Updated: Feb 20, 2021
By, Wendiann Alfieri
We are assigned to climb into the tree house. Part of the ladder is holding on by barely a string and the whole class is in awe. The tree house of lore. Candee Havens is the first to climb, but only because no one else has the balls to do it. And when she puts her foot on the first moldy rope, Gander starts to cheer. It was an infectious cheer and once he started everyone else began to cheer and clap. When she reaches the top she turns around with her face blushing turning the color of violet. She enters, and people started calling for a reaction from her. But she doesn’t make a sound. We all look confused at each other as to who should go next. A few heads turned to Gander and he shrugs. I shifted my weight and a twig snapped that must have been beneath my feet. I suppose that was a cue for the class to turn around and urge me with their eyes that now I was destined to be next. I sigh and take another step forward, this time tripping on the slick leaves wet from the rain earlier. Mr. Meese helps me up and the eyes of my peers watched intently. I am grumbling as though I had taken a nap and someone woke me up from my peace. I step on the rope ladder. Someone tries to clap but I shoot them a look of annoyance. I wanted to be able to learn from this not be cheered on like I’m some sort of hero which I am not. I step up and up and up and I climb in to the ginormous tree house and as soon as I enter I hear a slam from the door behind me. “ Don’t think about trying to open it, it’s too heavy. I sure hope everyone has their keys to get inside though”, Candee says. I look at her curiously. “ Your here to study...what again?” “ I am here to study the mystery of locks and lock picking. That door is pretty advanced... for a damn treehouse. My brother studied old doors and locks and mostly making keys.I learned a lot from him. But I would rather pick a lock myself, a more fulfilling way to live” she said, not even taking a breath between her words. “ What are you here to study?” But I don’t have a chance to answer because in comes Mr. Meese.
He smiles at us, then pointed behind me and said to be careful. I look behind me. I see the desk. It’s an old brown desk, the wood splintering out on one side. The chair behind it is covered with ants, lots of em too. I turn to Mr. Meese. “Your kidding right? Who is gonna sit in that desk, there’s tons of nice ones in here,” I gesture to around this house amongst trees. “Your right, who is going to take the time to sit where there’s a hole in the floor too?” I look down. One of the chairs legs was stuck in a hole in the floor. I look around at the other ten desks, all nice and neat. I spin on my heels and march over to the desk closest to the door and sit down. Mr. Meese shakes his head and smirks. I hear someone opening the door to the treehouse, and in walks Gander. He looks at me and Candee sitting in the desks closest to the door and smiles at us. I roll my eyes, he is such an asshole. He always thinks he’s being kind, or that even his presence can solve the world’s problems. I wonder if we will be gifted with his presence when we all die in the zombie apocalypse he’s so fond of gabbering about. I put my head down on the desk. Why am I even here?
I remember when I was five, my mother would make pie once a month. Oh, she would make the craziest kinds of pie flavors. But how good it would taste depended on my behavior. The warm apple pie was my favorite. The light sugary taste of cinnamon mixed with a soft burst of apple, the crust accompanying it with a crunch was the best thing I’d ever tasted. One day, my brother was running around the steps in our house, all brand new and shiny. It was our first day in the new house and mom promised me she’d make us a pie. But I was in a bad mood. My brother stepped on my feet by accident, but the sharp pain was enough to get me in a rage, as much rage as a five year old can get into I guess. I saw him running up the stairs one last time. That’s when I saw it, his favorite toy car. I took it and put it right into my pockets. He babbled as he ran back down. I loved him, I did, but he never ceased to be annoying. So when he couldn’t find the little red truck, he asked me to help him look for it, tears in his eyes. I felt very guilty, but I couldn’t give him it back, then he’d be mad at me. I was going to hide it somewhere, while he wasn’t looking. But he was always looking, right at me, holding my hand the entire time we walked around, looking for his toy truck. Finally, my mother yelled for dinner. We went downstairs and soon we were eating pizza, my favorite. I picked all the pepperoni off and ate it separately, but that didn’t make me feel any better. Everyone was acting like everything was perfect now when I wasn’t. I wasn’t perfect. I did something wrong, and I had to fix it before mom found out. Finally, it was time for pie. Me and my brother were waiting. If there was anything that would make me feel better it would be my mom’s pie. But the pie she pulled out was green. It looked like green yogurt, and I looked at my mom. “Eat it, it’s key lime pie,” she said. My brother was loving it, he loved trying new things, while I on the other hand, didn’t. “Where’s the apple?” I asked. My mom looked down. “Where’s his truck?” She replied smoothly. I sat there. My brother didn’t notice. But now I knew. No matter what mistake you make, it always comes back to you.
Now everyone was in the treehouse, Mr. Meese tells everyone to sit down. But one girl in the back of the class is fighting with a freshman about sitting in the disgusting safety hazard seat. Mr. Meese interrupts them, with a voice so sharp the class fell silent. He says something I can’t understand, but whatever it is makes the junior and freshman stand in the back. “There are ten of you, ten seats. You each chose a subject, when asked, what would you like to study, if you could study anything? But you each and everyone, chose something the school had not offered. Therefore, you were put into this class. Where you will study a subject. But only one of you will get to sit in this lovely chair, considering we were originally only going to include nine in this class”. He smiled. He turns around to where he laid his keys on the desk. On the keys were little keychains and I recognized one right away. It’s what I used to play with Creamsicle the cat. He turned the laser pointer on with a click, and pointed it. I didn’t realize why everyone was looking at me, I was thinking of Creamsicle and how sweet he was to everyone but me, except with the laser pointer, oh he loves playing with that damn thing. Someone clapped their hands. And soon the whole class is clapping and cheering again. It doesn’t take long for me to realize I’ve got a little light pointed straight at me.
No matter what it is everything comes back to you, karma it’s called. Literally what my moms name was. My grandma insisted naming her Karma, so that no matter what her daughter would have no choice but to come back to her. In some way or another. My grandmother though, she wasn’t one to come back often throughout my moms life. I saw her once, I was five. She showed up when we had first moved to the new house. She hit the doorbell and I came running. I’d lost track of my brother, we were playing hide and seek and I told him no hiding outside. It wasn’t my brother at the door, it was someone else that had been hiding. A smell of something I couldn’t detect wafted in. I looked up at this woman, lines and stains across her arms, names, names everywhere. She smiled down at me, her teeth black.I looked up at her, my eyes wide. I looked at her, and I did what I usually did meeting new people. I hissed. Yeah I know its weird but I saw a cat do that to someone it didn’t know and it got people away pretty quickly then, so I hissed. The woman laughed a deep but throaty laugh, if you could even call it a laugh. She picked me up, and tried to hug me close. If I pretend I’m a cat maybe she won’t hurt my family she must be trying to steal us from new house! When I was face to face in her arms, I scratched her. I scratched and hissed, but she didn’t drop me till I bit her arm, on a letter I recognized was “S”. But I didn’t stop. A whirlwind was rushing in my head.I soon was dropped on the floor and I started screaming for my brother, screaming for my mother as I saw I had blood on me. I cried. I cried so hard and curled into a ball when my mom rushed in. She calmed me down, I had refused to even look at the doorway. We needed to help my family. We needed to. But my breathing slowed as my mom counted breaths with me. I heard my mom get up and turn. She looked at the woman with eyes I could only describe as longing. “Mom? Oh, mom, I…” Mom looked down at me and told me politely to go to my room. As I ran up the stairs, I heard Mom ask how much? I never really wondered why or cared. That woman never showed up again. Later that night, my mother came to my room to tuck me in. She said my brother was asleep in his room and not to worry. She told me something. I was only allowed to do that again if that woman came here, or if I was in danger. “Just hiss?” I asked. “No,” she started, “do everything. Only show that side of you if you need to. Everything will come back to you in the end, so put out what you have to in the world”. She leaned over and kissed me on the head. I spent the night crying.
When I woke up the next day, I found my mom asleep next to my bed. She was crying too.
I got up and frustration was building. “You want me to sit in that chair? Do you think I’ve got a death wish? Your fucking insane! I don’t even know what I’m going to study! What the -” I realize I just bursted. I could feel the class’s silence and eyes on me. Mr. Meese smiled. “Well since you don’t really know what to study, and you’ll have to be around that chair anyway, how ‘bout you study the chair?” Everyone starts to laugh, until he pulls out a folder from behind the desk. He walks over to me and hands me it. “Make of it what you will, but by the end of the year, have a full research project done. You can even do it on how that chair is equivalent to a death wish,” He smiles and then turns to the class. He reads a list he pulls out of his pocket after saying the other childrens destiny will unfold now.
“Candee! You’ll be studying the zombie apocalypse
Jones, you’ll be studying passageways, pick one from any book you’ve read and study it!
Emee, Your studying nursery rhymes and how hypnotizing they are.
Mich, you’ve got secret codes
Dimitar, enjoy studying the water cycle!
Ish, you’ve got jupiter
Vito, study merepeople
Okra, study origins of the names of everyone in the class!
Oh, Gander, you’ve got locks and keys.”
He takes a big breath. Everyone looks confused. “Creative writing people! You have to create research for your topics, make it seem real, believeable!” Gander pipes up. “We know that… but why did you pull out a big folder for uh…” He’s gesturing to me. “Oh her? Don’t worry. It’ll be fun!” The teacher chirps.
“So can I like, make up a st-”
“Nope! You have to actually study the chair” Mr. Meeses smirk grinds into me, all the pity glances directed toward me flash in my brain. “Ok, then that’s my assignment,” I say sharply, and I sit down on the ground. The class spends the rest of the day chatting with one another to get ideas for their projects, especially Gander and Candee, they both had topics the other wanted. Another thing gander is going to chat up about now. I sit there, and I pretend to read. My eyes are glowing, I feel the urge. The urge to let the inner animal inside me out. But I am older now. Hissing and scratching doesn’t do anything anymore. Now to play the game, the cuts have to be deeper. And sometimes sarcastically doing an unfair assignment makes a statement. At least, that’s the lies I’m telling myself before I hear the cracking of a floorboard.
I hear the crack of the floorboard like everyone else. I hear a snap and before I could fully get away, it gave in a little, and BOOM.. I jump up, everyone is looking towards me. I look across the room and Dimitar is standing there confused. “Oops guess it must’ve snapped, huh...oh what’s your na-” They don’t know my name. Ridiculous. “Hey, so like what IS your name?” Candee asks. I don’t give an answer, and turn my focus to the folder I was given by Mr. Meeses. Fuck it, I think, better be studying this damn chair. Because the others don’t seem to see what I see right now. The chair is still standing now, and it looks as though it was never stuck in the wood.
I crack open the folder and start reading quietly.