The summer before Junior High was a weird one. Perhaps that’s a bit vague. But I can’t think of any other way to describe it. I was about to start at a new school — a big school that I had only dared to ride past on my bike in the early morning before too many students flocked the cement utoptia of adolescence independence, also called the parking lot. And Andi was moving away. So that summer seemed to move only that much slower as we dreaded the coming fall.
We frequented the Library, checking out books, then walking home in the summer heat to read in silence on the floor of her room. On this day she and I walked side by side, not speaking. Andi was reading the new book she had aquired as I pulled the red wagon with other books she had checked out. I hadn’t gotten any books that day. Part because I had a fine on my account, and part because I was only half through an old dusty book I found on the shelves in my own house.
“That’s a good tree,” Andi said, interrupting my observations of the tar on the road.
“Mmm hmm,” I agreed, not even looking up. I was making a foot print in the warm tar, the black goo squishing between my toes.
“We should climb it,” she suggested. It was then that I looked up. It was an elm, the same as hundreds that shaded our neighborhood. Its branches stretched out all the way across the street, over our heads. We pulled the wagon over to the base of the trunk and pushed the books around to make room for us to stand in it. Using it as a step to the first branch, we pulled ourselves up into the tree. The cool rough bark seemed like carpet in comparison to the hot asphalt below. It rubbed the tar off my toes as I found footholds to further my climb. We made our way out across the branches, Andi taking the branch to the right, and I to the left. Over the streen now, I looked down to our wagon, and my footprint still embedded in the tar fifteen feet below.
We weren’t really high up, but the shade of the branches was cool and inviting, and since we had nowhere else to go that afternoon we decided to stay and relax.
“So what book are you reading?” Andi asked.
“It’s a really old one I found in my house,” I explained. It’s called King of the Wind.”
“Oh! I love that book! I think that could be one of my favorites!”
I just looked at Andi blankly. “Oh,” I said, trying to mask my dissappointment that she had read it first. “Well, don’t tell me how it turns out, I’m not finished yet.”
Suddenly we heard a low sort of rumble. Twigs and branches broke with loud snaps. The entire tree shook forward and then back. I grabbed the branch, stabilizing myself to not fall. A sharp pain shot through my hand as a twig on the branch embedded itself into my palm. Time seemed to slow as I looked down to see the green then white of semi-truck’s roof passing just six inches below me. And then in an instant it was over. The semi-truck pulled free of the tree, catapulting us back to the tree’s original position. After a few sways the tree rested and was calm.
I looked down to my hand – blood ran down my palm as I inspected the minor wound. I looked past my hand to the street below. Broken twigs lay still in the street, covering my footprint. Looking up I saw Andi, still clinging to her branch, tears welling in her eyes. I knew how she felt, and I wanted to cry with her. But I didn’t. Instead we climbed down the tree and walked home.
I’m going to try and write down memories I have – for my little lovelies who always ask “Tell me a story of when you were a kid . . .”
I’m going to call them “Tales for Tuesdays” – and will try to write one a week . . . unless of course something else happens. In which case I won’t.