“Welcome to the Place of Words,” Henry gestured to the small sign, nearly invisible unless you knew what you were looking for.
Britt squinted at the sign. “They should have called it the Place of Bugs.” She slapped a mosquito that had landed on her arm.
Henry walked up to a large oak. “They say a girl once came to this very tree and stood before it. As she watched, it birthed every word she’d ever said.”
Britt laughed. “Why would it do that?”
Henry shrugged. “She wished for it. She wanted to take back all her mean words.”
“Really. But she realized that she couldn’t take them back, because if she tried to take back…”
“Hogwash.” Britt ran a gloved finger along the split skin of the old oak, tried to reach inside one of the grooves where the bark had buckled and folded in upon itself. “Trees don’t give birth to words and you can’t undo meanness.”
“Why do you so easily doubt what you cannot see?”
“I stick with the facts.” Britt said. “That’s what I love about you, Henry. You’re such a poet.”
“I’m not sure a poet and a statistician make a good couple.”
“Course we do.” Britt laughed. “We’ve got the best of both worlds between the two of us. Numbers and words. Words and numbers. What else do you need?”
“I need the magic, Britt.”
Her smile faltered. “Magic?”
“Poetry believes in magic. Poetry is magic. Poetry…”
“Henry, mind your blood pressure.”
“My blood pressure is fine, Britt.”
“Statistics say that…”
“Stuff your statistics. I’m twenty-four years old. I’m perfectly fit.”
“I just want…” Britt took Henry’s hand. “Say it, Henry. All fancied-up, the way you like to talk.”
Henry frowned. “I don’t follow.”
“You told me you wanted to show me a special place.”
“You said you had something to ask me.”
“I do.” Henry grew animated. “I want you to calculate the environmental cost of cutting this swatch of land down. The town’s trying to run a road through here. I can’t imagine what would happen to this tree.”
“I really don’t care about your stupid old tree, Henry.”
“I thought you wanted to marry me,” she whispered.
“Oh. I’m…I didn’t…”
“Short on words now? Cat got your tongue?” Britt rapped her knuckles on the tree. “Maybe your old friend here can help you out.”
“Stop making fun,” Henry said. Then, almost as an afterthought, he added. “Listen, I’m sorry. I…”
“Forget about it.” Britt turned away.
“I really wish I could see my words,” Henry said to her back. “Every single word I ever spoke.”
“I wish I could see all the numbers I ever figured.”
As they headed down the path, a small root begin fingering its way up through the soil. A gentle snow began to fall.
“Look at these snowflakes!” Henry ran to catch up with Britt. “They’re…they’re made up of little numbers!”
“Screw you, Henry. You and your stupid words.”
The prompt was this quote by Salman Rushdie. “Sometimes legends make reality, and become more useful than the facts.”