Out back there’s a tree. It’s the tallest tree in Snohomish County. Its branches are great and wild and they cover the sky.
Sid comes there after his children die. He sits beneath the tree.
“Do their souls go up into the sky?” he asks.
There’s nothing there, is the tree’s reply. It’s not in words. But Sid can hear.
He looks up. “Surely, ” he says, “there must be stars.”
Stars, and rocks, but yet no heavens.
Sid adjusts himself in his seat. He pulls a sharp stone out from under him, blue and white, and tosses it aside.
“Why not?” he asks.
People used to come here, says the tree. They climbed me to the heavens. They went up into the sky.
And one day, a man ran to me, ragged and bruised. He’d been beaten. He was limping as he ran. And he climbed up, up, up the tree. And the people who hated him came after. They saw him rising towards the sky. They were angry. They shouted. They threw stones. And then they too began to climb.
“Did he make it?” Sid asks.
He reached the top, and he saw that they would catch him. So he started hitting the sky where it touched me. He wanted to break it so that they couldn’t follow him. But the sky is very fragile, you know, and the whole thing just shattered.
“Oh,” says Sid.
So there’s nowhere for your children to go, says the tree. Just the endless hungry void. I’m sorry.
“No,” Sid says. “It’s okay.”
And he sits there for a while. Then he goes and he walks around in the field. After a while, he finds a stone. It’s blue, and sharp, and veined in white. He climbs, holding it delicately in his hand. He puts it up at the top of the tree’s branches. Then he climbs back down and goes looking for the next.
There’s still no sky, except a little bit of blue, right above Snohomish County. But Sid’s just one man, and a tree takes a while to climb, and there’s an awful lot of sky.
He’s probably just not done.
It might be too late for Sid’s children. It’s hard to know. Or maybe there’s just enough room for them up there, like it is now, so he stopped. People give up sometimes. It happens.
But he’s probably just not done.