The Tree of Life


The boab slumped in the middle of a corral like a fat clown. Leah cowered behind her ma.

‘No need to be scared, little one,’ Ma said. ‘It’s only a tree.’

‘But it’s upside down, Ma.’

‘That’s what makes it magic,’ said Ma.

‘But it’s got a big belly, Ma.’

‘That’s not a belly – it’s a storehouse. It shares all its treasures with us,’ said Ma.

‘What kind of treasures, Ma?’

‘Your pa and I make cloth and rope from its trunk; that’s what pays the rent. I use the leaves to make medicine for when you’re sick and its monkey bread is full of vitamin C. In the drought we tap it for water.’

‘But it looks so old and ugly.’

‘That’s because it’s hundreds of years old,’ said Ma, her mouth starting to twist.

Leah swung on the corral fence.

‘Why is it fenced in?’ she asked.

Ma turned away to look back at the house, shielding her eyes with her hand. A car was approaching, dust flying in its wake. When she turned back, Leah was gone.

Ma walked between the fence posts and peered behind the tree. Leah wasn’t there. She must have climbed inside. Ma leaned against the knobbly trunk and knocked on it with her knuckles.

‘Are you in there, Leah?’ she called.

A door opened in the side of the boab. A grizzly old woman put her head out, her mouth stretched in a sunshine smile.

‘What took you so long, Ma?’


© Kim M. Russell, 2016