This story was written on 11/13/13 when I was having severe difficulties. I am rather proud of it so I am posting it for you to enjoy, dear readers. May you read it in a better state of health than it was written.
by E.A. Schneider
It wasn’t a proper treehouse. Nothing like a kit from a catalog. If anything, Beth thought it was a deer stand that somebody built for bow season then abandoned. The treehouse had the weatherbeaten look of something old, neglected, but too sturdy to quietly collapse into oblivion. Beth had found it on one of her rambles when her parents had just bought the land. Since they moved in Beth came out to the treehouse more and more. Beth had always wanted a proper secret and a treehouse of her own. Now she had both. Her parents approved of nature and encouraged self-reliance so Beth wasn’t missed on her nature hikes. Beth smiled to think of her secret treehouse. Her mother would fret over the height of the tree and her father would be anxious of the wood’s integrity. Valid fears, true, but at 12 Beth was thrilled to be rebellious and secretive in so modest a way as a 4×8 built treehouse on a sturdy white pine. Every day she went Beth noticed new things. One day it was the shape of an oak tree silhouetted against the vault of blue sky like a perfect silhouette people stick on their walls to seem natural.
Another day it was the electric orange of a delicate slime mold decorating the edge of the log Beth balanced on to climb the rungs up. The mold was like delicate little beads of paint brightening a rough canvas.
Every day Beth went she discovered the rich smell of forest pine. Part of her felt when she went home that it couldn’t possibly smell as good as she thought and every day she discovered with a smile that it could and it did. Beth perched up there in a blanket reading Choose Your Own Adventure novels, slurping cocoa from a thermos, turning the yellowed pages.
Other days she brought her mother’s old camera, the one with the chipped casing and the sticky shutter, to take pictures. There was a crow nest two trees over that Beth caught on camera. She watched the babies grow from ugly bald hatchlings to fluffy black balls with gaping mouths and bright eyes through the viewfinder and a zoom lens.
Unbeknownst to Beth, they were watching her back. The whole time she watched them through the camera they wondered about the featherless creature that had strange objects and sat in a pine tree two trees over from them. Where was her mother? Where were her father and siblings? Why did she never beg for food? Why was she alone? Beth was a source of mystery for those crow chicks. To a one they vowed to fly over to her nest as soon as they could, the way teenagers drive that one road in their town when they get the car just to see where it goes.
Beth read about crows. She liked them. They were clever and social and mysterious. Apparently they also liked peanuts. She dreamed of getting a picture, a really good picture, of a crow flying. She wanted to see those inky wings silhouetted against the sky. Slowly, after weeks of peanuts spread on the railings and floorboards of the treehouse sitting patiently beside them with her camera, two things happened. Three crows fledged, leaving the nest on wing beats of optimistic necessity, heading toward the funny creature’s nest and Beth hit the shutter in time to catch their wing beats on the blue canvas of the sky.
It felt like magic and really, as Beth and her parents looked at the prints, they rather thought it was. –600 words.