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Please e-mail your short stories, jokes
and anecdotes along with photographs, pictures or anything you think will
interst others
and it could
be displayed
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to see!.

"A Tree Story"
is a delightful
little Childrens fantasy type,

I hope you
andour readers
will enjoy.

George Lafferty
and Linda Bunch

Deep in southern Florida, in a large twisted Cypress Tree, draped with Spanish Moss, and spreading over eighty-five percent of the yard it grew in, lived the tree dwellers. Tiny little people with pointed ears and chins, they have been known in human legends by various names, none of which really includes this race of the little people.

The Tree of Life, the tree of the Dwellers, is their world and all outside the tree is, to them, dangerous and unknown territory, peopled by giant creatures. Once, long ago, their forefathers had travelled out there in the world of monsters and from this history comes what little is known. This wide unexplored territory is known to be inhabited by giants who have no regard for small living things, which live in trees.

One must hide and keep secret the very existence of the dwellers, lest all be destroyed by the giants, who live outside the tree. The history of the dwellers, passed on for centuries by word of mouth, for the dwellers have no written language, calls these giants, humans.

The tree of the dwellers, even by the standards of the giant humans, is enormous. With a huge trunk and limbs spreading far and wide, and of course, dwarfing and completely shading, the four bedroom sort of pink, it needs repainting badly, house built beneath it, by the strange giant creatures, called humans.

The humans are creatures who apparently have no concern for the Dwellers at all and consider them nothing but animals. Animals, which cause them nothing but trouble, animals which should be exterminated. These humans had tried for centuries to rid the trees of burrowing creatures such as the dwellers. It had apparently never crossed their minds to find out if the creatures they were trying to kill were an intelligent species. Of course, to be fair the dwellers hid from the humans while other burrowing types, bugs, did not. Just be thankful Tree is very resistant to both decay and the chemicals of the humans.

The humans had, in fact, more or less declared a war upon what they considered nothing but mere pests, trying to trap them, to dispose of, or kill them in several other even more dreadful ways. These humans must indeed be horrible creatures, which one must learn to avoid at all costs.

Several generations of the little people had come and gone since the time the small humans, who lived with and appeared to be the offspring, of the big humans in the house, had climbed throughout the tree, making life very precarious indeed for the tree dwellers.

The small humans had even built a smaller house in the tree, somewhat above the big house on the ground and appropriately enough, had called it a tree house.

Brave adventurers among the tree dwellers had explored the long since abandoned structure, but could discern no possible use for it, even by the strange humans, large or small.

The tree Dwellers, Coniferians, Of Coniferia. Dwellers in the Tree Of Life, even so called by the giant humans, though nearly all of them either don't know it or do not care. You see, the Cypress is a conifer, known as a broad-leafed evergreen, and is described in the human encyclopaedia as the tree of life.

The coniferians, have a rich and lengthy history, learned by apprentices to the master scribes, and passed down through the generations. They have a mostly democratic government, represented by Prime Leader Gfilexi, who holds office for life after winning the majority vote of the dwellers. The dwellers also have a military service, to protect themselves from the occasional onslaught of squirrels and the larger and more fierce of the birds, not to mention the occasional rat.

The most fearsome enemy of the Dwellers, of course, being the giant felines, which seemed to roam the world outside of Tree. Indeed, these fierce creatures occasionally even managed to climb up into Tree itself.

The military has recently been given a new task, however, and that is to explore the world of the humans, who live in the immense, to the dwellers, area beneath the widespread branches of Tree.

The head of the military team assigned to this mission of exploration, Jolal Hespfley and the dweller he had gone to see, Motivation Science Director Alexal Jkrmebe, were deep in conservation as to how to form a team to build and operate an exploration craft.

The craft must be large enough to hold a team of scientists, a squad of soldiers to protect them during exploration beyond Tree, and of course, a crew to operate the vehicle. The vehicle must be built in one of the hollow workshops inside the tree, then a method must be developed to lower it to the ground beneath the tree.

'Much work and planing are necessary,' wailed Alexal, 'much work and planning, but I think I know what must be done. Go away now, and select your bravest soldiers, train them well in their duties and to expect the unexpected. This will be a very dangerous mission, you know.'

'Yes, I will,' said Jolal, 'I must find those with no fear of exploration away from Tree, and who are willing to brave going out among the giants. They will need to train hard indeed, in skill, speed with their weapons and stamina. They must be willing to lay down their lives, if necessary to protect the expedition.'

Professor Bobebe, head of the architectural department at Dweller University, was asked to help with drafting the plans for an experimental vehicle. After many nights of worry and consternation, the professor began to get a glimmer of an idea.

He then spent many more days of feverish drawing, and what began to take shape on the drawing board was a cone shaped vehicle, with many inset boxes to show the interior workings of the mechanical parts of this strange contrivance.

'Why it looks like a giant pine cone, only solid,' said Alexal, 'and with funny round doorways into the interior.'

'Oh, there are doors to close to fill the doorways,' said Bobebe, Very stout ones, made of Tree itself, to keep out strange creatures and protect those within.'

'Are you sure we can make all those wheels,' said Jolal, 'especially those with the sharp teeth all the way around them?'

'Oh yes,' said Bobebe, 'the smooth ones are indeed wheels, for the vehicle, while the smaller ones with teeth are called gears. Carving these special gears is an art, I assure you, but is well within the capabilities of our Master Carver and his journeymen. When completed, the Sacred Moss belts, being woven by the Master Weaver and his journeymen will give the vehicle the power to move.'

'How is that accomplished,' asked Alexal, 'if it is not too hard to explain.'

'It is fairly simple, in fact,' said Bobebe, rising from his drafting stool and stretching to his full one and three quarter inches of height, 'four bars fitting tightly through the gears, which are set in a cradle, are attached to pedals. When pedalled by the crew, the bars will turn the gears. The sacred moss, woven into a sort of chain, will stretch, in an elongated circle over these gears, to another set of gears at the rear of the vehicle. The smaller gears at the rear are solidly mounted to the long rod which goes all the way through the vehicle and serves as axle for the rear wheels. A second set, exactly like the first, will do the same for the front axle and its wheels. Should the rear set of wheels become stuck for any reason then you must simply switch to the front set, to get back in motion. In fact, practice in the timing of the crew's pedalling would give a much stronger power to the vehicle to get out of rough terrain conditions, by using both sets at once.

There are other things I need for the construction though, that should still be available, if not squandered away.'

'Like what,' answered Alexal, a tad miffed at the accusation of squandering of materials, the care of such being a part of the many responsibilities of his office.

'Many years ago,' said Bobebe, 'when I was but a young man, some of our brave explorers went to the small house built in Tree itself. They discovered several pieces of a hard transparent substance. Sort of like the thin dried sap we use to make our few decorative windows, only very clear indeed, while being thicker and immeasurably stronger. Some of these pieces were even of different colours.'

'I remember that,' said Alexal, 'in fact I believe it is still stored in the bowels of the council storage and preservation rooms.'

'Ah, it is as I had hoped,' said Bobebe, 'if so, the clear pieces would make for very secure and strong windows for our vehicle. After all, our brave explorers must have a way to see out to the front, rear and hopefully the sides, at least in the doors.'

'I am sure it is still there, why anyone would have moved it is beyond me,' said Alexal, until now it was thought to be pretty, but without value. Also,' said Alexal,' some of our scouts have been reporting pieces of clear material, different from the other, but even more transparent, being seen from the closest limbs, on the ground near the sides of the human house.'

'It is still there,' said Jolal, 'at least the material found long ago is, I saw it not three months ago, upon material inspection. I wonder, in fact, some of the pieces, are a light green in colour, like the leaves of Tree itself. Would not these, make better windows, to block out the harsh rays of the sun?'

'Yes, yes,' said Bobebe, 'good thinking for a military minded man, but then you must be a good thinker to have attained your rank at such a young age.'

Blushing at the compliment, while ignoring the implied snipe at his age, Jolal said, 'I will go immediately and secure the material, where would you like it delivered?'

'To the large room in the trunk of Tree near the third limb junction,' said Bobebe, that is where construction will begin soon, if these plans are accepted.'

'Is there any chance, do you think, of securing the material seen on the ground, near the human walls,' asked Bobebe.

'I am uncertain,' replied Jolal, 'it would take a military expedition of itself and a crew to move the material, as well as a sling to haul it up into Tree.'

'Better let that wait then as we have projects and missions aplenty for now,' said Alexal. 'And, he continued, since yours are the only plans being drawn up to submit to the Prime, I am reasonably certain they will be accepted. If, of course, there are no obvious mistakes which might, indeed, lead to disaster.'

Hurrying to the limb where his chosen troops were practising with their bows, lances, spears and short swords, Jolal detached several of them to go and move the transparent material to the appropriate room in Tree.

After he had departed, Alexal asked Bobebe if the problem of lowering the

vehicle to the ground had been considered.

'Yes, of course,' said Bobebe, 'it would do us precious little good to have a vehicle in Tree, but no way to get it to ground.'

'May I ask how you can lower a vehicle of this size to the ground without just pushing it off a limb,' said Alexal.

'Gears once again,' said Bobebe, 'or rather a series of them to reduce strain on both the moss and the operators. Weaving the length of moss necessary to reach the ground is, however, the most time consuming of our projects. No exploration can begin without it, to lower the vehicle of course, so it is the completion date of the lowering line that will determine the date of departure.'

* * *

The house had been empty of humans for a long time. The house was old and in bad repair and no one seemed to want to spend the money to repair it, until one day a man who buys, repairs and resells houses began to show interest in the place. Once he determined to have it, he sent a crew to look it over and see what repairs might run him in costs. After assurance that he could eventually turn a profit on the deal, the house was purchased and the crew sent to repair it and make it a nice future home for some buyer again. The crew worked on the place for many days, completely rebuilding one side of the house and then repairing and replacing a lot of the broken windows. New paint, followed by new carpeting and the house was really beginning to look good again, at least on the inside.

The finishing touches were being completed on the inside of the house one day, when a couple came to see the house. After a tour of the interior and walking all through the yard, they came, of course, to the point of discussing the tree.

They liked what they saw and thought the tree to be beautiful. They spoke of the possible damage to the roof of the house because of the tree, but the man said it just needed to be taken care of, and kept clean of fallen branches and moss, to prevent damage to the roof. He also said that in no way would he jeopardise the beauty of the tree, by trying to cut limbs away.

'Do you have children,' asked the contractor, pointing to the tree house up in the tree.

'Actually we do,' said the lady, 'but they are all in their twenties, and live a long way from Florida.'

They liked the house so well that a meeting, at the house, with the owner, was scheduled for the very next day.

After talking with the owner, a deal was struck and, pending all the financial dealings, of course, the couple bought the house. When they talked of painting the house, the owner told them it was going to be painted as part of the reconstruction and would be all pretty and nice for them to move into.

'What colour are you planning to paint it,' asked the woman.

The owner replied, 'why, back the same colour of flamingo pink, don't you like it?'

'Lets talk about this,' she said, 'would it be possible to paint it a pale yellow with

white trim instead, I think it would look much better, sort of clean and bright.'

'Well lady,' he said, 'if that is the colour you want, I don't see why not,' and he called his contractor over to discuss it.

The couple was so excited over buying the house that they couldn't wait, and went back the next afternoon to see it again. They were expecting to see the same place

they had looked at the day before and were very pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful yellow house with white trim, as the painters had gotten there early that morning and had been there all day.

Weeks went by while the couple waited for the house to close so they could take possession and move in. Oh, they would drive up every once in awhile and walk around the yard just looking at the house and yard and discussing their plans on just how they wanted the yard to look. They talked of how they wanted to furnish the house with the furniture they owned and some new things of course, just for their new home.

The Dwellers, of course, were busy as well, planning their exploration of the ground under Tree and, of course, the large house under Tree. The scientists were busy with their apprentices, building and testing the various parts of the expedition vehicle.

They were preparing to test the lowering of the vehicle to the ground, as best they could, considering they had nothing else like the vehicle to practice lowering. Everyone in Tree had been asked to submit ideas for a name for the vehicle, and though many had been collected, none really pleased Alexal or Bobebe. In fact, Jolal had the best name so far, or so they thought, though they didn't really think it was majestic enough for the planned mission.

Jolal wasn't all that concerned with how majestic it sounded, he just thought the name 'The Quest' sounded good, and summed up what they were doing as well.

It was finally decided that the top ten names, picked by the council, would be listed and then a vote would be taken so the name, would be picked by the majority, of the Dwellers.

A large piece of debris from Tree itself was found lodged in a fork of branches in an area of Tree seldom used by the Dwellers. This piece of debris nearly matched the, as yet unnamed vehicle, and was to be used in place of the vehicle for the lowering test.

When the test resulted in the lowering strand separating, thereby dropping the debris to the ground. It proved how much stronger the strand must be. A new one was started immediately. One which would support the piece of debris, which was laboriously hauled back into the tree a short distance at a time.

The Dweller, Akron Doab, who found the piece of debris was rewarded when a suggestion was accepted from Jolal and the winning name for the vehicle was selected. 'Doabís Quest' would go down in Dweller history as the name of the first Dweller Ground Exploration Vehicle, or DGEV I (Doab's Quest).

Then, one day a huge yellow box type vehicle pulled up to the house below Tree and the Dwellers watched covertly from observation points in the branches, as humans moved into the house. A sigh of relief went up as it was observed that no small humans were among those moving into the house.

As the humans settled into their new home, preparations continued in Tree. Some well trained troops were dispatched on a scouting mission, to make a mental map of the area directly below Tree, so a route of exploration could be chosen. Upon their return, they reported the transparent materials were no longer near the edge of the house. Apparently the male human had cleaned up his new yard, removing any unsightly trash.

A warning went throughout Tree, a few days later when the male human used some sort of large and very noisy wheeled vehicle to chop off the tops of all the grass in his new yard. 'Now,' said Jolal, 'we should be able to see, by climbing on top of Doab's Quest, any obstacles in front of us for nearly as far as the eye can see.'

'Of course, Doab's Quest will also be much easier for any enemies to see as well,' warned Alexal.

'If some sort of platform were built atop the vehicle,' observed Bobebe, 'warning could be called out by the observer on the platform, and a small hatch could be added near it for the lookout to get back inside for safety.'

'Great idea,' said Jolal, 'can these changes be incorporated in time?'

'I would think so,' smiled Bobebe, 'in fact, we will see to it.'

While the final details of Doab's Quest were being attended to, a council meeting was called to discuss some changes to be made in the mission of exploration. It was brought to the attention of the main body of the council that the single most important thing concerning Tree, was not so much the area around it, as the new humans who now live in the house directly below Tree and control all of that area below Tree.

'But what can we do about them,' asked Prime Leader Gfilexi.

'It has been brought to my attention, by the scout team I sent out,' said Jolal, 'that the humans door nearest Tree does not go all the way down, leaving a gap at the bottom that we could easily crawl through. By watching from the overhead branches of Tree, we could find a time when the humans are not there and explore inside the house. Maybe we could determine what sort of humans these are and possibly what their intentions are toward Tree.'

Meanwhile the humans were also planning and doing, as they were adjusting to their new home.

'Bob,' said Susie, 'we are going to have to get some weather stripping or something, I have killed several large Palmetto bugs, crawling in under the back door, you know, the one that goes out by the tree.'

'I know,' Bob replied, 'this is an old house and several of the windows and all of the doors need some work. As soon as we get the bills from moving in under control, I will see what I can do.'

'It's going to be really pretty when we get it all finished though, don't you think?' said Susie.

'I sure do,' Bob agreed, 'we still have a lot of pictures and curtains and finishing touches to see to, and then I want to get started on our little library. Alphabetising all the books as we put them on the shelves.'

'Okay, I want to help with that,' said Susie, I like working and talking together on those little projects of yours.'

'Works for me,' said Bob, 'I enjoy it when you come in and keep me company. Besides, its as much your library as it is mine.'

'I know,' said Susie, 'I just think of it as your library because you had so many books when we got married.'

'That makes no difference, we have been married two years now and starting a new life at our age is wonderful. Everything we have is ours together, no matter whose it started out to be before we got together.'

'I know honey, isn't it great, we have a lot together, don't we' she said.

'That includes our new home darling,' Bob said, 'we are going to be very happy here, I'm sure, and together we can do anything.'











This was because of the humans in the house next door. For some reason those humans had long been cutting branches off of Tree on their side of the fence between the yards, to keep it from over their roof, one would have to believe. More importantly, they had also been digging up the roots of Tree in their yard and chopping them off for some mysterious but terrifying reason. to paint it a pale yellow with

'Damage to Tree on the other side is irreversible and nothing can be done about that. What we need is to know about these new humans on this side,' said Prime Leader Gfilexi.

In Tree, the big day finally arrived, and amidst a gala celebration, Doab's Quest was successfully lowered to the ground and quickly camouflaged for an early morning departure. A party was held for the brave heroes who would be departing the next morning, though it was cut short by order of Jolal, so all could get a good nights rest before the venture began.

The next two days were spent becoming used to maneuvering Doab's Quest and

in practice drills in case of emergencies, while scouting for a site for a safe base camp near the door of the house. While all this was being done, observation and relay posts were being set up in branches throughout Tree. This was both to give advance warning to those below in Doab's Quest of any encroachment by large enemies, such as the large felines, and to keep watch on the humans so the explorers would know when to attempt entry into the house.

During the next eventful week, the humans left the house for both brief and long periods of time. Several quick excursions into the house were made without mishap and reports were sent back to tree, via the observation and relay posts. Eventually these reports of the marvels of the humans were relayed to the council and the scribes were kept busy memorizing much new information. However, nothing about Tree was discovered at all.

Then, as fate would have it, Mother Nature intervened to complicate matters. This was after all hurricane season in Florida and a huge one was crossing the Atlantic Ocean and approaching the West Coast of Florida.

This hurricane was a monster indeed and though the Dwellers sensed it, from untold generations of living in this part of the country, their only fear was for Tree and the weakened root system on the far side nearest the ocean. After all, Tree was located less than a mile and a half, in human terms, from the ocean itself.

Though Susie was no stranger to Florida, it was all new to Bob and even Susie was becoming worried about the sheer size of this hurricane. The difference in the speed of the winds in this hurricane was only one mile per hour between a category IV and a category V. Category V is the largest and most catastrophic of storms and this, borderline Cat V, was the largest storm to come this way in many years.

Bob and Susie decided, unknown to the Dwellers, of course, to drive over to the East Coast of Florida and stay in a motel for safety s sake.

Hurricane Floyd, as this one was named, turned north at the last possible moment, thereby missing the cost of Florida. Those farther north in the Carolinas were not so lucky.

Nearly two weeks had passed since Floyd and life was returning to normal for Bob and Susie, who had returned after a two-day vacation on the East Coast. Though another hurricane was approaching, it was really only a tropical storm, as yet, and no real worry was felt by either Bob or Susie.

One day, while working in their library, Bob decided he needed a break and said, ' Susie, I am going to run up to the store and get a six pack of soda, is there anything you need?'

'No, not really,' Susie answered, ' but I wouldn t mind getting out for a while myself, may I go with you?

'Sure,' said Bob, but I am only going to run to the closest convenience store, then right back to take up with the library again.'

'That' s okay,' she said, I would still like to go.

Bob and Susie left the house not realizing they had left the back door nearest the tree standing open about eight inches. In fact they hadn't even bothered to lock up the house, as they had no intentions of being gone long.

The Dwellers in the observation posts quickly spread the word of their departure and the access of the open door, to Doab Quest down below and a bold plan was quickly put in motion. Instead of crawling under the closed door, Doab' s Quest was driven right into the house.

Unfortunately this placed Doab's Quest out of range of the relay posts in Tree, though those brave souls screamed at the top of their lungs, trying to warn the explorers of the wandering neighborhood house cat, who followed Doab's Quest into the house.

Known to the Dwellers as the giant feline, it was just an inquisitive tabby, to humans but a holy terror to the Dwellers.

The cat caught up with them in the living room of the house and though in a corner, where two walls protected them from having the cat attack from anywhere but the front, they were still in a bad way. With most of the Dwellers, hiding behind Doab's Quest, Jolal and the military was trying their level best to keep the huge feline at bay.

The tiny arrows of the Dwellers were, of course, unable to stop the cat but they seemed to sting it enough, like small thorns, to make it back off, between paw swiping attacks, to yowl and hiss at them.

It was during one of these lulls in attacks that salvation came out of nowhere as Susie, yelling at the cat to get out of her house and pushing it back out the door with a broom, came to their rescue. Closing the door she looked at the dwellers and hollered,

'Bob, come here quick, you are never going to believe what I see.'

Coming into the room and crossing to stand beside Susie, Bob was dumb struck, as was Susie and they just stood there staring at the tiny men, wearing clothes and brandishing miniature bows, swords and spears, while talking excitedly among themselves. Most of the little people seemed to be hiding behind a strange wooden shaped thing on little wheels, obviously some kind of vehicle.

'Well, I ll be,' Bob said, 'Leprechauns!'

'Is that what they are,' asked Susie, ' I thought Leprechauns were supposed to be bigger than that.'

'What else would you call them,' asked Bob.

'Dwellers,' said the tiny voice of Jolal, ' or Coniferians, if you prefer.'

'They speak our language,' said Susie.

'What makes you think its yours,' asked Jolal, 'we have been around at least as long as humans, maybe even longer.'

'Well, English, anyway,' said Bob.

'Yes, in this form,' said Jolal.

'Put away your little weapons,' said Bob, 'you have no need to fear us, we mean you no harm whatsoever and I would really like to talk to you and get to know you.'

Grudgingly, at first, the Dwellers slung their bows, sheathed their swords and stacked their spears. What followed was a long and strange conversation, while outside Irene drew closer and closer.

'And so you see,' concluded Jolal, we have a long history and though most of us only speak Coniferian, some of us, who tutored under the scribes, speak a few of the human languages as well.

While the conversation lasted a long time, with both parties agreeing to meet again in the morning to continue talking, the real reasons for the incursion by the Dwellers were never brought up. Thus it came as a total surprise when Irene struck during the night.

Irene did more damage than the near miss of Floyd, as Irene struck the coast of Florida. Though barely a Cat I, Irene destroyed property, knocked down power lines and a lot of smaller trees. Caused low-lying areas to flood and just wreaked havoc with a vengeance. To the horror of the Dwellers, Tree could not withstand Irene either as big and old and as stout as Tree was, the lack of roots on the West side of Tree caused it to fall. Slowly and majestically, Tree became uprooted on the West side and leaned over, falling onto the house. The fall was so gradual that the house held Tree up but it could not last for long. Too much damage was done to the house, which could not be repaired, with Tree leaning on it.

In such disasters, many times people will come together to help those in need and such was to be the case of two humans and a band of soon to be homeless Tree Dwellers, as Tree was going to have to be cut down and removed.

Loading all the community of Dwellers and all their possessions into their mini-van, Bob and Susie drove to the Big Cypress Swamp, just north of the Everglades. Here the Dwellers found a huge beautiful Cypress tree to live in and to their surprise, soon

discovered that other Cypress trees in the swamp were inhabited by other bands of Dwellers.

Safe from the prying eyes and depredations of other humans, the Dwellers were once again safe and reunited, after many hundreds of years, with their own kind of people.

Bob and Susie soon decided to place their house back on the market, after the tree was removed and repairs could be made, to move inland, where they felt they would be safer themselves.

In fact they moved clear to Arkansas where they were indeed safe, until tornado season rolled around, but then again, that is another story.


The End

2000 George Lafferty and Linda Bunch