There's Spanish Moss on Big Tree. Danny planted it years and years back after one of his bad nights. I remember when it was just a sapling, stretching up inches then feet from the dirt, its trunk thin and supple like a boy. This'll protect us once and for all said Danny, glinting and banging around with his spade and hoe like a real farmer even though he wasn't one. Yes yes I said and placed my trust in the wood and leaves. I said yes twice to convince him of my belief, but he looked at me squintily, and through his thick lashes I saw doubt. This was enough to make me quietly pluck my hair out strand by strand because I didn't want Danny to go about his days not trusting that I trusted him, trusted the tree. It was just us after all, and who was I to dwell on past things that weren't his fault even? Ever since he started to muscle and spread, he'd opened up somewhere low and secret and lost souls began to drift inside of him, taking over his body and moving his jaws, his hands. Sometimes it was our mother. Other times it was the drunk men who wandered down by the dock. Once in a while it was an angry crow. He'd make me spend hours tracing every inch of him, hoping I could find that place and seal it up.
I placed the strands of hair in a stone box on the mantle. I muttered phrases that were meant to be holy, but I never learned any proper prayers so it was all just a desperate guess centering on words like trust and green and quiet. For a while I was mostly bald, but I didn't mind and neither did Danny. He seemed to relax into me. We sat by the tree and told it we loved it. His hands quieted down. I stopped plucking my hair, but it never grew back quite right.
Now of course Danny's gone. Big Tree's still here but not like a boy anymore, more like a monster with no face. I walk out every morning to tend it. I stroke the bark and hum. I run my ivory comb through the dangling moss that's become more and more like hair as the days pass. I sense Big Tree growing weary of me. I sense Big Tree questioning my movements. I sense Big Tree missing Danny. I don't blame Big Tree, but Big Tree has some lessons to learn.
This morning I sliced some hair off the branch and made it into a wig, coiling what's left of my own in a tight knot. I pulled the wig over my skull and the soft strands covered my back and chest. I removed my clothes since they were no longer needed.
I faced Big Tree. I planted my feet firmly in the dirt and stretched my arms out to the side. It's just us, Big Tree I said. You have to let go of Danny. Danny's gone.
Alice Maglio is a writer living in New York. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and her work appears or is forthcoming in Cosmonauts Avenue and Black Warrior Review.