Our home, a brown two story affair with a large deck and a river rock chimney, stands just within the treeline. There are a few Douglas firs circling the place, but most are knobby and twisted apple trees, part of an orchard the previous landowner planted and then abandoned.
In the springtime, the trees are glorious. Soft moss clambers up their trunks and a profusion of blossoms flare out from the branches. Yellow pollen cascades through the air and coats the rocks and deer paths through the underbrush. Everything is yellow—except my dad’s eyes, which are red. He sneezes violently. “This hay fever is killing me.” I look around, confused, because I don’t see any hay.
The trees are lovely in the summer and fall too. I climb into the crook of an apple tree where the leaves shimmer around me and I smell dust, resin, and the sweet and spicy perfume of apples—tantalizing until I remember the small green fruit are full of worms.
I read books while I’m in the apple tree: Black Beauty, Treasure Island, and Robinson Crusoe. I dream of adventure, when I’ll be able to leave this lovely but boring place and do something exciting. I’m not sure what yet, but it’s going to be great.
Below me, a black bear lumbers by. Most likely, he was looking for the trash bins, but my father locked them up in the garage, tired of the mess he left behind. He grumbled, “With all this litter, we might as well live in Seattle.” I perked up. I love the city. I want to see the busy people doing important work, the stores full of glittering things and the restaurants with white table cloths.
“Traffic’s better here,” dad said, dashing my hopes.
My brother, Will—not William or Billy, just Will, dashes out onto the deck and hollers at me. “It’s time for dinner! Mom made chicken and dumplings.”
I can hear her voice, but am not sure what she’s saying.
Will says, “Sorry, it’s chicken FRICASSEE.”
“Is the bear gone?” I ask.
Good enough for me. I climb down from the tree, run up the sledding hill, dodge a half a dozen gopher holes like a soldier in basic training, jump over the log we use a pirate ship and dash through the back door where I can smell the savory scent of dinner wafting down the hallway. Adventure can wait. I’m hungry.