The author, also known as “the Misfortunate One,” learns an important lesson from the Vile Tree
The story you are about to read is a story of idiocy, disaster; it includes attempts and confession, and a lesson. It is a story of a Fatal Arrow, a Vile Tree, the Use, the Mode, and the Means, and it is a story of a Misfortunate One. The story you are about to read is the story of the Flight of the Fatal Arrow, but more importantly, it is a story of how a little boy learned to think first. It is my wish that you will also learn wisdom from this tale.
It was a nice summer day when the event occurred. It was hot, it was sunny; it was like any other summer day. It would have been impossible to guess that such a disaster was in wait.
I, my brother, and two of my friends had all signed up for a hands-on activity making bows. We went to the Museum of Traditional Bows and sat down in front of a table. The instructor gave everyone a long wooden bow. Under the instructor’s guidance, and with our moms’ help, we tied the elastic bowstring to the bow and wound colored strings around the wood as decoration and support. When we were all finished, we were each given an arrow with a blunt, Styrofoam head. We were eager to shoot it outside in the park near the museum, so after we finished our bows, we ran outside to play.
The arrows flew very well, and it was so fun watching them fly off far away. We launched the arrows at a low angle, and the moment we let go, the arrows whizzed away, flying parallel to the ground, and after a few seconds, they either hit something or dropped to the Earth. Then we would run to the arrow and shoot it back. But watching us play, Mom warned us to be careful, because the arrows could hit not something, but someone. It was then that the Accursed Idea came to mind.
“Hey, since we can’t shoot arrows forward, let’s shoot them upward!”
“Great idea!” the others all agreed.
And so we, the stupid children who did not know the consequences of the decision we’d made, began shooting arrows up at the clear blue sky.
At first, it seemed as if my suggestion was a brilliant one. Shooting into the sky couldn’t harm anyone, and we didn’t have to waste energy in running back and forth to get the arrows. Also, the arrows could soar very high up into the air. We were having great fun watching how far they could go, pulling the long bowstring as far back as our short arms would allow and letting the string go, listening to the soft elastic twang. No one observed the ominous shadows of the trees surrounding us.
It was then that the Misfortunate One picked up the Fatal Arrow. He fitted the Fatal Arrow to his bow and pulled the bowstring back. The wooden bow formed a perfect arch, ready to send the missile up into the clear blue sky. Then the string was set loose.
The Fatal Arrow was now in flight, soaring up toward the shining sun. It pushed back all the air molecules that hindered its advance; there were none to block its path. The unsuspecting Misfortunate One looked up at the Arrow, admiring its flight. Up, up, and up the Shaft flew, but then it met the turning point. The Arrow stopped for a split moment, and then the weight of the head pulled it down, and, since the force of gravity was relentless and inescapable, the Arrow began its course of descent.
The Fatal Arrow was plunging down to the Earth, but the Vile Tree had no wish for that to occur, and so it stuck out its Vile Branch and stopped the Arrow midair. The Arrow halted; the Tree’s normal force collided with the Earth’s gravitational force; the Arrow’s velocity was zero. In other words, the Fatal Arrow got stuck in a tree.
Oh, reader—do try to imagine the horror of the Misfortunate One who had shot the Fatal Arrow! His only, brand-new arrow had gone to a place he could not reach. Was this to be their parting forever? Would he have to go home with a bow without an arrow? How much would he get scolded for his action? And alas, who was the Misfortunate One? It was me. It was me who had shot the Fatal Arrow, watched it reach its maximum height, observed its descent, and with terrible horror, saw it get stopped by the Vile Tree. It was me who had proposed the Accursed Idea, and it was me who was suffering the consequences. And what did I, the Misfortunate One, say?
My brother Jay looked up the Vile Tree. “Hmm, I think we can get it out somehow . . .”
Thus began our attempts to retrieve the Fatal Arrow from the Vile Tree.
Our First Attempt was the Use of the Stick. The Stick is a very special instrument, and it is useful in many ways. It is used to play with, pretend with, hit with, fight with, attack with, defend with, swish with, swoosh with, poke with, jab with, push with, pull with, dig with, attempt to pole-vault with, and to reach things unreachable with. The Stick can be found almost anywhere, and, as we were standing near trees, Stick was of abundance.
My brother picked up a long stick. He held it up and tried to poke at the Fatal Arrow. He couldn’t reach it, and since he was the tallest of us, it was evident that the omnipotent Stick would not be giving us any aid in our endeavors to retrieve the Fatal Arrow.
Yet my brother’s creative mind had another plan forming, which was the Mode of Climbing. The Mode of Climbing is practiced by many creatures in the world, starting from the smallest spider to the fearsome leopard, from the winding ivy to the brachiating monkey; countless creatures great and small practice this art.
My brother put his foot on the Tree. Pushing himself up, he grabbed a branch overhead. But so vile was the Vile Tree, it held its branches up high, and any further climbing seemed impossible. Thus our second attempt was also discouraged.
Now the circumstances left only one choice: the Means of Confession and Looking Very Sorry. How the Misfortunate One wished to reach the solution before matters came to this! Nevertheless, the conditions gave him no choice.
I walked up to Mom.
Mom looked at me. “Yes, Roy?”
“I, uh, got my arrow stuck up on a tree . . .” I mumbled.
“I got my, um, arrow stuck in a tree.”
Mom looked at me, sighed, and then followed me to where the Vile Tree stood tall and haughty.
She looked up and saw the silhouette of the Fatal Arrow.
“How did you get that thing up there?” she asked.
“We were shooting arrows at the sky, because you said they might hit someone . . .”
Mom sighed again.
Thus began the moms’ attempts to retrieve the Fatal Arrow.
I do not remember clearly what happened next. Perhaps the memory was erased from my brain because I did not want to remember the scolding I got. But I do remember that in the end, the Vile Tree relented to my friend Tim’s mom. She succeeded in overpowering the Vile Tree’s opposition and got my Fatal Arrow back to Earth by climbing.
“Thank you,” I said, glad to have my only arrow back.
“Don’t mention it,” she answered.
After that we all went home, and now the incident is almost forgotten. What happened to my Fatal Arrow? It later got broken and now only its head is left, and it is used as a pretend microphone (which is quite handy when doing skits). The bow was thrown away several months ago. Now only the Styrofoam head tells the story of the Flight of the Fatal Arrow.
However, I will never forget that disastrous episode, for it taught me a valuable lesson. The incident showed me why you have to “think before you act.” If I had thought before I spoke out the Accursed Idea, the Fatal Arrow would have never flown, and the Fatal Arrow would have never have gotten stuck in the Vile Tree, and I, the Misfortunate One, would not have been so misfortunate. But I spoke before considering the consequences, and I paid the price. I didn’t know this truth at the time, but now I do. Thinking first can save you a whole lot of trouble.
Perhaps the Vile Tree was not so vile after all. Perhaps it was there to teach me to think first. Perhaps it was not the Vile Tree, but the Wise Tree.
I guess no one will ever know.