Ozzie Ausband

The Sentinel

It had stood there for many years. Night after night, the cold face of the moon grinned its pale white light down over him. The moon stood watch over his life & he stood watch over theirs. The concrete, brick & wood box below him had housed more than a few humans. Big, tall, black, white… many languages, many tears. He liked the tiny humans the best. Children. They were untainted & untrammelled. They laughed & hid behind him. He wished his face were lower to the ground so he could shade them better. The concrete pool sat nearby. In certain afternoon light, he saw his face reflected in the cool water. His own mirror. He thought he looked majestic. The children  splashed & screamed in delight. Happiness & laughter. He smiled deep inside himself. Sometimes at night, he heard them cry. The raised voices & the striking hands of the big ones. He stood over their life… a gaunt stoic presence. One day, the big trucks came. Activity. Bustling. Yelling. Boxes & trash… then silence. All life left & he remained.

Birds cawed & fluttered among his green fronds. They sang in the early morning sun. Heat came. The long thirsty wait. He pulled water deeply into himself. He held it there, much in the same way the puny humans kept a grip on their pride. His way was healthier. It was of the earth. The sleepy seasons were long behind him. Noon burned bright. No breeze stirred. Then, the dark, smoke & pain came. Fire washed across the nearby grass fields. He saw it coming. Hot flames licked his trunk. Soot blocked out the life-giving sun. Pain & sleep followed. It was a long silent wait. Months. Finally, the sun –once more– was a presence. It shone on a world gone wrong. He was torn & blackened. Fires had consumed the structure below. From his height, he saw it all. Devastation. Many other distant trees looked back at him. They shouldered the sky & shrugged. They had withstood the ages. The comings & goings of humanity meant little. They were & always would be. For many long hot months, time crawled slowly by. Then, they came. The new ones. They cleaned up the area. They were happy. The new ones drained the pool of its muck & debris. They rolled around in it. Happiness & laughter filled the air again. It rose up to him like the sweet smoke they took into their lungs. He smiled again. All life moved forward & he with it. Skate- Ozzie