Quentin didn’t realize what he was doing. Eyes and emotion conspired in secret, never sharing their plans. For weeks he would set a course that took him past the object. Walking to the library; walking toward Harp. Just outdoors to breathe the evening air. Ignorant as he was, the maple tree stood where it had to stand for seventy years, eating sunshine during the shortening days, building sugars and new wood while feeding and sheltering a multitude of greedy mouths. Then the nights turned cool enough and deep enough, and the year’s sugars began the long migration into the lush invisible tangle of roots that were the genuine heart of the tree.
Quentin was heading home from the library when a mouth cursed at him, making him look up.
The squirrel offered a fresh insult, or maybe some kind of apology. Most of the world’s languages were secret, even to the speaker.
“Come down here,” Quentin said.
His nemesis seemed to consider the option. But other pressing business caused the animal to turn and race along the branch, and that’s when Quentin noticed the damaged limb and the first cluster of bright orange leaves.
Holding course, he reached home without further incident.
Farah’s number was written on the back of the phone book. He dialed slowly, giving himself a few moments to practice the conversation.
The line sang.
And then he hung up, the imaginary conversation continuing inside his head.