Altruist

          i.m. Russell Edson

At first glance the most we could see—partial shins, bare feet, long arms wrapped around an uprooted tree carried so only four or five inches separate the lowest roots from ground. We step aside. Legs and hips appear charred, without sanctuary, back bent to uphold a water oak, forty feet tall almost, its rounded crown gently reminiscent (dull blue-green leaves). Dirt sprinkles at each step. The weight: too much for legs to bear alone, stride necessarily uneven.

What a sight…this projection—an offering? Appeasement? Extended arms transporting a choking mass of leaf, limb, and root. What arbitrary admonishing? Its weight some kind of awkward counterbalance, perhaps. This giant passes, grotesque, straining, then a second figure—

A shadow man, attached back to back to the front man, but not by much, a slight conjoining (pale, inflexible) about the diameter of two hands placed thumb to thumb, fingers likewise. This shadow man, hardly two-thirds proportioned, leans forward conforming with the giant’s bent back, facing the opposite direction, running backward in so many quick little steps to keep up. Each known to the other, no less. A remote sound: slight breeze working the leaves. Or the leaves shaking with every footfall. It’s not the tree.

The shadow man whispers to the giant staggering ahead blindly (face smashed against the trunk)…whispers how grateful everyone will be. He wants the praise to exceed the giving, but that no one should know. The tree’s anemic—we would’ve heard its complaint. Don’t ask what they represent. We recommend chipping on site.

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