A Curmudgeonly Oak Tree Learns a Lesson

 Once there was a little boy who climbed up a curmudgeonly oak tree. The oak tree was of a cynical, crotchety sort. Even his acorns were bitter. But the little boy didn't know this. He only knew that there was a prefect bend in the upper branches of the tree that made an excellent spot for sitting. From there he could see out into the wide world. At night he could look up into the stars. But most of the time he sat there thinking. And, occasionally, he would wonder things out loud.

    'Why do the seasons have to change?' he would ask the air.

    'If I were a pirate, I would sail all the seven seas at once, and even try and find an eighth one,' he would declare to the wood.

    'I'd be the bravest man in the whole world, if only something scary would happen,' he'd say, with his fist raised high at nothing.

    The oak tree heard all these musings. And because he was so crotchety and cynical, they annoyed him. The little boy annoyed him, too.

    The oak tree was so annoyed, in fact, that during the dead of night, he sought out the wind to come and rattle his branches during the day so that the little boy wouldn't think the oak was so perfect a place to sit after all.

    The wind owed the oak tree a favor, and since the oak tree was so grumpy, the wind was happy to pay the debt, though the oak said the debt would not be paid until the boy left him alone. The next day, when the little boy was sitting in the tree, the wind came and rustled up and down the tree. But the little boy thought this was good fun, and held on tight to the tree while pretending he was a pirate sailing the eighth sea.

    The wind came again the following day as the little boy was curled up in the tops of the tree whistling. This time it jutted and spurted and whirled as chaotically as it could, spinning the leaves about so ferociously that they fell off the trees. But the little boy paid careful attention, and as the leaves landed gently on the ground, he realized that some things had to die to be able to have other things grow, and his mind felt it had an answer to why the seasons changed.

    The wind came a third time while the little boy sprawled on his belly in the oak's perfect branches, and this time it was determined to pay its debt. It summoned all its strength, blasted a full-force gale, and said, 'Get out of the forest, boy,' in as deep a voice as it could muster.

    The little boy's eyes went wide. Then they narrowed. Then he tightened his grip on the oak tree. And for just one moment, he knew he was the bravest man in the world. But enough was enough. And after the little boy was done being brave, he left the oak tree alone.

   The next day, when the little boy did not come to the oak tree, the oak sent the wind on its way, and reveled in the little boy's absence. But when a second day passed and the little boy did not show up, the oak tree's crinkled bark seemed just a little sad about that. The next day came, and the oak was sadder still at his bare branches. The next day, the next, and the one after that: each one made the little boy's absence that much sadder to the old oak, for the oak realized that the child was a curious, clever, brave sort of boy — just the kind of person the oak would have liked to get to know after all.

    So, when a little girl came and climbed up its branches and sat in the prefect bend atop the tree, the oak smiled and listened carefully so that he would not miss out this time.

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