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because of the trees

On summer afternoons Mama would squat in the garden pulling up weeds and I would fly. It started with a jump, then I’d flutter my arms. Once I was in the air I didn’t need to flutter or flap; the air would support me and I could glide with my arms outstretched and still. Then I’d be whooshing through the house, tilting around the glass coffee table, careful not to knock over the display! …oops. 

No one ever saw me fly – when I tried to demonstrate, my start would falter – and at some point I stopped, I don’t remember when. Maybe it was something to do with the trees; I always knew there was magic in them. They were old trees, huge ones that looked like maples but weren’t. Two of them stood regally in every front lawn, just before the sidewalk, and because the houses on the block all faced each other, we got two rows of trees. Each tree’s branches mingled with the next so that pairs formed arches and all of them together a canopy over the road, making a green tunnel. I played among the shifting shadows of leaves on the pebble-crusted concrete driveway, four slabs between which strong little shoots grew, and I felt chosen. 

One day during a storm, a neighbor’s tree broke in the thick of its trunk and crashed on their lawn. People shuffled out of doors, gathered around the body and grumbled about how it could have crushed the house or fell on someone, and these old trees were big and dangerous and they needed to go before somebody got hurt. They disposed of strewn, lichen-covered branches and cut the wood into logs. 

Trees disappeared from the end of the block; then, just across the street. Two by two, they popped out of existence everywhere. Empty soil mounds were leveled and seeded with grass. I begged my parents not to do the same. They held out long enough for ours to be the last house with trees standing, at which point they said that people would make them take them down if they didn’t decide do it themselves, like how you can’t paint your house purple when everyone else’s are eggshell, and because they didn’t like when fallen leaves got soggy and moldy in the rain. I stayed inside when it happened. 

The real maple trees planted in their place grew slowly, stayed small, and won us lots of compliments on their sunset-colored bark. I fly only and rarely in my dreams, and when I walk in the park I hardly notice the trees.

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