Up a Tree
It was one of those happy, golden days. The temperature was perfect, neither too hot nor too cold. Autumn was Alison's favorite season, and here it was in all its glory - reds, golds, and rich rusty browns covered the hills and the valleys. City Park offered a feast of color. Alison had packed a lunch and her book bag full of papers to grade. What better place to work than a table at the park on a day like this?
She walked along the sidewalk, savoring the sound of crunching leaves under her brown boots. Now and then the gentle breeze sent more leaves raining down. She walked along, lost in thought, the pleasant little breeze rustling her golden curls.
Suddenly, the sound of a child crying interrupted her autumn wool-gathering. She stopped and listened, trying to figure out where the sound was coming from. It led her to a large cedar tree, green among all the reds and golds. It was one of those trees that is made for climbing.
She looked up and saw nothing but the cedar's green boughs. The crying continued. She walked around to the other side of the tree. She looked up again and saw the green boughs rustling in an unnatural way.
"Hello!" she called. "Who's up there?"
The crying stopped long enough for a frightened little voice to say, "It's me. Bonnie. And I'm so scared!" Then the heartbreaking sobs resumed.
"Why are you scared, Bonnie?" said Alison.
"Because I can't get down!" the little voice said between sniffs and sniffles.
"Of course, you can get down! You got up there by yourself, didn't you?"
"That's right," said a matter-of-fact masculine voice, "whatever goes up can certainly come down."
"But she's gone higher than she meant to," said Alison. "That's the problem."
"Oh, no!" wailed Bonnie, "I never meant to go this high!"
The owner of the masculine voice said, "Kids! There's no end to the trouble they'll get themselves in." He was tall and muscular and had a take-charge attitude.
"Now listen, darlin'," he said, "I want you to look down . . . "
"No, no!" screamed Bonnie, "I can't look down! I'll fall!"
"Oh, for pity's sake!" He had to act exasperated because he felt so helpless.
"I'm Alison, and you are . . .?" Introductions were in order, she thought.
"I'm Ryan, and I really don't have time for this; but the kid can't stay in the tree." He peered through the greenery, trying to locate the terrified Bonnie.
"Well, of course not," said Alison, trying to hide her annoyance. He reminded her of her own father who had very little patience.
"Alright, Bonnie," Ryan said, "Hold on to the branch you're on and step on the branch below."
The sobbing had stopped, but now it resumed with added vigor.
"Wait," said Alison, "You're rushing her!"
"Some women are so permissive," Ryan thought to himself, "I'll bet she stood here and watched while Bonnie climbed out of sight." But little did that matter now.
"Ok, sweetie," said Ryan, "I can see your feet. You're wearing your red tennis shoes, aren't you?"
"Yes," whimpered Bonnie.
"Do you know which foot is your right foot?" Ryan asked.
"This one," said Bonnie, as she patted her right leg.
"Good girl!" Ryan said with a reassuring grin, "Can you put your right foot down a little bit where those two branches come together and make a V?" He made a V with his fingers and hoped Bonnie could see them.
"Oh, I don't know," said the shaky little voice.
"Sure you can," said Alison, "Hold on tight, and put your foot in the V."
"I'd go up and get her," said Ryan quietly, to no one in particular, "but those small branches won't hold me. If she would just come down to the bigger branches . . . "
"That's it!" Ryan and Alison said in unison as they saw one small tennis shoe plant itself in the V between branches.
"Now," said Ryan, "leave your right hand where it is, and move your left hand to that branch right below."
"Hold on tight with your right hand," said Alison, trying not to sound frightened.
Soon Bonnie's left hand was firmly on the branch below her right hand.
"Ok, sweetheart, hold tight with both hands, and look at that other V below your right foot."
"Do you see the V he's talking about?" asked Alison.
"Yes, I see it," said Bonnie, sounding more confident.
"Put your left foot in that V and move your right hand down to the branch with your left hand," Ryan was proud of her. She had stopped crying and was doing her best. They watched as she made more progress, following Ryan's directions as Alison gave words of encouragement.
"That's it," said Ryan to Alison, "She's down low enough now. I'm going up to get her."
He climbed carefully, trying not to shake the tree too much. He didn't give a thought to his dress pants and white shirt.
At last he had Bonnie in his arms. He handed her carefully down to Alison who set a smiling Bonnie firmly on the ground.
"There you are, Bonnie!" a tall young woman shouted as she walked toward them. "Come along now, your father is waiting."
"I'm coming, Mama," Bonnie shouted back. When she was about half way to her mother, she stopped and turned. Her little freckled face lit up. She waved at Ryan and Alison, and they thought they heard her say "Thanks!" as her mother led her away.
Ryan looked at Alison in disbelief as he climbed down from the tree. "I thought she was yours!" he said.
"And I thought she was yours!" Alison replied, laughing, as she helped him brush tree bark from his pants.
"I still have time for a quick lunch," Ryan said as he looked at his watch. "I think you should join me."
"Yes," she said, "I think I will." They walked away, side by side, crunching leaves as they went. Her packed lunch would keep.