A Maple Tree, Chapter 2

Winter’s chilly fingers were melting their retreat out of the curves between the bark on the great old Maple tree sitting in the back yard. The snow dripped under the warm spring sky, as the Vernal Equinox set the sun high and heavy in the March morning calm, splashing down over toadstools and the chew toys of stray neighborhood dogs. Green was pulling itself up and out, after having taken its vacation sometime back in Autumn and not showing up for work again until now, it had all the vibrancy and simultaneous fear of drudgery that is present in the eyes of the working class every Monday morning, refreshed and depressed in an instant. A small tuft of moss was doing its best to avoid the shadow of that big broad Maple tree, but given another ten minutes or so all hope would be lost as the Sun made its daily delivery across the big blue above.

Unfortunately for the moss, his time was cut short as a long mop of brown hair, resting atop the body of a man in his early twenties, came to rest against the tree, extending the Maple’s spiraling shadow just enough to exclude our poor carpet-like foliage from getting its due last sparkle of shine. The long haired man, brown locks twisting down over his ears and over his cheeks, spilling onto and off of his shoulders to hang like a suspended waterfall of chocolate milk, frozen in an instant with fear of staining another mountainside worth of shirt. He held a book in his hands, hard black cover and binding holding several hundred pages, most of them filled with the graphite scratches that he referred to as his work, hundreds of poems, rants and short stories, written notices on the very fabric of life as it wove through the world, he alone sensitive enough to see the strands as they split the sky and hemmed the contours of daily life.

His shoes squished a spring song, joined only one notch above silence by the slight hum of the wind as it pushed itself around the rolling tires in the street out front, mimicking bullfrogs as they sound when no one is around to hear them sounding like themselves. He let those shoes slip out from under him, his back sliding down the trunk of the tree, a back-scratching on his way to a favorite resting place, the good Mother Earth. Within moments the pencil that he’d concealed between the jean material constituting his pants and their pocket was unleashed, dashing scar and scribble against the crisp parchment tucked inside of that black sketchbook.

Annie, through the kitchen window, watched the young man leaning against the tree in the back of her yard for several moments before it occurred to her that he was a stranger, and in her yard as though nothing was unnatural. After another moment she realized that he had gotten their by stepping out through the garage door, quite casually in fact. Then she wondered why she wasn’t disturbed. Strange men coming out of your garage should alarm anyone, in particular a young girl, presumably home alone. She turned to look around and confirm whether or not she was alone, and as her heel pivoted across the cold linoleum floor and her head followed her shoulders into what should have been the rest of the kitchen she was met with surprise and shock. The spinning stopped, and suddenly she was perched on the picnic table in her backyard, though it felt slightly firmer and something was strange about its color or perhaps the way the wood was much more willing to give slightly under her own weight. She looked up suddenly and saw the long haired man, whittling away at the pencil in his fingers, long lines of verbs and nouns and other such magickal devices. A little air pulled in through her teeth, whistling at first and trailed by a wheeze as it rolled down her throat and dropped directly, stone-like, to the pit of her stomach. She winced back, expecting the man to look up, but he never did. Consumed in his work, he scratched back and forth, filling page after page after page before he finally set the book down, reached in his pocket and produced a single slim cigarette.

Annie was certain that now he would look up and discover her, but even as she watched him whisper smoke rings to the springy air, she couldn’t move. Stuck hard in a trance, wondering who this man could be, she felt the sting of intrigue and exhaustion that only those who have jumped from the tip of a skyscraper, unhindered, to land speedily and suddenly on the cold concrete below, can properly express. Just as his eyes were under their brows’ horizon, her viewpoint was immediately changed and she saw herself sitting on the picnic table, looking quite comically shocked. She realized quickly that she was looking through his eyes at herself—out of body—still up on the picnic table.

Half of a moment later she opened her eyes, disoriented at first but soon recognizing the curve and contour of her ceiling as it hung, unimpressed, above her and her leathery rocking chair.

Up Next: Wrapping it up, Monday