Mommy said…

An Espresso Tale


Accipiter G. Goshawk

Fun fact: besides writing, I also work in environmental sciences. These days, I think everyone can notice the effects of our presence on this planet. This small tale is meant as a warning.


*Edit: would you like to listen to me narrating this story? Here is a link to the audio version.

He was only three years old when the trouble started.

His first experiments were innocent enough. One day, he broke off a few branches from the trees in the garden and then built a small house under the great oak. Later, he dug a hole in the back and began collecting the nuggets of gold he found there.

Small things. Innocent things.

From time to time, he would hunt and kill one of the weaker animals. Then he’d spend days making fur coats, bone flutes and small statuettes.

When he came indoors for the night, his mother would smile and cook for him. She would ask him how his day went and he would tell her, his eyes glowing with pride. Sometimes she would shower him with praise and other times she would scold him severely.

“You are part of all that surrounds you dear,” she told him on the day when he’d killed the last mammoth. “Everything is connected and if you want to be part of the world you must understand this.”

She paused, noticing his ever-moving hands edging towards the box of matches on the kitchen table.

“And don’t play with the matches!”

He drew his hand away, his face twisting with hurt at her sharp rebuke.

Gently, she drew him to her. He could smell the green, the life of her. Her hair swished around him like willow branches and when she hugged him, he felt safe.

“You know I’m saying all these things for your own good, right?” she said, holding his iridescent irises in her own emerald eyes.

He nodded, but there was a speck of rebellion in his soul.

He looked longingly at the matches.

It didn’t take long for his experiments to escalate. One day, he cut down his first tree and shortly after, he began to excavate the back of the garden. Soon, black smoke rose from the pit; he dug and forged, making clever new toys. At the beginning, his creations were banal, but as he learned to shape metal, wood and the dark stuff that bled out of the ground like midnight blood, he crafted objects of increasing complexity.

His mother looked on in silence.

Slowly, her garden withered. Without the shade of the trees to protect them in the hot summer months, her flowers failed. The pond died, polluted by the waste that her son dumped in it every day. The endless multitude of creatures that once graced her garden disappeared and turned to dust, as every corner of the green was lost to her child’s machines.

“You should be more careful,” she told him one night, after they’d finished dinner.

“Why?” he answered carelessly, peering down at the small plastic thing in his hand.

“You are not external to my garden. What you make here and what you destroy, will affect you and all those who remain.”

“What do I care? I can build a new house in the garden. Hell, I can even build my own garden!”

He grinned at her arrogantly and took up the box of matches.

Her slap was utterly unexpected. In his shock, he let the box fall. She quickly picked it up and put it on a high shelf.

“I won’t warn you again. You are one with me, with my garden. If you choose to make your own path, you must be prepared to suffer the consequences. And don’t play with the matches.”

He staggered back, hurt and confused.

“Are you threatening me?”

She smiled sadly.

“No, I’m simply warning you. I love you, dear child.”

He fled the kitchen and that night, he worked even harder in the pit at the back of the house. Rage and arrogance fuelled his toil and in the small hours of the morning, he made up his mind.

Quietly, he snuck into the house and climbing onto the shelf, he snatched the much-coveted box.

“I’ll show her!” he said to no one in particular.

The first match he lit was the last. So fascinated was he by the dancing flame, that he failed to noticed the house begin to burn all around him. He was dragged from his reverie by a part of the roof caving in and crashing at his feet in a fiery ruin.

In a panic, he made for the door, only to find it blocked. Beyond, he could just make out his mother, sitting in the garden.

Staring at him.

“Please! Help me!” he cried, as the flames licked at his heels.

She smiled again. This time, there was no sadness in her eyes, no pity.

“I told you not to play with matches,” she said quietly, as he dissolved into smoke and ash.

Sometime later, the fire died down and she calmly got up from her garden chair and made her way to the cold coals. She passed her hand over the broken wood and the grey dust; a small flower appeared, poking its head shyly from the wreckage.

Other creatures soon joined it and in a few days, the garden was green once more.-

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