"You ought to leave with me, you know."
The carver said nothing as his daughter rose from their front porch, luggage in one hand and contract in another. "The foreigners know what you're worth. They don't choose exports over art. This place—" she paused. "This country doesn't deserve you."
His hands fiddled with his knife, chipping at the slab of birch wood on his lap. He stared out from his porch, counting the stumps on his front yard. Decades ago, he was Adam, hiding his pleasures and sins in Eden. There were artists like him, crowding the forests, playing their songs and writing love onto barks. It was heresy. It was beautiful.
The sun blared into his eyes now, weighing his sins on his brow.
"I won't leave your mother," he whispered.
She stared at him. "Papa," she pleaded, "Mama is dead."
He stopped carving, realizing that he'd made a skull on the slab. He quivered to his child, smiling. “Of course she isn't,” he raised the knife in his hand, pointing at the last jati tree standing right by their shambled home. There was a woman's name carved at its base, birth, and death written in shaky dates. “She’s right there.”
His daughter left him a week later.
Without her help, he spent his days carving bedframes and tables from midgrade wood, working day and night to finish what few commissions he had. On the rare occasion when a star or two flickered at dusk, he'd go out to the front porch, carving by his jati wife. Sometimes, he'd joke about how he hasn't eaten anything in days. Most of the time, he'd water her roots with his tears, waiting for the Sun to rise.
Loggers came by occasionally, eyeing his jati wife with lustful eyes and filthy hands. "We could make you rich," they told him, brandishing their axes, "You know how rare jati is in these parts. It's good money. And we know you could use it.”
He nodded, though his smile was thin. He knew it was true. He'd watched his forest dwindle into stumps and his contemporaries leave their homes, fleeing to greener pastures across the sea. There was no beauty left in Indonesia, and there was scarce anything left for him. Greed took his land, foreigners took his daughter, time took his youth and God took his wife. All he had left was his jati and his hunger.
The next day, he woke at the crack of dawn, grabbing his axe and marching to his wife. He kissed her as she did in their youth, pretending she was still there to kiss him back. “Please understand,” he whispered to her, forehead scratched against her bark.
Then, he began to chop.
Author's Notes: Jati is Indonesian for teak wood, native to South East Asia and ludicrously expensive.