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Unformatted text preview: asked. “How does she sleep?”
What they didn’t Know was that other word shakers threw supplies across, and the girl climbed down to the
lower branches to collect them.
IT SNOWED. It rained. Seasons came and went. The word shaker remained.
When the last axman gave up, he called up to her. “Word shaker! You can come down now! There is no one
who can defeat this tree!”
The word shaker, who could only just make out the man’s sentences, replied with a whisper. She handed it
down through the branches. “No thank you,” she said, for she Knew that it was only herself who was holding
the tree upright.
NO ONE Knew how long it had taken, but one afternoon, a new axman walked into town. His bag looked too
heavy for him. His eyes dragged. His feet drooped with exhaustion. “The tree,” he asked the people. “Where is
An audience followed him, and when he arrived, clouds had covered the highest regions of the branches. The
word shaker could hear the people calling out that a new axman had come to put an end to her vigil. “She will not come down,” the people said, “for anyone.”
They did not Know who the axman was, and they did not Know that he was undeterred.
He opened his bag and pulled out something much smaller than an ax.
The people laughed. They said, “You can’t chop a tree down with an old hammer!”
The young man did not listen to them. He only looked through his bag for some nails. He placed three of them
in his mouth and attempted to hammer a fourth one into the tree. The first branches were now extremely high
and he estimated that he needed four nails to use as footholds to reach them.
“Look at this idiot,” roared one of the watching men. “No one else could chop it down with an ax, and this fool
thinks he can do it with—”
The man fell silent.
THE FIRST nail entered the tree and was held steady after five blows. Then the second went in, and the young
man started to climb.
By the fourth nail, he was up in the arms and continued on his way. He was tempted to call out as he did so, but
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- Winter '13