Submitted Date 08/16/2018

Robert Davies had been fed up with his job for the last twenty years. A credit analyst in some big-name bank, he had slaved away tirelessly as a no-name slug and gotten very little in return. Sure, they had a 5% matching program for his IRA, but until he was ready to retire, the measly salary they paid him caused him a lifetime of financial grief every year.

Every attempt at promotion in the company had been rebuffed, and the search for a new job outside the bank never went anywhere. He had given up on both paths about ten years ago, and resigned himself to the idea of a lifetime career as an oar-slave on the galley of finance, bending his back on the phone calls as the taskmaster managers broke the whip of threats across everyone’s back.

He was sick of it all, but he didn’t know how to get out of it. This afternoon he was particularly frustrated, because his manager had pulled him into her cubicle and played a recorded call he had taken yesterday, during which he had forgotten to use some recently implemented robotic language about percentage rates and dates that was probably prompted by the Federal Government cracking down on big banking again.

His manager had stopped the call and asked him a series of stupid questions, as if he was a student in third grade, and she was attempting to get him to recognize what he had done wrong.

After he confessed, the priestess of finance put forth a paper for him to sign acknowledging that this was the second of his three strikes, and with one more, he would be looking for a new job.

Now Robert was walking through the woods, trying to shake it all off. On his way home, he had decided to pull off into a park he sometimes liked to stroll in. As he walked between the trees, and the warm sunlight played over his body, he could feel his spirits lifting as the nature around him washed away the stressful stench left behind by his corporate rat race.

He stopped in a clearing to admire a beautiful, flowering tree. His thoughts wandered to the contrasting ugliness and bitterness of his life, and he felt like crying. Sitting down, he thought over the decades of misery he had suffered, and the pain of not having a way out.

Suddenly a thought occurred to Robert, perhaps prompted by a piece of mythology he had read in the distant past. Wasn’t there some story in ancient Greece about a man or a woman who became a tree?

If only he could become a tree. If only he could plant his roots into the ground, and lift his branches to the heavens, and live a peaceful existence in these woods, surrounded by other members of the ancient arboreal brotherhood.

What the heck...why not, Robert thought, as he stood up and began to remove his clothes. Dropping his pants, he stepped forward and began to loosen his tie. He undid his buttons, removed his shirt, took off his underwear and slipped out of his undershirt. Walking away from the pile of his clothes, he stepped forward in all his naked glory, closed his eyes, and lifted his branches to the sky.

It was just at this precise moment that Tracy McGrady was leading a group of the children from her after-school program through the woods, giving them a brief tour of the woodland wonderland that was just behind their school.

Seeing Robert standing there naked, she gasped and turned to scoop the children up and gather them to the visually pristine safety of a different path through the woods, but it was too late. They giggled and pointed, and one girl screamed and clapped her hands to her mouth.

Robert paid it all no mind. What did he care. He was a tree now.

Miss McGrady called the police as soon as the children were back in the classroom. When they arrived in the woods, Robert was still there. He went peacefully, almost blissfully, into the police car, once the officers had coaxed him into getting dressed. Truth be told, he didn’t need much coaxing. The experience of becoming a tree had eased his mind, centered him, helped him accept reality, and find hope, solace, and inner peace.

Two days later, Robert’s manager called him into her cubicle.

“Robert, part of the bank’s clean corporate image is the fact that associates at the bank exhibit sterling character, both at work, and in their community at large. I saw a story in the local newspaper this morning, with which you were involved. Something about exposing yourself to a group of school children.”

Robert was silent.

“I’m sorry Robert, but given what we’ve learned about the type of behaviors you exhibit outside of work, we’re afraid that your continued presence here will negatively impact the public image of the bank. We’re going to have to let you go.”

Robert breathed in a sigh of relief.

Standing up, be dropped his pants, undid the buttons of his shirt, and stepped out of his undergarments as his horrified supervisor looked on. Stepping out of her cubicle and onto the sales floor, he planted his feet firmly on the carpeted ground and raised his limbs toward the fluorescent sun.

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