This is a story I wrote when I was 13. It was written on a typewriter. That tells you old I am. If you look at the photo above, you can see the edits made by my school librarian at the time. She was the first person to encourage my writing, so I owe her a lot. A few years ago, I visited her book club to discuss my novel Natural Order. Connecting with her again all these years later – and being able to tell her how instrumental she’d been – was rewarding on many levels. Life has a way of coming full circle at times. You can never underestimate the impact that a teacher can have on a kid.
The Oak Tree
Once upon a time, there was a boy who had reached the age of 16. Now this boy was a handsome one and seemed to have a good life ahead of him. But there was one particular thing standing in his way. He was a dreamer. Sometimes, for hours, he would sit on the outskirts of town under his favourite, old oak tree. He would dream about all sorts of things: seahorses, treasure chests, and many wondrous things that one else took time to think about.
There was one thing this boy yearned for, beyond all else, and that was love; someone to hold him and cherish him for what he was. He had no mother to hug him when he was hurt or feeling sad, for the birth of this child had been too much for such a frail soul. His father was a lumberjack and was seldom home. But when he was, all he ever did was eat and sleep and the boy could not hug his father for that was not permitted in those times.
So the boy turned to his dreams and fantasies, imaging what a good life would be like.
On one particular day, the boy decided to skip school for he didn’t feel that it was worth the bother. He went to his oak tree where he could escape to his own little world. There was a soft breeze in the air that morning and it made the oak tree’s leaves whisper.
The boy sat there, leaning against the tree’s sturdy, coarse trunk, thinking about the things he could do if only he had a friend, when he heard something that sounded like a “hello.”
“Silly me,” he thought to himself. “It’s only the breeze.” And he went back to dreaming. But then, a few minutes later, he heard it again. It was soft and ever so quiet.
“Hello, what is your name?”
The boy looked across the open plain to see if anyone was there, but there was no one. This puzzled him. Maybe someone was playing a practical joke on him. But who? No one had actually hated him, or liked him, for that matter. He leaned against the oak tree and listened carefully. He was determined to find out who had called his name. So he sat and waited. Hours passed. Still no one called out.
The sun disappeared and stars had popped out by the time the boy gave up. He slowly trudged home, discouraged that he had not discovered who had called his name.
That night, the boy could not sleep. He tossed and turned at least one hundred times. That voice kept tormenting him. Was it the wind or was it really someone? Maybe it was someone who was lonely and wanted to become his friend. Could it be possible? Maybe all of his dreams had come true. If this was true, then he would find out the next day when he visited the oak tree.
The rooster perched on a barn fence could not beat the boy in waking up the next morning. The sun was rising over the horizon and light flooded the little town.
The boy quickly made up a couple of bread and jam sandwiches, put some ice-cold water into a tin pot and was off. He had planned to spend the entire day in his special place, for he wanted a friend that badly.
On the way to the oak tree, the boy wondered what his new friend was going to look like. Would he be small or tall? But then he thought that the voice sounded more like that of a girl. Maybe he would find someone to love him.
When his eyes cast upon his familiar oak tree, the boy was filled with excitement and ran to it will all his might.
“Hello?” he called out. “Are you here?”
The boy sat down and listened, every nerve straining. But he heard no one.
“She is probably not here yet,” the boy thought to himself as he gazed upon the wide-open field beyond. He brought out a jelly sandwich and began eating it.
A breeze sprang up and rustled his hair. The boy leaned back, inhaling the fresh morning air. Then he heard it.
The boy was so startled by the voice that he dropped his sandwich. He sat up and listened. When he heard nothing, he called out.
“Hello there. What is your name?”
The same breeze sailed past and he heard his answer.
“My name is Mirana. What is your name?”
“My name is Philip. Where are you? I cannot see you!”
There was a pause, and then the soft voice spoke, so softly that he could scarcely hear it.
“Philip is a nice name.”
The boy looked ever so closely across the field but he did not see anyone. How he yearned to see the person.
“Please come out for I want to see you and we can play together. I want someone to play with.”
To his question, he got no answer.
“Please come out,” he called again.
“I cannot. Come tomorrow and we shall see,” the voice answered.
“But I want to see you now. I–“
“Do not argue. Come back tomorrow.”
Then was a great rush of wind and the boy sensed that his friend had gone. He picked up his belongings and reluctantly left the oak tree, wondering about his new and strange friend.
The next morning, the boy returned, wanting more than ever to see his new friend.
“I’m back. Now please come out.”
There was a sudden gust of wind and then the voice came.
“Here I am,” said the voice, but even though it was the same, it sounded different, somehow; closer than it had been before. The boy whirled around, and there, in front of the oak tree, stood a girl. Oh, but she was beautiful. Her eyes were deep blue and her long, brown hair flowed down her slender body. The boy was astonished. Never in his wildest dreams did he think that his new friend would be this beautiful.
“Hello, Philip,” she said in a whisper as gentle as a spring wind.
“Hello…Mirana,” said the boy as he looked into her face, breathless from her beauty.
The two of them stood gazing into each other’s eyes.
“Shall we go down to the river bank and look for rocks?” suggested the girl.
“Yes, let’s do that,” responded the boy. And that’s what they did. They laughed and played and collected rocks. Although the girl asked many questions about him, she would not answer any of his questions about her. But Philip was having too much fun. He didn’t want to ruin it inquiring about his friend. They were having a good time so what did it matter where she came from?
After they had finished collecting rocks, they sat in a field of dandelions and Philip made Mirana a necklace of dandelion stems. The sun was setting and Mirana decided that she should go home, but she promised that she would come and play with Philip the next day. Off she went, leaving Philip to think about what they would do tomorrow.
Mirana met him the next day at the oak tree and they played together. This carried on the next day and for many days. During each of their visits, Philip would ask Mirana where she lived but she would not tell him.
One day, Philip and Mirana were sitting on a patch of grass where they were having a picnic. It had been over two weeks that Philip had known Mirana, and he had fallen in love with her. He yearned to kiss her red lips.
So, on this particular day, he gathered up all of his courage and kissed her ever so softly on her strawberry lips. She responded and, at that moment, a bolt of lightning flashed against the sky though the sun was out.
“Please, Philip, don’t,” she said and gently pushed him away.
“But why, Mirana? For I love you.”
“Don’t you understand?” Mirana cried. “I can never marry you.” Shedding one tear, she ran from Philip.
The next day, Philip returned to the oak tree and called for her. A breeze rustled the leaves of the oak tree and Philip thought he heard, “I love you.”
“It is only the wind,” thought Philp. “Or is it?”
He turned around to see just for a second the image of his love in the oak tree’s trunk.