Home > The Eagle Tree(4)

The Eagle Tree(4)
Ned Hayes

Her eyes were leaking, and I looked away quickly.

“I saw a tree,” I said.

And then I could see that my words were too loud, because they both flinched when I said those words. So I said my words again, but softer this time. “I saw a tree. Across the valley. I want to climb it. I was looking at the tree. That is all I was doing.”

“There,” my mother said after a moment. “Was that so hard? Just to tell us what you were doing, what kept you up in the tree next door. I wish . . . I wish it was easier for you.”

“Arizona,” I said once more. My dad’s mother—my grandmother—lives in Arizona. And the cousins. Every year, we go to Arizona to visit my grandmother and cousins. My father moved there two weeks ago.

“He’s visiting Grandma,” I said. “Then he will come back. Then we will be together in our old house again.”

“I don’t know about that,” my mother said. “The situation is complicated. In fact, I don’t know if he will come back from Arizona.”

In some parts of Arizona, I have read, there are many trees. But not in my grandmother’s part of Arizona. There are no climbing trees near Scottsdale. I once climbed a bush there, but it was not the same.

My mother talked about moving to Arizona quite a bit before my father left. But even if we don’t move there, he will come back to Olympia to climb trees with me. That is what he said he would do. I do not care to move to Arizona. I will not let us move to Arizona.

When I thought about Arizona, I could see only empty orange desert in front of me. I do not like the orangeness; it erases every tree, every branch, every leaf.

The thought of that emptiness surrounded me and overwhelmed me. Sound came out of me to fill the emptiness.

“Things have to change sometimes,” my mother said. “We can’t go on like this forever.”

But the sounds coming out of my mouth were so loud now that I could hardly hear her words. Now my hands were flailing through the air like a windmill, and I could feel spittle on my chin. The feel of it was cold against my skin.

“Hey, March,” said Uncle Mike. “You saw a tree.” His words cut through the fog that was rising inexorably around me. “Would you like to drive out and see where it is? Find that tree?”

I stopped breathing.

“You can’t climb it with him,” said my mother. “You can’t let him climb another tree today. Not after this weekend. You understand me?”

“No, no, I get it,” said my uncle. “We’ll just go look. Right, buddy? We’ll just go look.”

There were spots in front of my eyes. Red ones and black ones. I started breathing again.

“I don’t know,” said my mother. “Is it wise to allow him to—?”

“Come on,” said Uncle Mike. “Let’s go take a look at that tree.”

I was now breathing many deep breaths, filling my lungs and pushing the air back out. I was no longer moaning. My hands were still moving in little circles, but I could not prevent that. My legs were already moving toward the door, toward his truck, so that we could go find the tree so I could climb it. Right away.


On the Friday before I discovered the Eagle Tree, we moved into the new house. The new house is smaller than the old house. That is because only my mother and I live here. My father does not live with us anymore, so we now live in a smaller house.

Our house has a living room almost precisely twelve feet square, with a sofa and a chair in it and a bookshelf with books. There is also a kitchen downstairs. The kitchen has a small table with chairs, and a counter, and a sink with warm water and very cold water, but no steaming-hot water. The kitchen also has two doors that are made up of glass windows—one of those windows is now covered with cardboard and tape. The windows, except the one that is covered, look out at the backyard.

You can leave the kitchen to go back into the living room, or you can go to the bathroom on the other side of the stairway. Or you can use the stairway that has fourteen steps if you wish to go upstairs. The fourteen steps lead upstairs to the two bedrooms.

The bedrooms are the same size: I measured them. My mother has the bedroom in the northwest corner, and I have the bedroom that is closer to the southeast. The windows in her room look out at the trees in the backyard. I think the reason I do not have a window with trees is that in our old house, I broke my arm climbing out of the window to go to the trees to climb them. So now I have a window with no trees.

The new house’s kitchen has large windows and doors that my mother says are French. The doors open onto the backyard, where there is a Maple. It is only forty feet high. Maple trees are difficult to identify precisely, since there are many varieties. But based on the leaves, the location, the height, and the coloration, I believe that it is most likely that this Maple is a Bigleaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum.

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