The Fruits of Our Anger

by Axel Lazuli

It started when his veins began to circle like tree rings. He explained that he saw great, big tree rings on the back of his eyelids in certain light when he blinked, and later, even as he slept. Mother’s response was to scold him, telling him it was because he had refused to let go of that deadbeat father of his or because he had failed to become a teacher—then she, too, became rooted.

That’s what we started to call them: rooted. In fact, Mother became so deeply rooted that unlike the others, whom we could still pull from the earth and put to rest properly, she had to stand firm beside the septic tank she’d gone out to inspect one cold December morning.

I stared at her now, longing, straining to know what it was, exactly, that had caused her condition, the condition of my brother, or the condition of thousands of others; it felt as if I could still hear the profanities she spouted, the curses upon us that had dripped from her tongue as she rooted, a froth of feelings bubbling up from inside her that seemed to nourish the very position she so lamented.

Her twisted, fleshy tendrils wrapped around themselves—once her plump arms, I realized; a knot had formed from where we’d tried to have her uprooted. Many more up the street stood like Mother: fixed too deeply to move, and no amount of pleading or praying or prodding had helped to stop or to free them from their positions. Eventually much of Mulberry Grove became rooted, no longer a home to actual mulberries, but instead to a grove of fleshy, contorting branches, hunched over and huddling. On clear days, I could still hear a few of them humming soft obscenities into the wind.

Some people tied scarves around their rooted loved ones; some had headstones placed in memoriam. A few, whether well-meaning or unimaginably cruel I’m not sure, had plaques drilled into the woody flesh trunks of their departed that dictated the person’s once-name and years of life. They bled sometimes. We weren’t sure if they were dead or alive, but much of the consensus was simply that they had gone, leaving their bodies here to murmur.

As I tried desperately to understand why this had happened, fought for them to be cut down for proper burial (it truly was damning to have to look at their pale, ringed faces each day as I drove to work), I hadn’t noticed that my fingers began to take on that all-too-familiar stringy, chive-root appearance. I became angrier as it happened, demanding that I, too, had gone to protest, that I too had fought for justice in this world, only for my mouth to finally knot itself shut on the cut my teeth had left upon my tongue. I was 27, about to be 28, and I still hadn’t even finished Murakami’s 1Q84 or tried cotton candy bubble tea or gone out to see a movie in the last nine months.

When my legs straggled and finally gave in to the force of the pull from the earth below, I felt my anger beating through the rings in my eyelids as people walked past. What I wanted of them I wasn’t sure, but as I stood rooted in Mulberry Grove on Main Street those last few nights, as I watched in helpless stupor as people threw trash out their car windows, broke into and burned down Uncle Hugo’s bookstore, and looted Moeller’s Fine Jewelry, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the fire of outrage driving us all to rings behind our eyes, to fixation and stagnation and damnation. When I realized the culprit was within our grasp, it was too late; my larynx had sprouted leaves and my head had turned upwards to the sun for warmth.

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