Friday, October 17, 2014

Allen's Treehouse*

When I was fifteen my bother had a saw fall on his head from 20 ft in the air. I don't remember if I actually saw this happen or not but there's a clear picture in my mind of what happened and I remember thinking he was dead or that surely he was doing to die. My brother is not dead. Though they did put several staples into a considerable gash that was smack dab in the middle of his hairline.

My brother has always been interested in beautifully doomed ideas (not that he'd ever call them that). During his teenage years he'd blather incessantly about plans for a perpetual motion engine. I loved him for that.

The saw dropped from a bucket of tools he was hoisting a up to the platform he'd rigged between the two douglas firs that loomed over my dad's garage. Allen had set up a complex system of ropes and pulley's in order to bring up the tools and the doors he'd salvaged from the clutches of condemned buildings.

Nothing brought more color to his face than encountering a sturdy old thing he'd found a new use for. (I look forward to growing old with my brother). He was going to build the entire treehouse out of the heavily beveled planks that sat in old frames and had, without humans, lost their vocation. It disappoints me deeply that my shame-prone, teenage-poet self never noticed how lovely of  project he'd embarked on (though I guess nobody starts out a good poet huh?)

Sometimes we, we being he, myself, and our little sister Ariel, would climb up there to play cards together or just to get away from our parents for a while. Nothing against our parents, but we lived in a small house. We were all post pubescent or in the full throes of it by that point. And kids over a certain age just feel some relief knowing there's a place in the world where adults the age of their parents can't get to.

This was not a tree house for children though. At nearly forty feet up the climb was physically strenuous and probably too dangerous even for us. You'd arrive at the top pretty winded and surprisingly grateful to have something solidly geometric and level for your body to rely on. It was never not scary for me. Though I think Allen was never afraid. Sometimes I think  he never is.

It was a paradise up there. Seriously. It only takes thirty feet of climbing to reach an altered state. And us being the super uncool straight edge kids were were (I think I was even afraid of drinking beer at the time) it was the most badass we got to feel. When school let out for summer we took our binders up and threw them all the way down.

But one day in August a strong gust of wind blew in, brusquely tossing half our playing cards onto the neighbor's roof. That malicious chunk of wind also knocked loose a door that had yet to be strapped to anything. It hit Ariel on the shoulder and head pretty hard, and she decided never to climb up there again.

I still went though. Still dreamed with my brother about how good it was going to look with all those unhinged things brought together against the wind and in spite of gravity and expired purposes.

But when he dropped that saw on himself, and was rushed to the hospital in need of metal teeth to hold together the new mouth he'd almost opened in his skull, our parents got scared. And we stopped trying to make lofty things out of old openings and rusty hinges.

The treehouse waited half finished and lonely for about a week. Then a bunch of raccoons braved the heights and started a family up there. The last time I climbed up (without my parent's permission) the whole place smelled like shit and animals.

Three years ago the city had my family cut those trees down. And now whenever I visit my childhood home there's too much sky. I have no idea what happened to the treehouse of old doors. I like to think it's ghostly opening still hangs up there, 20 feet above the mossy roof of my father's garage. But the wind probably blew that away too.

*as with all memoir, the exact details of this piece are subject to vast amounts of creative misremembering and some pretty shady guesswork.

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