Museum of Trees

Calvino lives in a neighbourhood of trees where he is the only man. At night he surrounds himself with female trees. Their shadows, borderless and damp, remind him of home. In the morning he drinks his coffee, standing at the bar to avoid the service fee. Then he goes walking. He walks for hours through his neighbourhood.

He has heard that he has a daughter somewhere in this forest. He’ll know her when he sees her. She has the softest leaves, the whitest bark. Everyday he writes to her about the things he’s seen on his walks. Canals, gardens, rubbish heaps, empty hotels, fields of grain, an auditorium in the moonlight, the blue surface of a pool, and once, a set of footprints that did not belong to him. He followed the footprints to the edge of his neighbourhood, which overlooked a pale desert. He could not tell if the dunes were made of sand or glass, and he was unwilling to go further. He returned to his neighbourhood, to the shade that he’d grown to love.

When he dies, his daughter will donate his library to the Museum of Trees. Famous writers will visit and admire his rows of books. How lonely he must have been, they’ll say, the only man among trees.


***
 

The dead are consigned to feeding the plants

It is their duty to tend to the monastery garden. They are given the easier tasks, such as irrigating the lawns and preparing mulch. Weeding and hoeing are reserved for the living. The dead are not paid. They are here on a voluntary basis. Having labored most of their lives, they are given special allowances. Extended visiting hours, for example. Sometimes relatives or friends will spend a whole afternoon with them. Now, all they have in common is an appreciation for stillness.

The newest arrival is only thirty-two. He was found by his wife, face down in the soil. She is the most frequent visitor, arriving at the monastery each morning with her sketchbook and paints. She’s private about her efforts, and like the dead, she keeps to herself, her hand hardly moving on the page. When the day cools down, she gets up and walks the grounds, singing of rainy cities and ships at sea. The dead pause and listen to the words, now so distant to them. What are ships, they ask, who has been to sea? And then they keep working, because it is their duty, the only task left to them.


***


When I was a forest

When I was a forest I was famous among trees. Children were named after me. Monuments built in my honour. The wax museum commissioned a miniature forest with tiny birds and deer and grasshoppers invisible to the naked eye. Soon everyone owned a miniature forest. Fires were banned in my region. People lived in natural darkness, but no one complained. Women wore my leaves in their hair. Men painted their city streets green. I filled stadiums. I never slept alone.




Kasia Juno
Copyright © 2014

Kasia Juno was born in South Africa and immigrated to Canada at the age of 12. Her work has appeared in Maisonneuve Magazine, the Puritan, and the Rumpus. In 2009, Kasia received the Quebec Writer’s Federation prize for short fiction. She’s currently at work on a book of short stories. kasiajuno.weebly.com


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