And His Folly

Gladius rubbed his forehead as he watched all the people staring up at the trees. “Excuse me. But it seems to me that it would be better to climb the trees to get their fruit than to simply ask a tree for food, especially when the tree is clearly not interested in sharing.”

A man turned to Gladius. “What would you know?”

“Only what someone else tells me. The fellow who made me forgot to put in a brain, you see.” Gladius thumped his forehead, leaving a dimple. “Oh, I hate it when that happens.”

The man’s eyes flicked him up and down. “Well, I guess that would explain it.”

“So, why don’t you just climb up?” Gladius pointed a long finger up to the branches.

The man looked up to the tree. “But why aren’t they just giving the fruit? All it should take is asking nicely.”

Gladius shrugged. “I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me?”

The man grunted.

A woman approached him. “Artur, I can’t get any food! I’ve checked all our favorite trees. They’re actually lifting the fruit up even higher!” She embraced the man, putting her head on his chest, tucked under his chin.

Gladius tilted his head as he watched. “Excuse me. Do you think his chest might have the answer? Is that why you’re listening there?”

The woman shut her eyes tightly.

“Say, what’s happening with your clothes?” Gladius pointed at the man’s pants. “It looks like they’re in a great wind, but I only feel a breeze! Is this some new style?”

“Eh?” The man glanced down. “First the trees, now my pants!”

“And her dress, too!” Gladius observed.

“What’s going on, Artur?” the woman asked, huddling under his chin again.

Perhaps his chin had special abilities, Gladius reasoned.

His stomach rumbled. Gladius stroked his own chin, which he supposed made him think better. At least, that’s what other people seemed to do, and perhaps it would help even a brainless fellow like him. Well, that meant he needed food, and the best way to get food was to ask the trees. Gladius strode to the one the man had been addressing. “Say, tree? My stomach is as empty as my head. I’d love it if you’d do me the favor of providing some fruit!”

“Didn’t you hear? The trees have stopped listening to us!” the man – Artur, Gladius guessed – grumbled.

“Yes, but I’m not like you. Can’t you see?” Gladius poked himself in the head, leaving another dimple besides the first. “I’ve been filled with pudding and all sorts of interesting things that I don’t know about. I’m not like you. I don’t have lungs or veins or even bones in my toes! I do have a stomach, since it is grumbling. Or perhaps I was made with a dog and that is grumbling? All I know is that grumbling stops when I put things in my mouth. Someone told me to eat once, as they reasoned it would stop the grumbling. And they were right! More than anything, I wish I knew what it was to know something without having to be told!” He nodded. “You told me it didn’t work for you. I didn’t know it wouldn’t work for me! Do you think it might work for me?”

Artur blinked.

“Hm. Well, if the fruit won’t come down to us, we must go up to it!” Gladius gripped the tall, stout trunk of the tree and shimmied up. His long, long fingers held the trunk well. With grunts and warbles he strained up the smooth white bark toward the lowest branch, several paces above Artur’s head. The woman strained up to see, but kept her head firmly tucked under his chin.

He reached the branch and found a chattering thing there.

“Why, hello. Do you belong in the tree?” Gladius asked.

“My tree,” the thing answered.

“I suppose it must be. May I have one of your tree’s apples?”

“My tree,” the thing answered.

“Yes, you’ve said that. I may never learn anything unless I’m told, but I do have an excellent memory.”

“My tree,” the thing insisted. And it jumped at Gladius. He lost his grip and fell to the ground with a sickening thump, landing right on his pudding-filled head. The dark shadow fell with him, landing on his chest, and chattered at the man and woman. It leaped at them.

Artur and the woman both screamed. Apparently his chin hadn’t protected her from whatever she feared after all.

This is the third chapter of Summers’ End.

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