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Just a Walnut
“That’s the last box.” Jeremy’s dad said with relief. He plopped down on the couch and closed his eyes.
Jeremy just nodded. He took off his glasses and wiped them on the bottom of his shirt. It was a habit that he had developed after his being shoved face-down into the dirt so many times. He rubbed his eyes and shoved them back on with the palm of his hand. Just as he was turning back to his book, he heard a voice calling his name.
“Huh?” his dad sat up so quickly that Jeremy could hear his neck crack.
“Did you say something?”
His dad looked confused. “Yeah, just that we unpacked the last box.”
“No, I mean did you say my name?” Now Jeremy was starting to get confused, wondering if he’d imagined it.
Jeremy rested his chin on his hand thoughtfully and said, “No reason.”
His dad shook his head and slumped back down. He looked like he was asleep, so Jeremy put his book down and went out into the backyard.
His eyes swept the yellowish, scraggly lawn out back. It was bigger than the back yard at his old house, but the grass at his old house was much more green and manicured. He sat down at the foot of the only tree, a walnut tree and thought to himself.
“I like you.”
“Wha-.” Jeremy tipped over and knocked his head on the ground. He leapt up and whirled around, his glasses askew.
“What are you doing?” a voice asked.
Jeremy’s mouth fell open. He realized the voice was coming from the tree.
“Did you talk?” he asked the tree with bewilderment.
“Well, if that’s what you call, I guess so,” the tree said like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Jeremy ran back to the house like the devil was on his heels and raced to his room. He hid under the blankets and hyperventilated until everything looked all fuzzy and he passed out.
For the next few days, Jeremy ignored the tree the best he could no matter how much it talked to him. He endured the usual routine of being pushed around by the kids at school. It was like that at his old school, too. No one ever really seemed to like him much wherever he went.
But one day, the bullies beat him even worse than before simply because he looked at them funny or so they said. He staggered home and went straight to the backyard before his dad noticed his bruises. He forgot how much the tree had talked to him and collapsed under it. He felt queasy from where they had punched him in the stomach.
He dozed off for a little while and woke up at the sound of a walnut dropping off the tree. Suddenly he felt better. He pressed on all of the places where they had bruised him. Nothing. No more pain.
“How do you feel, Jeremy?”
This time when the tree talked to him he wasn’t afraid. It reminded him of his mother. It had been so long since he had heard her voice.
“I feel…great!” He exclaimed, awed. “Wow, what happened?”
“My child decided that it would give itself up to heal you. She didn’t want you to have to face your father like that.” the tree said, almost a little sadly.
“Your child?” Then he thought about the walnut. “But how could it –she– do that? It’s just a walnut.”
“Once I was just a walnut and you were just a microscopic egg. But look at us now.” Even though the tree didn’t have a face, Jeremy could tell that it was smiling.
“Yeah, but how could it do a thing like that?” he asked.
“There is life inside all sorts of things, and giving up that life for the good of another can do more than you think,” the tree explained. “The walnut knew that she probably wouldn’t grow, so she decided to help you instead. Most of my young don’t get a chance to grow into trees.”
“Like my mom,” Jeremy said looking at the ground. “She died giving birth to what would have been my little sister. But she died, too, two days after.” A tear ran down his face and splashed on the ground.
“It’s all right, Jeremy. It’s okay to cry.”
“From then on, Jeremy and the tree were best friends. Every day after school, Jeremy would visit the tree. He eventually built a tree house with some help from his dad, who never seemed to hear the tree. Talking to the tree helped Jeremy become more open and wise. Soon, the people at school stopped bullying him and he even made a few friends there, too. But none of them were as special as the tree.
As Jeremy grew up and went to college, he saw less and less of the tree. His dad moved to a smaller house far away from where the tree was.
But one day, after Jeremy had graduated from college, he went back to see the tree one last time. A little old lady who lived in the house now was very understanding as to why Jeremy had to see the tree. The tree gave him one of her children and said to take care of it. The next time he went to see the tree, it was gone. It had been struck by lightening in the middle of the night.
Jeremy moved on with his life and got married. His wife gave birth to a little boy who they named David. When David was born, Jeremy planted the walnut that the tree had given him. The walnut soon grew into a small sprout and eventually grew into a big tree. Jeremy’s wife always asked why David spent so much time in the backyard. But Jeremy just smiled