The Invitation

Branches beckon.

Leaves wave him to action.

Roots roll out a welcome.

The tree invites him to climb.

But, he cannot hear its invitation.

His ears are full of fear.

He has climbed this tree once before.

He got pretty high.

Then he fell.

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Gasping.

Wincing in pain.

And, rolling from side to side.

He was sure his first breath of air would never arrive.

It did.

So did the second and the third.

And, after the fourth, he scampered home.

“It could have been worse” they said.

“Not all heights are meant for climbing” they said.

“It is best to keep your feet on the ground” they said.

“It was not my fault” he said.

He always suspected that the tree shook him out.

It did.

The tree knows him.

It knows all the boys and girls of the neighborhood.

It knows their parents.

It knows their grandparents.

It knows their names.

It knows their stories.

How could it forget?

It is the same story.

It provides shade for their play when they are kids.

It endures the carving of their names when those kids now teens fall in love.

It shields their first family picnics from the elements.

It catches the fists of fathers who leave their families.

It hears the prayers of mothers who ask for strength.

It absorbs the tears of the little ones left behind.

The cycle begins again.

This was the story when its top was pointed and its branches were short and slender.

This was the story when its crown was rounded and its branches were long and strong.

Now, with heavy limbs and gaps appearing in its canopy, it is sick of this story.

Now, when boys and girls gather in and around its canopy, it listens.

Takes note of their actions.

And, on occasion, when it expects better of them, it shakes them from its branches.

That was then for him.

But, not today.

Today.

He and the tree.

They stand together.

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One is rooted.

Strong and true.

The other is lost.

But, he is just on the cusp of finding out.

High above, beyond his reach, a globe of golden light rests on a single branch.

He gazes up at it.

It illumes.

His mind opens.

The download begins.

Honeysuckle.

Buzzing, humming, singing.

Lifting, leaping, laughing.

Flying.

Floating.

Swimming.

Smiling.

Smoke.

Flames.

Fire.

Baying, howling, growling.

Running, fleeing, screaming.

Chasing.

Surrounding.

Trapping.

He will never be.

Hurting.

Harming.

Smirking.

We will see.

Streaking.

Sighing.

Sacrificing.

Download complete.

“No. No. No” he says.

Something was his.

It was magnificent.

Now it is gone.

How he lost it, he does not know.

Does it matter?

It does.

He wants it back.

Branches beckon.

Leaves call him to action.

Roots roll out a welcome.

The tree invites him to climb.

He hears the invitation.

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