Climb

Broken branches beckon.

Torn leaves wave him to action.

The tree asks him to climb.

He accepts the invitation.

He slips the hatchling into his back baggy pocket.

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He grabs the first branch.

Grips it with fervor.

Swings his leg up and over.

And, with a grunt and a twist, he is right-side up.

Standing up.

He ascends.

A hush descends.

The crowd is cowed, at least for now.

Adults arrive.

Using their hands.

They shield their eyes.

He is so high.

Too high, they decide.

They plead.

“Come down sweetie.”

They reason.

“Come down, the mother will not accept it back.”

They bribe.

“Come down, we have sweets.”

No effect.

No pause.

No acknowledgement of their words, presence or age-based authority.

Not even a glance back.

They are thinly skinned.

He offends.

Their tactics grow drastic.

They sow doubt.

“Come down, you know you can’t climb that high.”

They sling fear.

“Come down or you will fall again.”

They issue threats.

“Get your ass back down here, NOW!”

They ruthlessly let loose their words.

Fling their harpoons.

Poisoned barbs snag his spirit.

Dangling ropes fall to the earth.

They gather them up.

Using strategic enunciations and calculated intonations, they reel him in.

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He stops.

Holds his position.

Wonders how he got into this situation.

He hates attention.

He obeys all the rules.

He stands quietly in line.

He spits out his gum.

He makes no ruckus.

He leaves behind no evidence of his less than substantial presence.

He makes no trail.

He covers his tracks.

He always drags a branch behind his back.

They say he is invisible.

He is.

He is a good boy.

But, today, he has clearly stepped out of bounds.

He looks down.

Sees his elders and teachers.

Firefighters and preachers.

He sees his neighbors.

He even sees the pharmacist, grocer, and banker.

“Be careful” is their favorite send-off.

They are well intentioned.

But, what exactly is he supposed to be careful of?

They never mentioned.

So, he was careful about everything.

Every damn thing.

Yet, now he knows.

Careful is a cage.

And, careful will not get this hatchling back to where it belongs.

He reaches for a higher branch.

Rope fibers fray.

Barbs bend back.

Harpoons fall away.

The crowd clamors.

Witnesses the limits of their power.

He is slipping away.

He is moving out of position.

He is stepping out of place.

And, if he steps out of place, then who are they?

Insecurities ignite.

Frailties come to the fore.

Open up doors.

Dark forces in waiting walk in.

Better natures are pushed aside.

Kids cry.

Women wail.

Men grab axes.

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They raise them high.

They swing them low.

Reaching down to the crowd, he screams “NO!”

She glides in from the side.

Bodies separate.

Space is made.

She walks a maze.

She stands in the center.

She is in the crowd.

But, she is not of the crowd.

She is the calm in the cacophony.

She is magnificent.

She looks up at him.

He looks at her.

Her eyes say “I’ve missed you.”

She mouths one word.

“Climb.”

He nods.

She brushes shoulders lightly.

She taps hands touchingly.

She strokes upper arms lovingly.

Cries subside.

Wails wane.

Axes drop.

He turns away.

They will never see him again.

Even so, they let him go.

Because, they know that his is how it should be.

This is how it has been.

And, this is how it will always be.

He holds the tree.

It extends its roots.

Stretches its canopy.

Lengthens its trunk.

Taller and taller it grows.

Higher and higher it goes.

Tighter and tighter he holds

The cloud line approaches.

He reaches out.

Swirls of grey cool mist envelope his fingertips.

Then his wrist.

“Are you ready to go home?” he asks the hatchling.

He takes a deep breath.

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