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Mary Fumento | Professional
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
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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