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Tree Dweller
About the Author: Author of two poetry chapbooks, most recently Chapter Eleven (Partisan Press), Schraeder’s creative work has also appeared in Dark Moon Digest, Pulp Modern, Four Chambers, Slink Chunk Press, Glitterwolf, and other journals and anthologies. Schraeder earned an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the humanities and is online at efschraeder.com.


“What do you think would make a girl do something like that?” Officer Kane asked. He let out a measured breath, staring at the teenager in front of him. 

“I don’t know,” Fon said.

Kane pursed his lips and glanced around, scanning for parents, a witness. Anyone. No one was there but him and the kid. “Give me something,” he pressed.

“Did I have something to do with it, that what you’re really asking, isn’t it” Fon pushed back. 

Kane shrugged. “You doing okay?” he asked.

Fon shook her head and black bangs covered her eyes. Spotting her mother, she sprang toward her, arms outstretched like she was about to take flight.

“What are you doing with my daughter?” 

Kane pulled up his hands, “Whoa, just talking. This was her friend.”

“Get away from her,” hand in the air, finger wagging. Kane backed off, the girl sprinting and the mother scolding him. “There’s something to them. But what?”

“Screw her. She doesn’t know anything about it,” Lara said.

Fon laughed. All of a sudden, Lara was an expert.

“I’m not joking. Adrienne’s a fake with a capital F. I am not making room for her if she can’t even show up to try again with us.”

Fon sat up straight, brushing leaves off the black fleece throw and glanced around the park. She forced her mouth into a tight line, but a laugh teased and curled the edge of her lips, watching Lara for a clue.

“Don’t put on a show with me, okay? If you don’t want to do it again, just tell me.” Lara’s voice fell flat, nonjudgmental.

But Fon knew that could be a trick. A lure to let her guard down. She wasn’t going to be fooled. Her lips tightened, and she spoke cautious words. She hoped they made her sound wiser than she felt. “We’re all free to choose.” She shrugged and gazed at the willow tree shading the playground.

Yesterday, Fon explained that whatever they drew alongside one another would deliver special gifts. She said the drawing would bear fruit because the bond they shared, working together, held energetic power. Two lies and a truth. Two truths and a lie. They wanted to believe her, so they did.

Fon drew wings and said if people stared long enough at the picture, they’d probably feel a soft air current on their cheeks and the hair on their arms would stand up, but the flight was hers alone because she was the one who put it down to paper. The more she talked, the truer it all seemed: the magic, the picture, and the friendship. She was careful to weave a story that would tie them together. Today, the story seemed like a bad idea.

Lara squinted at her, unsure. “Well, have you seen Adrienne since?”

Fon shook her head. She’d shown them what she could do. Her heart started to race. She bit a finger until crooked imprints of teeth dented the skin.

Maybe she shouldn’t have let them see? What if Adrienne told someone? That would be very bad. Fear hitched her breath and tingled under her skin. She ached to run to the big willow and nest in a hidden tangle of branches. There were a lot of ways this could cause trouble. Falling out with Lara and Adrienne was one of them. 

“Should we check on her?” Fon asked, panic edged the concern in her voice. “With her parents maybe?” They’d be coming for her in no time if Adrienne said something.

Lara sucked down on the inside of her mouth and said nothing. “That’s great. She hates them. Then what? Are we supposed to paint a stupid mural, just the two of us? Where’s the magic in that?”

Fon shrugged. She had already begun putting the paints back into the picnic basket. There was no reason to continue without a third. Lara was convinced the three of them had to paint together or nothing would manifest, not that it mattered.

“It’s like no one takes this seriously but me. If we make the—”

Fon tuned out.

By this time, Fon’d been flying most of her life. She just never told anyone before. She pulled a lime green journal out of her backpack and began a doodle. She wrote with tiny letters inside the circles and paisley outlines a message that only she could see.

Don’t tell anyone. They’ll think I’m nuts. She darkened lines over the letters to hide them and let out a low sigh.



This story appears in our NOV 2018 Issue
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