A Maple Tree, Chapter 10

Annie dusted herself up off of the floor from which she had fallen, physically and emotionally, so solidly onto that it was thought by nine out of ten expert scientists well-versed in the nature of gravity that she might affect the very orbit of the Milky Way around the Universe. Luckily, there were bigger satellites to spin that day and Annie assumed what her mother used to refer to as “her usual position,� which was right at her father’s side.

“I’m sorry, daddy,� she drooped her emerald eyes, thick forests glossing up and over, intentionally comically as she performed her best crying puppy dog impersonation. Cartoon canines in make believe pounds all across TV Land applauded her sensational performance and no doubt several awards shows were based around that little boney girl sitting on a picnic bench trying to make her father forget his troubles.

“Oh, Annie, this isn’t your fault…at all.� He cocked his head back, actually really more just left it fall back, tired of holding such a heavy weight, full of thoughts, up anymore. His heart kept on thumping but clearly something was dying, if it hadn’t many years ago, and now the body was just figuring it out.

“Daddy, what happened to you two?� The usually singing tone that came whistling and whirling out of Annie’s chirper was suddenly replaced with the dry and uncertain desperate cracked whimper that a child might use when trying to get his mother’s attention in the middle of the night, ashamed to wake her but unable to be without those loving arms.

“Oh, honey, your mother and I will be fine, we’re just working…well, a lot out.� He looked up at the tiring sun, then to his ever-reminding watch and finally into his daughter’s eyes, right on through and into her dripping remorse heart. “You’re going to have a new brother or sister, you know?� She did, but that had nothing to do with her question.

“I don’t mean right now, I mean, you seem to have been a much different person. The things you wrote in that book, about mom and you and you guys had all kinds of dreams. Well…I don’t want to be a drag or get you down, but what happened to those people? When did it all change?�

He smiled and kissed her on the forehead, patting the top of her matted brown hair, his daughter, the innocent and naive puppy who was sad for having chewed up its masters sandwich without possibly being able to know that it was wrong. “Life just changes you. One day you’re reading poems to star-struck audiences and the next, well, the next you have health care plans and retirement plans and basically just all sorts of plans plans plans that you need to worry about.�

“Like babies,� she muttered, half ashamed of saying it.

“Oh, now, this new baby…well, we’ll be fine. It’s just rough when you first find out something like this and—“he stopped as he finally recognized the expression on her face, the pages of his long and nearly forgotten youth ramblings blowing throughout the yard. He realized that she had read some of the things he’d written about her—having a baby in general—in those pages.

“Annie, you weren’t the reason that this all changed, we were. Let me tell you something, to set the record straight.� He pushed himself back a bit and turned to face her, both of them sitting Indian style, knees touching. “Your mother was a passionate woman in her youth. She had a lot of ideas about what she was doing and where she was going to do it. Now, I love her, but she may have had more passion than talent. And,� he continued, looking over his shoulder, “certainly more than her patience. Your mother worked hard at what she did and finally got her big…well…her break. To her it was the chance of a lifetime, what would define whether or not she had what it takes. In addition to this, she was pregnant with you, which is an emotional strain, as you can imagine, what with having another person in you always kicking and eating the pie filling while she’s just left with a belly full of crust and a hankering for pickles and ice cream.� They both smiled with similar eyes. “Most people would have seen this as one chance in many, but for your mother, well, when it didn’t go well…she just…shut down. It was over. She found herself a job in sales and has been doing it ever since.�

“And what about you?�

He smirked. George couldn’t remember if his memory was the way those events actually transpired or just his version of it. “I can’t tell you. Not because I don’t want to or because you shouldn’t know. I just can’t. I’m not sure anymore.� Annie seemed happy with that answer, or at least understanding. George stood up and turned toward the house. His shoulders were fighting the moon as gravity’s greatest accomplishment. He had a family comprised of a daughter disillusioned over her parents’ lost life, a wife with a belly full of child she was uncertain as to whether or not she wanted, and himself too distracted by his failed attempt at greatness to be expected to deal with any of it. Of course, he would. He would do his best and it would be better than most. After three steps, while he continued walking and without looking back, “You didn’t do anything to our dreams, honey, people don’t have things happen to them. Sometimes, they just forget to make things happen for themselves.�

Up Next: Sitting on Porches at Intersections