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Driving Through Quilted Farmland

Driving Through Quilted Farmland

“Where are we?” Gloria asks as she rubs her eyes and yawns. Her neck is a little stiff.

Stuart glances at her and mumbles a reply she cannot understand.

So he’s in a bad mood, she thinks, and looks ahead. He has turned off the radio, and the silent road stretches out before them like a long black ribbon sewn into a green-gold-and-blue speckled bedspread.

Rows of earth-colored crops with many textures dot the scenery and disappear under the deep blue sky all around them. Golden sunrays glimmer on the landscape, and dance to the tune of the meandering wind as it rustles through the corn, the wheat, the barley. It is like driving on a quilt, and each crop a patterned square.

What put Stuart into such a bad mood in the little time she fell asleep? Gloria shrugs, she will not allow it to get to her. It’s a beautiful evening, and Gloria wants to open the window and feel the farmland-scented wind in her hair. But Stuart will only bark at her. All she needs to do is wait, and Stuart will be his lovely self soon enough. The road is long and the wind eternal, she will open the window many other times.

They near a speck on the road; the sun is low on the horizon and the sky will soon blaze in hues of red and orange as it sets.

Stuart slows down as they approach the speck — a slow-moving vehicle. Gloria takes a chance and rolls down the passenger-side window. The breeze sprinkles her face. She sneaks a side glance at Stuart; his puckered mouth signals annoyance.  

“It’s a cart with hay!” Gloria exclaims as if she has never seen one. 

Stuart growls; Gloria smirks. Pushing his buttons now and again does wonders for the spirit. 

They inch to a pause, and Stuart turns on the blinker, announcing to no one he intends to pass. The cart trudges onwards. Stuart edges the car onto the oncoming lane and cautiously overtakes the cart.

Gloria observes the cart as they pass. A man in gray breeches and tall boots walks beside the workhorse, who looks like it cannot carry its own soul, let alone pull the cart. The man seems to take no notice of them, and the horse stares ahead and trudges on, exhausted. Gloria glimpses the man’s brown doublet under his long cloak, and notices his steeple-crowned, broad-brimmed hat.

“Amish,” Stuart snarls and they speed away. She rolls up the window as the wind bites at her cheeks. 

Gloria gazes at him with a puzzled expression, “No, I don’t think they dress like that.”

Stuart rolls his eyes, “Whatever.”

Gloria shakes her head and looks out the window. She glances at the side-view mirror and sees only the empty road behind, tinted in red as the sun dips under the horizon.

 That man was not Amish, Gloria knows. She also ponders the man’s blank expression as they pass, as if he never saw them. 

“I heard no hoofbeats,” Stuart says intrigued, “they made no sound.”

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THE GODDESS TAROT: IX – Contemplation

Contemplation-The Goddess Tarot: IX - Contemplation


Corey lies on his bed and contemplates the ceiling. His fixed gaze and his body’s relaxed demeanor contrast against the racing thoughts in his mind. His life is at a crossroads, and his mind seeks to see as far ahead as possible in all directions before he chooses the path to follow. An innate risk-taker; Corey is always quick to realize and seize an opportunity. He knows the solution—the road to take at a crossroads—will always present itself. 

Until now.

He has two choices: take the job out of state, or move back home and help his parents run the family business.

The job at the big corporation should be a straightforward decision, but still he doubts. It pays very well, and Corey is always open to new experiences. It is a job he has been striving for throughout his college years. He survived the grueling interview process and jumped with delight upon receiving the job offer. The company is solid and offers plenty of advancement opportunities. It even offers to help with MBA tuitions. Yet… 

His other choice is to run the small shoe store his grandfather opened with blood, sweat and tears. It has survived against all odds, and chugged through The Great Depression, several economic downturns, and even the financial meltdown of the 21st-century, though with little expansion. It’s profitable, and Corey would be the third generation to run it. Corey can see its future. In his mind, he sees the 100th anniversary celebrations that will come in the next decade. In fact, he sees far beyond that. But there’s no risk, no adventure in the meantime. The opportunity to expand is years away. And if he takes the corporate job, the adventure starts now. 

So what’s the problem? He thinks. Mom and Dad are still young and healthy, now is the time to try his hand at something else, and learn beyond what his grandfather and father learned in their lifetimes. Corey knows the shop will always be there, a haven to return to when his ship runs aground. So what stops him from taking the corporate job offer?

Corey sighs and shifts onto his side, facing the wall. His bedroom door clicks open, and he hears Dad’s footsteps on the carpet. Confused, Corey turns to face him, but his heart stops when he sees his father’s haggard and ashen face and his blue-tinged lips. Corey opens his mouth to speak, but no words come out. His father stands beside the bed, and gazes at him with the blank stare of a corpse. The apparition carries a gravestone. Shock snags Corey’s breath when he notices the date.

At last, the words flow with the tears, “Will you be dead in two years?”

The apparition nods and fades into the dusky gloom seeping through the window. A sob strangles in Corey’s throat; he reaches for the phone.

“Hello?” Dad’s voice is a soothing balm.

“Dad,” Corey chokes.

“Son! How are you? Did you get the job?”

“I’m fine, how are you?” Corey ignores the last question.

“Fine, fine. A little out of breath lately. Mom thinks I should see a doctor, but I’m sure it’s nothing. The job?”

“No… I didn’t get it,” Corey lies.

In the end, the solution always appears.

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MINCHIATE: Two of Coins

The Antique Mirror-Minchiate: Two of Coins

The Antique Mirror

Catherine wandered through the tiny aisles of the antiques mall. Knickknacks surrounded her as she paced among books, furniture, and pictures of bygone days that filled the dusty old store. She glanced at everything, yet saw nothing at all. The deeper into the store she browsed, the more the number of antiques overwhelmed her, until a creeping claustrophobia crawled up her spine. While hurrying through the labyrinthine aisles toward the front door, one object caught her eye.

The old mirror hung above an old-fashioned iron stove, flanked by yellowing pictures of Tom Mix and James Dean. It was an oval with an ornate brass frame. The tarnished and clouded glass had black spots sprinkled over its surface, but Catherine’s bemused, yet intrigued, image peered from the flowery, corroded metal frame. Something about it attracted her—perhaps it was the way her face appeared out of its hazy freckled glass—and Catherine decided it needed to hang above her night-table. 

At home, Catherine smiled at her own reflection while she cleaned it. The shopkeeper told her the mirror may need to be re-silvered, but Catherine liked the dark, warped image of herself on its surface. The corroded brass and black spots gave her reflection an eerie, Gothic semblance. She looked like the imagined heroines in the gothic novels her older sister, Emma, had read to her at bedtime. Little Catherine had both cringed in horror and squealed with delight as Emma’s soft voice filled the darkened room. Her words painted a snaking dreamscape of villains and ghosts, and through the pages they traveled to dark castles and gloomy dungeons in faraway lands.

Catherine fought back hot tears as a lump snagged in her throat. She tried not to think about Emma too often because the pain still welled up, threatening an overspill of dark and despairing emotions. But now, alone and gazing into a clouded mirror, she loosened her restraint and let the tears streak down her cheeks. 

Emma went to the grocery store one bright summer afternoon and never returned. The police found no signs, no clue to her whereabouts and no suspect. Years dragged on with no news of her beloved sister, and the case grew cold. Emma became just another statistic; her face was a fading memory. Catherine’s childhood vanished with her sister. Catherine’s love of gothic novels was all that remained of Emma.

Catherine wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Then, she stroked the book that always lay on her night-table. It was the same tattered book she took out of her childhood home and carried through all the changes in her life, but never read. At least, she had never finished it. Emma had been halfway through it when she went missing, and Catherine never had the heart to read it to the end. She picked it up and smelled her sister’s memory as she leafed through the pages, never reaching the end. Catherine feared that if her eyes ever landed on the last words, then Emma would never return. 

Catherine pulled herself together and hammered a nail into the wall above the night-table. With a soft, satisfied yet tragic smile, she hung the mirror on the nail. Catherine gazed at her reflection, and for the first time in her life, thought she looked like her sister. Impossible, her logical brain whispered. Emma was blond with piercing blue eyes and milky white skin, while Catherine had a dark complexion with soft brown eyes and black hair. 

“Like Jane and Elizabeth Bennet,” Emma’s voice rose out of the deep well of Emma-memories in Catherine’s mind and filled the room. 

She reached her hand out and touched the damaged surface. Her heart jolted with electricity; Emma’s broad smile beamed through the darkened glass and radiated from the corroded brass frame. At last, Catherine had found her sister.

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One Wish-Bruegel Tarot XVI The Tower

One Wish

Armistice bends his hundred-year-old knees and apologizes to the ants for stepping on their anthill. He tells them he did not see them, as tiny black specks rush to repair their flattened home.

A breeze blows through the trees; Armistice stands up, takes off his reading glasses, and puts them in his breast pocket. He lifts his nose to the air and sniffs into the wind. There is a message in the breeze, and he ponders it. He sensed a change in the world, a rejuvenation borne on the wind, and he feels it now in his heart and in his bones.

“What happened?” He whispers to the squirrel, who stops nibbling to gaze at him.

The squirrel flicks its tail, and Armistice nods, “I don’t know either, but good things are coming.”

He has been on this earth for more than a century, and he is one with the world. This universal and ancestral interconnectedness has filled his heart with peace. He wants for nothing and wishes for nothing but to live in his house with its lush garden and its neighboring forest. He loves it when the deer feed off his flowers; he admires their beauty and grace as they canter from the tree-line and approach so close he might touch them. The deer, the owls, the squirrels, the raccoons, and the wolves howling in the night know the old man will not hurt them; he is their brother.

Armistice sits down in his rocking chair and inhales the cool air. Yes, he wishes for nothing. A passing cloud darkens his mind and chides him for lying to himself. 

He gazes up at the sky, “Okay, okay, I have only one wish.”

The wind gusts, and Armistice watches bewildered as an enormous bird soars across the sky. It beats its wings, and thunder roars in the heavens. Armistice holds his breath and tries to swallow the word ‘Thunderbird’ which has sprung to his lips, but it remains at the corner of his mouth. The bird circles overhead and begins its spiraling descent. It lands by the honeysuckle, and Armistice sees not a bird, but a man with blazing wings shimmering in the sunlight.

“What is it?” The angel’s eyes sparkle as he meets Armistice’s gaze, “What is your one wish?”

Armistice gapes, and the unspoken wish threatens to die within him. The angel’s kind smile radiates patience, and even the forest holds its breath in expectation. A soft, warm light fills the garden and seeps into Armistice’s heart. The wish he has wanted to express for decades rises to his throat. Armistice fears if he speaks it, it will negate his wonderful and love-filled life.

“It won’t,” the angel reassures him, “nothing will change. Your past speaks for itself, and you deserve this one wish fulfilled.”

Armistice gulps, “I wish…”

The angel encourages him.

“I wish for a life with Miss Ann Thrope.”

The angel beams, then raises his fingers and flicks Armistice on the forehead. A flash of light engulfs his world and plunges it into sweet darkness. Little by little, forest sounds trickle into his ears, and something wet kisses his hand.

Armistice opens his eyes and turns toward the kiss. A deer gazes up at him, then nuzzles his hand and leaps back into the forest.

Armistice reaches for the reading glasses in his breast pocket. His hand stops midair. He does not need them. For the first time in decades, he can see the cuticles of his nails and the creases of his knuckles. Marveling, he flips his hand over and flexes his fingers; it is the wrinkle-free and spotless hand of a young man.

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Adrian Ryder tore his gaze away from the book and contemplated the middle distance. He was reading about Perseus and Medusa, but found it hard to focus. The recent dream had sparked a tiny ember of peril that flared and dulled over the following days, but never died out. In the dream, Adrian, riding Ethur, came upon the Ugly Man in the Mist and an evil crone plotting to take Cassie. He had awakened, sensing its reality and the certainty that Cassie’s life was in grave danger.   

The school year was ending, and he kept telling himself this was the last stretch, but the sense of impending menace nagged at him. Yet, the branches of the ever-blossoming trees of the Grove by the Old Cemetery doused this dread almost to extinction. He sought the silence of the biggest ever-blossoming tree and hoped that by climbing it and being in it, not just in the grove, he might move forward with his final school assignment. But the dream…

It showed him the people who wanted Cassie for mysterious and nefarious reasons, but not how to stop them. Later, it had disturbed him even more when Cassie told about the new girl turning into a hag in front of the bathroom mirror. 

He laid his head back on the tree trunk and wished for Athena’s shield, which struck the enemy down in terror, as the soft rustle of the breeze through the blossoms lulled him and their sweet fragrance numbed his worried brain.

“Adrian,” a soft voice said beside him, “Climb down.”

Adrian gazed into a woman’s face. She had Cassie’s striking emerald green eyes, and knew it was Cassandra, her ancestor, buried in this grove.

Adrian clambered down from the tree. He found himself in a moonlit cemetery with old and crooked grave stones spiking out of the gnarled bramble. This place was ancient, much older than any cemetery in New England. He felt it in the moonlight and the soft breeze that swirled around him whispering in a thousand dead tongues. There was an eerie, yet comforting, peace about it. Cassandra stood beside one gravestone shimmering in the moon’s glow, but time had effaced its name.

“Dig,” she whispered.

He kneeled; one moonbeam pointed its long tendril to a glimmering spot on the ground, and Adrian scraped the damp earth with his hands. Dirt caught between his nails and soft brown mud caked his fingers. Digging deeper, the earth’s thick texture changed and covered his hands in fine soot and ash. He suppressed a shudder; they burned witches in this part of the world. Soon his fingers closed over a cloth pouch. He pulled it out of the ground, and turning it in his dirty hands, untied the string and opened it.

A shining gold coin fell on his blackened palm. It had a long, gold chain wound and threaded around it, binding it in a tether like Ethur’s silver bridle. Adrian turned to Cassandra, but she had vanished. A moonbeam caught the coin, and it sparkled in the starry darkness; it had a woman with serpentine hair engraved on one face, the other was a smooth and golden mirror. His heart skipped a beat, but his lips broke into a smirk. He draped the chain around his neck; a hawk screeched and the sound cut right through him.

Adrian’s eyelids flew open. Sunlight hurt his eyes, and the wind gusted through the blossoms. He jerked in surprise and almost fell off the tree. He gazed at his dirty fingers with black soot under their nails. Around his neck he felt the weight of the gold coin: Athena’s shield.

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THE GODDESS TAROT: Princess of Staves


Lizzy stares at the tree’s shadows projected on the wall. Moonlight seeps through the window, and though accustomed to the tree-shadows crawling across the wall, tonight they scare her. A sense of fear and dread hovers over the dim house, and the murmur of voices wafts through the threshold.

“Grandma’s not feeling well, but she’ll be all right, go back to sleep,” her father said, and ushered her back to bed.

Hurried feet shuffle past the doorway, and a gloomy atmosphere permeates the room. The wind howls outside and rustles the branches, which scratch against the window.

Lizzy watches the branch-shadows flicker on the wall. They stretch and twist into a hand with long fingers reaching towards the closed bedroom door. The bony twig-hand passes through the door and enters the hallway.

More hurried feet; stifled sobs and gasps mingle with the creaking stairs and the wailing wind.

“Boo-hoo,” it cries, as the shadows on the wall sputter.

With her heart in her throat, Lizzy gazes as the bony hand expands and morphs into feathered wings surrounding the bedroom walls. The moonlight brightens and emits a golden glow throughout Lizzy’s bedroom. She stifles a sob while sorrow rises from her feet to her chest, threatening to burst it open. It does not burst, but the sorrow spills over her eyes and rolls down her cheeks. 

The sound of flapping wings fills the room, then fades into the night as the tree-shadows settle back into their natural shape.

The wings also lift the dread from Lizzy’s body, and a placid sadness fills her heart now that Grandma has died.

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MINCHIATE: Five of Staves

Was It a Dream?

Was it a dream? Linda wonders as she inspects the back fence. It puzzles her; there are no breaks or marks or upturned soil, no trace of the event. 

In the dead silence of the wee hours, a dog barked. Linda lay in bed listening, unable to sleep, and frozen in fear. Danger, threat, and aggression hovered over the silent night.

Linda recalls lying on her side with her head turned towards the window, and gazing at the back fence through the bony thorns of her bare rosebushes. A bright red full moon shone its eerie silver light on the backyard; it glittered on the frosted ground, and Linda remembers thinking it was too bright.

And how the dog barked. Its howls and growls and woofs pierced the winter night, which glimmered, Linda thinks, the air was too clear, like ice.

She listened to the dog hidden behind the fence, and though its barks rang throughout the neighborhood, she knew it was in the neighbor’s backyard which abutted her own. Such a bright moon! The unnatural brightness disturbed her, and fear throbbed in her pounding heart, yet her sight remained on the back fence. 

A ripping and creaking interrupted the barking, and wide-eyed and ashen-faced, Linda watched the fence rattle. The moonlight shone on the wooden slat as its bottom broke apart, and a big black head poked through it. Sharp white teeth gnashed the slat beside it and snatched it off its nails.

The dog’s head broke and tore at the fence, until the hole was big enough for the big, black furry body to crawl through it and enter the garden.

The dog trampled Linda’s covered herbs and raged through her frosted yard. Its growls and snarls pierced the love and tenderness she lavished on that garden. The dog overturned her patio chairs and table and ripped the cushions. Flower pots cracked, and Linda’s heart raced with fear.

She shrieked when two blazing yellow eyes peeked at her through the dormant rosebushes. Paws reached out towards her, scratching and mauling, trying to enter. She feared the dog would shatter the window and attack her. 

Linda pulled the covers over her face, hoping the dog would not see her, and listened to the thunderous barking outside the window.

Daylight and all is still. In the crisp gray dawn, Linda inspects the untouched the fence. 

Was it a dream? 

She searches for signs of disruption, but finds none. No trampled herbs, no chewed garden hoses, no gashed cushions, no dog hair on upright patio furniture.

Linda pulls her coat tight around her chest, and stands in her rubber boots, gazing towards the rosebushes whose skeletal branches show no sign of attack. Yet, she knows the black dog peered at her through the window.

Was it a dream?

She wants to believe so, until Linda’s puzzled gaze catches the blood-red paw print scratched into the glass, just above the windowsill.

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Geoff sets the book on the grass, crosses his hands behind his head, and gazes up at the clouds drifting across the sky. He wonders why schools keep torturing children with The Canterbury Tales.

“Middle English is difficult,” his father warned as he handed the old copy to Geoff. The same copy his own father had given him once upon a time.

The shining sun lured Geoff outside, and he hiked through the forest to his favorite meadow. The ruined castle lords over it atop the hill.

Lying on the grass, Geoff wills himself to open the book again. The assignment is to read The General Prologue, and it surprises Geoff he understands Middle English well enough.

Birds chirp in the trees. The spring breeze plays with his hair, the clouds drift, and the sun warms the earth. Geoff reads, slow and steady.

The sound of hooves approaches and pierces the living silence of the meadow. Geoff turns his head towards the tree line, following the sound.

Two men emerge; the elder clad in a rough and rust-stained tunic, the younger with bright clothing and curly hair. With them walks a man in green carrying a bow and arrows. Geoff gazes at them, but finds no reason to move. There is no danger, and Geoff wonders whether the man in green is Robin Hood. His lazy brain puffs the dandelion-idea away, and he watches in placid contemplation as they cross the meadow.

Following the knights, a prioress, a nun, three priests, and a monk appear out of the forest. Geoff is as religious as a fly, but he distinguishes the clergy and their ranks. They cross the meadow and a friar appears, then a merchant and a sergeant of the law.

Geoff knows these people, and wills himself to rise and greet them, but his body is deadwood. The cool breeze gusts and rustles the flora; Geoff thinks they have not seen him, and his silence among the heather will not offend them.

The procession continues; a haberdasher, a carpenter, a weaver, a dyer, and a tapestry-maker. Geoff observes them from his spot, as figure after figure crosses the meadow. Their animated conversation floats to him on the breeze. He cannot distinguish the words, but he hears the jolly mood in the murmur of voices wafting through the field. He wishes he were walking beside them.

Twenty-nine people, he counts, as the last person vanishes into the forest across the meadow. There is one missing, he thinks.

The soft roll of thunder rattles his body. His eyes fly open as soft sprinkles of rain pinprick his skin. The book lies face down on his chest, and a leaden thunderhead darkens the sky.

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“Should I Stay or Should I Go” played on the coffee shop speakers, and Daphne wondered whether The Clash was telling her something.

She sipped her coffee as her anxious gaze wandered towards the door. An old couple walked in and searched for a table. A stormy gloom settled over the coffee shop as a heavy thunderhead ambled over the street. 

Daphne turned her gaze back to the window, hoping he would not be late, like he had promised this time. And the time before that…

“I’m here,” she texted him.

The song played, and the lyrics nagged at her. When to stay or jump ship? Is the relationship even worth it? She loved him, but did he love her?

She looked down at her hands; the gold bracelet hung limp on her wrist. He had given it to her as a birthday gift, and she loved it. But she never wore gold, only silver. Silver brought out the flecks of green in her dark eyes and glittered against her marble skin and jet black curly hair. Silver, not gold. Gold gave her skin a rotting-zombie appearance. And yet, he had bought her a gold bracelet.

“It’s Cartier,” he had said. 

Her text received no reply. 

Daphne’s eyes returned to the window; she sipped her coffee—black and dense, just as she liked it—while couples hurried down the street. The overcast sky chose that instant to dump buckets of rain over the world, which seemed to turn in twos. Everything and everyone seem to be a couple. Even the trees planted along the sidewalk grew in pairs.

She glanced at her watch. He was late, and she hoped the rain would not delay him further. The Clash’s song ended long ago, but the lyrics still resonated in her. Should I stay or should I go?

“Where are you?” She texted him.

Daphne gazed at the door, then tugged at the silken scarf around her neck, also a present from him. Hermès, she loved it. It was a beautiful scarf, but…

But there was always a ‘but’. The scarf was brown and mustard-yellow, colors that gave her an instant bitch-face. He knew this, and still…

Hermès… Hermes, the messenger. She turned back to the window; lightning flashed like the Greek god on winged sandals zipping across the sky.

“Give me a sign,” she muttered, “should I stay or should I go?”

Daphne glanced at her phone. 

No reply.

The rain stopped; the gold bracelet looked dead on her wrist. Daphne scrunched up her face, disgusted.

“I hate it,” she admitted, “I hate this bracelet.”

Then, she took off her scarf and scowled at its brown-and-mustard motif.

“I hate it too. “

She placed both gifts on the table and glanced at the door, then at her phone. 

Still no reply.

A ray of sunlight peeked through the overcast sky and streamed through the coffee shop window. It shone on her.

Daphne stood up and left the coffee shop. 

When he sauntered through the shop’s door, the bracelet and Hermès scarf sat inert on the vacant table.

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The scraggly mesquite tree creaked in the soft breeze blowing through the open window and billowing the voile curtains.

“It’s a peculiar tree,” the hired arborist had told Daisy and Paul, “It’s at least one-hundred-and-fifty years old, and though bare, it’s very much alive and healthy. It has no plague or disease, yet, you say it doesn’t regrow its leaves?”

Daisy nodded, “We bought the house at least three years ago, and we’ve never seen a blossom or a leaf on that tree. I love how its twisted branches spread out like a bony canopy.”

Paul shrugged, but the expert had agreed.

“Yes’m, there’s a certain melancholic beauty to it. My advice: enjoy its spidery shade, there’s life in the old dog yet.”

Though the sun shone and the cool breeze blew through the backyard, Daisy and Paul spent the morning in the living room, measuring spaces and pondering whether a new oaken sideboard would fit under the windows that looked out at the tree.

Paul raised his cellphone to his face, “Let’s see if this A.R. app works.”

“A.R.?” asked Daisy.

“Augmented reality,” he answered, “it can overlay a picture of the sideboard we want onto our room, so we can see if it fits before we buy it.”

Daisy nodded, impressed. She glanced over Paul’s shoulder as he pointed the cellphone camera at the windows. She smiled when the image of the sideboard appeared in her living room while the skeletal branches of her beloved tree peeked through the frame.

Paul said, “I think it would look good, don’t you?”

And Daisy was about to agree when she noticed a shadow pass over the image.

“What’s that?”

Paul turned his eyes back to the phone screen. In it, the living room walls disappeared, and the tree stood in leafy pomp, outlined by a blazing firmament.

“Huh,” Paul muttered, and lifted his eyes from the screen.

The warm, yellow sunshine of midday poured through the windows and onto the gray-green vinyl-plank floor, reflecting off the cream-colored walls. On the phone screen, the tree stood on a lonely grassland beneath a fiery red sky.

“It is the same tree,” Daisy said, “I know every tangled bough, but it’s blooming!”

The screen flickered, and silhouettes approached the tree. The couple distinguished a group of rough-and-tumble men on horseback. A man with arms tied behind his back stumbled behind them as one rider pulled him along by a rope.

“It’s a posse!” Paul exclaimed, and they watched transfixed as it reached the tree. 

One man slung a noose over a high branch. The others pulled the tethered man forward and placed the noose around his neck. Then, they tugged on the rope, and the bound man flew upwards. The laughing and cheering bandits tied the rope to the tree trunk, while the hanged man dangled and jerked from the noose. 

The sun dipped on the horizon; the hanged man grew still and swung back and forth. The posse mounted their horses and rode away. The sun shot out its last rays over the empty grassland, and twilight settled over the extinguished life. A mournful wind howled and wailed, blowing away all the leaves from the hanging tree.