The Ugly Tree
Trevor thought the view from the top of the tree was incredible – or he would have, if he weren’t stuck in the damn thing. It was bound to happen eventually.
He settled in the crook of two connecting branches and waited for someone to return home – someone besides Mariah, that is. He spit and watched it fall to the ground; he imagined the spit hitting her on the face and laughed.
Stretching up, he tried to see down the street to Brody’s house. Maybe if he thought hard enough, he could make his friend just want to come over for some reason. He exhaled and sat down on the branch. Brody would be at basketball practice for the newly-formed eighth grade team tonight. Trevor figured his mental message wouldn’t have made it anyway.
The setting sun meant he would be draped in darkness in less than an hour. The shorter days were the only thing about autumn he didn’t like. The air felt chilly, and he wished he’d grabbed a sweatshirt before he fled up the tree. In all fairness, he wasn’t planning on getting stuck. He just needed a place to get away from his sister, and the tree worked well enough in the past. Maybe one day he’d have the guts to stand up to her instead of running away.
The sound of a car’s engine filled the quiet air, and he listened to Mariah’s Camry travel down the street. Now the house was empty, but he was the only one who knew that. Given their histories, it could be hours before his parents returned from wherever they were. Mariah had never left him alone before. He had no idea when she would return – not that she would help him out of the tree.
He shivered as the dark night enveloped him, and he clenched his jaw in an effort to control his frustration at his current predicament. Wasn’t he the straight-A, honor roll kid? Figuring out the solutions to problems was never an issue before tonight. He had to figure this one out too, if only for the sole purpose of maintaining his unmarred problem-solving record. What would his parents say if they had to rescue their supposedly brilliant son from a tree like a common cat?
He leaned towards the trunk – which offered a small diameter this high up – and grabbed it with both hands. The darkness hindered his depth perception, so he dropped his leg and used his foot to feel for the next lowest branch. He felt something and put his foot on it, gradually increasing his weight to ensure it wouldn’t break. Being a skinny kid suddenly worked in his favor.
He repeated the foot-searching procedure two more times before he realized the sunlight was the reason he’d gotten stuck. He couldn’t see how far above the ground he was in the darkness, so he had no reason to panic.
Settling his weight onto another branch that was three down from where he started, Trevor was confident he would reach the ground and be back in the warm house in minutes. The cracking sound deflated his confidence.
He tried to grab branches as gravity claimed him, but they only scratched his limbs and face in return. He groaned when he hit the ground, landing on his right arm and the side of his head. Instead of feeling the pain, he laughed as he finally understood what the girls in school meant when they talked about “falling out of the ugly tree and hitting every branch on the way down” to each other. A second later, he blacked out.
Mariah returned home thirty minutes after she left. Her parents wouldn’t like it if they knew she’d left Trevor alone, so she’d agreed to meet up with her friends for only a few minutes. She couldn’t find her brother earlier anyway. The weirdo ran outside again after she got upset with him for erasing her show off the DVR, and she’d figured he came back in while she was gone. He was probably holed up in his room playing one of his stupid games.
“Trevor!” she called, feeling her parents might want to know where their precious angel was. She thought a thirteen-year-old boy should be able to handle being home alone. Why should she have to babysit some nerdy kid she hardly saw while her friends got to go out?
She collapsed onto the couch and turned on the TV, sure Trevor was ignoring her. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of looking for him.
Trevor slowly blinked his eyes open and felt a wet coolness on the right side of his head. He tried to remember where he was – outside? His head pounded; he moved his arms to lift himself and cried out in pain. Something was wrong with his right arm.
Rolling onto his stomach, he used his left arm to lift himself. He stumbled across the yard towards the back door of the house, and he used his left hand to open the door. He walked inside and found his sister asleep on the couch. The TV was on. He slowly blinked as he tried to figure out how to say her name.
She stirred on her own and squinted at him before her eyes shot open. Her muffled voice said something to the effect of “Oh my God! What happened to you?” before a dizzy spell got the better of him, and he passed out on the couch.
Mariah found her phone in her room and ran back downstairs to where her brother’s bloody form lay on the couch. She held the phone for a few moments, trying to figure out what to do. If she called for an ambulance, she would probably be blamed for whatever happened to him. She’d have the same problem if she called her parents. What had he been doing, anyway? If he was so smart, how did he let this happen?
She chuckled to herself as she called 9-1-1. This might actually knock him down a bit in the eyes of their parents. He’d obviously been doing something stupid. Maybe he wasn’t so perfect after all.
Trevor woke in a bright room. He moved his eyes around, trying to figure out where he was. His casted right arm rested by his side. He reached up with his left hand and touched a bandage that circled his head.
“I hope you’re happy,” Mariah’s voice said from across the room.
He squinted. “Why are you here?” He looked around. “Why am I here?”
“It’s my turn to watch you. We think you fell out of the tree. Mom and Dad are pissed at me for leaving you outside to bleed all over the yard. Like I knew you were even there. They took away my car.”
“Shut up.” She walked to the side of his bed and looked over him. She leaned in and lowered her voice. “You’ve been unconscious for a week. The doctors had to drain a bunch of crap from around your brain to relieve the pressure. Chances are…” she leaned even closer, “that you’re precious smarts just won’t ever be the same.” She stood and gave Trevor a satisfied smirk.
He laughed. He couldn’t help himself.
It apparently wasn’t the response for which she hoped, and she scowled. “What’s so funny?”
“Ugly tree!” He laughed again.
She shook her head. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“I fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down! And you’re the one who’s ugly! You’re always ugly to me!” He laughed so hard he had to wipe tears from his eyes.
She huffed and stomped out of the room.
He continued to chuckle as he lay alone.