Home > The Eagle Tree(3)

The Eagle Tree(3)
Ned Hayes

“Peter, listen to me,” she said repeatedly, and so I did not turn away from her. She and Uncle Mike sat down on the sofa in the living room, and after some time, I also sat down—in a chair. I chose my chair carefully. It was not exactly facing them; it was turned slightly so that I was not forced to see their faces constantly moving and changing as they spoke to me.

“Peter,” she said. “I know that time is important for you. So tell me, how long were you up in that tree?”

“One hundred and twenty-one minutes,” I said.

“All right.” My mother made a sound. A sigh. “This is the second time this month that you’ve been out of sight like that. And after this past weekend and what happened with the—”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said. I looked at Uncle Mike’s hat.

“Nevertheless, it happened. After our whole conversation with Mr. Clayton about the rules for climbing his tree.” My mother sighed again. “I think we need to consider the move to Arizona.”

“What?” I said loudly, and my hands started going. I was not sure I had heard her correctly. Why was she talking about moving to Arizona again?

I dislike Arizona. There are no trees there, nothing to climb.

“He wouldn’t have this issue if you hadn’t taught him to climb so high in the trees,” said my mother to Uncle Mike.

He sighed underneath his hat. Then Uncle Mike turned his head toward my mother. “Well, most kids can climb trees. I know kids on the spectrum usually can’t, but I just wanted him to fit in. I thought knowing how to climb trees would help him, because kids on the spectrum should be able to climb too. I just thought it would be a little thing, just one tree, or maybe two—”

“What did you say?” I said to my mother. I can be much louder than Uncle Mike.

“Honey—March, I am just discussing the situation with Mike,” said my mother. “I feel that you need to pay attention to the clear rules we’ve set around dangerous—”

“It is not dangerous,” I said. “I climb every morning. Some evenings. I create a climbing pattern for each tree. And I know precisely what pattern to follow on each tree. It is not dangerous. I know the rules. It is not dangerous.”

“You might know the rules. But you didn’t follow them. You were out of sight for so long, and all I could hear was your loud howling. I thought maybe something had happened to you up there. Do you hear me? Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Arizona,” I said. “Arizona.”

My mother rubbed her hand over her face, as if her skin were tired. “Peter—March—there is only so much I can take. This weekend pushed me over the edge. I’m sorry, but I can only take so much.”

Then her voice crumpled, the sound breaking apart. “I—I—I’m not saying we have to move to Arizona right now. It’s just that with you going off on your own like this . . . I need to have some peace of mind. I need some help.”

My hands were flapping furiously now, striking against my chest and against the cushions, and then against the lamp next to the chair. Uncle Mike caught the lamp before it fell; he lunged forward, and then he was standing beside me, holding the lamp. He adjusted his hat with his other hand.

“Look, buddy,” he said. “Your mother isn’t trying to upset you. You’ve just got to understand that you can’t go out of sight like that without at least trying to tell her what you’re doing. Why were you up in that tree so long?”

I can hear the sound rising from my mouth; the hum of it reminds me of the upper canopy, of the insects that buzz unceasingly across the top of the forest line. Beyond that, I see the darkness of the valley on the other side of Boulevard Road, and then beyond that, the peak of the great trunk, rising above everything I know. So high that it would be part of a second canopy if there were an old-growth canopy here. So high that the ecosystem of the forest below would hardly affect it. Perhaps it has no limbs on the lower extremities because it has no need for the rest of the forest at all. It is a solitary giant, circumspect in its height, removed from everything below.

I am so glad we moved to this new house with the blue mailbox, because this new house has allowed me to see the tree.

I blinked. I glanced up, and my mother was now also standing next to the chair, her hand clenched tight in Uncle Mike’s hand, looking at me hard and talking fast and loud.

“I just don’t know what to do when he gets like this. I need to connect with him. I don’t know if I can just let him go, if I can allow him to just disconnect like . . .”

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