It became a ritual; tradition. Every summer when school finally released us back into the wild, we would spend the majority of our days high above the rest of the world, looking down upon the peasants of Collier County from our tree house in the sky. And today was no different.

I finished eating breakfast with my parents and practically flew out the back letting the screen door slam behind me. I could faintly hear my mother’s warnings about slamming doors come from inside but I couldn’t possibly concern myself with that right now as there was work to be done. Cady would usually come over around 3:00pm to hang out in the tree house and I wanted to get there early to make sure it was ready. Cady was my friend from school; my best friend. Honestly, probably my only friend from school. We met in the first grade and had made friends almost immediately. We were inseparable. We were partners for every project in school, worked on our homework together and when school let out we would spend most of our summers together as well.

I laboured up the ladder with the backpack I had prefilled with supplies the night before. The ladder was surprisingly sturdy after having stood for so many years, enduring hundreds of excited stomps. At the age of eight, I wasn’t an expert on wood, but I reckoned this must have been from a pretty impressive tree.

My father had built this tree house five, maybe six, years ago. I was too young to remember exactly when. It was built for my older brother and his friends to play in originally. But for one reason or another, they decided they had better things to play with and it fell into my hands. I liked to think they all just got too fat for the place and if they came up here again the whole thing might come crashing down. Father told me not to make jokes like that.

I crawled up the final rungs of the ladder and hoisted myself up onto the floor with the base of my palms. I stood up and dusted myself off and took a look around the room. The room was practically empty, except for a straw broom in the corner and the old wooden table and bench seats that remained in here year round on account of nobody wanting to lug them up and down the ladder. The early afternoon sun was directly above, but in a few hours the light would shine through the windows and create sunbeams that stretched all the way across the tree house floor. As the hours went by and the sun began to set, the beams of light would shine brighter and more annoyingly through the window and into our eyes. We didn’t need clocks to let us know when to come down, we were made painfully aware that our day was over by the blindness provided by that evening sun. Cady would always claim the corner seat for herself because it was the last spot in the room to get blasted by sun lasers.

I set the bag I had brought down next to the table and grabbed the broom. There were bits and leaves strewn about the place from the chaotic weather of spring in our county. It was hot already and after a few strokes of the broom a few beads of sweat began running down my brow. I swept the debris straight out the door and watched as the leaves fluttered to the bottom, each at their own pace. I watched them until I began to feel uneasy, as if I may leap out the entrance to join them on their fall, so I backed up and collected myself. After completing the floor (as much as a tree house floor could be swept) I moved on to the benches and the table. I stood atop the table sweeping and sweeping, doing my best to clear it of dust for bear wars.

Bear wars was a game Cady and I had invented right here in this very room. Each person would get a package of gummy bears and sit on opposite ends of the table with a wooden block set up in the centre of the table between them. We would play rock paper scissors and the loser would choose a bear of any colour to put on the block. The other person would try to dethrone this bear from his wooden throne by tossing a bear of his own at the false king. If successful, the new king would take his place upon the throne and the fallen would be eaten by the thrower. If they missed, the thrown bear would fall to his death and be promptly eaten by the other player. This would continue until all bears were eaten and the victor would be the one who had eaten the most bears. The reward was typically bragging rights and a bigger stomach ache. Bear wars was the closest Cady and I had ever come to ending our friendship, it was a very serious game.

Sweeping completed, I placed the broom back in the corner where it lived and walked back over to the table. I grabbed the bag I had brought, unzipped it, turned it over and dumped its contents onto the table. Just the essentials I thought as I siphoned through them. I tossed a bag of gummy bears to each side of the table and placed the block in the centre, as was tradition. I had remembered the bottle of peach juice as well but one of the tin mugs was missing. Knowing I couldn’t have possibly forgotten anything so important I looked around the table with mild annoyance. Propping myself up onto one of the benches, I hung my head upside down to look under the table. Sure enough, it must have rolled down here during the initial spillage. As I reached for the mug I looked up at a carving in the bottom of the table.

“Eddie Sux”

Well that simply wasn’t true, I thought. But that wasn’t the only etching. They were all over the underside of the table we had sat at so often. Most were similar to the first one, somebody sucking, being dumb, and a variety of other hurtful words we had learned together over the years. One less hateful etching read;



I’d never admitted it, but that one was my favourite.

I grabbed the cup and returned to the right side up perspective of life, placing it to the side.

The remaining items to be set up were a small basketball net that hung on the wall (ball included) and a massive 500 page colouring book complete with the large box of coloured pencils. I had gotten the book and the pencils for Cady for her birthday last year, (well, my parents had gotten them but it was my idea). I told her that these would come in handy when I annoyed her too much and if she had her nose in this book I promised not to bother her. She had (also her parents) gotten me the basketball net a few weeks later on my birthday for the same reason.

I walked over and set the net up on the wall, took a few steps back and set up for the shot.

Big miss.

After taking three more shots and missing worse and worse each time, I decided I was tired of chasing the ball around on the floor and kicked it into a corner. I walked back to the table and picked up the art supplies. Placing the pencil case next to Cady’s bench, I laid face down on it and started flipping through the pages. The book was filled with cartoon princesses, fantasy landscapes, and little forest creatures. Cady had done a wonderful job, at least by my standards, of bringing them all to life. She had a technique of colouring harder near the lines and shading in the centers that she had developed more and more as I flipped through. I didn’t know much about art but I was happy to have provided the tools for someone who clearly understood it and might actually have a gift for it.

I turned the page, reaching the point Cady had left off and stopped. A smiling princess with a beautiful dress, mid twirl in a ballroom of sorts, sat waiting flat on the page for the artist to bring her to life. A tear fell onto the page, landing on the girl’s dress, then another, and another. I closed the book up not wanting to ruin her dress any further. I sat up clutching the book to my chest. Through watery eyes, I looked out the window of the tree house. Judging from the sun, it was about 3:00pm, the time when Cady would come over.

It just wouldn’t be the same without her.

July 17, 2020 00:47

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RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

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