It’s tough being nine years old, and alone. He had climbed part-way up this big old oak tree back in the spring, but it had taken a boost from his friend Gordon, to get him up to the first forking of the trunk, where he could get handholds. Now, Gordon was away on holidays, which was one of the reasons he was wandering his neighborhood alone.
He took a run at the tree, planted his right foot on the knee of a protruding root, lunged upward, and caught the fallen branch, stuck in the crotch. Swiftly he climbed, and soon the tree had lifted him into its topmost branches. Unusual in a town full of maples, this oak was the tallest tree, and sat at the top of the highest hill. The view from up here was magnificent.
He was as high as the top of the nearby water tower, the entire town spread out below him. Right beneath him was the park, with its empty ball diamond. Down the hill was the arena. He could see tiny cars, and miniature people walking. Below him were three church roofs and bell towers. Beyond was the main street, with its businesses. It led right down to the lake and the beach. The crystal blue water and the bright white sand both sparkled in the sun.
Off to the south, the sandy island sat half a mile offshore, with its stone lighthouse. He seemed level with the top of its 100 foot tower. A bit to the north, he could see the river mouth, with the commercial fishing boats chugging into and out of the harbor.
A block down the street, where the highway crossed the main street, stood the century-old red-brick town hall, with its four-sided clock tower. Just this side, was the library, where he usually checked out a couple of books each week. A block to the right was the elementary school where he would happily return to his education in a couple of weeks.
What he could see, was his entire, nine-year-old’s universe. What he could not see, from his eagle’s perch, with his youngster’s eagle eyes, was the oncoming juggernaut of maturity, physical aging, responsibility, and social change.
All too soon, he would not have the time or the freedom, the strength or the agility, the acceptance or the inclination, to randomly wander his tiny town, talking to bullfrogs or climbing trees just for the fun of it.
Soon, like a Monarch butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, he would leave his protective, supportive home to seek training and experience, employment and income, marriage and family. What was now his entire universe, would become first, merely the center of his greatly expanded universe, and finally, just a reflection in the time-fogged rear-view mirror of fond memory.
Instead of remaining a carefree child, he would become one of millions of parents. While he would not do so, most of the others would allow, even urge, their millions of children to embrace myriad electronic distractions and babysitters, till they could not think or act for themselves, instead of encouraging them to read and learn.
In the name of protecting the children, the parents would cocoon them, and change them into hydroponic couch potatoes, denying them the chance to run and play, to enjoy the sun and fresh air, to commune with nature and build strong, healthy bodies and minds. And so would begin the slow, perhaps inevitable, slide into oblivion, of the great, free society.
This is the expanded version of a thought which recently triggered a 100 word story on the Flash Fiction stage, along with some observations, feelings, and pretty pictures. Much of this has previously appeared here, but I like the redecorating job. How about you?