The Leben Family’s cherry blossom is as old as the land. Its branches grow broader every year. When in bloom, it illuminates the entire manor, like one of the sun’s burning rays. The tree sheds blood, painting the grounds with death and life.
The cherry blossom is a hallmark to this town, as the Vatican is to Rome. Its powerful energy radiates, like a dormant volcano, constantly breathing and showing its might.
Tod Leben Jr. is at an age, where he can appreciate the family tree. Every morning as he awakes, he looks at that tree, knowing soon he and his father will keep an old Leben tradition alive. When an eldest Leben son turns ten, he and his father hang a new swing on the cherry blossom. Celebrating the strength of the monstrous tree is a Leben man’s rite-to-passage. The eldest son will inherit the manor, and soon raise a family of his own.
It is August 6th, and today Junior turns ten. Awoken by the crowing c***s, he eagerly jumps out of bed. He opens his bedroom door, only to be led by the scent of breakfast. Mrs. Leben made fresh eggs, bacon, freshly squeezed apple cider, and a maple syrup cake—Junior’s favorite.
“There’s the birthday boy,” Mrs. Leben takes off her floral apron, “come give mommy a hug.” She hugs and smooches Junior, and pinches his cheeks. Her cheeks are chapped from crying. They are not tears of joy, nor sorrow, but rather a fine median.
The twins run into the kitchen. Suss—an innocent little girl, ready to conquer the day. Nullen—a young little lad with a morning yawn which seems to be stuck.
“Do we get some maple syrup cake too?!” Suss asks.
Mrs. Leben smiles, “Of course baby. But don’t you two have something to say to your brother?” She had a look of relief in her eyes.
The twins say in perfect harmony, “Happy birthday Junior.”
“Thanks, pups.” Junior pets their heads, showing his love and dominance.
They all sit down and dig into their breakfast. Junior is thinking this breakfast tastes better than ever.
He eats like a king.
Mr. Leben always rises before Dawn. On this particular morning, he avoided contact with his wife, and for good reason—today he will teach his son what it means to be a Leben man.
Tradition calls for the Mr. and Mrs. Leben to spend a night out in the town, wining and dining. To spend the night as if it was the last night they had together.
He peeks into the kitchen, and says, “Good morning my Loves.”
“Good morning Daddy,” all three reply.
His voice turns stern. “Tod Jr., come with me.” He definitely means business. The confused Junior follows.
They walk out into the yard, towards the shed. The shed is over seventy-five years old and has turned a greenish brown. It’s a large shed, about the size of a small barn. Through the broken windows, Junior sees a spade dancing with the wind.
“Son, now I must show you the ways of the manor. When I turned ten, my father did the same for me. And his father for him. And so on. You will do the same for your son someday.”
Junior gives the understanding nod.
They go into the barn-sized shed, grab the spade off the rack, and then walk towards the cherry blossom. Mr. Leben continues to speak, “The Harrison’s have been taking care of this Manor for hundreds of years. So as far as yard maintenance, there is not much for you to do,” Mr. Leben puts his hand on Junior’s shoulder, “just make sure you pay them.”
About fifty steps past the cherry blossom, there is a hairlike path in which Junior had never noticed before. They follow the path, leading up a small hill. It becomes clear to Junior that this is a graveyard. There are many tombstones.
“Here son is where many generations of Leben men are buried. We live on the manor, we die on the manor, and our bodies remain on the manor.” Mr. Leben’s eyes show stern authority, and determination. “The roots of the Blossom lead up to this hill.”
Junior can’t help but feel some sort of anxious fear clawing at him. The fact that there were bodies of Leben men in his backyard, terrified him.
It’s now mid-afternoon. Mr. Leben wipes the sweat out of his stress wrinkled eyes and starts marching back to the shed. Junior follows. They open the shed and grab a rope. Junior thinks this must be the rope for the swing. It definitely looks strong enough. I wonder what fathers swing looked like. I hope we use a tire!
They leave the shed and walk up to the cherry blossom. Mr. Leben rubs the tree, experiencing its mighty energy. He breathes in the air around it. His mood is instantly elevated.
He kneels down, looking his son directly in the eye, and grabs his hand.
“Do you know the difference between life and death son?”
Of course. But no words come out. Just a nod.
“Death is fertilizer for life…” Mr. Leben licks his lips, “you see son, life is like a tree. The old leaves must die, in order for the new to be born. There is a sacred balance. You understand?”
He begins to climb, and continues his speech, “Light is just a flash in the dark. Life is just a flash in time.”
Mr. Leben secures the rope to a high thick branch and ties a knot. He looks down at Junior and says,
“Now we hang.”
His body drops. The speed of his falling body snaps his neck, causing bones to protrude out of his skin. His feet are swinging above the ground, and his neck continues to stretch and twist.
A gust of wind hits Junior, and just then, he knows exactly what to do.
Ms. Leben grabs a glass of cider and walks towards the window. When she looks out, she drops her cider, shattering glass. A piece of glass cuts open her foot, and blood flows freely with cider.
Out the window, she sees Junior swinging on her husband’s back. His neck stretches as Junior swings.
Some traditions never die.