They never asked why I set the tree on fire. I tried to tell them, to explain, but they never understood. Mom and Dad drug me to all kind of doctors, and I spent months in therapy. I still have to take these stupid pills. And I’m in the middle of 24 months of civic service as punishment for setting that tree on fire. And no one ever asked why I did it. Not even the doctors. All they ever said was, “You set a tree on fire. That’s wrong. Here’s what we need to work on.”
But, see? It wasn’t like that at all.
There was a place on the ground, beneath that tree, where the grass never grew. Dad tried for years to grow anything there. He even planted that stuff that’s supposed to grow in the dark, without any water. Nothing. Nothing grew in that spot under that tree.
No one knew why, but me.
I used to sit on the back porch, and watch her on the swing. Yeah. I know. There was no swing. We never put one up. But she was there, on the swing which hung from the lower limb of that tree. She played there every day. Her name was Barbara. I know, ‘cause I asked her.
“I’m stuck,” she told me. “I’m stuck doing this over and over. I can’t escape. I’ve tried.”
“Why are you stuck?”
“Watch me every day. You’ll see.”
I did. I watched her every day. She was always there, swinging away. On the 100th day, everything changed. Barbara climbed the ropes for the swing. She climbed into the tree. She got to the lower branch, worked her way to the trunk, and then moved from one branch to the next, as up she went.
She climbed really high. It was exciting to see. She climbed all the way to the top. Then, she balanced on the branches, and reached for the sun. Like she wanted to hug it. “I’m free!”
There was a sick sounding crack from one of the branches she was standing on. I watched as that branch gave way. Barbara fell. She bounced off branches. Limbs stabbed her, tore at her skin, her clothes. She fell from the tree.
Barbara was dead. I knew that. But, you see, she landed in that spot where nothing grew. Everywhere she touched the ground, every place a drop of her blood landed. Nothing grew.
The next day, she was on the swing again. “I’m stuck. Now I have to do this all over again.”
See. That’s why I set the tree on fire.
Now, Barbara’s free.