Excerpt from Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Harry's Trees

by Jon Cohen

Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen X
Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen
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  • Published:
    Jun 2018, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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He straightened and stepped back. The wall was about three feet high and ten feet long, the last remains of an old homestead. The rest of the wall had fallen long ago, now just a tumble of moss-covered rocks that snaked through the tree trunks into the distance. An immense sugar maple had pushed its heavy roots in among the rocks at the base of the wall. It would not be long before the roots toppled it.

The forest, thought Harry, takes everything.

He placed his hand on the wall and looked up into the maple tree. And there it was, thick and strong—the branch he'd been searching for. That this one section of stone wall was still standing. That it was exactly the right height to reach the branch. The perfect and terrible inevitability of it.

He climbed onto the wall and set to work with the rope, amazed to see himself tying such a complicated knot. He had forgotten he knew how. Who had taught him? His brother, of course, Harry remembering the long ago moment behind the garage when they were kids, Wolf showing him how to tie a hangman's noose. Wolf knowing such things, privy to the darker arts. With a grin telling Harry, "It might come in handy someday. You never know, right?" His big brother looking out for him.

Harry completed the noose and reached up and tied the other end of the rope to the tree branch. The noose dangled and swayed in the mountain wind. He reached out and took hold of it again and slipped it over his head. A hangman's noose, a sugar maple, a stone wall: Harry Crane on his forest gallows. He took the lottery ticket out of his wallet. Let the wallet drop from his hand. It bounced off the wall and fell to the ground.

Harry gripped the lottery ticket. In his mind, he heard his sentence pronounced: Condemned bureaucrat. Cowardly husband. Buyer of lottery tickets. From this limb will you hang; and the flesh will fall from your bones, and your bones will molder and turn to dust, and thus will you be scattered and lost forever.

Wolf's voice suddenly cutting in. "Scattered? You tossed Beth's ashes like fucking confetti!"

Harry tightened the noose, his body shaking, the self-damning chatter in his head crazy and nonstop. All you had to do was take her hand. But you didn't. You didn't take her hand, Harry. Wait here, you said, and crossed the street. Abandoned her. And the crane crashed down. So do it, Harry. Turn out your lights, Harry. Hurry Harry, hurry, do it! Now!

Harry opened his hand and let the ticket flutter away. He extended his right foot out over the abyss. Froze.

Hey, asshole in the tree. Jump! Again Wolf's voice broke in, like he was right out there among the trees somewhere. Harry twisted his head in the noose, the rough rope digging into his skin as he looked around for his brother. He saw Wolf dart between the tree trunks. But that was impossible, Wolf wasn't really there. Go away, Wolf, you are not there. No one is there.

Harry tensed his body for the jump and lifted his eyes skyward, the final gesture of all who find themselves with a noose around their necks. Craning their doomed necks for that one last look. And in that very last second, Harry saw something—a glint of gold in a knothole just above the branch where he had tied the rope. He squinted. It was a small, rectangular golden object with writing on it.

Wait a minute, he thought. No, that's impossible. A mini Snickers?

And Harry knew the candy bar wasn't real, that it was only one last torture of the mind. A mini Snickers like the one Beth tried to hand him that day on Market Street. It wasn't there, but he reached for it, as if Beth was giving him another chance, handing it to him one more time so that he might repeat the moment, but alter the fatal outcome, stop the catastrophe of that day by taking hold of the candy, and her.

Redemption tucked into the knothole of a tree. It was not really there, but he reached, and in the reaching two things happened. For a split second, he touched an actual mini Snickers with the tips of his fingers. He heard the plastic crinkle of the golden wrapper, felt the cold hard little piece of chocolate within. It was real! But it didn't matter. Reaching, he slipped on the mossy stones.

Excerpted from Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen. Copyright © 2018 by Jon Cohen. Excerpted by permission of Mira. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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