BY THE SAME AUTHOR
The Grey Life
Ms. Wellington’s Oak Tree
The Politics of Consumption
Bringing Down the House
Gyges the Terrible
THE BUNKER SERIES
Thank You For Your Cooperation
Your Call Is Important To Us
Can I Be Of Some Assistance
Ms. Wellington’s Oak Tree
this quirky little love story
originally appeared in the collection
Ms. Wellington’s Oak Tree
Second Edition, April 2017
Copyright 2006 by Adam Wasserman
All rights reserved
The oak tree in Ms. Wellington’s front lawn was far older than the town where she grew up. Schoolchildren would come from miles around to climb it, and – much to her chagrin – their visits were heralded by a great deal of shouting. For the oak tree in Ms. Wellington’s front yard was as famous in the surrounding communities as the battle of Lexington, which had taken place not far away. At a distance the brown bark could be mistaken for fur and the leaves hair, and there was a great knot that had the features of a benevolent and animal-like face. The sprawling branches and gnarled, obstinate trunk, resplendent with footholds, were irresistible to any passing child. The lowest limbs of the tree swooped quite close to the ground, and they beckoned.
Ms. Wellington was not fond of the children who maliciously (or so she believed) disturbed her afternoon naps with their baying and their playing. When she was younger she would chase them away with a hickory stick, and when her eyes were still good she could even identify the perpetrators and complain to their parents. But they never took her seriously, and the children always came back. It was an endless war that Ms. Wellington had no chance of winning, but she fought on as a matter of principle. Ms. Wellington was entirely a woman of principle.
After a time, though, and after her wits had begun to play tricks on her, Ms. Wellington lost track of the hickory stick. A deepening rheumatism, too, made running impossible, and the old woman was eventually consigned to spending her afternoons sipping tea on her porch, guarding the oak tree from the devices of small children. They would pass on the road beyond the tidy, brown fence, and whenever one would appear she would remark very calmly that the tree was certainly not meant for climbing, and that if one wanted to climb trees there were plenty down by Mr. Donovan’s house. Of course, there was no Mr. Donovan in the town, and if the child were old enough and brave enough he might even have answered her. ‘It’s not your tree, lady.’ Such talk infuriated her, because it certainly was her tree. At which point she would stand up and vigorously lecture the wayward youth on the virtue of respect.
‘Watch out!’ she could remember hearing them say. ‘Watch out for the bitter old hag on Maple Street.’ There were several old ladies on Maple Street, of course, but she knew they meant her.
One fine day in the middle of summer when the children were on school vacation, Ms. Wellington sat down for a tepid cup of tea and noticed that her cat had escaped the porch. Her calls went unanswered, and so with an irritated sigh she put down her tea and went into the house. Of course, the cat wasn’t there either, and leaning wearily upon the kitchen counter she wondered where she had seen it last.
Outside, the wind blew and ruffled the leaves of her beloved oak. A small, plump child dressed far too warmly approached from the lane, carefully studying the porch and its environs. The old hag seemed to have disappeared. A thin boy with a short stock of red hair peeked out from behind a bush across the lane and urged his younger brother on. The plump child rambled through the gate into the yard and, with scarcely concealed squeals of delight, approached the tree. Clasping the trunk with thick arms, he looked up. Much to the surprise of his brother he emitted a startled gasp and blanched. And then he was off, running back the way he had come, and now down the lane without waiting. The thin boy hesitated only a moment in his place of concealment before following.
Inside the house, Ms. Wellington came to the conclusion that she hadn’t seen the cat since she had risen that morning. She wasn’t exactly sure what time it had been, but most certainly near dawn, because the last time she had slept past six o’clock was nineteen seventy-eight. Which led her to the conclusion that the cat had been outside since six o’clock in the morning, running free and doing God only knows what (but certainly not that, because Ms. Wellington had taken liberties with her ovaries), and doing it God only knows how far away.
Outside, now, and shuffling through the yard. The treetops on the horizon stroked the sky, and a light wind touched her face. She made a movement with her hand as if to brush it away. Leaden steps led her aimlessly through the yard, eyes glancing this way and that, and occasionally she would call out the cat’s name.
At one point she found herself in the shade of the oak tree and stopped to spare herself a moment of the sun’s heat. She wished she had something with which to fan herself.
‘I think, miss, that this is your cat.’
The voice startled her because it seemed to have come from nowhere. But of course it had come from somewhere, and realizing that it had been from above she leaned back (a stiff, awkward movement which caused her a little pain) and cocked her head.
A thin old man with wispy, white hair and spotted overalls was looking back at her from a higher branch, her cat sitting prettily in his lap and purring at the attention with which he lavished it. The look on his face was curious, like a small child’s, and expectant.
Ms. Wellington was far from amused. She put her hands to her hips, and, twisting her body as if to gather stature, sent a riveting finger through the air, jabbing it in his direction, which was up. ‘Mr. Edwards!’ She pronounced the words like an accusation. ‘The butcher!’
‘So I am. And you are Ms. Edna Wellington. Every week two pounds of chicken and a ham.’ The cat lifted its head lazily and looked down at its mistress.
‘What are you doing with my cat?’
‘He was in the tree.’
‘Let it down from there at once!’
‘If I could I would have, but it’s why I’m up here in the first place.’
‘Did you see the sign on the front?’
‘Why, yes, but you –’
‘What does it say?’
The old man smiled wanly. ‘I don’t believe I remember.’
It irritated her to see the cat enjoying itself so much in the butcher’s lap. ‘Come down here at once,’ she demanded of the animal. The cat yawned. Mr. Edwards laughed gaily.
Ms. Wellington coolly returned her attention to the man in her tree. ‘I fail, Mr. Edwards, to see what is so amusing. If you find that you are compelled by the sudden urge to climb trees, then I suggest you do it elsewhere. Rutherford Donovan has a fine place down the road and a whole lot full of trees.’
‘Perhaps I should remind you, miss, that Rutherford died four years ago, and his son sold the house to a young couple from Mystic.’
‘Mr. Edwards.’ Ms. Wellington’s voice had attained a hint of steel, and she tried to impart her words with the firm sense of authority she had once used with her students. ‘Get out of my tree immediately or I shall call the police.’
Mr. Edwards paused only a moment before he answered. ‘But don’t you that see I can’t. It’s much easier climbing into a tree than down from it. At least, it is when one is dizzied by height.’
Ms. Wellington stomped her foot in frustration. ‘Well I don’t care how you manage it, but come down here at once! And bring me my cat safe and sound. I’ll be sitting on the porch.’
Ms. Wellington did not answer. She walked away.
For two days, Mr. Edwards sat up in Ms. Wellington’s tree. Now, it is hardly possible to expect that the man slept up there, and considering the fact that he exhibited no signs of discomfort we can conjecture that he was not afraid of heights at all. As a matter of fact, Mr. Edwards climbed down from the tree every evening after Ms. Wellington retired and was back up on that lofty branch sometime around dawn. Ms. Wellington, for her part, was not a stupid woman, and we can also expect that after the first night she spotted Mr. Edwards descending, or that she rose a half-hour earlier simply to watch from a window as Mr. Edwards snuck into her yard and scuttled up the oak tree. There was something exhilarating in the trouble that he took in the climbing, for although he was a limber old man he was still an old man. But as much as she disapproved of his manners she still enjoyed the company, and so she went along with the charade.
For two days, Ms. Wellington brought food and tea to Mr. Edwards and her cat. Those afternoons were spent not on the porch but sitting rather under the boughs of her great oak tree and its rusty captive. A tired lawn chair found its way by the trunk, and a small, fold-up table on which she could rest her cup of tea and a plate of cookies. Occasionally, she’d ask Mr. Edwards if he wanted one. He’d always answer yes, and she’d toss one to him, but never so that he could catch it.
They spoke together for long hours. No one knows exactly what they said, but it is true that children from the neighboring towns were terribly disappointed by her vigil. They all must have thought she’d finally gone mad and taken to conversing with plants and other inanimate objects.
It was the evening of the second day after a particularly poignant recollection from her years as a young woman (she had been beautiful then) when Mr. Edwards finally threw in the towel. ‘I must say, the conversation’s been good, and I’ve had a wonderful time in your tree.’ It was late evening, and the sun had already drowned beneath the horizon. The sky was stained a rich velvet, but it was fading rapidly. ‘But business is business, you know, and tomorrow the shop must be open.’
Ms. Wellington smiled ruefully. ‘But how will you get down?’
Mr. Edwards shrugged. ‘I think I’ll try climbing. It’s certainly better than spending my last days up here, helplessly withering away in the stratosphere.’
In an instant, Ms. Wellington was dumbfounded. She looked entirely as if someone had slapped her. It hadn’t crossed her mind since yesterday that one day Mr. Edwards wouldn’t be in her tree, and despite all the grumbling and all the mumbling she didn’t want to wake up tomorrow and have to pass the day on her porch squawking bitterly at innocent children.
‘Should I drop you your cat?’
Ms. Wellington refused to answer.
‘I say, miss, but your cat is up here, and I can’t try climbing down with him in my lap.’
‘Evil man.’ Ms. Wellington’s voice was strangely petulant. ‘Do you always climb people’s trees? Just anyone’s trees?’
‘No, not just anyone’s. Now your cat –’
‘Take it with you. It likes you better anyway.’
Mr. Edwards pursed his lips. ‘No,’ he answered after a short moment. ‘She’s your cat. Just attend to her.’
‘Oh,’ said Ms. Wellington, looking his way now, eyes indignant, ‘and what do you know about cats? All you know about is foolishness –’
‘– and consorting with other people’s trees. You know, I think I shall have to drive to Concord for meat now.’ Ms. Wellington stood up brusquely and brushed off her dress.
‘Where are you going?’ Mr. Edwards demanded from his place in the tree, but Ms. Wellington would not acknowledge him. She was retreating towards the house, her steps slow and with each one angrier, as if she were waiting for something. ‘But wait!’ called Mr. Edwards, sitting up on the branch. His leathery hands sought holds on the bark. ‘You didn’t let me finish! I was wondering if I could perhaps join you for tea!’
Ms. Wellington stopped. Her head turned slightly, but her back was still to him. ‘Do you drink tea, Mr. Edwards?’
The old man smiled. ‘Not with just anyone.’
Ms. Wellington considered that for a moment. Then she started off again.
‘Wait!’ called out Mr. Edwards. ‘Where are you going?’
‘To the garage,’ she answered crisply. ‘I’ve got a ladder.’
Thank You For Your
the Bunker Series, #1
Welcome to the Bunker, an orderly, underground utopia where everyone’s needs have been satisfied.
As far back as he can remember, Terry Renfield has been digging up uranium ore in the mines and getting into the occasional drunken brawl. Until one daystretch on the Loyalty Stretch, he and the rest of the Bunker see someone who looks eerily like himself commit a heinous act of treason. Terry is fired on the spot.
He turns to his girlfriend, Sally Xinhua, for help. Detained and then unexpectedly set free, Terry comes to realize that his misfortunes are no accident. His tiny, insular world shattered forever, he is determined not to be anyone’s unwitting pawn – least of all his own.
Sally pulls him into the orbit of more privileged citizens with security clearances – including Van Johnson, the host of Ten Things I Hate About Treason, and Felix Tubman, the head of Homeland Security. What follows is an unlikely adventure spanning the Bunker, the reaches of space, and the forbidding outside.
Now the focus of a grand conspiracy to take down Control, the principal guiding force in the Bunker, Terry is ultimately faced with an identity crisis of epic proportions. Who is the real Terry Renfield? And what is it to actually be a specific person anyway?
Gyges the Terrible
Welcome to the United States of the not-so-distant future. Our Republic has given way to a new form of government, Freemocracy. The President rules virtually unopposed. Congress is a rubber-stamp institution, and society has fractured into the permanently privileged and the permanently working. The Supreme Court is the only alternate center of power, and the tension between the President, Samuel Judas Epstein, and the Chief Justice, Xiling, is set to boil over into open conflict.
The Earth, too, has changed. The nation has become a patchwork of restricted areas, security screens, and military checkpoints. Water is tightly rationed. The world powers vie with each other for territory on the lunar surface. Although the mines there are incredibly expensive to operate, the moon has become the only source for most of the natural resources consumed by an ever more ravenous industrial complex.
It is in this setting that a group of ordinary hooligans led by Marcellus Gyges storm the halls of empire. Possessed of a magic ring that confers the power of command, spurred on by his friends, Marcellus is in a unique position to depose the President.
At the same time, Marcellus is being tutored by his Guardian Angel. For it is the choices that we make in this life that determine what becomes of us in the next.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam Wasserman took to writing at a young age and has never given it up. He has authored a number of short stories and plays but prefers the longer format and deeper potential of the novel.
Mr. Wasserman spends part of the year in Europe where he does most of his writing. During the spring and summer months, he can usually be found in Rhode Island. There, he attends numerous festivals and open markets – such as Providence ComiCon – where he enjoys engaging with readers. An avid swimmer, he also spends considerable time at the beach.
Topics that interest him include ancient history, power, and the nature of being human.
A young man returns from a trip to Amsterdam and has an unexpected encounter with customs. In Renaissance Italy, the chance arrival of a devious merchant to an embittered village brings about unexpected renewal. A lonely old woman awakes one morning to find that the butcher has climbed into her tree. The dark, disturbing visions that presage mental illness. A stubborn, progressive nanny challenges her charge's strict, traditional father. When their oracles fall silent, the people of Miridia send two emissaries out into the world to determine what disaster has befallen the gods. A fat man gets stuck in his neighbor's window and has a surprisingly pleasant evening. In a distant future dominated by corporations, a tiny but fierce light in the skysmudge is ignored at humanity's peril. A distraught man tries to sue everyone because he is miserable. Ms. Wellington's Oak Tree is a collection of short works spanning a variety of genres. Enjoy!