April 24, 2023
OLD GENT: A Norway Spruce has won another award from Maincrest Media!
A reader's review!
Amy Sophia Carlson.
"I just have to rave over a book I just finished reading. It is called Old Gent by Marie J Phillips; a friend of mine who is a published author and illustrator. It is a story about a Spruce pine tree that was over 100 years old, that was in her yard. I never thought I would enjoy a tale about a tree. I didn't think in a million years I would ever cry over a story about a tree, but when Old Gent was felled, I had to stop and cry. What a fantastic storyteller Marie is to grab emotions like that! I think everyone should try one of her books. Jeff says her writing does that with your emotions, and that is a true gift to any reader. I won the book on one of her giveaways on FB and I just can't praise her story enough. Now, I am dying to read the rest of her books. Thank you so much for the emotional grab of my heart, Marie.. I will always treasure your book, and I will always remember Old Gent with bittersweet memories as I know you do. Thank you for sharing your story."
Nothing makes an author happier than when a reader is moved by the works.
Under a bright spring afternoon sun, a young conifer stood, fearful, as humans worked, building a dwelling in the abandoned field where he sprouted a mere decade ago. Brush fell before the humans’ tools, which ended the lives of his fellow trees and shrubs. The metallic ring and thud of axes filled the field as humans dropped his taller field mates more efficiently than any beaver. Humans dug deep into the ground, creating a deep hole, until their tools hit solid rock. The metal implements rang against the granite bedrock, and the young tree felt the vibrations through his roots. The humans slowly built walls of stone in the hole, and laid down a floor of liquid ground rock, connecting the foundation to the rock ledge.
Wagons rolled up the dirt road, pulled by large horses, who snorted and heaved for breath after hauling the loads up the hills to the spot of land he called home. They brought machinery to cut trees into lumber, and other parts for this construct made of the wood of trees. The young Norway Spruce thought certainly he might be felled to clear room. The saw chugged, slicing felled trees into boards of lumber, and as the days passed, a fresh wooden frame reached into the skies, taller than himself. A red brick column towered above the roofing frame, and though nervous, the young spruce grew fascinated with the activity, which surpassed the likes of any beaver known to his kind.
“Sorrow, sorrow for our older brethren, but fear not. They avoid you.” The gentle whispering drifted to him. He shuddered in the light breezes of summer, not mollified by the soft songs of his sire, a towering Norway Spruce further up the hill. The young Spruce understood that animal life used trees for their benefits, and humans, like beavers on a grand scale, felled and used trees to construct their lodges, doing so for centuries upon centuries. They used logs to burn for warmth in the cold of winter, and to cook their food. These things he knew, listening as always, to the rumblings and deep communications of the older trees around him. Their knowledge became his, through the deep tangled network of roots underground, and with the airborne vibrations with every tree’s respiration.
The human animals scurried around, but never threatened him, the twenty-five season old Big Apple adjacent to him in the field, nor the young Maple who grew near the road. The house rose from the stone foundation as the workers thrust up wooden walls and covered the roof in cedar sheets. The scent wafted on the winds, swirling around the Young Spruce. The workmen covered the cedar with strange dark grey shingling.
Soon, a small shed joined the house, sitting in north corner of the property. The family moved in just before full summer, and tilled the earth of the cleared field and planted a garden with food plants. Before winter sent the first snows, the family settled in, harvesting their bounty to store in the cellar. The Norway Spruce learned the nature of the little shed, and he sent questing roots in that direction.
“Mmmmm,” he murmured into the root network at his Apple and Maple companions. “Animal dung provide nutrients.” Treeish mirth rippled through the ground. Smoke puffed from the brick tower. Racial memories stirred his phloem, and he worried he might become wood for the fires inside of that house.
To the south of the house, the humans dug another hole, lined it with stones, happy when it filled with water. They covered it with a little roof, and hung a bucket from the roof with a long rope. The Young Spruce wondered at this strange contraption, until he saw a female human let the bucket drop into the hole, then turn a handle to raise it up again. The woman carried the bucket full of water into the house. Then he understood. Every living thing needed water.
The young Norway Spruce delighted in the winter winds and deep snows, enjoying the nourishment the snows brought. Each snowflake trapped nutritious nitrogen with its formation, and when melted, it released the food element into the soil. He and all his needle-leafed compatriots disliked snow-less winters. Around him, his deciduous friends slumbered.
One day after the first snows covered the lands in white, the humans dug up one of his younger siblings which grew on the property.
“Noooo!” the sapling tree protested from his stomata as the humans cut him off from the root network, and carried the little conifer into the house. They did not cut him up for firewood.
“Whyy?”The young Norway Spruce asked, fear shivering his roots and needles.
“Look, my Young Son. Brother be Christmas Tree.” His sire rumbled an answer, sending a vision of the young spruce’s purpose.
“Chris–stmas Tree?” He saw his sibling standing inside the house, by a window, decorated with shining objects. For a half moon, the sapling served as a Christmas tree. After the humans finished with him, they brought the young tree back out onto the land, and replanted him.
“Exciting! See and sense inside human lodge! Learn much.” He babbled in a weird combination of treespeak, and human speech that the Young Spruce found difficult to understand. The youngster suffered, as he struggled to regrow roots into the frozen ground, but regretted nothing the humans did to him.
“Hurt?” the Young Spruce asked.
“Yes, hard. Cold ground stop roots. Wish to be inside.”
“Why?” the Young Spruce asked his sibling, after watching the sapling struggle to reestablish proper connections with the soil. “Grow you cannot inside.”
“Like being Christmas Tree! Humans sing, love. Hard explain.”
“Not like it at all,” The Young Spruce responded to his sibling. “Hot inside. No open sky, no sun.”
“No.” The sapling agreed, blowing through his stomata. “Different.”
The Young Spruce sighed in the wind in a sharp song of youth and confusion, not understanding why his injured sibling wanted his way to the sun and sky blocked by human constructs. With the coming of spring, the sapling succeeded in connecting to the root network and sprouted new growth.
The family in the house roused from its semi-hibernation, sowing seeds in freshly tilled earth, and tending Big Apple and a few apple tree saplings they left in the yard. The offspring of Big Apple grew quickly under the attention, drinking in the sun, hooking their roots into the tangle underground.
Time passed with each cycle of seasons. The humans never used him as a Christmas tree, since his considerable height for his age prevented them from choosing him, however, many of his younger siblings served that purpose. Some survived, but many never broke bud again in spring, dying a mere moon after serving as a Christmas tree, but none of them regretted the experience. The Young Spruce shuddered in place, never wanting to find out what intrigued them so much. He slowly matured, noting each change that came to his spot on this world, growing swiftly, knowing his height discouraged anyone looking for a Christmas tree.
When he reached his twenty-fourth season, new owners took over the house. The couple settled in, and raised children, and the Young Spruce enjoyed the admiration of the family as he stretched his limbs to the skies. To his delight, this couple obtained their Christmas trees from elsewhere, leaving the remnant of his siblings scattered in the area alone. The young Apple trees grew quickly, and Big Apple matured into a fine specimen at his half century mark. The Young Spruce felt Big Apple’s roots reaching across the yard to touch his own. The young house itself, connected to the bedrock, began to radiate its own displeasure or delight in inarticulate release of energies gleaned from the earth itself, which reverberated through the root network.
“House alive?” his younger sibling asked on cool day in leaf fall.
“Not as we are,” their sire answered. “But like the home I shelter, stone connects to the earth. They live in their own way.”
“All houses alive like this?” The Norway Spruce asked.
“Some more, some less.” the old Spruce rumbled his answer. “Yours touches bedrock. I hear its songs way up here at the hilltop.”
“Yes, “ Big Apple agreed. “This one sings, groans and sighs. Not alive, yet is.”
The Norway Spruce sighed in the breeze, and rumbled into the network, feeling pride in the special home that sat on his land.
“Yours second house on our lands. Mine first. Both special” the Young Spruce’s sire chuckled with treeish laughter and pride. “We shade and protect.”
“Protect humans?” The Norway Spruce asked, a bit incredulous. “They fell our brethren to build such.”
“Yes, but they need us, too.” his sire responded with a rumble of amusement. “House happy in shade? No?”
“Yes,” the young Norway Spruce answered. “It sings when I shade.”
“Good. House made from trees, so in sense are brethren. Happy house has happy humans who leave us to our task. Some humans admire us. Not all bad.”
“I believe when see for self,” the Norway Spruce retorted. “But will shade, protect house. Like singing house.”
The young Norway Spruce grew, increasing his shade and wind-breaking abilities. The current human owners indeed admired him, but fear niggled within him always. If need arose for fuel, they might fell him with nary a regret.
During the summer of his forty-fifth season, humans planted bare wooden poles along the dirt road, stringing then with strange vines that hummed with energy, and connected the houses in a network of their own. On many of the poles, on metal branches, flameless lights hung, coming to life when the sun set each night. The Norway Spruce realized those odd things replaced the need for wood to heat and light the homes. The owners tore down the little building in the corner of the yard and constructed a new addition onto the house, which ran along south corner. The aging home protested at first, its fear radiating from it in waves of energy, but as the workers stopped digging, and began to add new stones to create additional walls, that fused well with the old stone foundation, the old house settled down with a mumble.
The workers erected wooden walls, then concrete walls around the basement exit and the old backporch. They laid down the new metal roof on the extension, and shingled this with grey material. Workers dug the ground, lining the holes with odd stone blocks, running piping from the home to the hole. They also dug the ground between the house and the well, laying down pipe. They removed little roof and bucket and placed a removable cover on top of the well. Big trucks and horse-drawn wagons rumbled up the dirt roads bringing supplies. The Norway Spruce’s fears diminished as the trucks and workers left him alone. The horses often stood in his shade, drinking water and eating grain, and he welcomed their piles of dung.
Once work ceased, he sighed, realizing no more animal dung fell to the ground from the torn down shed. His roots reached for the new construct, because though the nutrient rich dung dumped from the new addition into the underground hole, it eventually leaked into the surrounding soil. Delighted, he reached eagerly for the leaching fields, using the nutrients to power his growth.
“I reach first,” Big Apple rumbled in jubilance.
“You closer,” the young Spruce retorted. “But I grow fast!”
Both trees vibrated their laughter through the network.
Early leaf fall of his forty-eighth season brought a brutal storm that ravaged the countryside with terrible winds and torrential rains. Flooding radically altered the surrounding lands when the river over the hill flooded, and nearly wiped out the human city that straddled the river southwest of his home. The human’s strange network of black vines suffered damage, many of them ripping free of their poles. The home he protected protested, with a moan, its loss of energy. The Norway Spruce bowed before the winds, feeling some boughs rip free, but endured the tropical cyclone, sucking up the glut of water even as the winds tore limbs and needles from him. The storm felled his old sire, who gave way in the ferocious winds. The big spruce dropped to the ground with a tremendous thud that shook the entire area. The Young Spruce keened to the winds, as did many of the other trees. The Old One’s demise left a vast empty spot in the skies on the hillside. The old house it once shaded moaned in response to the loss, and it reverberated down the hill, causing the Norway Spruce’s home to sigh.
“Sad, sad, farewell old Friend!” Big Apple groaned in the savage winds. The storm mangled him, littering the lawn with his branches laden with fruit. Once the storm spun out to sea, the Norway Spruce stood strong, drinking in the sun and carbon dioxide, using these elements to put out new growth and expel oxygen, as he raced for the open skies, happy the home he sheltered also stood firm. Humans worked from trucks to reattach the black energy vines, and soon the house hummed its contentment. The owner merely pruned Big Apple, and soon, the tree filled in the gaping holes in his canopy. He moaned his pain into the network.
“You hurt.” The Young Spruce responded.
“Yes, but I heal. Soon all will be well,” Big Apple assured him, but the Norway Spruce sensed the damage ran deeper than.
A few seasons passed, and the Norway Spruce sensed a big change to the roadways around him the summer he turned fifty years of age. Humans and loud machines worked, laying black odorous asphalt over the dusty dirt roads. More homes joined his on the lands. Horses became scarce, as automobiles took their places. The tall Norway Spruce took it all with nary a thought, amused at the busy beaverlike activity of the humans, including those living in the house he sheltered. The owners aged, and their children moved out, but the children always visited their parents, bringing with them their own offspring.
The old stone foundation drew energy from the ground, and the old house took on a subtle personality of its own, growing more feisty and expressive with collected energies each passing season. When content, it hummed and thrummed in an ancient song of stone and rock, drawing strength from its connection to the black vine network. The Young Norway Spruce felt the music thread along his roots, and thought of his sire, who loved such things.
“Ah, Young One,” Big Apple rumbled, “Tis a grand song our home sings. Your sire understood these thing so well, as do I.”
“He did, as do I,” a new voice reached him through the winds from a young Norway Spruce far up the hill. “I grow. Take his task.”
“Young Brother!” The Norway Spruce cried happily from his stomata. “Happy for you.”
During the Norway Spruce’s sixth decade, more houses sprouted along the street and beyond. The increase in human population and automobiles brought an added benefit-extra carbon dioxide. He used it to fuel his reach into the sky, growing swiftly each year. Hurricanes battered his lands in three of those ten seasons, once again tearing up the landscape with flooding and savage winds, but he lost only a few boughs. During the latest storm attack of that decade, the cyclonic winds tore his sibling’s limbs, but the younger Spruce stubbornly battled the storm’s fury, refusing to be downed despite his weaker root system.
“Stand tall!” The voice erupted from a young Oak sapling in the empty lot on the north side of his yard. The youngster bowed in the fierce winds, but the Norway Spruce sensed a young tree of indomitable spirit.
“We shall,” The aging Norway Spruce rumbled encouragement.
The Norway Spruce recovered swiftly once the hurricanes passed out to sea. The young Oak sprang back, vigorous and happy. The fierce storm once again ripped black vines free of the poles, causing all homes to go dark at night. Humans and their trucks returned and reattached them. The homes suffered little or minor damages, but his house cried its fear of the wind to the skies days after the storm passed. He rumbled reassurances, and slowly the house ceased its fearful groaning, and once again sang its stonesong to the network.
The next spring, the family planted a large garden, and a young Plum tree in the upper section of the garden.
“Greetings. . . .” The Plum said, then chattered to the winds, and the Spruce knew the sapling originated from a nursery, raised by humans.
“Know human speech well?” The Norway Spruce asked.
“Yes,” The Plum answered, and his stomata rasped with unintelligible wording. but he stopped using human speech with each passing season. The Plum grew swiftly and joined the network, learning proper treespeak.
The following season brought noisy machinery to the Norway Spruce’s lands. Trucks carrying loads of the liquid grey ground up stone called concrete. The owner built a strange lodge of the poured concrete, working furiously to complete the odd building that sat partially underground to the south of the well. The heavy machinery roared, vibrating the ground, but stayed well away from the trees as they dug the earth.
“What kind of lodge that be?” the Young Norway asked.
“Not know,” Big Apple answered.
“Owner call it “bomb shelter”, the Maple up by the road replied. “I know not what that means, but our owner stores food and other things inside.”
The Norway Spruce and his friends wondered for a while, but soon, the odd construct sat, becoming part of the lands and they ignored it. The Christmas seasons during that time, brought a new tradition to the land, in which humans decorated young conifers in the yard, as well as houses, with strings of bright colorful lights. The Norway Spruce sighed in the snowy breezes. His younger sibling, chattered excitedly, his ragged branches swaying in the winds.
“Pretty lights on me?” he asked.
“No,” the Norway Spruce answered. “Too big now.”
“Oh.” his sibling sighed with disappointment.
A few seasons later, on a warm summer day, the owner’s spouse died. Sadness permeated the home and property, worsening when the owner passed away several seasons later, lounging on the home’s front porch. Even the old house released its grief in unintelligible creaks and groans. The Norway Spruce felt some apprehension, since these humans lived here for forty-two of his sixty-six seasons. The couple’s children sold the home to another family, and he sensed their admiration of him. He knew the firewood pile did not await him. They understood his task to shade and shelter the house well enough.
As his seventh decade passed into his eighth, he towered into the sky, well over a hundred and twenty feet tall, sensing changes far and wide across his town. The lake down the hill reflected sunlight to his upper boughs. He saw far up the hill where his much younger sibling shaded the home his sire once did, young, strong and tall. Along the street, new homes sprouted, including one in the lot where the young Oak stood, taller and thicker in response to the storms seasons ago.
“Have own house to protect now,” the Oak rumbled happily into the network.
“You grow strong,” The Old Norway Spruce replied. His branches grew until he almost touched the house itself. His shade protected his house from summer’s heat, and his thick branches shielded the home from winter’s fierce winds. He sensed easily the temperament of the old house. It groaned in the heat, sang as his shade passed over it, and creaked in the cold.
One summer, workers arrived, and tore the old home’s grey clapboards off, causing the feisty house to grumble to its foundation. The construction workers replaced them with shingles the owner then painted a pale yellow.
“Old lodge look like sun.” the old Norway Spruce rumbled with mirth. The house responded with a wave of energy that swirled out from under the new material. The trees rumbled mirth into the network. The Old Spruce liked the color better than the drab grey. It reflected more sunlight to his questing boughs.
The next few seasons brought more homes to the neighborhood, and noisy machinery that dug up the roadsides, laying pipes and drains. The Norway Spruce did not understand the purpose until the owners covered up the old well. Somehow, humans managed to bring water inside the houses with the underground pipes.
One warm summer day, early in his eighth decade of life, much to his dismay, the homeowner and a few helpers, surrounded the Big Apple, examining him.
“They come to fell me,” Big Apple muttered into the network, resigned to the inevitable.
“No!” The Norway Spruce protested.
“The deep rot eats me from within. You were right. Storm damage so many seasons ago tore me bad enough so water seeps into my heartwood and caused this decay,” Big Apple murmured. “Do not grieve my friend. I have lived long. Over a century on the lands. It is my time.”
The humans started up their chainsaw, and felled the Big Apple with the roaring death machine. Leaving Big Apple’s stump, they cleared away the grand tree’s body, sending it through something that chopped the wood into bits. His offspring all keened their grief.
Before the Norway Spruce grieved for his old friend, the owner approached him, purpose in his stride, the threatening noisy machine in hand. The Norway Spruce shuddered in alarm. His whole being screamed NOOOO into the network and atmosphere. Why him? No rot ate at his heartwood yet! Ice never ripped him apart! He towered strong and powerful! Up a long ladder they climbed, and suddenly, the machine roared to life. The startled Norway Spruce felt it saw into his upper branches. The limbs dropped to the yard below with thuds that shook the ground. His fellow yardmates, all now mature, keened. The Red Maples on the northern and the western property lines, the Sugar Maple up near the road, and the apple trees down the lawn, thundered the alarm to the underground network. The younger trees, including the stout Oak in the next yard, the young Plum Tree, a set of sapling White birches across the street, the two very young Sugar Maples dominating the yard across the street, added higher vibrations of fear to the old network. The ground rumbled with astonishment as trees up and down the neighborhood reacted to the attacks. Even the old house groaned to its foundation, unhappy with the attack on its protector. After what seemed an eternity, the men climbed down his trunk, and chipped up his felled boughs, then put the chainsaw away.
The Norway Spruce stood, shocked and upset at the topping of his upper boughs and the felling of his yardmate. He missed Big Apple, but hated more that he no longer saw for miles, nor sensed as keenly, and the refracted light off the lake barely touched him now. His roots reached deep and far, so he sprouted new growth, vowing to replace the amputated limbs as fast as possible. On winter days, when the snows bent his boughs over, he yearned to once again touch the old house, whose foundation entangled with the underground network of tree roots. Why must humans be so insensitive? He shuddered in the gentle breezes, glad that the men had not felled him and fed him to the chipper. He did not even mind that the owner hung a swing from his lower limb years ago, but why did he have to lop off his glorious top that reached for the sun?
“Careless giant beavers,” he rumbled to his yardmates.
“Sad, sad,” the Plum muttered.
“Not right, not right,” the Oak moaned.
Oh, no Brother,” his young sibling up the hill cried. “Not right at all!”
Time passed, and the Old Norway Spruce grew, determined to regain his former glory. Late in his eighth decade, the family living in the old house split off part of the property. Massive machines thundered onto the lands and destroyed the odd bomb shelter lodge, clearing it from the lands. The Norway Spruce shivered in terror, but the massive vehicles stayed well away from him, and his fear diminished. Another piece of equipment roared onto the land, digging deep into the ground. Then, the big concrete trucks arrived and a new house’s concrete foundation rose from the hole. As the season progressed, the house grew steadily, until the workers finally completed the dwelling. The owner then moved into new construct, leaving the older home empty. Old Maple up near the road rustled his leaves in delight.
“I have house to shade now! Still shade yours, but have mine, too.”
“I shade too!” The Norway Spruce’s tattered sibling added. “This house now mine, too.”
“We shade and protect together,” the Old Maple rumbled in delight.
The Norway Spruce’s old house responded with groans, unhappy, but the new house, still fresh and disconnected from the lands, never reacted to the old house. The home grumbled and groaned, until another family moved into it when the Old Norway Spruce turned seventy-seven years old.
To the north of the house, the new owners built a new parking area, which formed a steep bank behind itself. Motorcycles roared to and from the house after one of the occupants built a little bike shed below the backporch. They also covered the yellow shingles with light metal clapboard, that shone green, and rattled alarms in strong winds. The Old Norway Spruce did not mind, as he enjoyed the happiness that radiated from the children. The old house settled down, content again, not releasing angry energies from its stone foundation. Soon, it sang its stonesong back to the network.
To the Norway Spruce’s dismay, a season later, a wicked ice storm roared in early that winter, coating everyone in thick ice. Strong winds buffeted everyone, and ice crackled as it continued to thicken on everything.
“Owww” A moan caught his attention and to his shock, his younger sibling, who never fully recovered from his stint as a Christmas tree, broke under the merciless ice. Large limbs cracked, then tore free of the smaller tree’s trunk, revealing the heartwood, ripping phloem away in chunks.
“Ow,” the younger spruce groaned. “Dying.”
“No! Fight! Grow!” The Norway Spruce demanded of his sibling.
“No! Grow! “ the Oak added.
“Nooo!” the Old Maple cried.
“Grow! Grow!” the sibling up the hill shouted from his stomata.
“Try,” the younger spruce mumbled into the root network, but as the winter progressed, the sibling weakened, and lost his battle. His needles browned, and by spring, he stood, battered, broken, and unresponsive. The owner of the new home took a dreaded chain saw, and cut down the dead sibling. The Old Norway Spruce sang a dirge to the winds. The old house thrummed a woeful melody to the bedrock, and the trees on the lands joined him in the sad treeish tribute.
During the next few seasons, the Old Spruce welcomed new young trees to the area, including a young Blue Spruce across the street that wore Christmas lights each season. He felt melancholy emotion, remembering how much his younger sibling loved the new light tradition during the human’s Christmas season. He also lost friends as the little cluster of Big Apple’s offspring fell prey to the dreaded chainsaw as the owner expanded the garden.
The Norway Spruce cared not for any of the humans that sat in his shade or played on the lawns. He thought his sire wrong in believing any humans that revered his kind existed. He never forgot the loss of his top boughs. He enjoyed the snows of winter that kept humans inside and nourished his massive root system. The owners’ children grew up and moved away. During his tenth decade, the aging couple contemplated leaving, and he almost felt sorry for the woman, whose sadness permeated yard. The old house groaned its unease in the winds. The Old Norway Spruce turned his attention inward, caring only about regaining what he lost, and concentrated every season to catch the sun and grow.
On a clear spring afternoon, in his ninety-first year, he noted a young couple walking around the house, and knew prospective new owners considered the house he sheltered. A stab of alarm stirred his phloem, despite the fine weather, where the sun shone from a deep blue sky, and fluffy white clouds rode the breezes. As much as he ignored the current owners, he knew they loved his lands. The old house, quiet for many mooncycles, radiated with excited energy the Old Spruce did not comprehend.
The two humans strode down into the yard, and the young woman looked up at him. As her eyes swept over him, he felt something, an odd feeling, that he never experienced with any of the previous owners, not even the humans that owned the house for so long, many decades ago. He never paid attention to the humans’ language before, but suddenly, the human’s yammering made sense to him. He suddenly felt no fear, and excitement from the feisty old house infected him. The Plum tree suddenly chattered like in the days of his sapling youth.
“This one is different” his airborne song said, and his roots shook into the network a sudden joy.
“Different!” a few remaining offspring of Big Apple on the adjoining property agreed.
“What a beautiful Old Gent,” the woman said, looking up, emotion radiating from her so strong it permeated his entire aura. The Old Spruce sang his conifer song to the winds, when she directed her talk directly at him. “You remind me of the New Hampshire forests, and the grand old trees near my grandmom’s house. I love the sound of the wind in your boughs.” She turned to her mate. “I like this place!”
The young man glanced up at Old Gent, and nodded his agreement. The couple walked back around the house, and when they drove off, the Old Gent of a Norway Spruce felt strange emotions, and wished the female human would return. He knew the house changed owners once again, but he felt sudden alarm. What if that couple failed in their bid to buy the home? Who might return to occupy the old homestead? For the first time in his long life, he cared who lived in the old home, and so did the house, whose inarticulate anxiety rolled out from the foundation in waves. The summer dragged by, and the old couple did not leave. Perhaps the old home did not sell after all. Old Gent sighed in the wind, enduring the longest summer season of his life.