Attended a new writing group tonight. The premise is that everyone looks through the comics and writes down one phrase. They are tossed into a hat, and then one drawn at random and that's your prompt. The unused prompts stay in the hat until next time. "They have deep roots" was our prompt. This was my (unedited) result. Enjoy.
"They have deep roots." That's what Daddy said when Libby asked about the tree by the creek behind the house.
"But what kind of tree Daddy?"
A tear spilled over the edge of his eyelid and her turned away, hoping she wouldn't notice. "I call them Angel trees." He swiped at his cheeks before turning back to her. "Angel trees are sent from Heaven to protect us."
Libby's eyes grew wide as he told her the story.
"When your Papaw died, Granny put his ashes in a small wooden box and buried the it here." Her Daddy wouldn't look at her. He glanced over her shoulder at the back of the house, weathered from years of neglect. Granny didn't have the money to fix it up. "When Granny woke up the next morning, there was a tree in that spot nearly three feet tall."
Libby's eyes traveled the path from her Daddy's head to his feet, measuring the height of him. "Is that tall, Daddy?"
"For a day old tree it is." He put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. "These roots grow about four inches every year."
"Wow!" Libby nestled closer to her Daddy's warm embrace. "What is going to happen to it when Granny moves?:" Libby knew her grandmother would be leaving this home for another, but didn't understand the concept of a nursing home.
"I guess it will have to stay behind, punkin."
Libby got quiet as she considered her Daddy's words. "What if the new owners cut it down? Then what?"
Her Dad pulled her in tighter, almost suffocating her. "I don't know." The two of them stood, sharing the moment as they listened to the subtle change in ambient sound from cicadas to crickets.
"Time for dinner, punkin. Go wash up." Her Daddy patted her on the behind disguising the gentle push in that direction.
Every time Libby closed her eyes, she saw an evil man with a chainsaw hacking away at the Angel tree. She awoke to a pillow wet with her tears. "NO!" She sat up, determined to do something.
Dressed in an old pair of jeans with permanent grass stains on the knees, she tiptoed down the stairs. She held her breath as the old wood creaked and moaned against her meager weight. Granny didn't hear well, so Libby wasn't worried about waking her up, but Daddy was a retired cop, he could be awakened by the slightest disturbance.
Her shoes sat by the back door, where her Dad's shoes normally stood as a sentry. Tonight, her shoes were alone.
Moonlight poured through the window and bathed her in a cool white light. Her hands trembled as she slid on her shoes and tied the laces the way her Daddy taught her.
She slid back the deadbolt, no longer in fear of waking her father. She stepped through the open door and followed the narrow dirt path that wound lazily through the field.
A faint tapping sound raced through the night to find Libby and pull her forward. Although the moon provided adequate light to reveal the path, she could have made the trek under no moon; muscle memory would take over and make each step instinctively.
The tapping grew louder with each step. Libby felt she should be afraid, but she wasn't. Yes, her heart was pounding, but not from fear. She moved faster; wanting to discover the source of the sound before it stopped. She made the last turn by a large piece of limestone that seemed out of place but was a good spot to sit and think, something Libby did often.
She stopped at the creek and just stood, staring. Her father, back to her, was hacking at the trunk of the Angel tree with an ax. She recognized him, not only by his size, but because of a tattoo on the back of his neck barely visible in the moonlight.
"Daddy?" She called out as he pulled the ax back to land the final blow. "What are you doing?" The last hit was enough to bring down the Angel tree.
Her father set the ax down on the ground. His eyes were huge white disks.
"They have deep roots." he said, then picked up a shovel and began to dig around the base of the trunk. Libby had only seen her father like this when he was drunk.
"Daddy?" He didn't respond.
Libby stood and watched as her father dug deeper and deeper. He reminded her of one of those zombies in "Dawn of the Dead." She wasn't supposed to watch movies like that, but sometimes Granny fell asleep while babysitting her. Even though she knew zombies weren't real, she was scared for the first time since leaving the house.
"Found it!" Her father stood up, mud caked his arms and fingers. "I found it!" He ran over to L:ibby, tears flowed freely from his eyes. Zombies don't cry she thought. "I found it!" Her father held the object to her; a simple wooden box, locked. A brass plate on top was engraved with her Papaw's name.