Scales of Justice

fiction
The Forest

Gaige adjusted the sling supporting his left arm, tugging at the fabric around his wrist, a habit he’d already developed after just one short week. The sling had it’s own habits, such as bunching in an uncomfortable wrinkle midway and reminding Gaige in yet another way that he was wearing it.

The head of the trail into the woods was officially the furthest he’d walked from home since the accident. He’d set out three times now to the familiar running path. His path. His daily route, until recently, of morning single track. He’d set out three times now but never stepped even a single stride from the comfortable gray asphalt into the raw dirt and tufted grass.

He stood there this third time, glancing over his shoulder in each direction watching for anyone else on the path, and then tugged yet again at the sling.

And stepped.

Another.

And another.

He had no good memory of where the tree was, if it still was, or if it had been cleared away by city workers. His last trip down this trail had left him with a collection of broken ribs, a fractured arm, and a puncture wound that traversed his bicep — all this from when the tree had toppled on him on his early morning run.

He walked at a casual careful pace now, jerking his head around once at the sound of a branch rattling in the breeze somewhere in the woods beside or behind him.

More steps. Cautious steps. Walking.

When he found the spot, the tree had been shoved into the scrub beside the trail, pulled aside and cut cleanly by saw from the stump on the opposite side of the narrow track. The stump, barely as wide around as Gaige’s calf, protruded from the grass barely to the height of his knee, but there was no doubt that the cut was fresh. Bits of sawdust and particulate wood chips clung to nearby leaves and stalks of tall grass.

Gaige stood over the fallen log, a collection of wilting leaves clinging to the branches shoved into the brush around it, dogwood and wild rose already wrapping around the prone log that had once towered over them nearby. There was an arcing crack traversing the length just above the cut-line and tracing towards the largest branch, the crack where the tree had split in the wind and fallen without warning onto Gaige’s back.

He took another step, this time into the bush, and set his foot upon the wood of the log. He kicked it roughly with his heel and it rocked a bit in the dirt where it hadn’t quite settled. Gaige sneered a quiet grunt, like a “humph” and turned away.

He tugged at the sling on his arm again and walked back down the path towards home.