Laughing Trees

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My breath clouded in front of me in the frigid morning as I glanced up at the ancient oak tree. I’m six years old now; I can do this I thought to myself. My fingers twitched with anticipation. I grimaced, thinking of the toil that lay ahead of me. I lingered in front of the tree, mustering the courage and determination within me. Like a wild animal, I leaped at the tree and hauled myself up the first branch. I grinned, my new, six – year old arms feeling fresh and energized as I pulled myself up the tree.

“Mom!” I yelled,” I’m going outside to play!” Without waiting for a response, I ran to the garage and pulled on my sneakers. I charged out the door, simultaneously pulling on my jacket and feeling the fresh, cool breeze as I ran.

“Just don’t climb any trees!” my mother hollered. I dismissed the idea as ridiculous; I would never climb any trees… unless I was dared to.
“I won’t!” I yelled back. The tree appeared to me like my grandfather: tall, old, intimidating and stern – looking. The tree loomed over everything around it. I always felt so tiny and insignificant whenever I glanced at the tree. I ran to my friends, who were anxiously waiting in the shadows of the tree for me to arrive. As I got there, I realized that everyone had already started yelling their ideas of what game we could play. When someone suggested we play the “Dare game”, conversation stopped, and the first dare was given to someone. The dare was for me. I tensed, pondering what the dare would be. This reminded me of the time of the last time we played the Dare game. A boy was dared to do a flip (random, I know). When he tried it, he lost control of where he was jumping, flailing his arms, and landed on his right arm, hard. We were too busy laughing to realize that he had broken his arm. After remembering this, I wasn’t too excited to play the game.

“Climb the oak tree!” he demanded. We six year olds took dares very seriously. I was known as the natural daredevil, the one who did dangerous things. Climbing the tree was definitely dangerous. I hesitated, but I wanted to meet the challenge and be the king of the world from on top of the tree. I knew that my mother had warned me against climbing trees, but I wanted to prove to her that I was responsible and cautious enough to climb the tree safely. The sun smiled down at us though the cold permeated our jackets. I nodded once, and then turned to the tree.

I hooked my legs around the tree and pulled myself, pausing every few seconds to plan my next move. My initial strength had deteriorated, determination converting into fear. My arms were heavy and my legs burned. My fingers were tired from the strenuous effort. My joints cries out in pain and begged me to stop and relinquish my goal. The silence was deafening. My friends had initially been clamoring to get everyone to hear their idea, but now the forest was pin drop silent, the suspense building. I was panting like a shaggy dog in the summer. One false movement and I would plummet to the ground, severely injuring myself. The other sturdy, small trees were bathed in the golden light of the sun. They rustled softly as a breeze rolled by, carrying the scent of pine needles and freshly mowed grass. Thrill and the feeling of danger submerged me. I was drowning in my own emotions! As I looked up at the top of the tree, I saw that near the top, there was a dearth of branches to use as handholds. It would be difficult to climb up there. I felt even more afraid when I saw this, but I willed myself to keep going by imagining myself at the top of the tree, the king of the world, gazing downward at the little specks that were my friends. My arms and legs moved in a robotic motion, a cycle repeating itself. My mind was on autopilot. Arm, leg, arm, leg, my brain chanted.
Two minutes later, I realized I had picked the wrong path up the tree. I was in a position where I would fall if I tried to move up or down. Fear rose inside me, but I forced it down in a futile attempt to keep calm. I realized I would have to jump down and try to land in the bushes. Before I changed my mind, I gritted my teeth and leaped to the ground. As I fell, my eyes began to water, thinking of what I had done to myself. The wind blew past my face as the ground rushed up to meet me.

I landed on my back, my breath knocked out of me. I felt no pain, but my clothes were stained with blood and scratches and scrapes covered me all over. Stunned, I gazed up at the puffy, white clouds now taking on a pink hue due to the setting sun. I was more shocked than hurt. My head spun and I almost passed out, but I managed to control myself. The pain kicked in, leaving me disoriented and hurt. The pain intensified, until it was white – hot and blinding. My vision blurred and then refocused, like my body had had a power outage. My friends ran to me, and helped me get to my house. They rang the doorbell, and as my mother appeared in the doorway with a mix of a shocked look on her face and an "I- told – you – so” expression. I smiled and said, “Hi, Mom.”

The ancient oak tree shook in the wind as if it were laughing at me. I stared at it through the window, wishing I had listened to my mother. As the wind rose, the other trees gathered in laughter until it seemed like the entire forest was laughing at me. Turning away angrily, I promised myself that I would subvert that tree, conquer it. I would return and climb it as soon as my injuries healed. Immediately, my conscience shut the thoughts down. Who am I kidding? I thought to myself. I didn’t listen to my mother and look where it got me. I wouldn’t climb that tree in a million years.





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