The Great Oak

(Here’s my short story which was longlisted for the 2021 Fish Flash Fiction Prize)

THE GREAT OAK

The storm took forty trees from the golf course, its nine holes carved from a corner in the grounds of the crumbling estate in a forlorn attempt to eke out some revenue. The golf club dragged in a few euros, but Peter, possibly the last of the Cleave family who’d live in the place (well, a wing), wondered if it was worth the effort.

The golfers moaned on Facebook that the storm had only blown over the conifers around the edges, shame it hadn’t taken the big old tree on the fairway. This imperious oak blocked the route to the green, but Peter was damned if he would chop it down.

The online frenzy came to a head when Paudie Cahalane posted the veiled threat that ‘strange things happen at night’, telling members not to be too concerned about the tree.

Peter knew what Cahalane was thinking, and when the next in the endless onslaught of storms swept through, he was installed in the lookout tower the golfers used to check if the green was clear. This tempest came with thunder and lightning. In a burst of white light he could see Cahalane scurrying across, chainsaw in hand.

Peter rushed down the ladder and ran towards the tree as a phenomenal gust almost took him off his feet. There was a fearful crack, and freeze-frame lightning showed the tree splitting half way down its trunk, with an enormous branch hurtling down towards the upturned and terrified face of one Paudie Cahalane.

                        *                      *                      *                      *                      *

Next morning the Fire Brigade couldn’t get the tree off the body. They called in Kennedy Tree Care; even they took three hours.