“Silly as it seems — no, is — I’m actually a bit afraid of plants. I like trees, and I have a garden, but there’s something unnerving about being among all these living things that we treat as though they’re just background. They’re alive. It freaks me out. The title of this story comes from a Rudyard Kipling poem, The Way Through The Woods. I read this poem when I was about three quarters of the way finished with the piece, and it really shaped the way it turned out.
The Way Through The Woods
by Rudyard Kipling
They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.
Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods.
But there is no road through the woods.
There Is No Road Through the Woods
by Dagny Paul
The summer it happened, Mr. Mason cut down the diseased elm in his front yard and found a fist-sized clot of blood, bone, and hair in the middle of its trunk. I didn’t see it, but Ellie Langford, who was a year ahead of me and lived next door to Mr. Mason, said that she had been sitting on her front porch, waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up, when all of a sudden Mr. Mason’s chainsaw died and she looked up to see red splatters on his wife beater and a puzzled look on his face.