Glare In The Black Maple

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Escaping to a quiet place, Rob lies thinking under a sprawling Black Maple tree.The presence of a mysterious stranger is the last thing he expected out here.

Submitted: August 06, 2015

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Submitted: August 06, 2015



The afternoon sunlight is glimmering through the pointed leaves of the Black Maple.

The shifting beams glaring into the soft focus of my squinting eyes. The swift movement of the wind is swaying the illuminated leaves and their eclipsing branches, letting the light and dark shapes morph like one would see in a kaleidoscope. It is the first of October, and the trees are starting to turn a reddish yellow tint. There's a chill in the air, but lying on my back in the grass, beneath this behemoth of a tree, I want to be nowhere else.

I am in the east corner of my grandpa's property. A good walk away from his orchards, out near the little used access road that's just down this forested hill.

It's the very same property he's had since before my father was born. The same land at the turn of the nineteenth century that was still in Native American hands and teeming with big game wildlife. The US government acquired it through treaties and land grabs long ago, and Lord knows, it was likely under duress that the Miami Nation agreed to give it up, surely they had major protest surrendering such a beautiful area.

My ancestors bought the land in turn and now, I think it would be hypocritical to empathize too much with the natives plight because here I am the eventual owner of the land if it continues to be handed down.

I'm alone out here now but not really. I can hear the bustling hum of interstate 75 in the distance, and I don't mind. Its like a natural sound out here just as are the redhead woodpecker, robins and cardinals- the crickets and cicadas, and that streaking furry flash that bounds past me in the periphery of my vision.

It is my refuge.

I feel I need it more and more as life has been stressful lately and I'm struggling to keep it all together at both my home and work.

It's the calming effect I feel here that brings my sanity back to normal levels, its non-judgmental therapy, and oh how it jogs the memory of my many summers as a carefree kid. It's arguable if being 39 years of age qualifies as old, but it does seem I've lived a long time.

I've worked since I was twelve years old, between this apple farm and the mix of factories in Hartford, up until now with my Internet business, it just seems eons ,and no matter how old I get ,I guess I long for the simplest periods of my life. I'm not sure if its just me being lazy or if its something more. I think of the old programs I'd watch on our fuzzy color Magnavox console. School was out for the summer and I'd watch as much TV as possible before my mom would kick me out of the house saying " It's a beautiful day - I want you outside playing!"

Those shows gave me my character then, they taught me how to act around others - more so than even my parents, they gave me a sense of humor- so important is that amongst the harshness of adulthood. I quote lines from these shows even to this day. That connection seemingly will never be unplugged.

My train of thought is broken when I then hear someone approaching. I look up to see an attractive blonde woman walking to the tree. "Hi!" She says.

"Hello." I counter.

"Do you mind if I join you?" She says.

"Not at all, please do!" I am kind of shocked to see someone else out here, but if anyone- she'd be my pick.

"I'm happy to know its not just me who lays out under shade trees." She said with a slight giggle.

"Yeah - it's something I've been doing out here a long time...its beyond relaxing." I say looking into her pale blue eyes.

"Me too ,this one's my favorite." She said looking up at the maple. Scattered dots of diffused light flickered over her.

"Oh...I wonder why I've never seen you here before?"

"Well...I have seen you, I've just been too embarrassed to join you before now." She admitted.

Hmm about that.

I tell her "Well, I'm glad you joined me today." I smirked and she smiled as she lie down a few feet away.

"I'm Rob pleased to meet you." I extended my hand and she shook it lightly.

"I'm Julie, it's a pleasure." she turned her head and looked up through the branches to the filtered sun.

I caught myself staring at her - her lips from the side profile, have a perfect shape. Her lashes are long and she wore pink eye shadow, she is beautiful in a Midwest sort of way, that is, trying to look LA glamorous while also being the wholesome Indiana type girl.

Those eyes look so familiar to me. My mind is flipping though a catalog of recognition, but to no avail.

"Rob, tell me what you see when you look up there." She points to the tree's under canopy.

I thought for a minute and cleared my throat.

"I see ... scenes of my early years through a washed-out color. almost as it is when I look through our old photo albums. The faces of relatives and friends that sometimes calm me. figures smile down at me ,almost alive , but in a super 8 film kinda way. yeah...crazy, I know."

"Not crazy at all, that's awesome, you want to know what I see?" She asked.

"Tell me, Julie."

"I see an eternity, where things in this life have been and where they'll be in the future - It always surprises me what my little mind sees and makes of it" she giggled at the thought.

I smile at her as she turns her head to look at me.

 Wow- her face...I am sure she could make any man swoon. Through her eyes, Its as if I can peer into her soul ,like looking through a stained glass window into a sanctuary.

"I don't think like that too often, you know, of eternity and all that. It just makes me feel that we're so a single leaf amid miles of forest." When I say this she looks upset.

"Rob ,what would make you think we're insignificant?"

I pondered that question for a few seconds. "If I died now, I won't be remembered for anything, I'm anonymous..kinda like the Native Americans that used to be here, I wonder did their lives mean anything in the scope of time? Except for a handful of their leaders -what do we truly know about them?" I explain. "At times, I feel I'd pass away without even a stir of interest!", I say in disgust.

"But, who do we really live for , Rob? We live for ourselves and our loved ones. Not particularly the archives of time, is this not true? Must we be famous to be significant?

We know the Native Americans had mothers, wives, siblings and children whom really loved them-as do we, and although we have little idea what they were about…who are we to say that their lives were not significant? They were to someone."

I nodded and she continued.

"Wouldn't we be short sighted to think people like Edison or Henry Ford didn't have significant help along their way. There was that light that sparked their fuel for inventiveness.

That may never have happened without that one unknown soul along the line. That unknown soul is significant!!"

"Well -your right, I know but sometimes I feel that unknown soul is even more significant than I, at least there was something more to invent or some virtue to fight for back then ,I just don't feel I'll have that worth." I then feel foolish saying it, sounding like I only feel sorry for myself.

"Listen to me ,Rob - if you never become famous for anything, you still are so vital, and valuable, and loved rather you realize it or not. Things that you do and say stick with people and it inspires or  encourages them, you have to believe that" She continues "I mean look at me for instance ,why do you think I'm here?"

I turn to look at her but can't think of an answer.

"Think back to summer 1986, to the Pine Manor neighborhood in Hartford, when you were that cute young boy riding around on that silver Huffy, and I lived in that split level house on the corner."

God ,I knew I recognized her. I nodded.

She went on "Uh huh. and I was delighted that you helped me on that hot Saturday in July, remember that? The chain fell off of my ten speed bike, and you rode up behind me and said you could fix it -then I kissed you for helping me." She paused.

"Julie Corr !" I exclaimed.

"I knew you had a crush on me Rob, and I would have been your girlfriend too, had I not been so much older. But you were twelve and I was sixteen. it was only four years apart ,but it was the worst possible time for a gap like that. I was in high school and you were a sixth grader... I never forgot you Rob, I never will, and believe it or not, your why I love sandy blonde, brown eyed boys!" She said in her patient flow.

"How did you ever find me here?" I say perplexed.

"Look at me ,Rob" she stands up and continues." My clothes ,my hair, my's not 2013 - it's 1986"

I then have a terrible feeling inside, I had been so enchanted, that I had not noticed that about her.

Another chill.

I mutter "Julie...are you a ghost?"

She laughed "No Robbie, not in the way that your thinking-I am very much alive." Her smile widened.

"Why then...?"

"I came from there!" she put her hands together and with both index fingers pointed up into the tree. "I am in that spirit!" She added.

I'm feeling bewildered like I never have.

"I have to go now, I'll see you again sometime." With her winsome face, she strode down the hill.

I sat up and wanted to say something-but I don't know what. I smile instead.

"Bye, Robbie!" she shouted like I heard it decades ago.

Just like that, she was gone. I stood up, brushing the soil from my jeans and peered down the hill to the empty access road. The chill once again filled me thinking she fell from the tree like apples do in grandpa's orchard.

I tried to remember details of my brief time in that Hartford neighborhood, I do know that Julie caught me off guard when she kissed me ,and for that one summer ,I had bragged to all my pals that I had an older girlfriend, and no one questioned facts when we all rode bikes past her house one afternoon, as she was getting the mail. She gave me a huge smile, and winked. I thought my heart would give out, it felt so good.

I stood here struck, feeling both melancholic and proud.

"No-I won't ever forget!" I whispered.

I laid back down and stared into the tree and through the shifting branches and fluttering leaves bathed in four o'clock sunshine, they moved and contorted and through a soft focus I thought I saw an eternity.

© Copyright 2018 Rodney Hamilton. All rights reserved.

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