Tree of Knowledge

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Other  |  House: House of Ghosts

Sometimes warnings are dropped in our laps


Tree of Knowledge



I recall visiting a neighborhood park on my way home from work one day. It was a nice, sunny day; not too warm yet not chilly either. I decided to do something that I hadn’t done since I was a kid, lay in the grass and watch clouds drift lazily by. As I ambled through the wooded area watching the tiny insects and animals scurrying about their activities, I noticed a gnarled and twisted little tree in the distance. My first thought upon seeing it was that it had been trying to eke out its place among larger, more dominating trees. But this wasn’t the case because it was alone in a clearing of nearly twenty yards, ample room to receive enough sunlight and nourishment from the ground without sharing with larger trees. I walked over to further inspect this curious sapling, it with branches jutting hither and yon, stretching towards heaven and to all points of the compass.

When I got to the tree, I noticed that it was planted on a knoll with a perfect view of the city hall and courthouse of our township. Sitting down, I began to watch as people passed by in the distance. I watched kids riding their bikes on the sidewalk, ladies pushing strollers, and joggers enjoying the wonderful weather. A small leaf fluttered down from one of the branches, landing on my lap. I picked it up and inspected it, looking at its leafy veins and feeling its coarse epidermis. As I peered closer, I noticed tiny pinholes that appeared to form a pattern of train smoke. This struck me as being a little odd, as I recalled reading that our township was once a hub for passenger and freight train traffic in the “old days.” Then the automotive industry took over and modes of transportation changed with the times.

A bit of nostalgia set in, as I was reminiscing of the days when my wife and I first moved to this modest city. It felt like one of the small towns I grew up in as a child. One of the local attractions was the little train depot that was the focal point of this area, which was later converted into a community ice cream parlor. I remembered taking my kids and years later, my grandkids, to this place of heavenly delight. To say I love ice cream would be an understatement. Just sitting there thinking about a vanilla malt made my mouth water and stomach grumble with anticipation.

Another small leaf fluttered from a branch and landed on my lap. This time upon inspecting the leaf, the pinholes revealed a pattern of an automatic hand gun. Again, I thought this was unusual, because crime in our little hamlet was not any worse than anywhere else. I would argue that it was actually better. Immediately after this thought occurred, another leaf fluttered down. I caught this one in mid-flight, noticing with each twirl that the pinholes resembled the silhouette of a body. As I sat pondering the meaning of these cryptic messages, another larger leaf drifted down and landed on the grass near my leg. This time the scene depicted several sets of arms extended upward, palms open; inside an optical reticle.

After leaving the park, I spent the whole afternoon pondering the messages delivered to me in the falling leaves. Later that evening I was about to witness the puzzle pieces fit into place.

 “Breaking news…a young, unarmed man was gunned down by local law enforcement…” the media began reiterating events leading up to the tragedy. “Tensions escalated” until large scaled unrest of epic proportions crested over the tranquil city, leaving its citizens months later trying to reclaim equanimity. Large swathes of commercial property were completely obliterated by arsons. Lootings were commonplace during those nerve-wracking nights of “peaceful protests.” Opportunistic scavengers seized the moment of distraction from law enforcement to enhance their ill-gotten gain. Those common citizens that resided in close proximity to the epicenter of events was forced to exert his/her 2nd amendment to the United States of America’s constitutional rights to protect their homes and families from ne’er do wells seeking a quick plunder.

The haze of crowd dispersal agent lingered so heavily in the area that most of my wifes’ flowers died from the chemical exposure. Even my poor old dog was affected by the series of events, he was afraid to go into the back yard to pee without my escort. As the militarized assault vehicles and tactical units formed boundaries and enforced curfews, the media vultures flocked on the area and created havoc in its wake.

A couple of years passed, and our small town has begun to regain somewhat of a genial sense of relationship among its populace. Has these events been a lesson to those who witnessed it, I would like to say ‘yes,’ but then again people tend to repeat history when they fail to heed its warnings. The topic still arises from time to time in the local tavern, and I politely decline a comment and take my beer elsewhere.


I found myself wandering through the park again, and visiting that same sapling I visited that fateful day. I looked out across the town square and watched the people hurriedly shuffling to and fro running holiday errands. The air was brisk and refreshing, bringing comforting holiday memories to mind.  As I stood there, a single leaf floated onto my shoulder. I plucked it from my epaulet and twirled the stim between my thumb and forefinger. Upon studying the pattern present, I noticed a mushroom shaped cloud against a silhouette of an arched monument…


I promptly called my wife and told her I would be home early for dinner.






Quinton B. McKinney





Submitted: March 19, 2018

© Copyright 2023 Q.B. McKinney. All rights reserved.

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