The Tree That Ate Worlds

 

A calico cat lived in the tree. 225 feet up, at the very top. Luckily she’d been spayed, or all of the tom cats in the neighborhood would have been up the tree with her.

The fire department had installed a well wheel after their rescue attempts failed. The high reach kept getting wedged, as if the tree itself was trying to claim it, forever.

A rope and bucket went to the ground.

Sometimes the neighborhood kids sent buckets of milk, tuna fish, cat nip. Often she refused the gifts, licking the raindrops off of bright green leaves for hydration. Eating sparrows out of the nest. She’d stopped meowing after three years.

The kids played baseball at the conclusion of the dead end street beneath the tree that ate worlds. Home run derby. Mark lobbed a pitch at Billy. A crack of the wooden bat, the ball soared through the ripe blue sky. They were trying to hit it over the tree.

No such luck.

Every single ball got lodged in the branches of the tree. “Well, that was the last baseball …”

“There’s hundreds of balls up there,” Mark said.

“Thousands even.”

Looking up, it was a graveyard of toys. Kites. Balls. Even a bicycle, that’d been jumped off a ramp and gotten tangled in the lower branches. Every year, the bicycle climbed higher up the tree carried by vines. It was half way up now.
The kids knew better than to try and climb the tree.

Dave showed up with more kids, “Football!” Two hand touch in the waning hours of the afternoon. “Hike!” Alex drew back his arm sharp and whipped a pass up into the air, Ned was booking towards the quasi endzone beyond the telephone pole. Full sprint, he looked back at the ball soaring at him. The wind picked up a gust out of nowhere, the football lodged firmly into the branches, generating a upward suck, one hundred feet up.

The calico cat could be seen on the edge of a branch, looking down curiously at the football.

“Man! That was a birthday present!” Dave said, about his football, “My mom is gonna kill me.”

“Forget about the football,” Mark warned.

“No, I don’t think so!” he said, “It was autographed by Johnny Dallas.”
They went into Ned’s yard, coming back with a basketball. Throwing the basketball up there did no good. Now the basketball was stuck. A soccer ball after that. They started throwing rocks up. Then bricks. Then hunks of metal debris in front of Mr. Leonard’s garage. It all sucked up there without hopes of coming down.

“That’s that,” Mark said, his mom was calling him into the house for dinner. A few of the kids scattered, leaving just Dave and Ned.
They stood at the base of the tree with Ned looking up at the branches.

“Let’s blow it up.”

“That’s a great idea.”

They came back with all of their fireworks, wrapping them all around the tree. Ned wanted to be a controlled demolition specialist when he grew up. His uncle blew up bridges and casinos for a company.
It was dark. No one knew that they were out there, or they would have told them to stop.

The fireworks were wired to a little box.

Ned said, “OK, I’m gonna blow up the whole tree and shake all the crap outta the branches.”

“Do it.”

“5, 4, 3, 2 …”

Before he could hit the red button, suddenly everything rained down on them.
A thousand baseballs. A hundred footballs. Kites. Soccer balls. Sneakers. Bricks. Baseball bats. Frisbees. The well wheel, the rope, the bucket. The calico cat—hissing.

The boys, walloped with debris, staggered away from the tree, scared to death.

The calico cat, looked all around the neighborhood, the new stars twinkling in the moonlight. On the front porch, a bowl of milk was waiting for her underneath the chair. The lady still filled her dish.

After a while, quietly, the calico cat went back up the tree and sat on the handlebars of the bicycle. The vines had carried it up so it nearly brushed the moon. The night had a soft electric hum to it present in everything.

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