The Pine Cone Story


My father’s toilet has always been a place of quiet. Mentally at least. The window is covered with a net curtain that the wind likes to tickle and tease. Down the brick driveway the sand gutters and runs in long sweeps. For a long time a list of talismans hung on the wall. The list was written in a calligraphic style and was the same colour as the toliet seat (apricot). On the list the pine cone was equated with good fortune.

Now that interests me. Dad once told me a story about a friend of his who died when he fell out of a tree whilst picking pine cones. Dad laughed when he told me. I laughed too. It is one thing to die. It is another to die picking pine cones. The death of Dad’s friend may have been an act of good fortune. But for whom?

The sand builds up in the driveway. The sand is swept back out to sea. Dad and I have our own stories and maybe this one about pine cones would mean more if I shared them but all you really need to know is that the toilet has recently been renovated. Now a tapestry of the tree of life hangs in place of the calligraphy. In the bottom corner of the tapestry, a hare twists his head towards the tree.

I look for signs. When I hear about bad things happening I imagine them happening to me.

I always wanted to write a short story called Good Fortune. In the short story, a man would be killed whilst climbing a tree picking pine cones. After he had fallen to the bottom of the tree, a pine cone would drop on his head. The final irony.

The story was going to be symbolic. It was going to contain all my emotions about my father, the list of talismans on his toilet wall and me. It was going to be about your life too: our shared lack of human dignity. But maybe it would have been about a bunch of other things. It’s hard to know as I have never had the disposition to write the story.

A shame because Good Fortune was going to end on an image of the wind stirring the pine trees and the scent of the needles carried by the wind’s lonely howl; for our lives are fundamentally lonely and the tenor of the wind knows this and answers our need for atmosphere and depth of feeling by shaking the pine cones from the trees.

P.S. Did I mention it was going to be funny?