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  • Writer's pictureDon Stouder

Flash Fiction: Arboretum, Chapter One

by Don Stouder

Photo by Aimee Vogelsang


An arboretum is a collection of trees. Related collections include a fruticetum (from the Latin frutex, meaning shrub), and a viticetum, a collection of vines.

More commonly today, an arboretum is a botanical garden containing living collections of primarily woody plants intended at least partly for scientific study. An arboretum specializing in growing conifers is known as a pinetum.

Woodland Dell: A small wooded hollow.

Kettle Hole: A bowl-shaped depression created when blocks of glacial ice became lodged and melted.

……..Encyclopedia Britannica


On a cool, clear day in October of 1974, Andrew Haimoff was spending his Saturday afternoon raking up the oak and dogwood leaves from his backyard. He had no idea that he was about to die a gruesome and violent death; instead, he was thinking about how lucky he was to have inherited a home in a quiet northern New Jersey neighborhood that had a big yard for his three young children. The leaves had already required 10 plastic yard-size trash bags to dispose of, and with the rest of them raked almost waist high, Andrew knew he would need about 5 more bags. He loved the smell of autumn, the earthy, sweet aroma of dead leaves and moisture that never seems to leave your memory. As a busy stockbroker commuting into New York City everyday, not to mention the three kids, Andrew rarely had time to himself to enjoy his yard. So he didn’t have time to be shocked, not even a second to feel terror, as the creature bolted out from the woods behind his home and, with a brutal, practiced accuracy, tore the right side of his throat completely off. He looked toward his attacker but could not see anything through the massive explosion of his own bright red blood in every direction. As his completely mangled carotid artery bled out, he fell backwards but did not feel himself hit the ground. In the instant that remained of his life, he wondered if he would be able to smell the fragrance of fall leaves in heaven.

This story begins in the northern New Jersey community of Auburn Hills Township in 1974, but it had really begun over 300 years before, and it still has not ended.

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