Saturday, April 6, 2013
Tree by Sarah Shaw
What the hell was a tall deciduous tree doing here amidst spindly spruce and birch trees, anyway? The trunk had to be at least seven, no eight, times the thickness of the oldest and healthiest spruce in the forest. Roger stepped off the path to investigate.
As he circled around the tree, the glowing outline of an arch became visible on the trunk. Roger put his palm on the bark surface and, with a minute amount of pressure, the arch swung away from Roger and he tumbled in.
"What in the goddamned...." Roger sputtered. When he pulled his knees in to stand, the door he had tripped through slammed shut. He frantically felt around the smooth curved wall around him, but his fingers didn't find a door.
"Oh god, oh god, what the fuck..." Roger repeated, spinning around the circular closet. All that occupied the room was an electric lantern on the wall. Then he smelled it. A familiar scent wafted into his nostrils and he breathed it deeply. Roger would know that comforting smell anywhere. Oatmeal Cookies.
Oatmeal cookies were his favorite. They beat out chocolate chip. Snickerdoodles didn't stand a chance against them. The smell lulled Roger until his eyes rolled back. He dropped to the floor in a heap and was too busy being unconscious to notice when the floor disappeared.
"Wake up, Mr. Blue."
Roger felt a light tapping on his forehead.
"Wake up, Mr. Blue."
Tap, tap, tap.
Roger struggled to open his eyes. They felt glued shut, but he was able to manage it. He was lying on his back and the strong scent of oatmeal cookies was still present. A small, dwarf in a green jacket and pointed hat was leaning over Roger and smiling at him with an a lipless mouth full of gray and yellow teeth.
"You're finally awake, Mr. Blue. That's just grand," the dwarf chuckled, "I'm so glad. It's your lucky day.”
"Lucky?" Roger slurred. Whatever had knocked him out was still lingering.
"Oh yes, quite lucky," the dwarf grinned.
Roger looked around. He and the dwarf were in what appeared to be a hospital room and he was lying on a cot. Next to the cot was an unused monitor with wires hanging from it.
"What happened?" Roger noticed that this particular hospital room had no doors or windows.
"You happened, Mr.Blue!"
"Who's Mr. Blue?"
"YOU are Mr. Blue, Mr. Blue," the dwarf poked Roger in the chest three times with a gnarled finger. Roger looked down and saw that he was wearing his blue work shirt. When he looked back up, the dwarf raised one of his small hands above his head.
"Macaroon!" the dwarf shouted and with a snap of his fingers, the hospital room was gone.
Roger and the green-clad dwarf were in a lush meadow, surrounded by stone ovens and wooden tables. Working busily all around them were brightly dressed dwarves in matching pointed hats. The wonderful and intoxicating smell was even stronger than before. Oatmeal cookies.
"I'm Bertram, bye the bye," said the dwarf in green," and I told you that it was your lucky day! It's Oatmeal Cookie Day! Every day is a different cookie and you just happened upon us on oatmeal day, Mr. Blue. Would you like to try one? Or five?"
While Roger had no idea how much time had passed since he first fell into the tree, he did know that he was hungry. All of the fear that he felt had dissolved. He didn't even care where he was. All that Roger could focus on was the stack of neatly piled oatmeal cookies that sat on one of the wooden tables. He snatched a cookie and sniffed it. He took a bite of the cookie while Bertram looked on, rubbing his bony little dwarf hands together.
The cookie was the best cookie that Roger had ever had. The flavor was familiar, but so unlike anything he had tasted. Sweet, with a hint of cinnamon, and a savory undertone that Roger wouldn't have believed possible if he hadn't experienced it. His body buzzed in sexual arousal and Roger fought the urge to touch himself. He wasn't so enraptured that he forgot about Bertram and the other dwarves staring at him.
"Hmmmm...." Bertram muttered and sounded very distant to Roger, "usually this is where they fall down. Guess I should take care of that."
Roger was swallowing the last bite of his cookie when Bertram hit him in the head with a wooden rolling pin.
Roger was awakened by a hard slap with a spatula. He tried to voice a protest, but someone had stuffed cloth into his mouth. Bertram stepped back from the table that Roger was bound to, grinding his nasty little teeth and tossing the utensil over his shoulder. Roger couldn't move, but could see that they were in a shack with a door and two curtained windows..
"You can't move, Mr. Blue, so don't even bother to try. You're tied to that table and you wouldn't get far without any feet anyway." The dwarf gestured to a counter along one of the walls. On the counter, a foot stuck upside-down out of a meat grinder. Roger looked down the length of his prone body and saw that his legs ended in charred, black stumps right beneath his knees. His eyes teared up and sweat started to streak his forehead. He twitched as he stared at a pile of bloody ground meat that sat on the counter. He realized that the air didn't smell like his favorite cookie anymore.
"When I said that it was your lucky day, I meant it," Bertram started turning the crank on the meat grinder and a crunchy, squelchy sound filled the room. Roger fought the vomit that threatened to come up his throat and choke him.
"That was the best damn cookie you ever had, I betcha. And don't worry, Mr. Blue. You'll have some more. Can't promise that they'll be oatmeal, but they'll be good just the same," Bertram waved the aroma of the bloody pile of meat and bone to his nose.
Roger tried to scream. Bertram didn't notice.
"Ah yes..." the dwarf inhaled deeply, "I think that you will be quite wonderful in a ginger snap. You seem to have just the right bit of tang to you. These feet are plenty enough for a big, fine batch of baked deliciousness that will last us awhile." Bertram swiveled back toward Roger and snapped his fingers. "You must be famished, eh, Mr. Blue! I'll go fetch you some cookies. Got to keep your strength up. Can't have you dyin' before we've used every last scrap of you. The ingredients have to be fresh and no meat is fresher than meat that was just alive!" Bertram shuffled quickly through the door and closed it behind him.
Sarah Shaw lives in the middle of Alaska where she thinks up stuff and writes it down.
Copyright 2013 Sarah Shaw
Artwork by Juan Gris