Tree Tuning

If radio waves made tomatoes grow, and mushrooms acquired personality from satellite TV, then Bobby wondered what effects such signals were having on him. Were they helping or harming him? What should he do?

He worked hard, around twelve hours a day. “Fulltime Farmtime” the farmer called it, but as long as Bobby watered and weeded regularly, he could spend his time as he pleased.

In the middle of the day when it was too hot to work, it wasn’t worth going home. He lived too far away. He should get somewhere closer to town, maybe even live on the farm. Each afternoon, Bobby spent the first four hours sleeping or walking in the forest. The bugs were annoying but it was so cool there. The tent he’d bought from the thrift store was good enough.

It was strange to get good cell reception in the forest. His fellow worker, an electrical engineering graduate, had fixed Bobby’s smartphone to receive unlimited data, and he could stream TV and movies all day. But for this, of course, he needed a five-bar signal.

In the forest he got that, but it shifted around. He’d sometimes spend fifteen minutes walking around to find it. It was never far away, usually near the biggest Arcadian Firs. It was just a matter of tree-tuning.

One day Bobby spotted a wire in the forest, strung between two firs. It was very high up, maybe fifty metres. What was it doing here? Was it a power line or telephone line?

He followed the line for 500 metres but found no towers or transformers, just a wire stretching between firs. The signal near it was very powerful. There was never any buffer, just smooth, clear streaming of shows.

Bobby returned to the wire daily, and on his days off even followed it along. He told his fellow worker about it, but he wasn’t very interested. Instead he made poor jokes rhyming wire, tire, sire, dire, and forest fire. Bobby decided it was probably best to minimise time spent with him.

A month after he’d first seen the wire, Bobby found a cable leading off it, climbing the hillside. He followed it to a log cabin with a beautifully tended garden. There were masses of red, blue and yellow flowers; each seeming to greet him individually. He saw carved boards nailed to trees, stating Love Thy Neighbour and Strangers Welcome.

An old lady called out, “Hello there, stranger! We welcome thee! We rarely get visitors. Please join us for teatime.”

Bobby walked towards her. She said, “We moved here one hundred years ago, my husband Alan and I, Patricia. It seemed lonely at first with just the two of us. Later came radio but there was poor reception. Alan was very resourceful. He found abandoned spools of telegraph wire and strung the wire along the tops of young Arcadian Firs. As they’ve grown, so has our world, and we’ve listened to every bit of it. We’ve also watched the world’s TV. Our wires pick up internet signals too.

“Where is he?” asked Bobby, and then thought, I shouldn’t have asked that. What if she’s a widow?

“Oh, he’s just in the workshop, preparing for 4G transmissions.”

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