Chapter 1 - Commonalities
May 30th, 2010
It began on a normal, sunny day on May 1st in Boston. Well, as normal as sun is for Boston in early Spring. Unfortunately normal, sunny days in Boston include overly pale, shirtless men; overly clothed foreign tourists with matching sunglasses; and unprepared groups with bath towels, table cloths and bed sheets. The poor 'make-shift' lawn towels all wish that their owners would cough up the dough to buy either a proper beach towel and/or pay for detergent that would deal with grass stains.
If one had the ear for the language of cotton goods one could overhear a conversation as such:
"Hey! Flowery table cloth. Yeah you."
"Yeah man, how's it going?"
"Not well. The little boy just dripped ketchup on me and the dog tracks mud over my prints."
"That sucks dude. I still have mustard from last year. By the way, do I hear a little polyester in your accent?"
"Yep, you called it. I am 40% polyester, but also a bit Egyptian cotton in my threads."
Shortly after the grass would begin to scream.
"Will you guys shut up!?! We already are crushed down here but now we have to listen to this inane chatter."
And on it would go but fortunately for a young girl named Yumi she could not hear the inane banter. Which was quite normal for her not to be able to speak cotton nor grass, but today would not be a normal day. No not indeed. For today she learned she could speak tree, at least a deciduous dialect of tree.
Yumi had sometimes thought she could talk to trees. As far as she could tell they had always stood silent. In fact she felt that to be quite rude, it was more proper to at least have acknowledged her presence even if they weren't in the mood to chat. She once thought a tree responded; it seemed to converse with some other unseen being about selling off all investments in international mutual funds. Maybe the tree was discussing business affairs with a financially savvy squirrel living inside it. Later Yumi realized her uncle had the same voice as the tree and just bought a new car.
Today, on this, so far as has been told, normal day, Yumi was in the Public Garden with her mom frolicking as children do in the sun. It should be noted that the grass complained about such innocent play quite wickedly and with highly unprintable words. Unprintable due to the fact that grass language is quite complex and uses non-existent symbols and also because they are quite dirty, in the sense that grass grows in soil and they constantly talk about indecent events at wild parties.
It is also worth mentioning that soon after grass deciphered the human sign reading, 'Keep off the grass,' grass applied to Evolution for an opposable thumb to create such signs themselves. The application was denied due to grass not being able to produce a suitable chart showing the utility gained from an opposable thumb that would sufficiently offset the energy expenditure.
Yumi, on the other hand, used her thumb with grace and finesse. It allowed her to grab, hold and throw her stuffed pelican for hours on end. The toy pelican could only fly as far as Yumi could toss to the dismay of the toy who much desired the ability to continue flying and out of the way of obstacles. In the next minute a rather fortunate incident for Yumi proved to be another such occasion that was rather painful for the pelican. He flew head first into a tree.
The pelican desperately made gestures to notify Yumi that he was done playing but Yumi did not notice. For as hard as the pelican tried he was still a stuffed toy and could not make movements at all on his own. Yumi had slowed down though and she just squatted next to the pelican staring at him with a big grin. Unbeknown to the pelican the takeoff counter in Yumi's mind had already begun and it was at T minus 20 seconds.
It began to rain. Just small drops here and there on Yumi's arms and head. Now if you happen to be a Bostonian you may not find it strange that rain is falling on what was earlier a normal, sunny New England day. This particular rain, though, was only falling on Yumi. The rest of the garden and Common remained dry. Thus it can be described that the rain dripping upon Yumi as quite odd.
Yumi didn't happen to be depressed such that a personal rain cloud formed over her head, instead the drops had come from the leaves of the tree she stood under. The tree was perspiring on Yumi. She looked up to see the drops form on the tip of each leaf, accumulate as a little ball and then slowly stretch itself downward until it released and quietly whistled down with gravity. This did not astonish Yumi one bit because, at this age, human children have no conception of abnormal. Though it may be more truthful to point out that adult humans have a vast misconception of normal.
Yumi heard a soft sniffle from the tree. She was absolutely certain the tree was crying. The two knots in the tree were within arms plus tippy-toe reach of Yumi and she stretched up for them. As she ran her fingers against the bark, moisture collected and ran down into the palm of her hands. The tree was quite definitely tearing up.
At this point the pelican was forgotten. The pelican rejoiced.
Yumi now quite sure the tree could use a friend spoke up.
"Don't be sad Mr. Tree."
"Thank you little one, but my name is not Mr. Tree."
"Oh, I'm sorry. What should I call you?"
"I have no name. I am not quite sure of the use of one."
Yumi definitely knew that names had an importance as she wouldn't be born with one had she not needed it.
"You're silly," she said, "everything is born with a name."
"I was not told this. You're friend on the ground there keeps telling me his name is Not Here, but what is yours?"
The pelican, in fact, was trying to tell the tree to "Pretend I'm not here." The tree apparently had not heard this expression before.
"My name is Yumi."
"Pleasure to meet you Yumi. Please forgive me for dropping my tears on you but seeing Not Here made me sad."
Another point here to explain that trees are rarely sad but they have no in-between moods. Therefore they are either very happy or very sad. When a tree says he is sad, it must be very much so. The normal circumstance for a tree to be sad is the minute a chainsaw slashes its trunk. This sadness ends rather quickly as a fallen tree has no emotions. A wooden bench generally feels ecstatic about life but pencils are rather melancholy. Understandably so as most would not like to have one's head shaved every hour.
It became more clear to Yumi why a name could be construed as important to her for speaking but she'd rather continue her thought then bring up that conversation again.
"...why are you so sad?"
"I'm 500 years old and I have never seen the world. I used to hear of such magical places from a flock of birds who would visit me twice a year. I have not seen them in decades. I miss them so. I would like to travel and find them but I feel very much tied down here."
One could say the tree had a lot of roots in Boston but plants have no interest in puns and Yumi is not quite old enough to groan at them.
Yumi had no idea how old 500 years is but figured her mom had to be that old at minimum since she knew a lot about what Yumi could and could not do. Although her mom had not yet learned to always stock the freezer with ice cream.
A brilliant idea came to Yumi. As is always the case, her ideas are quite brilliant. Not Here had silently disagreed on more than one occasion about the greatness of her ideas.
Yumi in her exuberance exclaimed, "I can find your friends for you!"
This notion peaked the interest of the tree who responded, "that would be fantastic little one."
The tree may seem to be rather naïve here to believe a little girl possible of such an excursion but large, old trees are not as wise as one would think. Due to their age and size, any creatures under eight feet tall and one hundred years old are all the same to a tree. So the sad old tree cannot tell the difference between a naïve little girl, an older naïve woman and a chihuahua. Then again an adult wouldn't hold on a conversation with a tree this long. That is unless the tree was very good with tax forms.
"Where should I start?" asked Yumi.
"This time of year, if I recall, the birds would be heading north so they would be south of here right now."
Yumi had no clue which way was north nor which way was south. A second brilliant idea flashed in her mind and it sent Not Here hurtling through the park once more. The random direction he was thrown just so happened to be south. She did not tell the tree that her choice was merely a guess as she figured he did not need to know. Not Here happened to land near a statue and that is where Yumi's journey to find the tree's lost friends began.