The Skein Tree

Author : Michael “Freeman” Herbaugh

“Sit down Philip,” the old man sighed, “I’m going to tell you a unique story.”

Philip had never seen the Old Man look his age, yet today he looked every day of his 94 years. He’d only been working for him for five years now but the Old Man seemed to like him and had treated him very well.

“Every trillionaire has some cliché story about how they used to be down on his luck and worked his way up from nothing. I’m no different, I have the same story. But what I am going to tell you is what turned me around. This is a story I’ve told no one.”

The Old Man went on to lay the story at Philip’s feet. He told him of the time when he was 19 and in school. He felt his life lacked purpose and that if he were gone it wouldn’t affect another living soul around him. This was when he attempted to kill himself and failed.

“The bandages were still tight on my wrists and my hands were tender when I was released back to my dorm room. She was waiting for me there.”

The Old Man told of a young co-ed girl he didn’t recognize who was waiting for him. She didn’t say anything to him but immediately kissed him. In his fragile emotional state he allowed her to make love to him.

“When we were spent, she gave me a present, you see, a length of thread. She explained to me that this thread was my life and that if I truly wished to end it, all I had to do was cut it. She said, ‘Every life has a destiny, but it’s not spelled out for you. Fate only goes so far.’ I thought she was some new age depression counselor, but I kept the thread anyway. When she left I caught her reflection in my mirror and I swear to you her face looked immensely ancient while at the same time extremely young. I kept the thread”

Philip listened as he explained how he had never seen the girl again and that each year the thread had grown in length. Eventually he came to believe that the thread did truly represent his life. At the age of 30 when he purchased his first home he cut away the bark of an oak tree on his property and embedded the thread just underneath the length of its trunk.

“As that tree has grown, so has my life. I have a large family now and a large corporation as well. My one life has touched countless lives. I only hope that my affect has been positive on the majority of them. One or two I’ve crushed like bugs but I do not regret that. I just hope that the ones I care for most, like you Philip, live their days without regret and realize that they do affect the people around them.”

Having finished his unusual story, the Old Man slumped in his chair and looked even more fragile than he had at the start of their meeting. He explained to Philip that the tree he had put the thread in was dying from some arboreal disease and that it was scheduled to be cut down the next morning.

“I have one last task for you Philip. Make sure no one stops that tree from being cut down.”

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