Recommended soundtrack: Edgar Varèse - Ionisation
At forty-two he decided to retire permanently to his backyard. There was an orange tree, dead for at least a year. He put on a kimono and walked over to it. After winkling out the most depreciated branches he began his work, the same that would become his very destiny from there on.
His now derelict house was close to the sidewalk, separated from it by a tiny, decrepit wall which left the neglected front yard entirely exposed.
At first some postmen continued to dump correspondences over the front yard, since that open facade still insinuated life. But after two months, believing that no one still bothered to live in that place, they decided that going there would be a waste of time, which gave space to the accumulated dust coming from the street as well as the trash brought by neighbors who saw in the place a shortcut to their evictions.
As for the backyard, no one would dare to visit it, as a small jungle had grown around it, full of live green and also some green turned into gray, by time. And if not for a pathway of concrete connecting the front door to the sidewalk through the front yard, the plants would have taken over the whole site.
Along with the plants, some adolescents searching for a quiet place to shelter new states of consciousness or sneaky copulations also made use of the building, without ever imagining that its backyard housed someone who would live forever, through his mark left for posterity.
He had a set of brushes, three to be exact, and a dull knife. As he slowly passed the latter over the trunk of the old tree, the tree seemed to thank the dullness back with a smile, for being remembered after so much time.
Each small cut was followed by a minute or two of brushing, to remove the soot. All care was needed in the toil, as that tree concealed the only reason for that man to keep himself alive. In a while, that slim body which had not asked to be born would be forever recalled from his final work, the work of a whole life, which would soon be shown through an already dead piece of wood, or what would have, some day, been such a thing.
Feeding himself on the plants that grew freely, he continued to work unceasingly. He was annoyed at having to interrupt the work to attend mundane things, such as physiological needs. He hardly slept. He was obsessed with carving that tree and extracting from it what had been there from the seed, expecting to be released.
He carved with monastic calmness, cleansed, smoothed with his fingers and even with his tongue, for nothing but perfection would be accepted.
And for fourteen years this pursuit went on. Two days before his fifty-sixth birthday, the job was finished. He sat down next to it and watched. His body was not capable of producing tears after a decade and a half of neglect. The weather was winding and blazing like never before. In a state of contemplation he remained there for another twenty-six hours, evaluating every detail of the remembrance he would leave for the next generations. He was proud to have materialized, perhaps, the greatest aegis for human creativity. He lay down. He fell asleep. He did not rise again.
By week’s end, the putrid scent had taken over the entire neighborhood, which had grown substantially over the years. They all judged an entire brood must have passed away to produce such odors.
The city hall heard the complaints and had the site demolished. A tractor entered the premises and fulfilled the order. The operator of the machine, while turning his scabbard, noticed a stump of strangely rounded wood. He thought it curious. He put it all in the bucket and left the site.