In the slight wind, the colossal tree's smaller limbs swayed slightly. Cool rustling sounds, like silk on paper, came from the movement. The leaves were green and full, alive, and as large as two child's hands cupped together. Each was shaped like a heart, with thick, fleshy stems full of sap. Light from the sun trickled down through the top canopy, causing a play of light and shadow on the inner boughs that was without pattern. The trunk was rough and untouched, never having felt a human touch, whether by child or adult, except on its west side. A deep cut, brownish-black in color, marked a twisted path that stretched three feet down the trunk of the tree with a vague connection to the letter "J."
Garnishing the branches was a ripe, swollen fruit; it was pale orange and smooth in appearance, with a soft fuzz covering on its skin. Dozens hung on each limb, large but evidently not too large to be upheld by the stronger arms of the tree.

Sitting beneath the monolith, basking in its shade from the hot sun, there was an old woman. To look at her, one would not describe her as old unless he peered into her eyes-for though her face was smooth as the day she was born, and her bones were neither brittle nor weak, the light in her eyes conveyed expansive wisdom, the type only gained by a long life rife with experience. In appearance she seemed early forties, but in actuality was much more than that.

One would also notice, upon seeing the face of the mysterious woman, that on the left side of her face, just beneath her tired, azure eye, there was a scar. It was not wide, but appeared deep, and somewhat resembled the capital letter "J."

She stared up at the tree, its lowest branches a good ten feet up from the ground. In her left hand she held a journal-like book; the right, a fountain pen. As another delicate breeze whistled softly by, she sighed contentedly, watching the leaves flutter, and wrote in a flowing, unrecognizable script on her manuscript.

Carefully, so as not to make a sound, Arthur and his friend Robert climbed up to the top of Ms. Ariara's fence. There they hung on with their armpits, arms folded in front of their faces. Pulling his head up and letting his legs dangle, Robert squinted with his eyes, staring far out at the woman sitting under her massive tree. Arthur struggled momentarily as he attempted to attain a similar position, not succeeding until his friend assisted in his getting both arms over the top edge. Over his shoulder Robert carried a fresh rope that was knotted at both ends.

They both hung for a minute of so, not speaking, simply watching the gigantic monolith sway just barely in the wind, overshadowing its miniscule caretaker.

"Why did we come here again? It's just Ms. Ariara sitting under her tree again; that's all she does every day," mumbled Arthur under his breath to his companion. It was the afternoon, and very hot and clear; sweat beaded on his forehead.

"She always goes inside at about three. I figure that then we could sneak in her backyard and try to climb that sucker. And we could even try some of that weird fruit; there's so much that she couldn't miss a few." Glancing over at Arthur, Robert frowned at the less-than-enthusiastic look on his friend's face. "Oh, come on Arthur, you know you want to! Quit ruining it all!"

He sighed dejectedly in response to Robert's remark, but inside he knew that he did want to examine the mysterious tree. It was the summer after his fourth grade year, so Arthur was still possessed of a smaller child's insatiable curiosity.

Ms. Ariara was an enigma to the entire neighborhood, having lived in her particular home long before others came to establish a town. Indigo, Nebraska was an out-of-the-way small town. Everyone knew everyone else, except Ms. Ariara. But, she always came to church, bought her groceries on Main Street, and did nothing suspicious besides staying at home all day. Most all the citizens of Indigo merely left the strange woman alone, preferring to associate with more affable people. Some believed her touched in the head, or a secret poet, somewhat like Emily Dickinson; despite all that there were no formal attempts to make her acquaintance. Many of the kids in town liked to say that she was a witch and used the magic fruit on her tree to brew potions, but no one knew for sure.

The tree that the reclusive woman grew and tended in her backyard was almost as speculated about as she herself. No one could tell what kind it was or recognize the odd fruit it produced, but that was not the queerest thing about it: during particularly dry seasons, when the rest of the town's crops and fields were barren or filled with withering plants, the tree in Ms. Ariara's backyard seemed all the more green and healthy. In fact, it was when other farmers were having bad luck with their harvests that her tree flourished exceedingly. Several times, local farmers had attempted to speak with her about it, to learn her secret, but she merely replied that it must be luck. This caused more than one citizen of the town to gossip of Ms. Ariara's supposed supernatural gardening skills, and sometimes people spoke of the woman's "talent" with jealousy. It was just one more thing that kept her from socializing with townsfolk and leaving her home.

Arthur gripped the top of the fence tightly with his elbows, willing himself not to fall. Gritting his teeth and steeling himself for his seemingly inevitable drop, he was extremely relieved when Robert whispered excitedly, "Hey! She's going in!" The two young boys held their breath in anticipation, silently willing the woman to leave.

Once Ms. Ariara had entered her house, Robert immediately yanked himself up and over the top of the wooden fence. Arthur was right behind him, though he moved more slowly and cautiously, waiting for Ariara to make a surprise visit back outside. As Robert landed on his feet on the other side, he whispered sharply up to his friend, "Hurry up! We may not have more than an hour or so, and it will take a while to climb up that thing!"

Nodding and gasping for breath, Arthur hauled his legs over the top; balancing precariously he let out a shrill yelp as he fell. Upon hitting the ground, the boy rolled to absorb his impact, but felt a warm pain in his right shoulder.

"Auughh!" Arthur whimpered, and Robert ran over to his side and kneeled down.

"Shhh! The witch might hear you!" Robert shouldered the rope that had slid down his arm and stared at his companion. "Are you going to be alright? Because if not we should maybe try tomorrow."

Arthur could easily tell that the other boy was not keen on waiting, so he ignored the throbbing he felt and replied through tight lips, "No, today. I'm fine; let's go and get some of the fruit. Then we can show the other kids."

Robert smiled, the suggestion appealing to his ego. Grabbing Arthur under his left armpit, he helped him up and the two of them ran quietly through the long, green grass towards the colossal tree. It loomed even larger upon their approach, and they slowed down when they came within a few meters. Light from the sun overhead filtered through, forming white patches of stars in the shadows. The wind picked up slightly, and the tree branches swayed together in a hypnotizing way.

Staring up at the lowest branch, Robert artfully gauged the distance and pulled back for a better shot with his rope. Lunging forward and launching the heavy, knotted end up at the limb, he observed with satisfaction as it looped over the wood and fell to the ground on the other side. With Arthur's assistance he tied a slip-knot and pulled it tight; after tugging on the rope a few times to ensure its stability, Robert threw himself upon it and began to climb.

Deciding to remain on the ground for the moment, Arthur steadied the rope as his companion laboriously made his way upward. Robert grunted with the effort but was making steady progress.

Looking over his right shoulder, Arthur examined the back of Ms. Ariara's home. The windows were covered with dark green curtains that shimmered somewhat when hit by light; the door was an orangey-brown and the handle was a large, weathered ring bolted to the door. As there were no neighbors within half an acre on either side, the house appeared to stand alone, like a single castle loudly proclaiming its indifference to solitude.

Taking time to further analyze the magnificent tree, Arthur noticed with some interest that there was a sizeable scar of some sort on one side of the tree. He took a step closer to see it better, wondered what had caused such a gash in the trunk.

"Hey, wake up!" called a voice. Shaking himself to clear his head, Arthur glanced up towards Robert, who had successfully achieved a position of safety in the tree. Smiling nonchalantly, the boy in the tree began spontaneously picking off leaves and pieces of bark and flicking them onto the ground.

"Come on up, the weather's fine!" Robert crowed cheerfully. He sat and stretched luxuriously reaching for a bundle of the peach-like fruit. Arthur clenched the rope firmly and started to pull himself up, but gasped and let himself drop when he put his weight on his wounded right shoulder.

"I can't, my arm hurts too much! Get some for me, will ya?" Arthur implored. Robert nodded cordially and plucked a fruit off of the branch.

"Here catch!" He instructed.

Arthur jumped to one side in order the seize hold of the plummeting object. Once he had it in hand, he ran his thumbs over its fuzzy surface and admired the attractive color. Gazing up, he inquired, "Did you eat one already?"

"Uh, not yet. I don't know, what if it's poison? Ariara could have done it." Robert suddenly shrank in form, seeming uncharacteristically mistrustful and scared. He held a couple of the beautiful fruits, but looked as if he was going to leave them and climb down.

Feeling slightly annoyed at the other boy's aberrant behavior, Arthur challenged, "But, we came this far! You can't just back out now! Come one, I'll take a bite first, and then you can."

"Well, fine! I will!" Tossing three more pieces of the fruit down to Arthur, Robert slid down the rope with finesse and then picked one of them up.

Also wary of eating the supposedly enchanted produce, Arthur sighed before bringing it to his mouth and taking a small bite; he had to follow through with his word, no matter how he felt.

The skin of it broke easily, and the flavor of honey and toast exploded in Arthur's mouth. The taste intensified while he chewed, and he grinned widely, letting the viscous juice start to drip off his chin.

"Itfff wery gud," he tried to say to Robert, but the sweet sap coated his tongue. Savoring it merely a moment more before swallowing, Arthur took another bite, only larger this time. Following his example, Robert tentatively bit off a piece of fruit, and then his eyes widened at the taste.

"Wery guod!" He remarked, similarly hindered with his mouth full. The two laughed at each other, spraying bits of food out of their mouths in the process and then laughing even harder. Robert attempted to stuff one of the fruits into his pants pockets, but it was too bulky. Shrugging, he suggested to Arthur, "Let's hurry and leave before the old lady comes back out. I mean, we've got what we want, right?"

"Right," agreed Arthur. He carried only one fruit with him while Robert started expertly tugging on the rope, trying to unknot it from the tree limb. Glancing over his shoulder every few seconds, Arthur began urging his friend to hustle, his mind suddenly plagued with the thought that they would be caught any moment. Robert also became infected with a desire to hasten his pace, fervently though meticulously pushing and pulling on the rope.

Suddenly, both boys heard the ominous sound of a door creaking open. They froze, Robert dropping the end of the rope and Arthur squeezing the fruit he held in his hand so hard it shattered, causing yellow juice to run down his arm. His eyes wide and showing white, Robert cried out, "RUN!" He took off before waiting for his companion to answer, feet moving in a blur.

Like his legs had turned into jelly, Arthur clumsily began to run, releasing the wet pulp in his hand and desperately trying to make his way to the fence.

Behind him he heard an angry shout and curse, which caused the boy to increase his speed, his lungs and throat burning in effort and pure terror. Arthur watched his friend scramble up the fence like a simian creature and leap to the other side. With his force of inertia he threw himself into the wooden barrier, clawing his way towards the top. The sound of a pursuer spurred Arthur on, but once he strained to pull himself up and over, pain shot up his right arm from elbow to shoulder, and he blanched and tumbled back down.

"Wait! Robert! Wait for me!" he shrieked, an animal fear engulfing his mind. He heard his companion shout something from the other side, but it was inaudible over the screech of Ms. Ariara, who bore down on him.

"You little thief! WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY TREE?!" she howled, barely ten feet away.

Not knowing what else to do, Arthur again tried to launch himself at the wall and escape, but claw-like hands reached out and snatched him back; crashing onto the ground head first, the boy blacked out.