by John Smith
With their shop dying, Ed, Mikey, & Jake steal from the recently deceased.
Chapter 3 - The Party
The oak was left until the next day. For the time being, Ed was happy that they had logged the trees around it and that they had left a path into which the oak would fall. That was enough work for one day. Now it was time to set up camp and enjoy the stew that Mary had cooked for them in advance. Sure they could have hunted, but Mary knew that they would be exhausted by the end of a day's logging and had supplied one of her favorite pots of stew for them all to enjoy over the campfire. Ed had provided the beer, and Mikey had been only too happy to drink it. In fact, he couldn't take his liquor, and Mikey was soon singing at the top of his voice and annoying the others.
"I miss Molly," he moaned, and it was true. She was sleeping a few miles away in a cabin all on her own, and here he was, in the forest with the boys, wishing he could go home and feel her warmth.
"Ignore him," said Will. He didn't like to see men drunk and was busy serving out the food. He was one of the oldest in the crew but a quiet man who simply went along with the flow of life and took whatever good he could find there. Jake liked him. He had a pleasant attitude.
"Want to go for a walk after dinner?" he asked Will.
"Sure," said Will, though no one else volunteered to go into the forest to watch the wildlife and to actually appreciate the dusk as it fell over them, and filled the woods with a kind of wonder that you either noticed or you didn't. Ed didn't. To him, a tree was a tree. However, to Will and Jake, it meant much more than that. A tree was a planted history. The old oak tree that Ed was going to cut tomorrow must have seen hundreds of years of life here in the forest and deserved respect.
Handing Will the binoculars, Jake whispered. "Over there!" and as he looked through the binoculars, Will could see what had excited Jake so much. The deer that stood in the clearing was proud and majestic. In the trees, there were owls and squirrels, and at this time of day, it was still possible to see their form against the backdrop of the small breaks between the trees. The deer was indeed majestic, and Jake and Will would never tell the others because they were more inclined to take their guns and shoot them for food. Neither of them wanted to see that.
Back at camp, their party went all night; Jake and Will returned to the campfire to notice that Ed was slumped over a bottle of whiskey and that Mikey had vomited behind the bushes and had stumbled back, rubbing his gut and complaining about the food. Of course, it wasn't the food. It was the drink and the food combined, and Mikey looked a terrible state.
"So what's the score with the oak?" asked one of the boys.
"What do you mean?" asked Jake.
"I've heard tell that if you cut an oak tree hat old, it's liable to get its revenge," answered the lad.
The stories around the campfire continued, and Jake egged them on a little, being slightly aware of being watched from afar. Perhaps they were being watched by the face that he had seen in the tree earlier that morning. Maybe there was some truth to the rumor that the woodlands were alive. He felt in awe of the woods and had always tried to respect the laws of nature. He never killed for the sake of trophies like Ed had. He never stepped on rabbit holes or poked sticks down them, but accepted that he was the visitor, rather than them.
Winding down from their party that night, they swapped stories about trolls and dryads, magic, and mayhem within the woodland, though none of them actually believed in what was being said. Jake was cautiously open to the fact that some of this may be true, and as he looked up into that tree above his chosen place to sleep, the face looked down at him almost approvingly.