I have a big part in the play this year, and I'm a little bit excited because everybody good is coming to see it. My mom and dad, and my brother but he's too little to really see it, and Uncle Jim and Aunt Heather and Warrick, Nick and Lindsay too. Aunt Catherine can't come because she's covering for someone, but that's okay.
I get to be the tree. I know that sounds really dumb, but really, the whole play is kind of that way, but the tree is important. I have to shelter the princess, and hold the treasure, and keep the rain off the prince and in the end when they get married, I get to be the canopy for the bride and groom and they even get to carve their names in me, but not for real. Mrs. Blake doesn’t trust anybody with knives, and especially Whittaker Mead who plays Prince Jon. She says giving HIM a knife is a good way for the play to end up on the eleven o’clock news, and that we’ll just paint the names on my trunk and cover it with an extra piece of bark that we can peel off at the end.
Dad thinks it’s funny that I’m a tree because he says I never stand still for anything. He told Mom he’s going to take pictures as evidence to show at work. Mom didn’t think that was funny. She told him that I got the part because I’m tall and dignified and Mrs. Blake knows I can do a good job. Then Dad said he couldn’t take pictures of me anyway because I wasn’t lying down with chalk around me. Mom hit him with one of Squirt’s diapers.
A clean one.
Anyway, Mom helped me with the costume, which is this big cardboard tube with armholes. I have a hole cut out for my face, and I have to carry these branches of paper mâché sticks with green tissue paper on them in my hands to make me look like a Sheltering Oak. Dad said I looked like a big brown stalk of broccoli, and that hurt my feelings. So then he said he was sorry, and helped put a bird nest up in my branches. It was a real one from the back yard, and he told me it would add auth-a-ticy or something to my costume. I think it looks neat. I have brown sneakers and brown socks so they look like roots when I’m standing.
Dad helped me learn my lines. Well, not really. I’m a tree, so I don’t get to talk. But I have to wave my branches at the right places. So when Dad reads Princess Julie’s lines I have to know when to beckon her closer.
“Alas, I am lost and alone in this unfriendly forest . . .“ he reads in a sort of high girly voice. On the sofa, Mom starts laughing, and that makes Squirt start wiggling because he always thinks it’s about him.
“No heckling from the audience,” Dad tells her, and Mom coughs and says she’s sorry, but she thought his boxers were looser than that, whatever THAT means. And Dad makes a snorting noise and says something about making her check on it later.
Anyway, I beckon, and Dad crouches down so I can shelter him. I have to stretch to get my branch over his head. It’s a good thing Kaysha Ngu is a lot shorter than my dad.
“Now this is the part were the orchestra makes it thunder,” I tell him, and he nods. “Drums and cymbals and stuff. Don’t be scared, but it’s going to be really LOUD,” I tell him.
“I’ll do my best to be brave,” he tells me, and then he winks. Dad knows I don’t like thunder. I love the lightning, it’s so pretty, but when the big booms start I like to be squashed up right against him or Mom.
And Dad flips the pages to my next scene where Prince Jon and Princess Julie meet under me and hide the treasure from her wicked uncle. Now Mom has to help, and she says she wants to read the bad guy lines, and Squirt can be Prince Jon. Dad says that’s typecasting, and she tells him who’s heckling now. I want them both to hurry up because I need to go to the bathroom soon, so I just wave my branches and Squirt yells because when I do that, it scares him.
He’s such a baby. His hair is as curly as Dad’s but it’s sort of blonde, and his eyes are deep brown like Mom’s. He likes to pick stuff up and throw it, and now that he can almost walk I have to keep my Barbies in my room because he likes to bite their heads. Once he carried one in his mouth by her hair, and Mom said he had Grissom jeans, but he was wearing overalls and I told her that.
So Squirt yells and Dad picks him up so he can see my face in the tree trunk and that makes his eyes go big. Mom is reading the wicked uncle part and sort of choking.
“Give me your hidden treasure, Princess,” Mom growls at Dad. He looks at me.
“Do I have to?”
“Nope,” I tell him, “He’s going to get chased off by Prince Jon with a sword. The teacher says he gets stabbed in the fray. Is that near your heart?”
“Not quite,” Mom murmurs, setting Squirt down. “Okay pal, it’s up to you to chase me—“ she starts pretending to run.
Squirt gets so excited he falls down and starts giggling, then climbs up and goes after mom. Dad just watches them and then whispers to me.
“Somehow, I don’t think your mom’s really trying too hard to get away—“
*** *** ***
The bad thing about the night the play is on is it’s raining. Not a lot, but sort of misty outside. Mom hopes it doesn’t ruin my costume, so she puts it in a big trash bag and then in the back of the car. I have to wear my black leotard and my brown socks and sneakers and my big CRIMELAB sweatshirt. It was one of Mom’s old ones, and I love it because it’s got a real bullet hole in it, right on the sleeve. Mom keeps saying she’s going to sew it up, but I won’t let her. It’s from when she helped bring in a bad guy. He showed up when she and Dad were at a scene, and he tried to shoot Dad. That made mom so Mad because she didn’t have her gun, so she threw her kit at him, and when he fired the shot right through the corner of it and it went sideways and through her sweatshirt.
Dad says he almost had a heart attack, and I should never EVER make mom really angry because she does very ass-na-nine things when she’s that mad. I think she was really brave because she saved him, but Dad says he felt sort of sorry for the bad guy who had to sit with Mom in the back of the police car all the way to the station. Dad says Mom gave everybody an education that day.
Some of the police are still scared of my mom.
Anyway, Mom takes me to the school and I meet up with Angeline and Kaysha and Whittaker in the multipurpose room. Whittaker thinks he’s SO great because he’s got curly hair but I know he cheats at math. He’s got his crown on, and his mother is chasing him to put some make up on his eyes. Kaysha has her costume on and I wish I was the princess, but Angeline says I’m a great tree and it will be fun. She’s going to be a lady-in waiting.
And Mrs. Blake makes us
all take our marks that means our
places. I don’t have my costume on yet, but I can see Dad over on
the side with
it, waiting until Miss Blake is done talking to us. He’s looking
at the ceiling
and I can tell he’s checking for spiders. Whenever he goes to a
place with a
big ceiling he always looks up for them. If we go somewhere and I spot
before he does he gives me a dime. When we went to the
I look up and I can see
where he’s looking—there’s a big
grey blob in one corner that’s a thick cobweb. It might even be
an egg sac like
Dad helps me into my tree suit and gives me a little squeeze on my hand holding a branch.
“Remember Bingo, BE the tree—“ he says to me, all mysterious even though he’s smiling. I love my dad’s smile.
*** *** ***
Mom and Dad and Squirt are in the middle on the side of the audience. Squirt is standing on Dad’s lap and he keeps trying to jump. Dad keeps making unhappy faces when Squirt does that. I can see Warrick standing in the back because it’s crowded, but he’s waving when I look at him. We are almost at the part where the princess and the ladies in waiting are supposed to sing about running into the forest when the fire alarm goes off.
Mrs. Blake looks over at Mr. Kossoff the principal, and he takes the big microphone from where the CD player is. It squeaks.
“Ladies and gentlemen looks like we have an unexpected intermission here—if you would please quickly and quietly move to the exits, we’ll get this matter settled and resume the play as soon as we can. The exits are clearly marked, no running please,” he says, just like he does on the intercom when we have a drill in the day. Mrs. Blake is making us line up, and I’m right by Whittaker. Mom’s stuffing Squirt in his stroller and he’s yelling about it. Dad and Warrick must be outside already because I don’t see them.
It’s hard to walk in my tree. I’m supposed to stand still most of the time. I make it down the steps of the stage and get to the door, but Whittaker bumps me. I start to fall, but I stay upright and go around the corner of the MP room because I’m spinning and hitting the wall a little bit. I try to turn around but I’m dizzy so I wait a minute.
The alarm is still going. I hate fire drills. We never have any fires, and we STILL have to go out, even when it’s raining. I turn around to go back to the MP door when I hear somebody running and BAM!
I get run over. Knocked down and my face hits the ground and it HURTS! Somebody’s on top of me and they’re yelling and squishing me HARD. My tree is cracked and I wiggle and then I hear Warrick and Dad, and there’s some fighting noises and I’m trying real hard not to cry because my nose is full of blood.
Then I feel Dad’s
hands on my shoulders and he’s picking me
up, with his soothy voice like when Squirt’s really crying. And
when I hear it
I start crying because now it really hurts. Dad looks
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”
“Shhhh, Sara-Mary, it’s okay, it’s okay. Are you hurt, honey?” Dad’s rubbing a babywipe on my face. It feels good and then it stings. I can see Warrick has somebody by the arms, but I don’t know who it is, and I’m sad that I can’t be a tree now because my trunk is torn and smooshed down.
Dad gets me up, and walks me around the MP building and both mom and Mrs. Blake come over and they’re both fussing over me, which is nice and bad at the same time. Nobody but me cares that my tree is all broken, and Mom starts taking it off me while Mrs. Blake is still wiping my nose.
We all go back into the MP room and Warrick comes over to mom and tells her there was a B and E in progress in Mr. Kossoff’s office which is what set off the alarm, and that if I hadn’t stumped the perp they wouldn’t have caught him. Mom laughs a little and then tells Warrick not to save the rainforest, whatever THAT means.
So I get to be the tree without a trunk. I hold up my branches (which were okay) and even though I’m just in my brown leotard and socks and shoes everybody pretends I’m still the tree. I love Kaysha because she doesn’t laugh, and even though Whittaker looks like he wants to, Mrs. Blake is looking at him HARD so he doesn’t.
We get done and everybody claps and claps and claps. I see Mom and Squirt, and when we’re bowing I see Dad and Warrick in the very back, smiling and watching. And when we go off the stage, Warrick gives me a flower in green crinkly paper.
So it was good. My nose was just a little bruised, and everybody said I was just fine without my trunk, and Dad said the guy who ran me down was going to jail, but not for knocking me down, just for trying to steal in Mr. Kossoff’s office. And Dad and me and Mom and Squirt all go to Dairy Queen for cones because Warrick has to process. I give him a hug first though.
Squirt always makes a mess with ice cream. He wants to hold his own cone, and he sucks the scoop so hard it comes out, then he cries because it’s cold. He’s a dope. Mom has to clean him up a lot.
“So, how’s the nose, honey?” she asks me. I feel it a little.
“Okay. But next time I’m going to be a lady in waiting so I don’t get run over. Being a tree is dangerous.”
“True,” Dad says. Then he puts his hand on my shoulder and rubs a little. “But given this family, you could always go into a branch of law enforcement.”
And that’s when Mom starts laughing so hard part of her Blizzard spills on Squirt.