A Maple Tree, Chapter 8

Annie hadn’t been sucked back into the real world for more than half of the time it takes to officially declare a moment a minute when her parents, mother and father holding hands the way only lovers in the wake of a heated argument do, came through the garage’s back door to find her laying on the ground, the pages of her father’s book scattered all over the ground as the binding had busted loose after falling out of the tree above. Some of the pages were still blowing about, and one of them let the wind push it up against Annie’s mother’s feet.

“What…are you alright?� her father asked, recognizing the parchment pressed up against his wife’s shoes and wondering whether he should be worried for his daughter, prepared for his wife’s retaliation once she realized the contents of the ruined book, or angry at himself for allowing his life to drop him off here, in this loneliest of frightening moments.

Annie’s mother hadn’t recognized the papers though, and immediately left her husband to Florence Nightingale at her daughter’s side. Several of the other sheets blew around the women as George tried to collect them up in his arms, half out of wanting to keep the memories safe, but the much larger half simply wanting to avoid his wife’s wrath. “Annie,� her mother held her hand and felt her head, inspecting the ground around it for blood, and after being satisfied with her daughters nod and grunt, turned back to look for why her husband hadn’t joined them.

“What are you doing George?� the confusion in her voice was a ploy, a clever acting trick meant to carry on its back the burden of guilt that she decided was only appropriate for him to be feeling for not rushing to his daughters side. “Don’t worry about those papers, get over here and…� suddenly it dawned on her what the scribbles and scratches of lead were all over the pages. Like ancient taboo papyrus gliding over the desert sands, George was shuffling and scampering to pick them all up, red-faced and dropping as many as he managed to retrieve, the slave fumbling with the mop to clean up the milk he had spilled in the master’s quarters.

And when the master realized just what had occurred, she rose up with all of the fury of Cleopatra riding the back of Rah and made ready to smite her wicked subject. George turned his head, eyes closed, waiting for the tidal wave to come and crush him where he stood.

But nothing.

George heard the door to the garage slam shut and as he looked around, his wife was nowhere to be found. The papers had all fallen from his hands and lay strewn across his feet, crumpled and beginning to blow. Several more swirled around Annie, who was slowly sitting up. At first he looked right over her, wondering why his wife had just left when she was poised so keenly to attack. Then he glanced back at his daughter, the flat back of her head unaware that—even as she sat there staring at her father, fearful and ashamed for what she’d done because of what it now meant for him—it was growing what would soon be a large lump right where her head had come drumming down on the hard, real earth.

There was a moment of peace between father and daughter. Annie still confused from her strange superb journey into what was too real and absurd to have been a dream, swirling into the feeling of regret for what she had now obviously caused her father. He noticing her anguish and seeing in his daughter the little girl who’d had the eyes of a grown woman since she was born, wondering what she must think of him from what she’s read, knowing that in those pages were ideas that must have been quite confusing for her. Poetry about how having her come into his life had ruined his dreams and given him new ones at the same time. Poems recounting his indefinable love for her, his occasional despise of what she meant to his freedom, and the strange quilt that it laid as the foundation for their entire existence. Both of them looked into and through each other, almost back at themselves through the other’s eyes. The birds became quiet and the wind motionless in that instant, and the earth stopped in its orbit out of wonderment over the energy bouncing around under that Maple tree at that moment.

Suddenly, the kitchen window opened and Gwen unleashed her full anger in one grunting primal scream. It lasted roughly two minutes or so, and she must have been screaming some string of words that clearly had meaning for her, but were incoherent to anyone in the two mile radius who most definitely heard her. Then she stopped, regained her composure and shrieked “And now we have another one on the way!”

Up Next: A Pittsburgh Commute