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  • Writer's pictureAmy Oates

Wood Heart

The van in their driveway is totaled. May doesn’t need an expert to tell her that. 

The oak tree growing through it is proof enough. Bark and branches have pushed faded leather seats out of place; dark green leaves have shattered every window; and roots have punctured all the wheels. The air is still whistling through the rubber. 

The heart of the oak twists through the engine. The trunk is covered in oil and sickly green freon splatters onto the pavement. Other than that, the tree isn’t much affected at all. The leaves look healthy and green, and underneath the stains, the bark is whole. 

May frowns and sips her coffee. If the tree splitting up the car isn’t weird enough, how good it looks will definitely do them both in. What kind of oak sprouts green leaves in November?

“I can’t believe you’ve done this,” she says. 

Next to her, Jake runs a hand through sleep-rumbled copper hair. Somehow, he looks more confused than she does. It’s not like May’s the one who made the tree appear.

“I can explain,” he says. 

May narrows her eyes at him, and takes another long pull of coffee, waiting for the excuse. It really is too early for this. Her coffee is too bitter, not as soothing as it would be later in the morning at 7 or 8. 

But Jake’s outbursts don’t keep a good schedule. He’s made too much of wood and wildness for that to happen.

Jake opens his mouth, then stalls.

May puts a hand on her hip. He “can explain” indeed. 

“So maybe I don’t have a good reason,” he finally says. “But in my defense, I never liked that van.” 

Jake doesn’t like cars much in general. The van itself can’t be the problem.

May rubs her temple with her free hand, which does nothing to stave off her oncoming headache. “So your subconscious destroyed it with a tree?”

Jake shrugs. He doesn’t fully understand yet that there are consequences for these sorts of things. To be fair, it won’t be him paying for a new car.

(How could he when May can’t even manage to get him a credit card? Try as she might, May can’t convince any computer system of Jake’s existence. Technology. Far too resistant to magic. Unless you went with Jake’s blunt force approach). 

“I don’t know why my dreams rewrite reality,” he adds, yawning. “They just do. Can we go back to bed now?”

Really, this is what May gets for having a husband who was previously a fox. 

Her parents were pleased that she’d settled down. (And that she’d done a fairly large piece of magic to get him. They always worried she’d given up on witching entirely.)

And May genuinely loved Jake. He watched all her favorite shows without complaint and his quick mind suited him well when it came to game nights. 

Then there are the benefits of having someone who accepts life as it comes with no complaints. Turning human, getting a job, dreaming so hard he conjures an oak tree? Jake takes it all in stride—as if it’s all part of the natural world, like the seasons changing. 

May wishes she could be so untroubled. 

There would be less of a problem if they didn’t have human neighbors. 

The dreams becoming reality side effects aren’t all bad. Sometimes she wakes to dogwood flowers circling down the legs of their dining room table. Or the flames in the fireplace coloring a silvery purple. Small, semi-romantic things. 

But the same people who wonder at Jake’s too-bright green eyes and May’s curious ability to avoid jury duty will surely question this mix of car and tree. 

Well, nothing for it now. May isn’t going to give Jake up, even if he does wander out and bring back dead rabbits. He knows her better than anyone else and loves her as she is. 

The only way to cover the tree up is to turn the whole world upside down. Luckily, May has some practice with that. 

She finishes her coffee, goes back inside, makes some toast, and stirs up a hurricane.


Amy Oates lives in Williamsburg, Virginia. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of San Francisco and currently works as a copywriter. Usually, she is thinking about two things—Greek mythology and vampires. She has been previously published in Aothen magazine. You can find her on the site formerly known as Twitter as @oatesam.


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