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The Board

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Once upon a time, there was this husband and wife.

Over the years this couple has three kids, and every time a new baby is born, they’d reach into this bin at the local hardware store and pull out a random seed then go bury it in the woods so they could watch a plant grow up alongside their child.

For the oldest son, the seed turned out to be a cherry tree and he always loved stepping on its pink petals as they’d drop in the fall.

For their second child, a daughter, the plant became bamboo and they laughed at how quick it shot up and how straight it dug down.

But for their third child, a boy, his seed grew into something strange – a solid wooden plank that rose only about three feet out of the ground, but was covered on all sides in smooth bark, and had no branches or leaves to speak of.

This couple, alarmed by what they saw, decided not to tell the young son about his plant and instead told him that the seed of his birth was accidentally planted in bad soil, and therefore, was never able to grow anything at all.

Many years passed, and the husband and wife soon forgot about the strange plant hidden in the woods.

Until one summer, when the third child was twelve, he stumbled on that living upright board and amazed by its strange shape, he’d often return to lean his back against this grown seed, unaware that it was his birthright and as he grew up, whenever he felt lonely or unhappy, he’d return to that spot just to rest against its smooth, steady hands.

But one night, when the boy was eighteen and grown, he wandered into those woods, pissed and drunk, determined to tear that plant down. He pulled at it, but his yanking proved useless.

He kicked at it hard with the heel of his boot, but it wouldn’t budge.

So finally he stuck a rusted shovel in the dirt and decided to rip its roots out. Hours passed, as he swung foot after foot of soft earth into the air, trying to find the end of the plant’s long, solitary leg. He had blisters on his hands by the time he found the lowest point.

Where the undergrowth ended looked like a grey tennis ball or a fist made out of smooth rock, or a granite pomegranate.

But when he reached out to touch it, it opened along a hidden seam revealing a row of sharp teeth with which it snapped two of his fingers off like carrots. Angry and bleeding, he punched it.

First once, then again and again and again until its teeth fell out across the floor of his dirt hole.

He stood in silence, watching the round mouth frown and wince, then finally shut. The plant’s root that stretched up to the surface started to twitch so violently that it shook the ground itself.

And the dirt the boy had piled up all around started to rain down then came crashing, like an avalanche on top of him until the ground on the surface once more lay flat... and the only thing left to mark where the boy had fallen was a thin smooth wooden board all alone, left looking like a tombstone.

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