JOY WRITERS WRITING WORKSHOP, EXERCISE ONE

Crafting a Short, Short Story from Collected Evidence Based on a Memory of a Location

B.A.Coots Aug 6, 2013

Cottonwood

Hal used two, three-penny nails on each one-by-four, tacking them to the tree trunk in a way only he could call laddered.
Even then, the tree was ginormous. Porcha flung her arms wide and tried to embrace it. Toothy bark cut into the soft flesh of her underarms which didn’t curve in the slightest for the breadth of the massive cottonwood.
“Big,” she mouthed.
Porcha stood in front of the boards. Well, she stood in front of one and one-half boards, fingering the second rung. The first and third steps floated on the bark like an inch or two of water sandwiched between tire and road. She hated to mistrust Hal’s workmanship, but this is my neck not Hal’s, she thought, then drew her left leg to her chest and clamped her toes around the second board.
It wobbled.
What now, she wondered. “Hal this one’s lose.”
“Can’t be, it’s got two nails instead of one.” Hal peeked around leaves and stems, high in the tree.
“Maybe so, but the two nails are looking more like one big one.”
“My guess is, they grew together over the summer.” Hal swung from his perch, using the deep wells of bark as foot holds to shimmy closer. “Come on up already. You’re half way here.”
Porcha reached for a hand-hold, but the bark didn’t grow side-ways. She grasped the splintered third rail, gave a one-footed hop, then hauled herself into the tree’s ‘V’.
Hal offered a hand, but it was more trouble than use, and she scooted, belly first into a nest of crackling leaves, cottony seeds and spider-webs buried in the tree’s trident. She felt like she’d only managed the red tip of a bomb pop, her white and blue parts still hanging in thin air.
“Almost up. Come on, now.”
Hal’s encouragement irritated Porcha. Just cause he’s already in the tree, Mr. Monkey Man. I’ll show him. Inhaling, she turned out her right leg and bent it to the third splintered step, then pushed hard. She felt the wood’s last tiny sigh as her weight forced it from the loose bark and into the grass below.
“Beached in the tree of a tree, belly-down. You high-centered, Por.” Hal scaled a second limb, straddled it, then untied a knot from a rope he’d thrown over the lowest part of the bough.
At Hal’s gleeful chorus, Porcha wondered if the incident hadn’t been planned for her misery and Hal’s delight. She exhaled. Something tickled her belly. “Ah… Hal… Help.”
Hal dropped the rope and turned. “What Por?”
“I’m stuck and something’s crawling on me. Get it off. Get it off’a me.” Porcha rolled to her side and swatted wildly at her belly.
“Calm down. Whatever’s done is over.” Hal rocked forward and swung his feet behind him. He hopped to a kneeling position, then turned and scrambled towards his flailing sister.
Porcha wailed, “no. No. No.” She pushed herself from the tree’s wilderness of a bowl and dropped.
“Oh Por, don’t…” Hal skirted the ‘V’ and eased to a limb joint, the bough long gone. His foot found purchase in the lower lip of the limb’s scar. He perched there for a moment, then flung himself from the tree, landing on all fours.
Porcha rolled in the grass, its cool blades caressing her abrasions, while tears tracked her dirty cheeks.
“Woah, that was some jump, Sis.” Hal cat-walked towards Porcha.
“How’s you get down so fast?” Porcha wiped her nose on her forearm.
Hal grinned. “The back’s easy. We only put the boards up for you and Clarence. Hey, could you not tell Mom about this? She’ll make us stop building our fort.”
“You’d owe me.” Porcha squatted, then tried to stand, only her foot didn’t work. She looked down and saw the bone under her skin sticking-out at an odd angle.
The next thing Porcha remembered was waking in her parents’ bed, her leg casted to her thigh and Hal standing watch at the door.
She’d never seen his face so troubled, but it brightened when she asked, “hey Hal, you okay?”
Hal sighed, his mischievous smile returning. “I guess we didn’t really want a tree fort anyway.”