Picture by Kellepics, courtesy of Pixabay.

It was overcast today, but he knew what was coming. Summer started tomorrow. Tomorrow was the longest day. The Solstice. Tomorrow he would walk outside and greet the sun.  

Tomorrow was her last day alive.

He’d tried to fight it, tried to delay, but tomorrow was The Day. When the fight left him, he’d begged for that. At least let her have the Solstice. Let her have the longest day. They’d agreed to this one small mercy.

When the sun rose, he went to see her. She stood tall and beautiful now, but he saw her sadness, her understanding. A small boy sat nearby, chatting with her. His heart twisted.

“She dies tomorrow.” he told the boy. 

“That’s sad,” the boy said. “She’s always been so nice.” He just nodded, heart in his throat. The boy left them alone as he circled her with his arms. 

“I love you so much,” he told her. “I fought so hard.” People on the sidewalk gave the man crying, arms around a tree, a wide berth. 

He held her most of the day, told her of his plans. If he stole wood chips, took part of her root, could he put her back together somewhere safe? Maybe a meadow up north? Or back in the swamp where she’d be happy? This street was swamp too, back when she was born. Other busy areas were meadows once. There was nowhere safe. 

“We all die, ” he said. He’d said it so many times over the past few weeks. “I don’t have any fight left, but I gave you the Solstice.” He stayed all night.

The summer sun woke up the world and others came, drawn to life and death. They did yoga in the streets near the giant oak. They chanted and yelled and threw stones at the construction crew. Until he calmed them. 

“She’s ready. Let her go with peace.” And so they watched in tears as a crew chopped down the great goddess. A worker, moved by the display, brought a piece of the trunk to him. He searched it, but couldn’t find her face. 

It took days, during which he remained nearby. As they ground the stump, he heard her scream. Her pain was far greater than his. He never left. 

He felt it. The moment she died, he knew. Summer took over. He burned in its wake, soaked with sweat and tears. 

He took the piece of stump, a gift from someone who didn’t know but understood, and buried it in his backyard. Part of him believed it might grow. Years later, when he too was gone and his home met the same fate as his love, they unearthed the stump and tossed aside.