Swinging Tree Bats, While I Loved You (Fledgling, Take II)

Oh God, He's been gone! Oh God, he's been away for a long time!

Robbie. Robbie in the knickers, he had a handkerchief tied around his neck like a little cowboy, Robbie, raised in Terminus, Wisconsin. Terminus, Wisconsin, the only town in 'Sconnie with a Latin name, and boy were they superior about it, Terminus, Wisconsin, where Robbie's parents were bystanders and witnesses, then the victims of a gangland shooting, violence from the big city spread into their wide streets lined with maples.

To Robbie, there were no others, not that he knew and they told him there weren't any nearby so he was going to have to leave, the Midwest, his homeland, his pride and love, the streets on which he found life so immense and fascinating! The trees he could remember, scrapped and alive, climbing! The boys he loved, around the corner! All of it. All of it.

All of it, he left behind. To go west, toward his cousins. Where THEY lived, not where he lived, west, in Northern California, to the coast, in a Hamlet, they said. In the country. Near an ocean, on the coast. Where he would be raised.

He knew it was going to be a shithole. The way the orphanette kept talking, something about changing expectations and adaptation, you don't tell that to a kid who gets to move in with some rich uncle who is going to love him like his own. He knew it was what it was, it was a shithole. It was a fucking shack, and not just the one, but there were three semi-shacks, a fraudulent home, stupid shacks stacked shit high on a hillside...! The ocean was two hours away, another lie on a lie. He even felt landlocked. He didn't know you could feel landlocked, even from the Midwest, but now he felt it, the ridges of mountain between him and his ocean, the ridges east between him and his home, they crushed, they marched together, collapsing and compacting all this garbage into a stinking cube. If he wasn't living here, he'd be cheering the great machine on, and he'd enter a nationwide contest to be the first, the best little boy to toss the pile of undeserving shit into the sky. A new comet for the Universe! Say hello to God---!

His cousins were country nerds, southern talking westerners who fiddled with Chemistry kits and flip pads of handy theories to consult. Sometimes they poked him with prods and tested things on him, made him drink things, made him clean up messes, like when Roger, the older one, with stupid iceberg thick round rims couldn't see the dog and he dropped a pile of beakers on the ground. It made a bad green gas and for a minute he wasn't sure he was going to hold his breath but he did. And they patted him on the back for a minute and told him that was a pretty neat trick but they turned their pocked faces back to the chemicals and texts, to their formulas and hypotheses and he screamed! He Screamed!

He screamed, "Listen! it is beautiful outside-! Look-! there are trees that dwarf your stupid theories-! Life grows bigger and older here than anywhere, but you persist in ignoring her! You hide from it because It confronts you-! and stands defiant against your punishments-! and your ingenuity is Nothing! Listen-! because I have been speaking to the trees---!!"

Life! For a thousand years on my broad branches, I am a giant, a magnificent monster; I stretch infinite to your knowledge! Try to make me a book and I am weak, a tearable scrap! Because I am not a FACT! I am a tree! And I am alive forever, forever for a reason! I am alive forever to live!

Right then, after shouting, he paused. His eyes stopped moving, and he held his breath and though of the third street, Caravan Avenue. He had ridden his bicycle to the first corner, and his father said it was ok, and then the second and it was still ok, and then the third, and his . He liked riding his bicycle to the corner and back until he could cross the street and the next one but not the third, and he did, he crossed it all the time and it made him happy, and he'd get far enough away and he couldn't see home and he was sated, calmed. He could leave, but he didn't want to. He wanted to stay here, where it was cold and friendly. And now it was only ever cool, even in summer, and it was not friendly, it was rigorous.

Training, Improvement, Speed, Technique, Development
We Are In The Future And We Don't Want To Go Home

He wasn't some ignorant Midwesterner, there were books in his home and he had read them. He liked some of them, and he was good at math, really naturally good. But their blindness, to the trees, to life, their intensity of focus and their blindness, it wasn't in him. He was alone there, ready to die, alone, without his mother or father or Love, when a baseball found him. He was searching through his old moving boxes that the Cousins had never bothered to open up and put anywhere when it rolled out, an old ball from t-ball. It was rusted brown and scuffed, and seven or eight of the red rivulets were missing on the lower hemisphere and when he told his cousins about it, he talked about it that way. He told them there was beauty in the pitch and the pitching forearms of a great man in white box and they believed him, because unlike trees they could never fathom, they were sucked in by the thought of poetry in a baseball, They thought in terms of brilliance rather than awe, like they should, as men and intellectuals, they should get this kid and his beautiful words and they stayed up, late nights always, listening to him and never taking any notes for experiments the next day.

So he was loved, and he left the trees behind for baseball because he was loved and happier this way. He learned, he read the books and learned about the nickel-curves and the myth-men that old timers talked about, and read more until he knew everything about baseball ever written. He sent off a letter one day, to the City, and asked to be an umpire because his skinny legs weren't fast enough to run bases, and they sent him a letter back. It was long and detailed, but at the end, it said they would be happy for him to come and work weekends, in big letters at the bottom, was the Western commissioner's name! Oh God, oh God, he cried and the brothers, because that's what they were by now, brothers, the brothers cried and Calvin, the younger one, he stopped crying long enough to get an idea and go upstairs and he handed Robbie the keys to his old car. It was ugly and broken, but it would get him to the City, where he could call the games.

He packed his bags and took that old baseball and some cards, and some food they picked up for the drive and headed down the road trying not to look at the trees. They were angry today, like every day since he ran off with a ball instead of playing with him and he was scared to listen anymore but they were determined. They were screaming, the trees, and begging to be heard, ripping themselves out by the roots and tossing themselves into the road, spinning and dropping and pouring down the mountainside, a hundred angry begging trees and he listened! For the first time in years, he heard their cry! WANDER- they screamed to him-


Robbie left, and never heard the rest of the speech, though he knew it was beautiful and good, he also knew it would have broken his heart. The tears of a tree are a heavy burden and not everybody has the stomach, but Robbie kept driving, out toward the coast, where there were no more tall trees, only little ones, harnesses by steel grates, and tall buildings, soulless and unable to scream, and baseball games. They had more than he ever imagined, and he called more strikes and balls than he figured had ever been thrown, even in all the country leagues and softball tournaments in the whole world, but for all the pitches and fist-pumping strikeouts, he never went back, not to the trees, not to the tree-lined boulevards of the midwest, not until tonight.

Tonight he was in Minneapolis, watching his father's favorite baseball team and he had tooth marked permanently stuck in his bottom lip from nerves. He couldn't have turned it down, nobody turns down the World Series, and not for their poor dead fathers and a bunch of heartbroke trees. Things were different now, now in the 90's, and the only thing the people cared about less than the first base umpire was his father and his trees, so he was going to do some justice tonight. He was going to be on the side of the little man, the passionate broken-headed bawler against the slick southern mustache, here a team with Spirit of the Trees was about to win. And he was going to do his part.

1 comment:

The Grza said...

Try, try again.