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Fiction by Jane (Cohen) Stinson
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Perhaps she should cry more often. She held her watch up to the pale moonlight. It was 7:45. She ran to the Jeep and jammed it into low gear, roared down the dirt road without regard for how she was jarred back and forth. Joe would be very angry if she weren't there when he got home. By the time she pulled into their driveway it was 8:30. Joe was obviously home. The lights she had left burning were off. Only the lights in his studio were on. He had to be working up there, waiting for her to come home. He would never believe she had been out to the Witch Tree at this time of the night. His car must be in the garage. Becky shuddered. There would be a terrible fight about where she'd been and the condition of the house. There would be tears about her empty easel, about his disappointment with her. There would be the anger for wasting her time and not disciplining herself the way an artist must, and then the ultimate forgiveness she would grant him for his loss of self- control. She wheeled the Jeep in front of the house and ran inside. “Joe!” she called, but no one answered. She turned on the living room lights and ran through the room, then quickly up the stairs and across the bridge to his studio where the only lights burned. She paused for a moment to catch her breath and regain control of herself. Then she pushed the door open gently so as not to startle him. “Joe,” she called softly into the enormous room. There was no answer. The studio was full of Joe's work, his paintings and sketches and paints and brushes and empty canvases awaiting his ideas. She found the studio extraordinarily depressing and rarely went in except to clean it. In the middle of the room stood an easel with a canvas far smaller than the ones on which Joe usually worked. Becky had never seen it before. Perhaps Joe had finally started working on what was important to him instead of his huge historical monstrosities. Becky pulled it around carefully into the best light. A blue sky, an exceptional blue sky, a bluff above the lake growing tall, scraggly, rough grasses, and the outline of a small tree hanging out above the lake, a pale, almost white tree, twisted through the years into unimagined shapes and shadows but firmly anchored to the earth, her Tree, her magic, her life – all this leaping from the canvas before her, Joe finally taking it all and making it a part of his being and body. With a few simple strokes of his brushes he had grasped the essence of the tree and explained its existence. He had clearly reached a new level of consciousness with his work but it was her consciousness that he had invaded, the place where she resided alone and safe from the world. Her heart pounded in her chest like a separate being demanding exit from its prison. She jammed her nails into the flesh of her hands to see if she were still there. The studio was completely silent. Even the lake seemed silent, its usual lapping sounds against the rocks of the shore muffled by the fine, misting white snow.

The Witch Tree - page 12