The Willow

After every battle, the old warrior would bring home a metal trinket, a small glass bottle, or a bell to add to his willow tree full of hanging bells and wind chimes. It was the largest willow tree in the land with beautiful golden leaves. Every day he would pace around the tree from morning till dusk, muttering to himself and whispering to the weeping branches, shaking his sword at the sky and its passing clouds and striking the chimes and bells with his blade. The sounds pealed out over the fields and drifted down the streets. Only after a day of this cacophony would the old warrior plant the sword in the ground and fall asleep under the sighing leaves. The moon would transform the willow into cataracts of silver. Throughout the peaceful days, children sometimes cried at the scary sounds, the young ladies found the dancing and clanging of the old man obscene, the men laughed or cursed, but were afraid to say anything. One day, the heralds arrived, summoning the warriors to the battlefield, and the ancient master swordsman armed himself, whispering a few last sweet nothings to the tree before departing. When he returned from the battlefield, he found the trinkets smashed, the bottles shattered, the bells broken or melted down and left at the base of the tree. Many of the branches had been broken or stripped. The master swordsman looked at the scattered leaves and trashed ornaments and finally at the small remnant of silent bells. The old man wept silently. Then he sat under the tree and went to sleep. During the night the hawks and falcons came to eat his eyes, to rip out his tongue, to pull out strands of intestines, peck out his heart and liver, and chew his arms and legs. Not many days later, the willow tree withered and died.

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