Tuesday, April 18, 2017

31 - Tree of Want

Bartholomew went to see what all the noise was. Crows were cackling and cawing and making a terrible racket around the oak tree in his backyard. This particular tree was planted by Bartholomew’s great grandfather and was one hundred and fifty years old. There had been many stories over the years about this tree and the people who had lived with it. It is said that every member of Bartholomew’s family that lived in this house had seen many strange occurrences in this tree – sometimes even ghosts.

Bartholomew looked up into the tree to see what the crows were so scared of. There, on a branch about twenty feet off the ground was Oliver, Bartholomew’s cat.

“Oliver, you come down from there!’ cried Bartholomew.

Oliver peered down. His legs were shaking and his ears and tail were down.

“Oh, Oliver, are you stuck?”

Oliver let out a pleading meo-oooow.

Bartholomew grabbed onto a low stump of a branch and began to climb up the tree. The tree was easy to climb. Bartholomew had done it several times before as a kid. There are a few places where it is difficult to reach the next branch, but with a little effort one could climb almost to the top. Oliver quietly called out as Bartholomew got closer. As he came to the branch on which Oliver sat, Bartholomew realized that retrieving his cat might be more difficult than he expected. Oliver had chosen a branch hard to reach. Bartholomew wasn’t sure he could hold onto Oliver and climb back down at the same time.

“Oh, Oliver,” Bartholomew sighed as he surveyed the situation.

Oliver moved back and forth on the branch looking for an opportunity to jump onto Bartholomew’s head and get out of the tree. With his arms fully extended, Bartholomew pulled himself up onto the branch next to his cat.

“Welcome,” meowed Oliver. “Now get me outta here.”

“All right, just relax. I’ll figure out someway to get us down,” said Bartholomew.

He tucked his t-shirt into his pants and then picked up Oliver and tried to stuff him into his shirt through his collar. At first, Oliver resisted, but once his hind legs were in he got the idea. He tucked quietly in Bartholomew’s t-shirt with his head sticking out of the neck-hole underneath Bartholomew’s chin. Bartholomew was about to climb down when he heard the crows begin cackling and cawing again. He looked up into the tree. Another twenty feet above him, perched on a branch, was Henrietta, Claire’s chicken. Bartholomew had no time to wonder before Oliver said, “She’s stuck, too.”

“Oh, Henrietta,” sighed Bartholomew as he noticed her one wing hanging limp.

Bartholomew climbed down, let Oliver out of his shirt and ran to the garage to get a large burlap sack and some rope. He began to climb again. Henrietta was clucking nervously as Bartholomew came closer.

“I’m going to die. It’s all going to end,” said Henrietta.

Bartholomew straddled the branch on which Henrietta perched. She wanted to run away, but had nowhere to go. Bartholomew gently picked her up and examined her wing. It did not seem to be broken. Bartholomew hoped that it was just dislocated. He carefully placed Henrietta in the bag and tied the top closed with one end of the rope. The other end of the rope he tied to his belt. Bartholomew was about to climb down when he heard the crows begin cackling and cawing again. He looked up into the tree. Another twenty feet above him, lying on a branch, was Hump-Pug. Bartholomew had no time to wonder before Henrietta said, “She’s stuck, too.”

“Oh, Hump-Pug,” sighed Bartholomew.

Bartholomew climbed down and let Henrietta out of the sack. It seemed that her wing had popped back into place and she was now fine. She flapped and stomped on the ground yelling, “I survived, I survived! The end is still near!”

Bartholomew looked back up at Hump-Pug. If he put Hump-Pug into the sack and tied it to his belt, he thought his pants would probably fall down. She was just too heavy for the sack. How was he going to get her down? Bartholomew rubbed his chin as he thought. Then he ran into the house and came out with a backpack. “This should do it.”

Bartholomew began to climb again and was feeling very tired as he reached Hump-Pug. He had done a lot of climbing this afternoon. He rested for a moment on the branch next to the little dog.

“Hi, Hump-Pug,” said Bartholomew.

Hump-Pug did not answer. She lay down on the branch terrified. She knew that she could easily fall. She did not have claws like a cat. She did not have wings like a chicken. All she could do to prevent herself from falling was to lie as still as possible and let someone else help her down.

Bartholomew, after catching his breath, carefully picked up Hump-Pug and squeezed her into the backpack. Her head, with her ears down and her eyes large and terror-filled, stuck out of the top. Bartholomew thought she looked cute. He swung the bag around onto his back. Then, the shifting of the weight to his back was more than he expected and he lost his balance. He grabbed onto the branch with both hands and crossed his legs to stop from falling. Slowly, he pivoted and was hanging upside down from the branch. Hump-Pug wriggled in the bag.

“Stop! Don’t wriggle,” said Bartholomew as he tried to figure out what to do.

There was a branch below them. Perhaps Bartholomew could hold on with his hands while his feet could land on the branch below. But then he would have to balance on his feet with a wriggly Hump-Pug on his back. He did not like the odds of that being successful. He began to look around for another alternative when Hump-Pug wriggled again. Suddenly, Bartholomew heard the sound of a zipper. The dog’s weight was forcing the zipper to open. Falling from sixty feet would certainly kill Hump-Pug. Bartholomew’s brain flashed from one scenario to another, trying to think of a way out of this before his backpack gave way.


Hump-Pug fell. The dog’s squeal filled the air. Bartholomew let go of the branch with his legs. His body swung backwards, his fingers barely holding onto the branch above. As his legs came down and back he crooked them. His only hope was to catch Hump-Pug with his feet. He didn’t have time to consider what would happen if this didn’t work.

Hump-Pug, as she left the backpack, became so filled with terror she had no control over her body; she urinated, she yelped out a sound she’d never made before, her hair stood on end and she had an overwhelming desire to perform her most basic instinct. She saw a leg and she latched onto it. She latched onto it with the strength of ten dogs three times her size. She closed her eyes, held on with all four legs and prayed to a dog-god she had never thought about before. To lose this leg would be to lose everything.

After a few moments, Hump-Pug realized nothing was changing. She slowly opened her eyes. She and Bartholomew were standing on a branch. Bartholomew was holding onto the trunk of the tree and slowly squatting to sit. With much effort, he pulled Hump-Pug off his leg and put her back in the backpack. This time he stuck her head all the way in and zipped the bag all the way closed. He climbed down to the ground. Hump-Pug did not wriggle one bit.

Oliver and Henrietta were waiting. Bartholomew placed the pack on the ground and sat with his back against the tree. He took a deep breath, not believing what had happened and how lucky he was to catch the falling dog with his feet. He unzipped the pack and out popped Hump-Pug.

Hump-Pug immediately ran up Bartholomew’s chest and licked his face: once, twice…a hundred times. She was wriggling her stumpy tail so hard she kept knocking her hind legs out from under her. She ran in circles and barked for joy at Henrietta and Oliver who squawked and hissed at her before running away. 

Hump-Pug ran back up Bartholomew’s chest and continued to lick him endlessly. Bartholomew held her back as best he could while laughing at seeing the little dog so grateful.

“Hump-Pug, all right, all right!” Bartholomew said as she licked his left eyeball.

He held the dog in his lap, her dark face looking up at his. Seeing her lolling tongue, her upturned nose and large yellow eyes made Bartholomew pause. Something seemed familiar. He rubbed her head and behind her ears. Exhausted from the ordeal and the celebration afterward, the pug lay in his lap and fell asleep to the gentle scratching and rubbing of Bartholomew’s fingers.

As she slept curled in his lap, Bartholomew wondered aloud, “Hump-Pug is no name for you.” He rubbed her head some more. “I think I’ll call you Geraldine.”
Written by Mark Granlund
Illustrations by Mark Granlund

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