By Gene Twaronite
Long before science, humans sat around campfires and spun tales about how various plants and animals came into being.
While our evidence-based knowledge has largely supplanted these stories, that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy them.
Take sassafras, for example. According to scientists, it’s a deciduous tree in the laurel family native to eastern North America and central China. It can be easily identified because some of its leaves are lobed, like mittens or fingers. Now I’m sure there’s some perfectly logical scientific explanation for why its leaves are shaped that way. But first, sit back and let me tell you a tale.
Sassafras loved his rock. It was the joy of his life — his thing, the fulfillment of his very existence. There was nothing he’d rather do than sit atop its mossy throne and sip his morning coffee.
But one morning, the gods decided to play a trick on him (as gods so often do). They plucked his beloved rock from the edge of the ferny woods and, just like that, set it on top of Mount Futilius. Then they peered over the edge of their cloud and watched.
When Sassafras arrived at the woods that morning, his rock was gone. There was only a deep impression where it had rested. Frantically, he searched every corner of the woods and fields and each street in the village. Where could it have gone? So far as he knew, his rock had never moved anywhere, even during the Ice Ages. Then he happened to look up at the summit of Mount Futilius and saw a small bump on top that he’d never noticed before. It had the same shape as his rock. Curious and confused, he set off for the foot of the mountain. As he did so, he heard a giggle from somewhere up above.
Mount Futilius soared many thousands of feet above the valley, so it was hours before Sassafras reached the summit. And there was his rock, perched on the edge of a precipice. Relieved though puzzled to see it there, he flopped down on its thick mossy carpet and was just about to take a nap when he noticed how cold it was.
This won’t do at all, he thought. His rock needed to be back at the edge of the woods where it belonged. There was only one thing to do. If only he could get it to move. The rock was awfully big, but Sassafras had the strength of an ox. He pushed and he pushed with all his might. After what seemed like an eternity, the rock began to budge until, finally, it tipped over the edge and rolled down the mountainside. Descending as fast as he could, Sassafras prayed his rock was all right.
Upon reaching the valley, he noticed a wide swath of crushed shrubs and grass. Anxiously he followed the path until, at last, he found his rock. He couldn’t believe his eyes. For there was not a scratch on it and all its mossy carpet was intact as if nothing had happened. It was in the exact same spot where it had always been nestled against the ferny woods. He plopped down upon its great granite bosom and fell instantly asleep lulled by the gentle rustle of wind through the trees.
The sun was already low in the sky when he awoke. He trudged on home, secure in the knowledge his rock was back where it should be.
Next morning, humming softly while sipping his coffee, he came to the woods and was just about to sit down when he noticed something. Again, his rock was gone. And from up above he heard that same giggle, though this time it was louder. …
© Gene Twaronite 2013
Gene Twaronite’s writing has appeared in numerous literary journals and magazines. He is the author of “The Family That Wasn’t,” “My Vacation in Hell,” and “Dragon Daily News.” Follow Gene at TheTwaroniteZone.Com.