The Tree of Secrets

This my entry to this month’s 500 word Flash Fiction challenge that had to include a countdown, the sharing of a secret and the word ‘serendipity’.

Frankie’s house was the last on the roughly graded road. Along the road were the sawmill, a couple of holiday shacks, some timber workers houses like Frankie‘s and the camp of the Faithful. The Faithful camp was surrounded by a barbed-wire fence, with signs warning people that trespassers would be prosecuted.

Each day, Frankie ventured into the bush, to his private place. He made his way down into a fern-filled, spring-fed gully and he revelled in its wetness. Pushing his way through the dense fronds, he arrived at what he called the Temple of the Spring and he was home.

Nearby was a massive gum, with a hollow on the side facing away from his house and towards the Henderson’s dam. It had always been a handy place to hide while staying in hearing distance from the house. Then, one serendipitous day, things started to appear in the hollow. Now it had become a magical Tree of Secrets.

First there was a pocket knife, then a box of matches and then a comic and finally a bag of 10 magnificent marbles. This temptation was too much and every day for the next ten days Frankie ‘borrowed’ one to impress the other kids at school. As the supply dwindled to nine, eight, and then seven he rationalised that whoever owned them wouldn’t notice but then suddenly he was down to two.

The next day, everything had gone.

During these holidays a Faithful boy about Frankie‘s age had started to appear at the corner post of the barbed wire fence, not far from the Tree of Secrets.

The day after all the treasures had gone, Frankie went back to see if anything new had appeared. He saw the Faithful boy heading towards the Tree of Secrets and the penny dropped. Suddenly the boy turned and stared at Frankie.

All Frankie could think of to do was to ask him his name. The response was a whisper.
“I am one of the Faithful.”
“Your Mum and Dad won’t be too happy if they find you outside the camp.”

The boy said softly , “If you don’t tell anyone, then we’ll both have a secret.”

Frankie could feel his face redden and he took an intense interest in looking at his shoes.

Suddenly Frankie knew what he had to do.

“Wait here” he said to the boy. Frankie ran to his house and grabbed the bag of marbles and ran out again.

He handed the boy the bag of marbles and mumbled “Sorry”. The boy took the bag in silence and walked towards Henderson’s dam. He stood on the edge of the dam, throwing in the marbles one at a time, reciting one of the Ten Commandments with each throw. As he recited the tenth “Thou shalt not covet anything that is your neighbour’s”, he half-turned to Frankie, with the faintest hint of a smile on his lips and strode purposefully back towards the Faithful camp.

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