Someone was calling his name, from a far off place. It was warm where he was, and he sensed in that way a sleeper snuggled warmly beneath a warm duvet knows that the floor their bare feet will touch on the way to make a cup of hot coffee is sub zero that waking up would be a bad idea. There was something he’d prefer not to see. Better to keep his eyes closed.
The voice was closer now. It was a girl’s voice. Sort of familiar. The sense of disorientation as he emerged from the dream increased…it seemed like the girl’s voice was coming from beneath him. Which was strange, since he hadn’t kept a girl under his bed in years.
She was shouting now. That was never a good thing. When his mother shouted like that, it was only seconds until the covers were ripped off and all the cold air rushed in to banish the warm. If you had to sneak out of bed on a cold morning to pee, you could regain the warm spot when you got back, providing you were fast enough and you sort of oozed out from beneath the covers, leaving them relatively intact. When your mom tore the covers off, there was no going back to the warm spot…
“Andrew, if you don’t wake up right now…”
I’m going to rip the covers off, yeah mom I know. Only this wasn’t his mom’s voice. And now that he really considered it, there weren’t any covers on him to rip off. Or a bed for that matter. He opened one eye.
Dark. Mostly dark anyhow. He could discern some varying shades of…green? And maybe some brown. A moment of panic swept over him. Not only was he not sleeping in his bed, he wasn’t (near as he could tell) in his apartment. He was having a tough time remembering where he was, and how he had gotten there.
“Are you awake? You look like you might be awake…” said the female voice again.
Definitely beneath him.
He started to roll over. He never quite completed the roll, because his lizard hind brain sensed that completion of the roll might result in a fall, and rapidly sent a series of messages to his body to STOP MOVING. These messages were sent in the sort of way that, had they been delivered by Mob enforcers, would have resulted in broken kneecaps. Luckily Andrew’s body was averse to such pain, and froze.
Nearly simultaneous to not completing his roll, the female voice went up an octave and said “holyshitohmygoddon’tdothat” which trailed off.
Andrew's eyes popped wide open. He was looking into the face of Lara, the girl he’d hired on Wednesday. And from a vantage point suspended above her a good ten feet. The first thought which crossed his mind was that he was glad he slept on his stomach. The second was that he hoped he had not been drooling in his sleep.
“This might sound like a stupid question,” Andrew called out, “but what is my current predicament?”
Lara looked surprised by the question. “You don’t know where you are?”
His eyes focused on the fake hardwood linoleum Lara was standing on. “Well, I can see I’m in the shop…but beyond that…”
She was quiet for a moment. “I’m not sure how to word this. You are…in a tree.”
“A tree?” He moved fingers which had been, on threat of death from the lizard hind brain, up until that moment G.I. Joe Kung Fu Gripping the rough grooved texture of a tree limb’s bark.
“A very large tree.”
“Umm…well…it reaches the roof of the shop near as I can tell.”
“How high up would you say I am?”
“You remember where the balcony thingee used to be?”
“USED TO BE??!!” His mind was reeling. He needed to calm down. Given the spot the balcony had been, he was about 15 feet in the air. Falling from this height onto the shop’s lino coated concrete floor would not be a good way to start the day. It would trump having the covers ripped off for sure.
“Do we have a ladder or anything?” Lara asked.
Given the fact that there had been no tree large enough for a grown man to sleep in when she’d left the shop following her interview on Wednesday, Andrew contemplated that she was handling this all rather well.
Works well under stressful conditions.
“Yeah…in the back room,” Andrew called.
“Okay, I’ll go grab it!” Lara yelled. “Just hang on a sec!”
She grinned (works really well under stressful conditions or is a raving lunatic) and ran out of Andrew’s view, which was obscured, Andrew was now realizing, by dense foliage. He only had a small window clear of leaves and branches by which to observe the floor of the shop. He inclined his head from side to side; thick, leafy boughs on either side.
He heard a crash and Lara swearing. “Sorry, there’s just some…uh…debris in the way of the door to back room!”
Debris? What the hell had happened?
He could remember giving Lump the money, phoning the AMA roadside assistance, making the Poop coffee…and then getting ready to go put the keys in his car…
Another crash, this one with the timbre an aluminum extension ladder makes when one very short person tries to manage moving it.
Girl talks like a trucker.
The silver stilts of the extension ladder came into view beneath him. Then, a grunt from Lara as she swung it upward. The ladder crashed up through the leaves, nearly knocking Andrew off his branch.
“Watch out!” he called.
“FIVE FOOT FOUR!” Lara shouted. She had started this height disclaimer with an adjective that also started with f. “NOT EXACTLY BUILT FOR THIS SORT OF WORK!”
“Sorry!” Andrew called. He figured this was not the best time to ask if she was going to talk that way around customers. He eased himself onto the ladder and began climbing down.
He descended through the dark green canopy, seeing the branch he’d been sleeping on from beneath it.
All night? How did I not fall off that thing?
And then he was out of the foliage and into the shop, the pale sunlight of a winter morning streaming in through the shop’s front windows.
“This definitely trumps having the covers ripped off,” Andrew whispered.