The Tree

Posted on December 20, 2014 by Brian Jaress
Tags: story, japan

I helped out a bit when Katie taught English night classes for adults in Japan. This was my contribution to the “memory book” that was her goodbye gift to the students. It had a page or two of English writing from each student, as well as from Katie and myself:

On Sunday morning, the brother and sister discovered the tree. The tree was floating in the stairwell, with its roots just above the steps near the first floor and its top leaves just below the ceiling of the second floor. There was a small landing halfway between the floors, so the stairs doubled back and passed close to the branches near the top.

“That’s so cool!” said the sister. “How did it get there?”

“It’s magic!” said the brother, who was younger.

The mother and father heard all that shouting and came out, still holding their toothbrushes.

“What’s going on out here?” asked the father.

“It’s a tree! Look!” said the sister and brother.

“So it is,” said the mother, “but stop shouting about it. Let’s go down and have breakfast.”

The family had to squeeze carefully past the tree to go downstairs. The brother tried to grab one of the branches as he walked past, but the mother scolded him.

After breakfast, the sister and brother went to watch television while the mother and father discussed the tree.

“It’s dangerous,” said the mother. “The children might climb on it and fall. We could trip on the roots. And what if it grows bigger? There’s no room for it.”

“It seems a shame to get rid of it,” said the father. “I’ve never seen a floating tree before. But you’re right, it is dangerous.”

“We can’t keep it,” said the mother. “I don’t feel safe with it around.”

The father thought for a while and said, “my friend Jimmy has tools for cutting down trees, and he knows how to use them. Maybe he can help.”

Jimmy came over right away. He looked the tree over and said, “I didn’t believe it when you told me you had a floating tree. I’ve only worked on trees that grow out of the ground, but I’ll give this one a try.”

Jimmy tied the top of the tree to the banister near the second floor to keep it from falling. Then, he took a hatchet and cut a wedge out of one side of the tree and began sawing into the opposite side with a big metal saw.

The brother and sister came over to watch.

“Stay back,” said the mother.

“Listen to your mother,” said the father.

Jimmy finished cutting through the tree. The father helped Jimmy lift the tree outside through the window, then Jimmy sawed the trunk into sections and the father helped him load those sections into Jimmy’s truck. All that was left was the stump, still floating above the bottom stairs.

“This is where it gets a little different from what I’m used to,” Jimmy said. “Normally, I’d dig up the stump. But there’s no ground to dig it out of. I’ll tie a rope around it and try pulling it up, but I might need your help.”

So, Jimmy tied a rope around the stump. Jimmy, the father, and the mother all began to pull.

“Pull harder!” said the sister.

“Pull! Pull!” said the brother.

“Be quiet,” said the father.

The three adults pulled as hard as they could, bracing their feet and using their weight. At first, nothing happened. Then the stump began to shift slightly. There was a sucking, tearing sound as it moved. Slowly, it tilted and turned and slid. Then with a sudden, loud pop it jumped in the air and flopped to the floor at the foot of the stairs.

Jimmy and the father carried the stump out to Jimmy’s truck, while the rest of the family followed.

“Thank you so much,” said the mother.

“How much do we owe you?” asked the father.

“No charge,” said Jimmy. “I’m going to use the wood to make something, so I don’t need money.”

“Will you make a castle?” asked the sister.

“Will you make a rocket ship?” asked the brother.

“I’ll probably make a cabinet,” said Jimmy.

Everyone said goodbye, and Jimmy drove home. Back inside, the mother and father talked in the kitchen while the brother and sister pretended to be emperors in the living room.

“I hope he makes a nice cabinet,” said the mother. “I feel bad about getting rid of the tree. It seems like such a waste, and I know the children liked it.”

The father hugged her. “It does seem a shame to pass up a floating tree,” he said, “but you were right that it was dangerous.”

“I know. I just wish we had been able to keep it.”