The prompts: phoenix, seedling, trunk
The length requested: 150-200 words
“The burned area does recover.” Kurt knelt to examine the seedling. “Lodgepole pine cones don’t open unless the resin burns off; this little guy wouldn’t exist except for the fire.”
“All the duff burned off.” The ground was bare except for some straggly grasses and the tiny pines.
“They only sprout on the bare mineral earth. Hey, look!” He threaded his way between blackened but still standing forest giants. “Got some Engelmann spruce coming up. They need shade when they’re tiny. Eventually they’ll take over from these big guys.”
“Are all the big ones dead?” I touched the charred trunk.
“Hard to tell. Some of the buds up top might have survived.” Kurt laughed with an edge of harshness. “The forest is like a phoenix; it comes back after the fire, just slightly different.”
“Think we can do that?” Kurt and I had fought a scorched earth battle. Harsh words had led to bitter silence. We spoke only of the forest.
“Hard to tell.” He wouldn’t look at me.
“Kurt, I’m sorry.” I folded him against my chest. “I was wrong.”
“I’m sorry, too, Jake.” Then he kissed me, and he tasted of lodgepole pine.