous as he feigned slashing Woody repeatedly. Tiring of this game, he began to fling the knife to the ground, sticking it closer and closer to Woody's base, laughing at the terror it must be causing him.


Keith grew weary of his torment and moved in closer, threating to carve lines into Woody's limb. Suddenly, a loud cracking sound came from high above, Keith looked up, just in time to see the tree branch as it struck him about the shoulders. Falling to the ground, he rolled into the creek, losing his knife in the process and swallowing a massive amount of water. Sputtering as he pulled himself from the creek, clothes soaked, and shoes muddied, Keith ran from the area, crying as he made his way along the path towards home, vowing to never enter the forest again.


Woody, the young oak tree, spread his branches in gratitude, thanking the mature oak that towered over him.


© 2018 Steven A. Yockim