The Traversing Arboreal
I watched from the window as Mom pulled out of the drive.
Today’s excuse for Mother—I’m going to go see if I can make friends at the park. Actually, that’s the reader’s digest version. Mom would have locked me in my room for the next three years of my life until she could no longer legally hold me against my will if I gave her that line. So I glossed it over (quite a but) with some window shopping, some lunch in the park, so on, so forth.
Of course, if I let her know what I was actually planning, she would have stayed home for mother-daughter bonding time under the excuse that we obviously weren’t having enough.
I think we could do without, actually.
When she disappeared down the street, I pulled on my old coat(it had rained last night-the snow had left but there was still water to be found.) and adjusted my choker so it peeked out of the blue denim shirt I put on with my black pants this morning.
I walked out of the house and jogged all the way to the street that I had seen the indentations yesterday and tried to figure out which direction the tree had gone.
The rain was an extreme vice. It had washed away a good bit of the evidence there was actually a tree there.
And all indication of where it was going.
“I should have known this would happen. How are we going to track it if we can’t find tracks?”
You could find someone that actually knows how to track.
“I would but considering the fact that it’s what, twelve, fourteen feet tall, I don’t think it would be that hard to follow, especially since it’s a walking tree. People tend to notice little things like a traversing arboreal.”
“If I’m going to play detective, I might as well be ostentatious while I do it.” I commented and leaned back on my heels, cupping my chin in my hands. “Now, if I were a walking tree, where in the world would I be?”
Does playing detective give you the right to potentially offensive poetry?
“No. But I do it anyway.” I said as I looked ahead. “Seriously though, what do you think it will do?”
Go find water, raid a plant food store? I’m not exactly the top expert on the priorities of walking plant life.
“Hmm…” I stared at the ground until an idea, one that I did not particularly care for, popped into my head. When it hit, I knew it was the right idea, and was further pushed into a nasty, dark mood that had been bubbling under the surface of my morning cheeriness all day.
I turned on my heel and began to walk as fast as I could in the direction I knew it would be.
Where are we going? Boston asked, surprised by my sudden change in pace.
“We’re going to school.” I said, picking up the pace even more.
I think I understand, but could you elaborate?
“Mum is at school. It seems to have a crush on Mum. So, common sense dictates that where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and where my mom is there is a walking tree bent on making her have a nervous breakdown.”
So off to school we go.
“Off to school we go.” I agreed.
After about twenty minutes of fast walking, jogging, and something in between that I got a few funny looks for, I was standing outside the track field, looking out across the football field at a small line of trees that lined the road on the left side of the side of the school, for shade for all of those days that were too hot to spend in the sun but too cold to stay inside.
“I wish I counted how many trees there were on this side.” I grumbled as I skirted the track field and headed towards the line of trees. That seemed to be the best place to look, for obvious reasons.
So, when we find our traveling friend, what are we going to do with him?
“Not sure it’s a him. And why are you asking me? Did you honestly think I woke up this morning with a plan? I make this up as I go.”
Oh that’s reassuring. Remind me to sleep in the next time one of these situations comes up.
“You shouldn’t pick up my bad habits. Ahh….there’s something here that’s not like the other.” I said, examining the row of trees from ten feet away.
Meaning? I can’t see if your collar is in the way.
I adjusted the collar. “Look, all of those trees are oaks. But that one on the end is a willow. I’m surprised I didn’t pick up on that one sooner.”
Me too. Maybe that’s part of its charm?
“Let’s hope not.” I said as I walked down the line and stopped in front of the willow. Just to check, I counted the roots. Ten in all.
Yeah, if it wasn’t the one I was looking for, there are some pretty freaky coincidences happening in this town.
“Hey. How are you doing?” I asked the tree. Not for the first time in my life, the nagging sense of feeling stupid set in.
The tree, predictably, did not answer.
“Nice weather we’re having.” I tried again. Sense of stupidity is rearing its ugly head now, but I’ve come too far to be turned away now.
“Alright, you should know that I know what you are, and I fully intend to do something about this situation.” I’m not sure what yet, but I will do something about this situation.
The tree still did not move.
“Okay, you wanna play stupid? Well, let me tell you, two can play that game.” I grumbled to myself.
You do realize the implications of that statement? Boston asked, on the verge of snickering.
I ignored him and pulled a lighter out of my pocket, rescued from Daddy’s ‘secret’ stash of cigars. “Okay, since we can’t seem to communicate like civilized people, we are going to communicate this way.” I clicked the lighter to life and held it an inch underneath a waving frond.
“HEY YOU! Freeze right there!”
I looked over my shoulder to see a campus cop jogging towards me.
Not the reaction I was hoping for.
“Hand over the lighter and put your hands where I can see them, young lady. What do you think you’re doing?”
“Uh….” My brain was absolutely blank. “Uhh….giving the tree a smoke? He keeps saying he wants to kick the habit but sometimes those urges, uh, just get too strong you know?”
That has to be one of the worst excuses in all the history of bad excuses. I can’t believe I kept a straight face on that one. No, scratch that, I can’t believe I let that one come out. It will take at least twenty minutes before I regain my self respect.
“You expect me to believe that, you little smart aleck?”
“If I say yes, will you take it at face value?”
“Alright, you are under arrest for being a pain in the ass.” He fumed. Looks like this guy had a fairly short temper.
“Is that a valid crime, sir?” I asked curiously.
He did not take it well.
But before he could start telling me about what he thought of me and many things about me in general, I fond that I was right, and I was speaking to the correct tree.
Because it got up and walked off in plain sight of both of us.
Whatever Officer…Roberts, by way of his nametag, was going to say was lost in the strangled gasps he was producing. I was a little worried about him, actually, I didn’t want him to have an epileptic seizure or something.
Luckily he just fainted.
“Remind me not to ask you to be my last line of protection.” I commented as I walked around him and jogged after the swaying willow as it made a bee line for the parking lot. “Hey! Hey you! Do not run off when I’m trying to talk to you!”
The tree actually did a half turn, waved its branches threateningly, and kept going.
“Hey! At least talk in a language I understand!”
Apparently the tree has a short fuse too, because it turned around and charged right at me.
I yelped and ran away about twenty feet before stealing a glance over my shoulder. It had turned again and was heading back in its original direction.
I mentally kicked myself and ran back after it.
When I got close enough, I jumped and caught some of the whippy hanging branches and pulled back on them.
That got a good reaction in a very not positive sense.
It turned all the way around and bent down. The trunk turned snakelike and all of a sudden I was staring into the top of the tree, where instead of bark or more leaves I was staring into a maw of very large teeth. And on top of that were two big, diamond shaped ruby red eyes with brighter red pupils.
“Uh…Hi.” I said, putting a smile on my face. The only reason I was able to pull that off was because my legs had turned to jelly and running away wasn’t exactly an option. I was barely held up by the branches and my full weight was on them, making one side of the tree monster’s head dip down.
It growled at me and the branches that weren’t held down by me began to wave menacingly.
I was beginning to have second thoughts about the direction this (nonexistent) conversation was going.
“What do you want?” A blast of air that smelled vaguely like rotting vegetables hit me in the voice, and I had to turn my face so I didn’t lose my breakfast this morning. Mom actually got doughnuts, so it was one of the few very good breakfasts I’ve had.
“You talk?” I asked after the smell got out of my nose. “That makes things easier. Why didn’t you talk to me in the first place?”
“What do you want?” It repeated, showing a lot of teeth.
“I want….wait, let me think….Okay, sorry, forgot for a moment. I want to know why you’ve been following my mother around!” I said, regaining my composure and glaring into its face.
“I don’t know what you speak of.” Its voice was so deep I think it was making the dirt shift.
“You are following my mom and freaking her out. Why?”
“I do not understand.”
“Well, that makes two of us. Look! She’s right there!” I hissed, pointing at the parking lot. Mom was getting into the car, paying absolutely no attention to us.
Maybe she needs to get her eyes checked; situations like this one are a little hard to miss, especially if there was an unconscious cop not far away.
The tree froze, as if realizing something. It didn’t move until Mom’s car had left the parking lot and went in the opposite direction.
“That is truly your mother.” The tree said slowly.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t have come to threaten you with a lighter if she wasn’t.”
“And you have no siblings.”
“Not that I know of unless there are some things Mum and Dad have been keeping secret from me.”
The tree turned its head away from me as far as it could, and I distinctly heard it mutter something that sounded like a curse word.
I would have started laughing if I hadn’t realized that untangling my arms from the branches was a little more difficult than at first glance. “What was that about?”
He looked….well, embarrassed, if trees can do that. “I made…a mistake, I think. Actually, this would explain the lack of results.”
“Results? You know, you sound fairly intelligent for someone that looks made out of wood.”
“And you are accepting for a half grown child.”
“I resent that. I’m older than my height dictates, I’ll have you know.” I finally got loose from the branches and fell backwards onto my backside, sharp enough to realize that it would probably be sporting a bruise in the morning.
“I must go, I waste time, precious time.” He turned and walked off. I stared after him.
“Hey. Hey, wait up! What results?” I started after him.
Be careful. He’s bigger than you are.
“Yeah, well, that’s not a big stretch. Hey, wait up!” I yelled as I started to run to catch up.