The Tamarind Tree

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by Rafael Acosta

Surrounded by cement, marbled memorials, crosses and angels, on top of a hill, stood a tamarind tree. There, on a bench, in the shade, sat an old man. He watched form a distance as a woman was put to rest. He watched till the ceremony was over and a procession of limousines and cars turned a corner and disappeared. He grabbed his cane and slowly ambled down the hill to the site where a man prepared to unceremoniously fill the hole knowing not nor caring about the person placed to rest there.

“Excuse me, can I have a few minutes alone before you begin what you must do?” asked the old man.

“I am sorry sir but you missed the ceremony and this is my last plot of the day!”

“Yes I know I am late, as you can see I walk slow now a days.

“Please, just a few minutes?”

He reached into his pocket and pulled a hundred dollar bill and placed it on the young man’s hand.

“Since you put it that way, I just remember that I need to call my wife. I’ll be back in five and you will be gone!”

Looking at the casket, trying to penetrate it with his gaze, searching deep in the recess of his mind where she was etched more than sixty years before, a torrent of thoughts tossed him onto a whirlwind taking him back to a time long past.

The old man stood on a familiar clearing surrounded by a sea of sugarcane and a hill where ever so vigilant stood the tamarind tree.

As the sun set, at a distance, a young man walked, machete in hand, his shirt drenched in sweat and blood. His day of work done. He smiled for he would soon walk by the yellow house where standing by the window she would smile, a sign of her professing love. In his shirt pocket he carried a ring that he planned to place on her finger that night. A promise of ever lasting love.

“Have I been given a second chance? Can I undo what was once done?

“Listen! Listen to me!” he shouted at the young man.

“Pay no attention at what your are about to see. Listen not to what you are about to hear. Don’t let the there sisters, Ire, Jealousy and Envy tempt you!”

His pleas went ignored and the young man continued on his way. The old man made an attempt at grabbing the young man by the shoulders but his hands passed right thru the specter of himself from years gone by.

“This is not redemption, you old fool!” the voice of Ire reverberated in his head.

“Call it payment for an old debt!”

The old man was made to watch what he knew was coming. He saw the bouquet of roses that lay by her door. He heard the voice and the sweet sound of a guitar that came from the long shadows cast by the coconut grove. He also felt the sadness as he walked to the top of the hill and saw the tamarind tree try to give solace to the despondent young man. There the three sisters, Ire, Jealousy and Envy, danced and chanted.

“Don’t listen to them!” cried the old man. But the sisters pushed and taunted until the young man’s machete rose and in one swift motion brought a branch of the tamarind tree down.

“I’ll wait for him here and here I will silence his voice so he can no longer sing and severe his hands so the guitar he can not play and once again she will be mine!” shouted the young man and the sisters cheered.

Up from the clearing approached his foe. His machete holstered on the belt of his pants and a guitar held by a string on his back.

“Are you waiting for me?” he asked while placing the guitar upright on the trunk of the tamarind tree.

“Yes!” came the reply and nothing else was said.

Steel soon met steel and sparks like fireworks illuminated the night sky. Rolling clouds surrounded the field and clapping thunder approved every strike and counter strike. That night anger proved stronger and the young man struck the final blow.

Ire turned to the old man, her face pressing on his “Do you remember what he said to you? Tell me, how could you lose to a dying man? We made you strong and you payed us by running away like a coward, disappearing in the sugarcane fields!” Her hot, putrid breath assaulted him.

“What did he say you ask? Love her as I do if you are able! said the dying man, for in death I take her love with me! Your poisonous swill still burned in my veins and blinded by the moment I plunged my machete in his chest in a vain attempt of stopping his soul from taking her love. It was to late. I ran, not in fear but in shame.”

The old man paused for a moment then laugh.

“Why is he laughing? Make him stop! Make him stop!” Shrieked Envy and Jealousy.

“Oh, the irony of it all! You brought me here! Payment for an old debt and the debt I have paid. Not to you twisted sisters from hell but to them, those three souls you froze in my mind. That fateful night, in the sugarcane fields, I denied the existence of love and for sixty years love had no part in my life. Now I realize its true meaning. I did not lose that night! You did as you have now!”

The old man stood once again by the casket. From his shirt pocket he removed a ring, gave it a kiss and tossed it. He watched as it rolled and fell in a crevice between the casket and the earthen wall. With the help of his cane, he walked up the hill to the tamarind tree and sat on the bench. “Rest now”, whispered the tamarind tree, “close your eyes and rest!”

4 thoughts on “The Tamarind Tree”

  1. Rafael – this is a great story. Brought me right in and had me captured up to the last sentence! (And now I know what a Tamarind tree is too.)

    1. Thank You! Growing up, the sugar cane fields were my playground and the tamarind was and still is my favorite sweet and sour “candy!”

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