Jeffrey Greene was born in Michigan, raised in central Florida, and now lives in Bethesda, Maryland. He has had
short stories published in North American Review, Zahir Speculative Fiction, Oasis, Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, Reactor, Potomac Review, and this publication.
In the expansive shade of a banyan tree, the final meeting of the discussion group was being led by a tall, imperious, too-thin woman in her early sixties, whose name I was blanking on, wearing a long black dress, calf-skin riding boots, and a silk scarf. My attendance at these meetings had been spotty, so I quailed when she asked me a detailed question on the uses of ambiguity in elementary education, then grasped her hands and waited with bowed head and closed eyes in the center of our circle of wooden folding chairs, the chinstrap of her worn leather headgear swinging in the damp September wind. The banyan tree’s descending roots began to colonize our circle while I improvised a rambling response, and by the time I’d finished making a fool of myself, we were all regretting our failure to bring saws and axes to our valedictory discussion. We could sit; some of us could even
stand, but the mossy trunks that just a moment ago, it seemed, had dangled like hairy ropes before our indifferent eyes now held us fast. The tree stubbornly continued to grow while we debated the gravity of the situation, and very soon we were conversing in the heart of what appeared to be a dense forest, most of us by now feeling increasingly doubtful of rescue.
The discussion leader humorously chided us, and herself, on our inattention to the prosaic, but also praised our deep focus on the issues. With one notable exception, she added, turning her craggy gaze on me.
“I can’t lay the blame for our predicament entirely on the discursive Mr. Glover,” she said, her diction somewhat hampered by the twining roots enclosing her face. “But I think we can all agree that the tree has in a very real sense joined the discussion on the virtue of brevity in discourse. Its arguments seem unanswerable. Comments?”
One of our number, Salim, his hand perpetually raised even before a trunk-sized root had grown around it, said, “I don’t think the tree has so much joined the discussion as ended it. We have unwittingly become a metaphor for Nature’s indifference to human reason. Clearly, we ignore the world around us at our peril.”
Those of us who could, nodded agreement. We had aged considerably during the conversation, and as excited as we still were by the points Salim was making, concessions had to be made for the steady deterioration of our faculties, and the ensuing discussion, though lively in a relative sense, required from all participants a healthy measure of patience.