Private Disasters by Hannah Provost

“It wasn’t me what set fire to it, and you’d see that plain as day if you only just looked at the circumstances of the thing.”

“It looks so rotted and blackened. How is it still standing there?”

“It’s not like you can take a match to a tree, not after a rain, and y’all know plenty well I ain’t smoked a cig since your uncle died—“

“I wonder…is it petrified? I heard lightning can do that if it hits a tree the right way. Freeze it somehow. I’ll have to look it up. It’s so dead though—“

“Well if it’s dead wouldn’t it be on the ground there ‘stead of still standing? I certainly didn’t chop it down neither. Though now I might—”

“And why that tree? I fell in love with Addy under that tree. What kind of message does that send? Should I be worried?”

“I always hated that tree. Nasty tales of ghosts and spooks yer uncle used to tell me when we were green. He half believed ‘em. I know I did. We used to come out here just like this with our hands in our pockets and just kindly stare at it for a long while and wonder how the stories went before the ghost folks were hanging there.”

“There’s this book I read not too long ago—I know only Ma reads so I’ll spare you—but it discussed this idea that it’s the private disasters in a person’s life that turns them into a psychotic mess, not the big life events.”

“I read the paper still. That counts.”

“I think this is one of my private disasters.”

“It’s just a tree.”

“But it’s gone.’’

“There’ll be another one at it in no time. No time at all.”

“I think Addy wants help with the baby.” But they stood there for a while longer, hands in pockets.


Hannah Provost is an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame studying English and Creative Writing with a minor in Peace Studies. She has published flash fiction and creative nonfiction previously in Re:Visions, a literary magazine run by the MFA students at Notre Dame. She’s trying to really listen to the world and echo back what she hears in the stories she writes and the questions she asks.

Photo: Kjerstin Michaela Haraldsen

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