A/N: Hi guys! Thank you to all those that reviewed, favorited, alerted, or even just stopping by to read! Love you all! Any who! I honestly didn't think I could be able to get this posted this weekend. I had a very hectic week at school and I think it's going to get even more chaotic with the first performances coming up. I'm going to get around to your readin' your fics (I'm reading a couple right now). This chapter's title is from Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Are Made for Walkin'. For those that don't personally know me, I'm a huge Frank Sinatra fan and I adore his daughter Nancy. Happy reading.
The Hanging Tree
These Boots Are Made for Walkin'
"Nobody can hurt me without my permission." - Mohandas Gandhi
When the morning sun rose above the horizon, it got overtaken by the menacing smog in the sky. However, that didn't stop people from waking up and heading to work or to school. There especially was no exception for a disgruntled Thneed factory worker like Mr. Clark. Though his tired eyes and exhausted body would like to beg to differ. Still, he could be complemented to be
a trooper since he had not missed a single day of work, nor was he going to start now. Considering there always was the promise of a fresh mug full of coffee in the morning at work. He gave a half grin of satisfaction as he felt the soothing warmth of the fresh coffee emitting its heat through his cup.
Nevertheless, Mr. Clark's little moment of heaven got interrupted by two familiar faces. He didn't even get to pull his chair out completely before he seen the twin brothers, Chet and Brett, come marching towards his desk. Releasing a deep sigh and placing his unenjoyed cup of coffee on his desk, Mr. Clark stood at attention before the twins stopped in front of him.
"The boss would like to see you." Chet - 'or could it be Brett?'- stated in his hick accent.
"He also wanted you to bring the maps of the woods." The other twin added.
The twins left no room for protests. Mr. Clark trailed behind them (maps in each arm) and left the mug alone on his desk to become cold with bitter loneliness.
No matter the amount of times Mr. Clark walked about these grand halls and came upon the outer office of his boss's, the disturbing shivers that the viper-like Once-ler women were able to erupted throughout his spine. They never said anything to him as he passed but it had to be in the way their watchful gazes would follow him. The blonde with the fox fur scarf wrapped about her shoulders, whom had known was Once-ler's mother, would file her nails like she could be preparing her talons for her prey. Or the other one, round like a purple plum - 'in the nicest of descriptions' - with an outrageous bullhorn hairstyle, and a mean pug-face, would be writing things down; but for all he knew it could have been her hit-list. Something didn't feel right among these dames; in fact, the entire family felt this way, except for the Once-ler.
Brett and Chet opened the Once-ler's doors for Mr. Clark and they closed behind him with a boom that sounded like gong signalling his death sentence. He had to stifle a sigh of relief. But then he froze up in apprehension when he seen his boss staring right at him. Forcing a pleasant smile, he came just behind the chair in front of the desk and waited until he was given permission to sit.
Mr. Clark couldn't help but to feel cautious about this sudden meeting. It had become a rare occurrence to sight the inventor of the Thneed. The reasons to his missing presence, Mr. Clark deduced, had to be the mountain of paperwork and numerous easels with blueprints that had sketches of buildings. 'He must have recently met up with the engineers that are constructing Thneedville.'
A serious expression dominated the Once-ler's entire features and, if you were to ask, Mr. Clark would have commented that the stoic attitude did not seem to suit the young entrepreneur.
The Once-ler then interrupted the clerk's musings. "Did you bring the maps, Mr. Clark?"
"Yes, sir," Clark immediately replied. 'Good morning to you too.'
"Good. May I please see the one that had Bethany Arbore's location?"
"Um...yes," Mr. Clark obliged and then proceeded to pass the requested rolled up map to his boss.
"No, no. Don't hand it to me. Roll it out on my desk."
"Oh! I'm sorry -um- what about your other papers?" Mr. Clark stuttered and fidget as he attempted to remove the tied string around the paper to unravel it.
"Ignore them." The Once-ler dismissed Mr. Clark's concerns with a wave of his hand. And so, the clerk did as he was told. With a flourishing sweep, the map rolled out and revealed the colorful design of the untouched section of the valley; only a red box the size of an inch stood out to the rest of the map.
"Good, good." Once-ler stroked his chin in thought before he asked, "How far does her land extend?"
"One acre, sir."
"I know that, but where does it begin and where does it end?" A green gloved finger placed itself directly in the middle of the red box on the map.
"Well," Mr. Clark started out slowly. "It should approximately start here." He then placed his own finger on the map, directly an inch from the box. "Her land starts about ten yards from her house but the rest of it goes on behind it."
"Hmm...can you send out some workers to scope out the area to see if there is an object that indicates the barriers?"
"Of course, sir." Clark unsurely stared back his boss's thoughtful face. 'Maybe he's considering going around her land when we come near it.'
"And once they have discovered where exactly those barriers starts and ends," Striking blue eyes flicked up to gaze at common brown ones. "Send a few choppers with a hauling truck and an axe, and instruct them to only cut down one tree directly in front of those boundaries of the Arbore's land."
Disbelief was evident on the Thneed employee's face. "Mr. Once-ler, if it's alright to ask, why are you doing this?"
A small smile played across the Once-ler's lips as he delicately plucked a cigar out of his drawer, lit it with a shiny gold lighter, and soon took a slow drag of the tobacco. Then he countered with, "Ever done a 'double-dog-dare' when you were young?"
Mr. Clark quickly shut his gaping mouth.
"Oh! And make sure that they take a camera." The Once-ler added and then started to curl the map back up. He tied it with the string that Clark had removed. Handing it back to his stunned worker, Once-ler moved his cigar to the side of his mouth so he could say, "Do you understand, Mr. Clark?"
Shaking his head free of his disbelief and snuffing it down with his professional persona, Mr. Clark grabbed the other end of the map. "Of course I do, sir."
He took back what he said that there seemed to be nothing wrong with the Once-ler.
Bethany stepped out from her stone cottage, with a ripe truffula-fruit in hand, and gazed up curiously at the strangely partially cloudy sky. It appeared odd to her since the clouds did not seem to be the normal fluffy white ones or the kind that indicated a storm; instead they looked like they were a sickly green-grey mist that was rolling into overcome the pure white clouds. She took a bite out of the fruit and chewed thoughtfully as she sat on an iron stool in her backyard. Swallowing, then saying as she pointed up at the sky, "What is that? I've never seen somethin' like it before?"
The Lorax halted in his boardgame with a bar-ba-loot cub that Beth had come to know as Pipsqueak. Both creatures looked in the direction her finger had pointed at, but only one had the ability to speak to the human female. Grass-green eyes glossed over with more anxiousness than they had before, "The Meathead's factory is producing the smogulous smoke you see there. Since he's chopping down the trees, they aren't able to do an effective amount to their job of keeping the air clean and they are having to compete against the poison that is being released. It's one of the many things that I've been trying to get across that moron's thick head."
"Is that where you've been for the last couple of days?" The young woman inquired and continued to eat her lunch.
Scoffing, the orange fuzz-ball sternly stopped Pipsqueak from chewing on the black rook of the chess pieces before he answered, "In a way, you could say that. It has been very hard trying to get close to the guy and I've been busy attending to the forest animals. Do you wanna play a round of chess with me?"
"Sure," Beth agreed and gave the rest of the fruit to the bar-ba-loot cub who ran off with a happy grin on his adorable face. Sitting Indian-style on the ground in front of the chess board and across from the Lorax, the girl began to place the pieces back to their appropriate designations. Once she was finished, the black pieces were on her side and the white was on the Lorax's side. "You may go first, Lorax."
"How very kind of you." Taking the offer, furry orange fingers pushed a pawn up two squares. Beth moved her third ebony pawn on the left forward one square.
"How come you are here and not out there trying to stop the Once-ler?"
"I still need to come here to check on the survivors," The Lorax moved his white bishop diagonally to the left. A racking cough erupted out of the forest guardian and he shielded it with his tiny fist. "Things have been getting rather rough lately."
"Hmm...I'm still not all too sure as to what I'm suppose to do to help. Checkmate," Beth snatched the Lorax's white king away with her black knight. "Have you ever played chess before?"
"Eh, I just know the rules and what each piece is called." The Lorax confessed and sheepishly shrugged his shoulders. "You're pretty good."
"Thank you, but I'm nothing compare to my father," Beth then reset the board and then lifted herself off the ground to stand. Her eyes averted over to the one truffula tree in her yard.
"Hey, speaking of your old man, where is-!" The Lorax didn't get to finish his inquiry when he perked up, his head leaning to the side, and his eyes squinting in concentration. He was listening to something. "It appears you have company. Were you expecting anyone?"
"I'm never expecting anyone," was the young woman's immediate answer. "Should I confront them?"
"Do whatever you think is necessary," The Lorax stated and he quickly scooped up Pipsqueak and ushered the other animals out of the fenced in yard. "I trust you."
"Where are you going?" Beth called after him.
"Not very many humans know of my existence and I plan to keep it that way. Only the Once-ler, his family, and you know of me." And with that said, he disappeared into the growth.
"If you plan on stopping the Once-ler, then how can you do that if no one knows of your existence?" She whispered to herself.
Then Bethany Arbore walked around to the front of her home and stopped short of the door to her gate. Beyond her fence, just a couple yards away, she could make out the figures of three men and a large truck. Pushing the gate door open, Beth ventured cautiously towards the strange men.
The burning light of the sun caught and gleamed harshly on the head of an axe. Closing in, she could see it was readied on the shoulder of a brawny man with a briskly beard; the other two men were equal in brawn with the man with the axe.
They seemed to not have noticed her and the one with the axe prepared his swinging arm. A resounding whack silenced the music of the swomme-swans and humming-fish. Beth froze in mid-step as she stared in alarm as the axe bit(1) slammed multiple times into the trunk of the once grand truffula tree. She quickly took several steps back as she watch the tree fall towards her. The purple tuff of the truffula barely grazed her as it landed heavily before her boot clad feet.
At that moment, as Beth stood staring at one of the many new occurrences in her life, the three men jumped at the sudden appearance of the tiny, slender woman. Quickly, a young man with rugged features whipped out a polaroid camera and the flash of the device brought Beth out of her trance. She looked up in sudden indignation. The men shifted their weight awkwardly as she marched right up to them. Hands planted on her hips and her stance strong, unmovable, Beth craned her neck to look up at the tall, muscular men. She had the bravado like that of a lion tamer.
"Why did you do that?" She boldly inquired. "That tree is apart of my property and I don't ever recall giving you my permission to chop it down."
"Um...excuse me, ma'am" - Her charcoal black eyes cut towards the man on the left - "that tree is, in fact, not a part of your property."
Her glare hardened. "Is that so? How?"
"There is a post hundred paces that way," The man pointed to his right and then he maneuvered it to the left. "And another post hundred paces that way as well. Those posts are what indicate how far your land extends and your land does not extend this far. So, once again, no that tree is not your property."
"Well the tree has landed on my property."
"I'm sorry ma'am but we are only doing what we were ordered to do." Then the three men stooped down and hauled the truck of the tree in their chiseled arms.
"Hey, did you not hear what I just said," Frustrated, she followed after them. "That tree had landed in my property so, therefore it has become mine."
After they had settled the tree in the bed of the truck, the man, whom Beth had deemed the spokesperson, puffed out a sigh and turned around to face the girl while the other two tied it down. His ordinary brown eyes formed a sincere apology in their depths as he gazed into the pleasing face of the young woman.
"Ma'am, I'm really sorry about this but I earnestly beg you to comply to the Once-ler's demands before you get in so deep and you can't get out."
This was one of the few times in Bethany's life where she had nothing to say in return. She remained in her place and watched as the pickup truck drove out of her sight. Looking over her shoulder at the stump, she regretted not preventing them from cutting down the tree when she had the chance.
The trek back to her cottage left her plagued with the Thneed company worker's warning. However, it did not make her worried that she was getting into a messy ordeal. Instead she thought of her next course of action.
Soon a light bulb illuminated within her mind. She would have smacked her forehead at her own idiocracy if she wasn't so overcome with determination. Running into her stone house, Beth rummaged through her cabinets and looked about her shelves until she came across a large class jar. Smiling in success, she grabbed both sides of the jar and climbed down from the her wine cabinet. She placed it on her dinner table, unscrewed the lid, then proceeded to pull out the wads of money.
Just as she was counting the amount that she had, the Lorax returned. He jumped up on the chair to watch her sort through the money. Then he asked, "What are you doing."
Frustrated she sighed, "I was countin' money but you made me lose count."
Ignoring the human female's complaint, he then inquired, "What for?"
Beth's eyes looked up at the orange and fuzzy Lorax and wondered how something mythical like him could exist. She had been meaning to ask him how it was possible. Her gaze returned back to the cash in her hands. In the most serious and grim voice the guardian of the forest had ever heard from a human thus far, she stated, "I'm thinking about paying for an attorney."
A/N: (1) A bit is the edge of an axe's blade. There are parts of an axe that have a name. Did you know that?
The plot is moving forward...
To tell the truth, I didn't think Mr. Clark was going to appear this frequent. I think he wormed his way into my heart. Heck! I even drew a picture of him. He-he! He's so unappreciated.
So October started up. You know what that means? Day of the Dead! No, just kidding. But I'm the type of person that loves to go all out during this month. I love Halloween and I love scary movies. So, out of curiosity, I looked up that Youtube channel called Marble Hornets. I'm on entry 44 right now and I have to say it is pretty creative.
Reviews make me happy so please do!
Also I got a new kitty!