“Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.”
— Bertolt Brecht
“Trees usually are.”
“But it’s super big!”
Mei gesticulated with wide arms just how big super big was, and Aki dodged to avoid getting hit.
“That’s why we’re going to climb it,” he said, gently pushing her hands down.
Mei’s eyes widened. “For really?!”
The tree was indeed very large, with long, thick branches that narrowed only slightly toward the top. It had been a staple of Grampa’s farm since even before he was born, but now…
“C’mon!” Aki said sternly, shaking away the bad thoughts. He jumped and grabbed the lowest branch, hoisting himself up with ease.
Mei couldn’t even reach, being so small, so he pulled her up by her outstretched hand.
“I made it!” she crowed. She glanced down at the ground she had just left. “Ooh, we’re up so high…”
Aki snorted. “Not even close. Let’s keep going.”
The siblings slowly picked their way up the tree, with Mei hugging the broad trunk until Aki was able to help her onto the next branch. If it had just been him alone, he would’ve scaled it much more quickly, but he really wanted Mei to be there with him.
When they were roughly halfway up, Mei looked down at the ground again.
“Oooh…!!” she squealed, burying her face into the trunk. “So high!”
“You’re not scared, right?” Aki said, trying to hide his worry with a derisive tone.
“We’re almost to the top, and then you’ll be able to see the whole world.”
“…Even the candy store?”
“All the candy stores.”
There was a brief, but terrifying moment when Mei’s hand slipped out of Aki’s sweaty palm, and she fell back onto the branch below. She landed on her backside with a THUMP, and it was only the branch’s broad width that kept her from slipping completely off. Her face crumpled, and Aki tried to control his wildly beating heart so he could go comfort her, but before he could jump down to her, Mei crawled shakily back to the trunk. She stood and stared at her brother with tear-filled, but defiant eyes.
“Big girls don’t give up!” she said fiercely.
A relieved smile spread across Aki’s face, and – after vigorously rubbing his palms on his pants – when Mei reached for him again, he pulled her up with no further incident.
The branches, though still thick, began to get fewer and farther apart, and at last, they were as high as they could possibly go.
Mei’s black hair was slipping out of her ponytail, and tendrils stuck to her sweaty face. Aki pushed his own dark hair out of his eyes, and sat leaning against the tree’s trunk, slightly out of breath.
“Where’s the candy stores?” Mei demanded, looking around at the surrounding leaves.
Aki let out a little laugh. “Gimme a sec, I’m tired.”
She made a face, but stayed quiet, legs swinging as she straddled the branch they were on.
“This is Grampa’s special tree?” she asked again.
Aki nodded. “He climbed it when he was a little boy. Then Daddy climbed it, too. Now it’s our turn.”
Her face brightened. “Then our childs’s turn? When we’re old and married and have babies?”
Soberly, he shook his head. “No. People are coming to…cut it down.”
Mei’s expression went from shock to anger. “That’s mean! Are they bad people? Why are they doing that?”
“It’s old,” Aki shrugged, looking away. “It might fall and hurt someone. And they’re gonna build a road nearby.”
“The tree can’t be fixed?!”
“With what, tree glue?!”
They were silent for awhile. Then Mei asked quietly, “So we’re climbing this super big tree for the last time, huh?”
Aki couldn’t meet her gaze. “Yup.”
She gave a slow nod. With a sudden movement that he wasn’t at all prepared for, she stood up, awkwardly balancing on the branch, and shouted, “Then this will have to be the bestest climb in all the world’s history!”
“PLEASE DON’T STAND.”
Once Aki got her to sit back down, he said, “Okay, ready to see the world?”
Mei gave him a thumbs up. “Ready!”
He scooted her along to the edge of the branch, with him right behind, and then pulled aside the canopy of leaves. “There it is.”
He couldn’t see her face, but her gasp of wonderment was enough for him to imagine it.
Grampa’s farm, easily distinguishable by its surrounding tall brown fence, extended only a short distance before stopping at a wide brush of green. These smaller trees and bushes were newly planted, ready for the soon-to-be-built road. Beyond that, the highway could be seen, a thin strip of grey with ant-sized cars zooming along it. And at the very edge of the horizon, the smoky smudge of buildings of the town.
“Wow…” Mei breathed from his lap, and she pointed eagerly in the distance. “The candy stores are over there, right?”
“Wow… So far… It would take forever to walk there! Cars make everything faster, don’t they?”
Aki looked down at the orange construction area spread around the wide expanse of the tree. “I suppose so.”
“But sometimes they smell,” his sister said thoughtfully. “Bikes are faster than walking, but they’re hard to ride. And Mommy says I can’t take off my stabilizers yet… But when I can, I will go to the candy store every day!”
Aki let her babble on, a soothing background noise to his thoughts. He was probably too old to be sad over a stupid tree. But it was his father’s tree, and his grandfather’s, too. No one climbed trees anymore, Grampa always said. This tree was probably the last of its kind. And they among the last climbers.
It was special.
The two sat there for quite a long time, just staring out at the view. Finally, Mei sighed and stretched, saying,” Well, that’s enough of that for one day, or we’ll be spoiled!”
“Where did you hear something like that?!”
She looked around, and then craned her head backward to look at her brother’s face.
“How do we get down?”
Fun little story from a prompt. I’ve been reading Yotsuba&!, which is a hilariously adorable manga that I absolutely love, hence the Japanese setting in this story and Mei herself. (I’m also currently editing a Japan travel guide, so, y’know, I’ve kinda got the place on the brain~)