Staring up its mammoth frame, the Boy fell back upon his heels in stunned amazement. The top was beyond his sight, and he assumed it must reach all the way into the sky and nearly touch the sun itself. At its base, he figured it would take twenty of him hand in hand to encircle the entire girth of the massive giant. As he walked around the wide body he inspected the engineering feat that would be required of him if he were to climb to the top.
Jumping as high as he could, his hand barely slapped below an outstretched arm of the tree. It was the closest he could possibly reach but still it was a few lengths higher than he was tall. Standing in the shadows, a chill rose up his back and took flight from his hairs at the back of his neck. Slapping against his waist, the tall brittle grass waved back and forth as it danced in the soft blowing wind.
Searching for assistance, he came upon a stick that was three times his height. As he walked back to gather space for his run, the stick bounced with each step. Pressed against his side like the Olympian pole vaulters he saw on TV, he grasped the stick with both hands and darted for the tree with the point of the stick focused at the base.
Excitement grabbed him with each pounding step forward. But soon, it too fell with him as the stick gripped at the exposed roots, bent, and then snapped as he leapt with full weight into the air. Landing flat upon the floor, his lungs felt like two bellows being pressed out. His feet resting long against the tree, he winced as he rubbed the middle of his sensitive back.
Overhead, the clouds swam in the blue ocean and then were eaten up by the outstretching arms of the tree. Above, the sturdy tangled arms of the tree’s many limbs, he thought, would provide a perfect vantage point for him; once he figured out how to get up there…
Straining to see through to the very top, he wondered what he would see from up there. To be above the leafy canopy and see across to the next city, perhaps? Or, the even entire world! As he stared longer, he vibrated with determined confidence which warmed his stunned body and restored his vigor to his sore back.
Pulling himself up, he inspected his faulty pole vault stick. Just a few hand lengths above where the stick gripped into the roots it shattered in half. Disappointed in its lack of truth, he tossed the pieces a side. With fist at his hips, he took a long inspection of the closest limb within reach, again. Though still to high for him to out right grasp, he contemplated his options for scaling the upward bent elephant trunk shaped limb.
“Hi,” a small squeaky voice said. With soft unspoiled features, her crystal ocean blue eyes stared at him with a spacious pearl smile, “My name is Ruby. Want to help me climb this tree? I can’t reach that thick branch either.”
With a wide smile he said, “Hi, my name is Jeremiah. Me too; I have been trying to climb this tree. And, I think that if I get to the very top I can see across the world and to the next city!”
“That is funny; if you could see across the whole world wouldn’t you see beyond the next city?,” she asked through double palmed giggles. Crow’s feet branching out at her eyes, she hunched over in laughter.
“Hmmmm…” he answered, “I am not sure what is beyond the next city; I haven’t gone that far before.”
Eyes peeled back, she gaped at him. “Many things,” she replied, “a whole world of things. Animals, parks, zoos, museums, people, and many other fun stuff.”
Looking up the length to the canopy above he said, “Well, I want to see those things, and from up there I believe I will be able to see those.” Placing both closed fist upon his hips he questioned, “I just don’t know how we are going to get up there… I tried to jump, run and jump, and even use that stick – and it broke.”
“Ok,” she said, “you are bigger than me, so why don’t we do this: you use your height and muscles to push me up and then I will jump when you reach as high as you can and then I will leap to that crook there,” she pointed to where the branch extended out from the tree’s main frame; an opening just wide enough for both her shoulders.
With an inspecting eye at the solution being proposed, he took a few steps back to take in more of the picture. Fist at his hips he agreed, “Ok, I think you have a good idea.” Hunching down with interlaced fingers in cupped hands he said, “Hop on and I will shoot you up there. Do you think you will be able to pull me up after?”
Shrugging at the question, she planted a foot into the provided holster. Hunching down to his shoulder, she placed one hand down and the other hand against the tree trunk for balance. With her tongue curled at the corner of her mouth, she honed in on her challenge above.
Grunting as he rocketed her high above, she flew with her hands outstretched; but, with the tips of her fingers waving freely just below the promised location, she returned to earth with him, “It’s no good… But, I am just barely out of reach.”
Lowering her upon the ground, he said, “I have another idea. This one will work, I am sure of it!” A wide smile pulled up from side to side as he dramatized the movements, “I will hunch down, you will place both feet onto my shoulders; next, you will move each foot onto my hands and I will skyrocket you up! Like a spring! What do you think?”
Considering his plan, she reviewed the distance and then applied the idea. Assured by inner confidence, she nodded and placed one foot at a time onto his shoulders. Though nervous with wobbly balance, she moved each foot into a resting hand.
As her height grew with the tree, she lifted off at the same moment he leaped. With cold excitement, her hands slid up the bark and found themselves in the niche of where they needed to be placed. Pulling herself forward, she adjusted and then turned to see below her the ant of a boy Jeremiah far below.
Stabilizing herself, she took a long look around in her new environment. Taking notice of something, she shouted as loud as she could, “Wait right there,” and then disappeared from his sight. Falling into a slouch, he brushed back and forth his feet at the ground. Though, she did return and with a very long stick, “Here, grab onto this; I will pull you up.”
Spitting onto one hand and then the other, he rubbed them together and bent like a frog about to spring forward. Launching off the ground, he lunged both hands out before him and reached for the artificial hand; sadly, he was able to only grab a small portion of the stick, but it slipped from his grip. Imagining he had springs within his legs, he crouched lower. With his knees near his ears, he sprung upwards and took flight once more; but, as before, same sad results.
“Ok, one sec,” she said, “Behind you is a wide opening – I can see for miles! Why don’t you go back really far, run really fast, and then jump?”
Nodding to this logic, Of course this would be the best idea! he thought. With one foot firmly pressed behind him like the Olympian runners seen on TV, he lifted his angled neck up, focused on the lengthy target, and then with a gunshot burst sounding in his head – he was off. The breeze parted around his teeth clenching face and when he reached the tree he scaled it like a cat clawing its way up carpeted tower.
As he grabbed the branch, she nearly fell forward out of the tree not reacting fast enough. Luckily for the instinct to maintain balance, she pulled backwards and helped lift him further up the tree. Landing into a puddle of old water that pooled between the tree’s massive arm like limb and its body, she made a disappointed whimper. Lifting himself over the side, he towered above with arms out and shouts of his triumph.
As he towered, he looked down and saw her red cheeks and cotton puffy eyes developing; “I am so sorry! What happen?!”
Trying to lift herself from the watery mess below her, she heaved with deep breaths, “I was trying to help you get up and feel backwards; landing in this gross water…” Feeling his excitement abate, he braced himself against the branch and the tree’s center and hoisted her up by her armpits. With a tight cheek to cheek hug, she sniffed a few more times and then released him. Though the pool left a dark coloration against her jeans, he said nothing. Looking up the tree, they set their goals higher.
Tangled and bent arms jettisoned away from the tree’s frame and gripped for the sky. Starring with their mouths gaping, they looked on with questions in their minds of how high, what they would see when they reached the top, how far they could see from the very top, and what lived up there. But, never did they question how dangerous it all was.
Luckily for them, the branches sprouted from the tree’s like closely spaced rungs in a latter. However, after a while their muscles began to burn with each pull higher up the tree. Though through their determination they never stopped their ascent; she lead the way and he followed.
As he rose, he noticed notches within the body of the tree and upon sprouted branches. Shaped like tiny eyes with wrinkled eyelids, some still held dead branches that came forth but never made it into maturity. Circling the rippled textures, he wondered to himself why they had not made it, and if they had survived to today where would they extend to?
“Hey, don’t get lost down there; keep following!” she said as she looked down the many branch steps below her, “We still got some ways to go up.” Throwing her arm around the neck of the next highest branch, she hoisted herself sideways and used her left leg to act like an extra hand, “This spot will be a bit tough when you get up here,” she said through clenched teeth.
Focusing back to their goal, he scaled his way further up. The bark’s skin smoothed the further he rose. At some points, he had to strain as he leaned upon his tippy-toes to reach the next branch. Wobbling, at times, he felt nervous with each branch he accomplished.
Shoulders aching, he looked down and noticed he was nearly halfway to the top, but he couldn’t really be certain. But, everything below looked so much smaller; even the massive elephant trunk they scaled first gave an image much slimmer than before.
Through labored breathing he said, “I really can’t wait to see what we see from up there. I think we will see further than the next city, actually!” Smiling to inwards, he hoisted himself into the same sideways position she warned him about a few minutes previous. Forcing himself up between the two branches, he rested back against the fingers of the palm like tree branches. Closing his eyes, he let his feet and hands dangle.
As her white shoe disappeared with the rest of her around the other side of the tree, she shouted, “Come on you lazy bum!” As if reaching a further distance than she was, he strained to hear her yell next, “Oh! And – also, the tree branches seem to spiral as you get higher up, so be careful.”
Waking his eyes, he raced to catch up. As he labored further up the spiral tree staircase, he shouted, “Wait for me, ok? I can’t catch up to you. You are too fast.” As he rose, the thickening shade of the canopy darkened his reach and steps.
The wind gradually grew in strength, and it felt as if the gust were manhandling the tree. Frogs leaped from his stomach into his mouth and his limbs filled with icy water, “Hey, I am not sure if I can go any higher…” though she did not respond back. “Hey! I said I am too scared to go any higher, can you come back down for me?” The rustling of leaves in the strong gust were the only things responding back.
The world below swirled right then left, and then right again. Bracing himself close to the tree to help gain equilibrium, he began to inhale deep breaths and clenched his eyes shut. Within his head birds fluttered their wings while butterflies swirled in his stomach, “…I am really scared.” he stammered in a low cry.
As if the words were wrapped in soft silk he heard, “Don’t be, Jeremiah; you are safe, I will hold you.” The tree began to sway less and the leaves rustling became uniformed into a tempered musical performance. Breaking through the sea of green, sunlight danced across his face and illuminated his sight behind his tightly bound eyelids.
“But… I can’t go any higher; please don’t make me go higher…”
A soft hand nestled against his cheek, “You have gone far enough; you are not ready to reach to the apex of this tree yet, Jeremiah. That is fine, don’t feel rushed; you will get there soon enough.”
Opening his wrung tight eyes, he saw the leaves of green moving in waves all around him; as if the tree was breathing in and then out. Looking up through the many more branch steps to venture, he breathed a sigh. Pressing his soft face against the tree’s body, he hugged it and rested. The central spire was grounded, and through it grounded him.
His shirt was bathed in a warm lake around the collar that pooled into the chest. Looking up higher through the many steps, he decided it best to make his way back down. Each branch below his feet returned a feeling of wholeness to his weakened heart. The descent felt less exhaustive than the rise. Looking up one more time, the leaves danced in their calming wave.
Reaching the elbow of the massive branch he first started, he wrapped his body around the wide arm and swung himself around. Dangling there, he prayed the ground was not as far below him as he imagined it to be. With optimistic hope, he released his grip. Landing in a croched position, flows of electricity spread down from his shins and out the feet. Unable to maintain balance, he feel back upon his backside and then laid staring up through the journey just taken.
The tree swayed above. Closing his eyes, he imagined each branch reaching down, pulling him to his feet, and kissing his skin with its leaves. Snuggling his face into the leaves, they would absorb each tear from him. His heart fluttered and felt warmed at the thinking.
Rising to his feet, he stood firm like the tree. Imagining roots sprouting out into the ground and interlocking with the tree’s roots, he warmly gave thanks for its love and support.
“Thank you,” he whispered aloud; wiping at his cheeks. Leaving the outskirts of the tree’s wide shade, the sun bathed and warmed his skin. Trodding through the waist high dry grass, he made his way back home. Turning to the tree, it leaves danced in the wind. Waving back, he returned to the distant walk ahead, “Thank you…”