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Pollen and the Ring of Harmony
By Francis T. Perry Williams
Emerald Book Company
Copyright © 2009
Francis T. Perry Williams
All right reserved.
Chapter One Broken Promises, Broken Dreams
The raucous laughter of four lumberjacks disturbed the natural tranquility of one of the last unspoiled places on Earth, one of the few places that had yet to be ruined by greed, waste, and disregard for nature. It was a beautiful valley in Northern California near the Oregon border. Sparkling lakes and streams, a small but very regal-looking waterfall, and gorgeous green vegetation made up the Edenic landscape. The air smelled clean, and you could almost taste the freshness of it. Life here was always in perfect harmony, as the higher powers that be intended. That was before humans arrived. And though the first of our ancestors respected nature, something happened to us along the way. We lost our respect for nature; we became greedy.
The tears standing in the lumberjacks' eyes were not for the ancient redwood trees in the great valley, or for the great variety of animals that would soon lose the home they'd known for thousands of years. Instead, they were tears of mirth from Big John's latest dirty joke.
They all stopped and stooped to drink from a river near the base of a majestic waterfall, blissfully unaware that a porcupine had been startled by their appearance and urinated upstream.
Once the laughter had subsided, Big John sighed, resigned to the fact that there was work to be done. He stretched out his arms to get a kink out of his back. His red plaid jacket and shaggy head of brown curls, in addition to the pose, made him resemble a miniature version of the redwoods. Big John looked around and sighed again. "Seven years we've been waiting," he said. "Seven long years."
"Well, it's finally open," Saul Runyan said. He had dark hair and close-set eyes and looked tiny next to Big John and the other burly lumberjacks, but his blue ox-wool sweater made him stand out. A sweater only a mother would knit for her son. A sweater only a mother would expect and demand that her son wear. Saul was a good son (at least his mother thought so).
"Yeah, it's about time." Steve Anders smiled wolfishly as he studied their surroundings with dollar signs in his eyes. Steve was the smallest of the group, at best five feet, four inches tall. He had small, beady eyes, and he kind of looked like a small version of Clint Eastwood. "Look at all those board-feet. Jesus! You know how long I've been cutting carpet and thinking about this sacred cow?"
Big John nodded. "Work for us, work for people in the valley, work for people in the city. That's what I call development."
"Yeah," Saul agreed, "but don't forget Uncle Sam gets all that tax money. That's the only reason they opened this valley to us."
The fourth lumberjack, Bill Berry, who grew up in Alabama and had an accent to match, rolled his eyes. "Try tellin' me something I don't know. Money is the root of all evil." He grinned. "Works for me."
Big John patted the trunk of a monster tree. "This one should fetch a pretty penny." The tree was a good 350 feet tall, with a circumference of 100 feet at the trunk's base. "Probably two thousand years old."
Steve peeled a strip of bark off the trunk. "Let's put it out of its misery. It's been alive way too long."
Saul hefted his chainsaw.
"Be gentle with 'im!" Big John said to the saw.
The lumberjacks laughed as Saul started the chainsaw. The brutal, unnatural sound seemed to saw into the tranquil air itself. And then Saul set the powerful blades to the trunk and started to cut into the tree. Chips of wood flew as the saw bit into the wood. But still, the sheer girth of the tree threatened to swallow up the blade and Saul along with it. The lumberjack yelled out to his friends, "This sucker's gonna take some work!"
"I'll buy the beer tonight," Bill called back.
That brought a smile to Big John's face. "You said the magic word!"
Saul intensified his efforts, giving his best impression of Elvis Presley cutting a tree, hips swaying and rocking. He bellowed a very scratchy and out-of-key rendition of "Hound Dog" as he worked. His friends laughed and joined in.
Long years had made the bark of the tree very tough, but wood is no match for steel. After countless years resisting the seasons, diseases, animals, disasters, and the unending forces of nature, the majestic tree soon succumbed to the steel of man.
"Timber!" they shouted in unison.
Saul cut his motor, and they all listened to the rending wood and subsequent crash.
Big John smiled contentedly. "There's something ... special about the sound of a falling tree. I can't describe it."
Saul grinned at him. "I can. It sounds like money!"
The lumberjacks' laughter filled the valley once again.
Saul put his foot on the sawed-off tree trunk and stared down at the rings that indicated its age. "I don't know how people can count these things-there's way too many."
"Okay, we've drawn first blood, now on to the massacre." Bill pointed at another giant redwood as he nodded at Steve and Saul. "You two take that one."
Steve walked over to the tree and smiled with false kindness. "Well, old fella, it's time to join your brother."
"I wonder if it feels any pain," Steve asked rhetorically.
They shared a chuckle as Saul rolled his eyes at Steve. "As if you care. Think of our pain if we don't make it to the mill before the price gets fixed."
"Well, while I can't say for sure if it feels pain, I'm sure it doesn't feel fear ... because it's not trying to run away. I wonder if they hate us. I would." He hefted his chainsaw and pasted a scowl on his face. "I mean look at us; we're not very lovable."
After another laugh, they sobered, started their saws, and began cutting into the tree. Sawdust slowly powdered the forest floor as the sharp edges of the saws cut into the tree.
"Leave the tree alone!" a voice suddenly screamed. Saul looked up in surprise as an old man darted toward them and wrestled the chainsaw from his grip. It fell to the ground, just missing the lumberjack's boot. Saul stepped back reflexively and watched the saw sputter to an unnatural stop.
He glared at the old coot. "Are you crazy, old man? That saw could've ripped right through me!" The man, though old, still had the look of strength due to many years of manual labor. His full head of gray hair somehow made him look like he belonged in the wild. He was not afraid of the lumberjacks.
"Better you than the tree! How dare you destroy something so precious. That tree's been alive for over a thousand years!"
Steve stepped menacingly toward the old man. "I don't know who the hell you are, but this is none of your business. Get out of here!"
The stranger was not cowed. "Name's Reb Brown, but that's neither here nor there. What's important is this tree. Where's your respect?" he demanded of the two. "God! How can you just hack a thing that, that lived? That tree was alive! Don't you think it deserved to die in its own time? Don't you think it's earned that?"
"All I care about is earning my mortgage payment," Saul said. "Now do us a favor and go find a bear to eat you or something."
"Someone should teach you respect."
"Well it ain't going to be you. You tree huggers are always getting in the way. Why would anyone bother to save a tree? I could never figure that one out. It's just a tree." "God made that tree!"
"Well, then let's see God save this tree!" Saul picked up his chainsaw.
"No!" the old man screeched.
His scream drew the attention of Big John and Bill, who'd until then been too busy choosing their next victim to notice the party crasher. They hurried over.
"What's going on here?" Bill asked.
"I know it sounds crazy," Steve said, "but I think this old man is trying to defend this tree. Have you ever heard of anything so stupid?"
Saul shook his saw near his gut. "Psycho grabbed my saw and just about made a milkshake of my liver!"
"This is protected land!" Reb said.
Big John waved away the old man's words like he was swatting a fruit fly. "Not anymore, according to the government."
"That's impossible." The old man's face fell. "The government wouldn't-"
"It has." Big John interrupted. "This valley is now the site of a Federal Manpower Utilization program. The whole thing's going to be completely industrialized. They're even putting in a lake. Just think of all that new tax money coming in."
Reb looked angry enough to grab Saul's saw and tear into Big John. "It's a lie! The government made a promise."
Saul chuckled. "That's right, the government promised this land to us, and we're taking it." He pushed Reb away. "Move it, old man!"
Reb regained his footing and braced himself against the tree. "I may be just an old man, but I'm not going to let you kill this tree. You'll have to kill me too!"
Big John looked astonished. "This is ridiculous." He slapped Reb resoundingly over the head. "We said get out of here."
Enraged, Reb struck back. It didn't seem to have any effect on Big John, but the retaliation angered Saul, who punched Reb hard in the stomach.
Reb doubled over in pain and fell to the ground.
Bill put his boot to Reb's side and pushed him clear of the tree. "Let's get to work," he said.
Reb coughed and stared up at him beseechingly. "Please, I'm asking you to spare this tree. It doesn't deserve a fate like this. In the name of God!"
Saul had had enough. He kicked the old man in the gut, knocking the wind out of him once more. "Are you crazy? God has nothing to do with this. He doesn't care about a tree!" He looked at the other lumberjacks with disgust. "This guy's a mental case."
Through gasped breaths, Reb continued to plead with them, attempting to appeal to a compassion for nature that simply did not exist within them. "You're butchering a life that has seen a million sunrises, and you say I need to be put away."
"This is progress," Saul said. "We're doing good here! I've had it with you crackpots."
He picked up his saw and started it. Reb leapt up with surprising speed for an old man and tried to stop him from cutting the tree.
They struggled for a few seconds before Reb was thrown back to the ground. Saul held the saw threateningly near Reb's heart. "You son of a bitch! I'll run you through!"
"Stop it!" Bill said as he stepped in front of Reb. He shut off Saul's saw before the angry lumberjack could follow through with his threat. "We've made our point. Don't let him get to you. He's just an old man. He can't do anything."
Saul spat on the ground next to Reb's face. "All they ever do is get in the way and cause trouble. If only cutting up old people was worth money."
Steve cackled. "We'd be rich."
"You two get him out of here," Bill said to Big John and Steve, then turned back to Saul. "And you get back to work."
Big John and Steve grabbed Reb under his arms and dragged him off like a dead tree branch.
Reb craned his neck and stared back at Saul. "Please, don't kill the tree."
Saul favored him with a crocodile smile. He picked up the chainsaw, started it, and held the old man's eyes with his own as he began to cut.
* * *
Big John and Steve took Reb to the edge of a small ravine with an embankment that sloped up toward them.
Big John shook his head in mock pity, talking to Steve as if Reb wasn't even there. "He must be an illegal squatter. Everyone else knows the deal."
"Wait till they start flooding this ravine," Steve said. "That'll really make his day."
"Here, old man," Big John said. "We'll make the way home easy for you."
The lumberjacks dumped Reb unceremoniously onto the ground at the exact same moment that the sound of Saul's tree falling reached their ears. In unison, Reb rolled noisily down into the ravine and the tree crashed down through the foliage. As Reb hit the bottom with a big thump, a loud boom rang out from the tree hitting the earth.
Steve shook his head in wonder. "Crazy old man."
Big John raised an eyebrow in return. "Tell me about it." Then his face lit up. "Now I remember-I've heard about him. He thinks that this is his valley and that he's its protector." He shook his head. "What a crazy way to spend your life. Defending trees-how stupid!"
Steve grunted in agreement. "And in the meantime the I.R.S. is hounding me to pay for his welfare checks!"
Big John pointed to a tree. "Come on, let's get that little one next."
"You know, we've got it great. We go hunting, and the things we're hunting stand still for us. What more could you ask for?"
Big John looked at him slyly. "That women were the same way."
They walked away laughing.
* * *
Reb lay groggily at the bottom of the ravine. He stared at an ant scurrying over and under leaves beside his face and thought to himself. How did "man" become so cruel? he wondered. We dared to think of ourselves as gods with the right to do what we please and to whom we please. He contemplated, is there any "goodness" left in the world? There seemed to be nothing but greed. Could anybody help him in his quest? He prayed, not for himself, but for the others who couldn't pray and were doomed. He prayed for compassion, respect, and help.
An old hound dog shambled out of the brush and licked his face.
"Oh, Hilda," Reb said. "Kiss me again."
The dog licked him some more and Reb finally roused from his daydreaming. "Duke!" he said. "What in blazes are you doing?" He sat up and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "Where were you when I needed you? Man's best friend! I oughta kick you into a gully."
Duke cringed. In dog years Duke was just as old, if not older, than Reb. They'd been together for twelve years, since Duke was a puppy. Being a hound dog, Duke even resembled Reb-or Reb resembled Duke. Either way, they both were a little droopy in the eyes and ears and possessed fierce loyalty, most notably to each other.
Reb relented and patted him reassuringly. "All right, all right, you know I was just kidding."
Reb slowly rose to his feet, groaning the whole while. "Help me home, Duke," he said, then started to walk away. As the dog joined him, he looked down and said, "They hurt me, Duke. Hurt me bad."
He cocked his head at the sound of the lumberjacks' voices in the distance. They shouted a single word in unison: "Timber!"
Why do humans enjoy killing, Reb wondered to himself. When the sound of another tree falling to the earth reached his ears, he couldn't stop his tears as he and Duke walked off. Once they distanced themselves from the lumberjacks, they were joined by some docile deer, who no doubt also wished to get as far away from the dangerous men as possible. The deer knew Reb for a kind, gentle human-one of the few they trusted.
* * *
Later that day, back in his cabin, Reb sat wearily on his bed, petting Duke.
"They broke all their promises, Duke. They said they would never touch this valley, that they would let it live in peace. God, I hate them for this! It ruins all my plans, Duke. For now, though, I gotta sleep."
Reb lay back on his bed, and Duke cuddled into him. As he stroked his pet, he said, "I'm old, Duke. I'm old."
Duke responded by laying a paw on Reb's chest.
"All right, we're old. I tell you, Duke, there's no place left. This was the last place."
Reb stared at the ceiling. "Oh, God, please help us. I waited too long, Duke. I waited too long to die. Oh, God, please help us."
The old man and his dog fell into deep slumber.
* * *
As Reb and the lumberjacks slept that night, someone-or something-else made its way through the valley.
Suddenly a bright light permeated the valley. But as quickly as it'd come, the light disappeared, leaving the forest dark again. Footsteps rustled the brush, but they did nothing to scare the wildlife. Instead, the creatures seemed drawn toward the sound.
A deer stepped unafraid toward the footsteps and was greeted by a stranger in the dark. The hand that petted the deer had a beautiful blue ring on the third finger, and the timid animal enjoyed the touch.
The deer's ears suddenly pricked and it leapt away into the forest. The stranger turned just as a huge black bear lumbered out of the brush behind. It bared its teeth and rose up on its hind legs, ready to attack. But then the faint glow of the ring caught the bear's attention. The reflection of the ring glowed brightly in the bear's dark, piercing eyes, and it let out a cough and dropped back to all fours, its anger gone. The bear sniffed once more at the stranger and then leisurely ambled away, trailed by a newborn cub. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Pollen and the Ring of Harmony by Francis T. Perry Williams Copyright © 2009 by Francis T. Perry Williams. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of ContentsPROLOGUE: Out of Death Comes Purpose
CHAPTER ONE: Broken Promises, Broken Dreams
CHAPTER TWO: Pollen's Deliverance
CHAPTER THREE: School of Abandoned Hope
CHAPTER FOUR: The Mystic Journey of a Lifetime
CHAPTER FIVE: Dangerous Point of No Return
CHAPTER SIX: The Mortal Search from Within
CHAPTER SEVEN: The Tornado and the Angel
CHAPTER EIGHT: Walk a Mile in My Shoes
CHAPTER NINE: The White House Dogs
CHAPTER TEN: The Treacherous Conference
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Save the Ring from Evil
CHAPTER TWELVE: Protect the Truth from Lies
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Kill the Holy Messenger
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: SOS for the Heroic 'Army of Green'
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Magenta vs. the Lightning Bolts
EPILOGUE: Seeds of Pollen