Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Dignity By paul warnes


I’ve vowed do it when the last leaf falls. There are three clinging on- brown, desiccated, wizened things. At night time they take on a different appearance. The cherry tree burns in the orange glow of a streetlight. On the tip of a low branch two leaves overlap, a third hangs below, silhouetted against the sky. A black crow. A black crow waiting for me to act.

I’ll know when it happens. Within a few hours at any rate. I don’t go out much anymore and the tree is just outside the front window.

Everything’s prepared but it’s good to have a deadline to work to. I’ve moved a table under the front window so I can keep watch. I eat there and work there. To borrow a cliché- it’s my window on the world.

There was a strong wind last night and I feared the worst. The crow has lost a wing. Two leaves remain and when they are gone I will make the phone call.

At night I see foxes and a hedgehog now and again. I tap on the window and the fox freezes. It moves, I tap and it freezes again. A cruel game. Am I afraid like my fox? There are birds in my belly and I do not eat. This morning I dragged Daddy’s old armchair closer to the window. I can sleep in there with a blanket and a pillow. And continue my vigil.

It has been raining all day. I fear that the remaining leaves will become soaked and heavy. Dead, wet leaves lie black around the base of the tree like a pool of blood. I count the time by the rain as it drips from the blocked gutter above the bedroom.

People pass. My tree doesn’t hide me in the leafless months. Do they see me here? A little girl did. She waved a tiny hand. Her mother pulled her away before I could wave back. Are they frightened of my face behind the window?

And now only the tail of my crow remains. One leaf left. Bills are paid. Bags are packed. I wait. I watch. It blew a gale again during the long night. I listened to the evergreens whooshing like pebbles in the tide. The little cherry bent and shook, swayed and bowed. But as long as I watched, the leaf clung on.

Like the tree, I too am wavering. I could set a new deadline; perhaps when the first snowflake lands or when the first bud forms or when the cuckoo calls or when the clocks go forward again or…

I missed it! The leaf has fallen, my crow has flown. My heart goes BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM. Mustn’t think. Pick up the phone. Hand trembling. Ring the number. Blood in my ears. Ring ring. I can still call it off. Ring ring. I’ll give it six rings and then hang up. Ring.


A man’s voice. Foreign.

“I’m ready.”

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