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Defying Gravity

The tree had been split by an ill-directed lightning bolt, and its trunk still bore the scar, once juicy with sap. Down the mar, now dry and crusted with time, twin boughs stretched and grasped a stronghold on the sky. One limb grew straight and pointed toward the sun while the other curved and twisted in a senseless way.

The straight bough was stout and had many limbs of its own. The wind incessantly shook the curved bough, and few twigs managed to survive the tumultuous condition. In the moonlight, the tip of the strong bough glistened like a white crown where a hungry porcupine had taken repast. Looking like an incinerated skeleton, the curve of the twisted branch jutted out against the midnight sky with its bark black and the twigs too brittle to hold even the slightest weight.

It was my eighth summer when my brother decided to climb that divided tree. His eager eyes could not resist the shiny white tip shrouded in green needles. Confidently, he climbed and stretched until he had throned himself amid those ivory and emerald walls.

Day after day, he ascended to the top of his secure world, proclaiming he was indeed king of the tree. From the ground where I stood, the lower twisted branches hid the healthier limbs from view, creating the illusion that in this magical realm, a ruler could stand on air. Impressed with his unnatural feat, I decided to climb the tree.

The strong boughs far from reach, I grasped the curved branch and pulled myself up. Continuing to climb, I fixed my eyes on the beckoning throne above. Halfway up, the branch suddenly changed direction and sprang out horizontally. From where I clung, I could vaguely see the kingdom now closer than ever before. I balanced as best I could on the warped wood and released the feeble branches in an attempt to reach glorious heights.

Our mother never let us climb that split tree again. My brother never forgave me for ruining his summer of fun. It never mattered to me, though.

Recalling no snap of a brittle limb or the violent plummet into the rocks below, that summer’s clearest memory depicted the ashen face of his majesty, witnessing the jester’s headfirst dive from the depths below his sanctuary.

For being in such a prestigious position, his high-bred life did not isolate him from the precarious side of mine.

- Mary O. Fumento, 1987

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