When he was fourteeen he went skinny-dipping at the farm pond, guarded by an enormous willow tree, whose delicate green branches reached almost to the surface of water which was as warm and dark as coffee.
As warm as the water was on top, his feet kicked up a chill, which rose to nuzzle him under the balls and, though he liked to be naked in the water more than anything, he always kept moving and thrashing for fear a small mouth bass might dart up and nip the tip of his dick off.
Better to be careful. So he swam on his back and admired the tree. The willow, he was convinced, was an extremely important personage. In charge of the farm at least and possibly much of the state of New Hampshire. The willow told him its secret name. And, unlike a ruling man, the willow was generous and never in a hurry.
He believed this the way fourteen year old American boys believe, in a small room in their brains, a small room surrounded by scorn, but in that small room still believing.
Eventually the boy tugged his pants on, grew a beard, and became disappointed. The willow, meanwhile, became increasingly active and involved on the local level, hosting barbecues and church events, presiding over the ceremonies of Eagle Scouts.
The young man worked in cities where he could step outside and not see a single thing that was green or alive and the only thing not covered in cement was the Moon.
The young man was careful: he thought, contemplated, considered, weighed all the options, and over and over again, he chose wrong.
The willow began to officiate at weddings. Meetings were held beneath the tree and it was often on the news, shown with local and state politicians and dignitaries. Sometimes, at home in his gray city, the young man even caught the willow on TV. As the tallest member of the assembled party, the tree stood in back but there was no question that it was the power in charge, with its dark curving trunk and its sensitive leaves.
The young man was cautious and reasonable. He did what he thought he was supposed to do. He did not distinguish himself or destroy himself. He did not become happy.
He was stunned the day a flyer reached him in the mail, showing the willow tree and a certain junior senator who was running for president and might, to everyone’s astonishment, actually win.
The photo, he supposed, was a sort of endorsement, on the force of which this young senator might attain the presidency.
In his gray city the man who was no longer young understood. He’d been careful and still he’d been wrong. He had been a reasonable man: he moved cautiously from one disappointment to the next.
He was wrong about everything, he saw now, except for his most childish, absurd, and ridiculous notions, none of which would ever do him any good, but which had turned out, in some astonishing way, to be absolutely correct.