I saw him resting under a tree, my tree. Or at least everyone called it my tree since the incident. But since it was being called my tree, however spitefully, I would claim it as such. So I’d say my bit and I’d kick him out from under my tree. Then, I’d watch him lumber off and I’d take a nice nap. It was a good day for a nap too, balmy and quiet. Much like the day that ruined my life. Just thinking of it made me bristle with anger. But I called upon that to fuel my speech and I scampered on over to him.
“I need to talk to you.” He slowly craned his neck to look up at me. He blinked his beady little eyes at me, and slowly, ever so slowly, opened his mouth. His mouth hung open for a few seconds before it closed with a click. Then he opened it again. And closed it. And opened it. This time, a tongue slid out and tasted the air. Then, back in. And he shut his mouth again. God, I knew he was always a mouth-breather but he could at least give me the courtesy of a response. “Now!” I snapped.
His mouth opened and closed again, I suppose in some semblance of a sigh. “You were always in such a hurry,” he said, slower than usual, just to piss me off.
“Yeah, well it’s always worked just fine for me.” I began thumping my foot on the ground as he opened his mouth to speak again. I counted thirty-two beats before his next words came out. Slow, slow, slow, so goddamn slow.
“Until now.” I saw myself pouncing on his flat back and burying his face in the dirt until he begged for mercy. But I clung to what little pride and dignity I had left and refrained though it certainly would have brought me the utmost pleasure. His thick body had worn away the grass and left a dusty patch of ground. Not only had he taken my tree, he had ruined it. So fuckin’ inconsiderate. I’d just have to nap on the other side. But of course, it wasn’t nearly as shady over there and the roots were all knotty. He pulled his legs out and began to stand up. Eighty-seven beats. “I know the outcome was difficult for you to accept but—”
“No! You don’t understand. You can’t understand. It wasn’t difficult. It wasn’t difficult! It was just…” I searched for the right word. Shocking. Shaking. Saddening. Sickening. Sinister. Sinful. Surprising. Sucky. Sufferingly… stupid. Stupid! It was so stupid! My mind was hopping along at a million miles a second, faster than his tiny brain could ever manage. “It was s—”
“I think you could…” He cut me off! How could he possibly think, form words, and open his mouth fast enough to cut me off? “Learn something from what happened.” No, he was still finishing his last sentence. I cut him off. But every space between every word between every breath took an age and a half so how was I supposed to know when he was done speaking? How could he be so slow? How could he be so incredibly slow? And how could he have possibly beaten me? There had to be something! There had to be some secret. Maybe I had insomnia. Maybe that’s why I fell asleep. Or was it necro narco-leprosy something or other? Or maybe he cheated! He had to have cheated because no way in hell could a tor—
“Slow and steady wins the race.”
Slower than molasses. Slower than an iceberg. Slower than a sloth. I suppose I could challenge a sloth next time. Surely I couldn’t lose to a sloth. My foot started thumping harder. I had to say what I came to say soon otherwise he’d just keep on talking and talking and talking until I forgot why I ever came to the tree, my tree, my damn tree, in the first place. Four hundred and three beats. “I just wanted to tell you—”
“Maybe you should try” Six hundred and twenty-nine. “slowing down a bit” Seven hundred and eighty-one. “and you’ll find that” Nine hundred and forty-seven. “there’s more to life than” One thousand two hundred and sixty-two. “speed.”
A sharp pain shot through my foot. I squeaked and abruptly stopped thumping. I plopped to the ground and examined my bloody toes. There was a chunk of root embedded deeply in the pad of my right foot. The ground where I’d been thumping had worn away and the tree’s spiny, twisted roots poked out from the dirt. I looked up and he had a smug look on his stupid face. His stupid, stupid face. I pried the root out and hobbled away with as much dignity as I could muster. I’d come back tomorrow and reclaim my tree.