The Beech Tree.
Henry was irritated. He shuffled his newspaper, glaring out into the garden at the huge old Beech tree that was preventing most of the early morning sun from shining into his nice new conservatory. It would damn well have to go, he thought. It was a blasted nuisance. The problem was that Henry knew his wife Agnes would never ever let him chop the wretched thing down. She loved the old tree and spent hours sitting beneath it's leafy canopy watching their grandchildren playing in the garden, and she would undoubtedly prefer that the conservatory went rather than sacrifice such cherished memories "Damn it," Henry muttered to himself, his mind suddenly made up. "It's got to go," A plan forming in his mind as he stood and stalked quickly into the house before his resolve faltered.
"Going out love?" Agnes called from the kitchen as she heard her husband clomping around in the hall. "Don't forget your key; "I've arranged to see Beth this morning. We've got to organise our stall at the Church fete, so I shall be some time."
"Just for a stroll, I fancy a bit of fresh air," Henry replied, feeling incredibly guilty as he opened the front door and let himself out. "I shan't be long love. See you later ok."
At the garden centre Henry did his best to explain to a very perplexed young assistant what he wanted. "You want to kill a Beech tree," the lad mumbled. "They're pretty big aren't they. Why do you want to kill it?"
"Some are, some aren't," Henry snapped, becoming increasingly irritated as the youth did his best to talk him out of his mission; and fifteen minutes or so later he was making his triumphant way home. Two large containers of extremely toxic root killer in his hands, and feverently hoping Agnes that had already gone out.
Luckily, she was, and reading the note that had been left on the kitchen table, which explained she was planning on having lunch with a friend, Henry could see that he'd got more than enough time for him to do what he intended. "Right then," he chuckled, glaring at the Beech tree as he headed for the garden shed to grab a spade. "Eight grand that conservatory cost me and I intend to make the most of it this summer, so as far as I'm concerened me old mate, your time is well and truly up."
Henry worked quickly, perspiring freely as the mound of earth grew by his side; and within half an hour or so he was satisfied he gone down deep enough and exposed enough root to do the job, even so he was beginning to panic just a little in case Agnes made a sudden appearance. "Right, let's see shall we," he muttered, pulling on his thick gardening gloves and reading the dire warning on the label about the toxidity of the product. "Should do the trick," he grunted, opening the first container, then dipping his gloved fingers into the foul smelling resin and smearing liberal amounts of the stuff over the exposed white roots. "If this lot doesn't sort you out, nothing will. Let's see you block my light now."
The week passed by with agonising slowness. Every morning Henry peered at the tree, waiting in vain for signs that his plot was working, but there was nothing; not even a hint of a droop from the damn thing. By Saturday night he was frustrated to the extreme, and Agnes, who after almost four decades of marriage knew her husband very well indeed, posed the question Henry had been dreading all week. "What's wrong with you, you seem ever so on edge," she quizzed, slipping into bed beside him. "Somethings on your mind isn't it. Come on, you might as well say. You know you can never keep anything from me."
"There's nothing," Henry sighed, hating the lie, but knowing he'd gone to far to turn back. "I'm just tired, that's all," leaning over and kissing Agnes on the cheek. "A good nights sleep is all I need. Let's see what tomorrow brings shall we."
Henry woke a little later than normal on Sunday morning, blinking open his eyes and adjusting to the bright morning sun that was streaming in through the open curtains. He turned towards Agnes. reaching for her, then realising with a start of surprise that her side of the bed was already empty. He sat up, slightly puzzled, breathing a sigh of relief as he heard familair sounds coming from the kitchen, then sniffing appreciatively as the wonderful aroma of bacon and sausage drifted up the stairs. "Oh God, I can't tell her now," he groaned, hauling himself into an upright position against the pillows, and doing his best to relax as his wife appeared at the door of the bedroom with a beaming smile on her face.
"Here we are darling, breakfast in bed," Agnes said brightly. "And a nice pot of tea to go with it. Just what the doctor ordered for a tired old man like you."
"Thanks love," Henry mumbled, grinning weakly as he took the proffered tray, and then despite his earlier misgivings, he attacked the delicious feast with gusto as his wife disappeared downstairs, leaving him alone with his guilty secret.
An hour or so passed, and Agnes, who'd been busy in the kitchen, suddenly realised that Henry was still lounging upstairs, and puzzled she went into the hall. "Darling, are you coming down," she called, but there was no answer. She called again, this time more loudly. Listening for a long moment and suddenly frightened at the silence, as heart in mouth she raced quickly upstairs, unnacountably terrified at what she might find.
"Henry, are you all right?" Agnes called again, reaching to bedroom door and pushing it quickly open. Blinking, rocking back on her heels as she saw her husband; his face chalk white, propped against the pillows with his eyes staring sightlessly up at the ceiling. "Henry," she cried, rushing over to the bed and shaking him almost violently. "Wake up Henry, Wake up!" Tears suddenly streaming down her face as she felt the coolness of his flesh beneath her fingers.
Agnes screamed then. A sound of sheer animal anguish that echoed endlessly in the silent stillness of the bedroom, as she realised her beloved Henry was dead. And collapsing to the floor at the side of the bed, she stayed with him for what seemed like hours. Frozen in time like a statue and willing Henry back to life, her hand clasped around his and and staring up into his face as if by sheer willpower alone she could turn back the clock and bring him back to her.
Much later, when the ambulance had taken Henry away, a policewoman, her face a mask of sympathy, called at the house. Agnes was far to distraught to shed much light on what might of happened, but she related as best she could the sequence of events that had led up to her husband's untimely death. "I, I just don't understand," she sobbed. "He seemed fine. A little tired, as he had been all week, but I never imagined there was anything seriously wrong with him."
She stood up and made her way over to the window, eyes glistening with tears as she stared out into the garden. "I let him sleep late this morning; took him breakfast in bed. It was a special treat. Bacon, eggs, sausage, tomatoes, all terribly unhealthy really...." Her voice faltered for a moment as she gazed wistfully out into the garden that Henry had loves so much.
"And mushrooms of course," Agnes continued. "Henry adored mushrooms. I picked them myself this morning. They came from just over there by the old Beech tree you know. They grew so well in the shade."
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