Story of young boy, who meets an "alien" from the world beyond the trees
| World Beyond the Trees
Dustin C. Baker
When walking on the trail, I would tilt my head back and do my best to view the world beyond the tree tops. It made me feel that I had traveled into a different world, away from this one. “Mama, why are the trees so tall?”
“Because they drink lots of water. And don‘t call me “mama.” It‘s not proper.” It was a weekly routine for my mother and I, walking the three mile trail around the villa. She always wore her nicest sun hat, and a summer dress, that flowed around her knees when the wind brushed by. I wore my nice blacks slacks, and a white button up shirt. Mother told me that it was proper for a young gentleman to dress his best when escorting a lady.
We lived in a villa on the outskirts of town. The house always seemed bigger than what we needed. Besides my mother and I, the only other family living in the house was my father. My mother told me that he took people’s money, and invested it into companies, to make more money. I never understood the complexities of my parents, their proper ways and proper manners.
Also living with us was George, my father’s personal butler, and Cook, the man in the kitchen always wearing the funny white coat. When I would ask my mother why they were there, she said it was because they helped make our lives easier.
“Come now son, we need to hurry back to the house. Mother has important business to tend to.” At the end of the trail was George, waiting for us in the family car. Father had George clean the car as often as possible, to make it shine. I could always see my own reflection in the red paint job, or in the shiny rims on the side. The inside smelled of expensive leather, and the carpet was so comfortable I preferred it to my own bed at times.
“Did you have a good walk madam,” George asked my mother. He spoke with a funny accent to me, and I could tell by it that he was not from where I was.
“Yes George, thank you. Has the applicant arrived yet?”
“Yes madam, she is waiting at the villa.”
“Thank you George. Come now son, hurry.”
“Yes mama.” I realized my mistake too late. Mother had already turned around and glared at me from underneath he sun hat. I glanced at George, standing there with the back door open for us. He turned his head so as not to watch what was about to happen. I lowered my head and stared at the silver buckles on my shoes.
“What did I tell you about that word. It is not proper. We do not speak like that, is that understood?”
Without raising my head, I mumbled, “Yes mother.” She sighed and grabbed me by the arm, rushing me inside the car. I stared at the trees swaying in the wind as we drove away, wishing I could travel to that distant world I always saw in them.
“Son, I want you to stay outside and play, understood?” She stepped from the car and glared down at me again. I could tell she was still upset about my “mistake.”
I always questioned why my mother felt it was not proper for me to speak like that, but her answer was always the same. “We do not speak like that. We speak proper because we are civilized.”
“Yes mother. I’ll stay outside.”
“Good lad. Now, run along. Mother must tend to business.”
I began walking around the house, towards the rose garden my father had given to my mother as a present years ago. Mother said he would pick roses for her everyday and bring them up to her room. They always seemed like a happy couple to me.
The smell of roses filled my nose and I knew that I was getting closer. As I turned the corner I saw them in the distance, behind the water fountain my father had imported from some far off land. I dreamed at nights sometimes of traveling to that land, and escaping from this proper life. I picked a rose from the garden and sat on the fountain, picking the petals off one by one.
Suddenly, a shadow enveloped my own on the ground in front of me. I gasped, and raised my head. It was a small girl, wearing tattered jeans and a shirt that looked as if it hadn’t been washed in years. Her skin also seemed very dirty, but from head to toe. We stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity before I finally spoke. “Why is your skin so dirty?”
She looked back blankly and seemed hurt by my question. “It’s not dirty.” A tear seemed to form in the corner of her eye. I was confused by her reaction. Her skin looked as if she had rolled around in a mud bath and not cleaned herself afterwards.
“But your skin is so dark.” I was still puzzled by her skin. She did not look like my mother or father. She didn’t resemble George or Cook. Suddenly, I figured it out. She was from that world that I always wanted to go to. The world beyond the tree tops, a place away from the properness of my mother’s society.
“Where are you from,” I asked. “Are you from a different world?”
Once again, she seemed puzzled by my questions. She began playing with her long black hair, which seemed wiry to me. “You weird, ya know that,” she said. Her way of speaking just confirmed to me that she was not from where I was. She must have come from beyond the trees.
“You came from the trees, didn’t you?” I could feel myself becoming anxious, my heart was beating fast. Perhaps she could take me away from this place.
“I live pas’ the trees, in my lil ol’ house.” It was difficult to interpret what she was saying. She spoke differently than anyone I had ever heard before.
“What is it like there? Is it nice?” Anticipation was building up inside of me. Was this the answer I was looking for? Could she help me?
She began approaching me, still playing with her hair. A funny smell wafted up from her clothes, causing me to cringe. I turned my head away and felt myself gag. She began scooping up the water from the fountain with her hand and pouring it over her head. “Is hot out, isn’t it?”
“A little bit, I guess.” I wasn’t concerned with the weather, however. I wanted to know more about this alien world she was from. “Tell me more about your home.”
“Why do you want to know about where I live?” She smiled and I could see pieces of food in between her teeth.
“Because I want you to take me with you.” At this she laughed and held onto her stomach. Anger seemed to be the only reaction I had at this.
“What’s so funny,” I yelled. I sat up and glared at her, rolling on the floor.
“Oh, you a funny one,” she said. “Why ya wanna come wit’ me fo’? Ya gotta nice home.”
I turned and looked at the white villa. The three story building loomed over us, casting a huge shadow now as the sun was beginning to set. The shudders had been painted red to match the roses, and the windows were cleaned daily by George.
“But you live in a magic world, right?” I was puzzled. Why would she feel that my house was nice. Surely, the world beyond must be nicer.
As soon as I asked her the question she began laughing harder. Tears were rolling from her eyes. I expected to see the dirt on her face being washed away, but it wasn’t. I could see her legs through her torn jeans and it too appeared dirty. “Why are you laughing? What’s it like? Please tell me.”
She stood up and wiped the tears from her eyes. She took a deep breath and did her best to look at me and not smile. “Well, my pa works on a farm, pickin’ the cotton and such. My brother, he work wit my Pa too.”
“Your mother, what does she do?”
“My ma cleans the rich folks houses, like yours.”
Rich? The word was not familiar to me. “What do you mean rich?” I could tell from the expression on her face that she wanted to laugh again. She turned her face and pretended to cough, so I could not hear her laughing.
“Ya know ya rich , right? Ya gotta nice house, nice clothes. Yep, you rich.”
I looked down at my clothes. My white shirt was pressed and perfectly ironed, as were my black slacks. My shoes were shined everyday and my belt was made of the finest leather, mother always told me. Then, I turned and looked at her clothes. “Where did you get your clothes from?”
She immediately stopped smiling. It seemed that I had hurt her once again. “We poor folks. We ain’t got much, but we happy. Not like you rich folk, think ya own everything, and that ya better than us.”
“I don’t think I’m better than you.”
“Yes you do. That’s how comes you laugh at my clothes, and my dirty skin.”
I felt that same feeling that I had when I knew I had disobeyed my mother. I had hurt her feelings, and it tasted like a greasy coin in my mouth. “I apologize,” I said.
“See, ya even talk all proper like. Why ya talk like that fer? Ya mother make you speak like that?”
Although she seemed much older than me, her manner was immature to me. Like that of a child. “How do you suggest I speak?”
“There ain’t no way I could teach ya to speak like me. Ya been rich too long.”
“If you take me with you, could you teach me at your home?” I was still anxious about leaving. All my life I had only known the proper life. A life where everyday was scheduled, and nothing unexpected happened. That was, until today. “I don’t want to live here anymore.”
She picked a rose from the garden and began twirling it in her fingers. She brought it close to her nose and inhaled deeply. “We ain’t got these flowers where we at. They smells nice.”
“Take it with you,” I said, hoping she would offer to take me with her.
She threw the rose into the water and watched as it floated across the top, being carried away with the wind. “Nah, that’s ok. I don’t wanna steal no flower.”
“Tell me more about your home.” I continued to press her for information. Eventually, I knew, she would have to give in.
She took a deep breath and sighed. “We poor where I from. I ain’t had new clothes for long as long I can remember. My pa bought me a dress long time ago, but it too small fer me now.”
“What kind of food do you eat?” I intended to retrieve as much information from her as possible, before she left.
She laughed and lowered her head again. “Eat? Can’t remember last time I ate no hot meal. Been eating bread and water now for’s long as I can remember.”
“How do you get to your home?” If she wasn’t going to take me with her, than I wanted to know how to get there, to leave on my own when the time was right.
She looked at me and blinked, a look of stupor coming across her face. “Boy you is crazy, ya know that. Ain’t no rich boy gonna make it where I from. Wouldn’ make it one night.”
“Boy, ya don’t get it, do ya? We come from differen’ worlds.’
“I know. That’s why I want to go with you.”
She sat back down and shook her head back and forth. “Ya can’t come with me. Some day ya understand.” Suddenly, a voice came from the front yard. It was my mother, calling out to me.
“I’m coming mother,” I called back to her. “Can you take me with you,” I asked the girl again. I didn’t want to give up on the hope that today I could leave this world behind.
“Boy would ya quit askin’ me. Ya ain’t comin wit me.”
As we walked to the front yard together, I noticed for the first time that she was not wearing any shoes on her feet, They were dirty and there were small cuts on them. “Why don’t you have shoes on,” I asked her.
“Can’t ford thems. I told ya, we ain’t got money like you.”
My mother appeared as we turned the corner. She gave me the same look she always did when I disobeyed her. “Come here now,” she said. I could hear anger in her voice. Reluctantly, I obeyed. As I did so though, I noticed an unfamiliar character walking towards the end of the driveway. She looked like the young girl, but only older. Her clothes seemed cheap, as if they were made from curtains.
“Mother, who is that woman,” I questioned. She didn’t answer, but merely looked at the little girl that I had been speaking with in the back yard. The small girl lowered her head, careful not to make eye contact with my mother. I was puzzled by her bizarre actions.
She turned and began running towards the end of the driveway, calling out to the other woman walking. “Mama, mama, wait fer me.”