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Russell had a fetish. I blame his parents. I mean, really… what were they smokin’ the day he was born? They named him Russell Leeves? In my opinion, that was just asking for trouble.

Anyway, I wanna tell you a legend about Russell and the time somethin’ really strange happened in this small rural town. I don’t know if it’s true. It may be somethin’ parents made up to keep their kids out of the trees. Who knows? It happened a long time ago. There’s no one left to ask now, but here it is, the way it was told to me:

Russell lived alone and pretty much kept to himself. His house was small but sat on a large lot. There was a beautiful ash tree in his front yard and other trees to the sides and back of the house. Always a loner, he was never seen talking to anyone. Well, except himself. Russell would skulk up and down the streets in the neighborhood. He kept his head down and never made eye contact. All the neighborhood children would point and laugh at him as he passed by, but he never paid them any mind. Everyone knew about his problem. The whole town whispered about it. He loved trees. Now, mind you, lovin’ trees isn’t really a problem…unless your name is Russell Leeves.

Russell loved trees the way most men love women. He loved their smell, their taste and their texture. The townsfolk had spied him kissin’ the trunks of trees. They had seen him weep in the fall, so full of sorrow that it was palpable. He would cry in the spring. The utter joy on his face, as he touched the new leaves, a marvel to behold. Many times he was caught bringin’ a branch gently to his lips. He’d give the leaves a soft, tender kiss. It was baffling to watch his eyes close in delight, as his tongue darted out to lick them. Knowin’ how much he loved trees makes what happened that much harder to believe.

The day all hell broke loose, Russell wasn’t in his usual place. A few streets over from his normal stompin’ ground there was a dark house. I don’t mean dark in the sense that there was no light. I mean dark, like spooky. Evil almost. Anyway, there were several large trees in the yard. Oak, walnut, elm, ash, pine and other kinds of trees surrounded this house. Everyone knows you don’t put that many varieties together in one place. I don’t even know if they’ll all grow in the same place, but these sure did. Russell was seen huggin’ one of the young oaks in the front yard.

Well, you can’t tell kids the whole story, but he was doin’ more than huggin’ it, let me tell ya. Russell had his britches around his knees and his pecker was pressed against the trunk of that tree. He was humpin’ that thing like a man possessed. Which I guess he was. I mean, honestly, who fucks trees? The whole town could hear that tree just a squallin’ and carryin’ on. Russell just kept on humpin’. His face was a picture of ecstasy. His eyes were closed and his head was thrown back. Beads of sweat rolled down his face and he held onto that tree so hard his fingers had started to bleed. I guess he musta thought it was gonna run away from him. He pumped and he humped. Out of his mouth came this horrible screeching sound. He made one last thrust into that tree and then laid his head on the trunk. His chest heaved with his staggered breathin’. I reckon he came right inside that tree’s knothole.

Well, the next thing you know, there’s a rippin’ sound. The roots of that tree seemed to move. Impossible, right? Wrong! They pulled up outta the ground, creatin’ a rumble akin to an earthquake. The whole town felt it. Russell got knocked clean on his ass when that tree moved. The shock on his face as he landed… oh my. It was more like he couldn’t believe what he had done than surprise that the tree was movin’. He cowered on the ground beneath that tree, beggin’ for mercy. The townsfolk only caught a few of his words, but the tone of his voice was clear as a bell.

The house seemed to come alive at that moment. It had a presence about it that couldn’t be explained by logic. But then, logic had already flown, hadn’t it. A piercing whistle emanated from the house. The trees began to move. Russell’s expression changed from one of pleading to one of terror. His eyes widened, his face lost all color and his jaw dropped in a silent scream.

A few heartbeats later, he seemed to recover himself enough to stand and pull his pants up. Fumblin’ with the fastenings he began to run. The faster he ran the louder the whistle got. Trees all around him were uprooting themselves. They began chasin’ him. Their roots rolled on the ground like snakes, propellin’ them along as swift as a sidewinder. It wasn’t long before Russell found himself surrounded. He began to weep.

The townsfolk came out of their shocked stupor with a jolt. They might not have liked Russell and they might have thought he was a little strange, but he was still one of their own. They armed themselves, down to the smallest child, with axes, chainsaws and anything else they could get their hands on that chopped wood. When they drew close to where Russell stood tremblin’, they stopped.

Russell spoke, his voice shaking, “I didn’t mean to fuck the young oak.” The townsfolk watched in silence. “Well, I mean, I did… but I didn’t enjoy it.”

Something strange was happenin’. Yes, even stranger than what’d already happened. Russell’s pecker seemed to be growin’, and I don’t mean just harder. I mean growing! Like Pinocchio’s nose when he told a lie. Every time Russell opened his mouth and spoke, his pecker grew a few more inches. The townsfolk knew his words were false. They had seen him in the throes of ecstasy. A mumble went through the crowd. A single phrase seemed to pass like wildfire, “Pinocchio Syndrome”.

The silence was stifling, but for the murmur of the crowd. Russell continued to speak in a high-pitched whine, “Uh… yeah. I did enjoy it, but so did the oak.” The trees stopped their advance. They too seemed to be in awe of Russell’s growing woody.

In the next instant, a shrill voice echoed across the land. “He LIES! I would not enjoy the attentions bestowed upon me by one such as he. He smells of earth and blood. I prefer flowers and sap. He Violated me. He should be punished!”

The trees began to advance on Russell, their branches swaying close to his head. Fearing for his life, he turned to run. His woody poked a tree near him and he stumbled backward. Branches reached down and captured him. A small squeak of terror burst from his lips. Eyes wide, Russell jerked his body, trying to escape.

Darting a glance over his shoulder, he recognized the ash that held him captive as the one from his front yard. He sighed audibly and slumped in relief. He spoke to the ash in a low, soothing tone of voice, “Please, you know I love you…please make them spare me.”

The ash emitted a soft giggle. Her branches began to caress his flesh and he leaned back against her trunk. He lifted his arms over his head and wrapped them around her as far as they would go. Her branches journeyed over his torso and he began to moan. With slow, tender touches, her braches moved lower, until they reached his enormous woody. As she stroked it, he whispered words of deep love and the most amazing thing happened. His woody began to shrink! Now, I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention or not, but his woody shrinking could only mean one thing… He was telling the truth, he loved her.

The booming voice of an old oak was heard. “Ashley! Stop this nonsense at once!” The old oak wrapped one of his branches around Russell’s waist and gave a tug just hard enough to pull him free of the ash. The old oak began beating Russell with his branches.

Russell curled into a ball on the ground and covered himself the best he could. Over and over the old oak swung. The impact of the branches, connecting with Russell’s body, caused the ground to rumble underfoot. The loud cracking sound of tree striking flesh carried for miles.

Ashley flung herself between Russell and the swinging branches of the old oak, but it was too late. Russell had been beat unconscious. Still, she covered his limp body with her own and spoke in a hard, angry tone. “Leave him be, Admiral. He’s mine and I love him.”

The Admiral gave a snort of derision. “Love him? You love this… Thing? He is not one of us! How could you possibly Love him?”

Ashley spoke softly, “He’s warm and caring. He’s kind and tender…”

The Admiral bellowed, “Tender! HA!”

“He is,” she said angrily. “He would come to see me when the moon was high in the sky.” She began to touch Russell, her voice becoming affectionate. “He spoke to me in words soft and gentle. He kissed my trunk and caressed my leaves. The night of the full moon, nearly three weeks past now, he came to me in all his glory. He laid his hands on my trunk and spoke to me of my beauty.” Ashley emitted a deep sigh. “He brushed his lips against my bark. He took my branches in his hands and spoke of his love for me. His fingers found the knothole in my trunk and he pushed them inside.”

“What?” The Admiral burst angrily. “You are an innocent! You have only just come of age. Your initiation ceremony is to take place at the next full moon.”

“I am an innocent no longer.” Her voice was hard. “I chose to give him my innocence. It was Mine to give.” In a dreamy whisper she continued, “When he pushed himself deep inside my knothole, I was surrounded in love. He took me to places I never thought I would go.”

“He took you places you were never Meant to go!” His anger seemed to make him glow. “You will be banished from society, Ashley. Mark my words… Banished!”

Once again she leaned over Russell and spoke in a whisper, so soft the townsfolk had to strain to hear, “So be it.”

September 2018
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