September 14th, 2009
I reckon I got to light out for the territory. Huckleberry Finn came to me in a dream one night and told me so. I awoke, in the gray light of pre-dawn, and packed a few clothes, and my toothbrush, and of course, a pen and notebook. “I reckon I got to light out for the territory,” kept playing over and over in my head like the chorus of a song that came unbidden and would not leave. I tied these possessions up in a big red towel and put them in my shoulder bag, and tiptoed outside so as not to wake my parents and brother and sister.
I was used, now, to the rustle in the leaves when I emerged. This time I was ready. I ran along the hedges, following the rustling of the black shapes, all the way to the industrial park. I felt like Huck Finn, leaving home in the dark and walking down to the Mighty Mississippi. I never belonged here, I thought. I was never meant to live in this world. Well, good riddance. Then I walked to the small patch of weeds, sunflowers, a cottonwood sapling, and other remnants of prairie. I waited for the orange gumball sun to emerge from behind a mountain range of clouds. When the hand emerged with the crystal and then disappeared, I went down into the Rootweavers’ lair.
“Ah, Tall One,” said Farkus directly into my mind, using the name they had given me. “What have you brought us?” I reached into my bag and produced a pack of Bazooka Joe bubble gum, an apple, and some date bar squares my mother made.
“What need do we have of this?” said Farkus, taking the apple and tossing it aside. “We have nothing but root apples and root pears and root walnuts down here.”
“But it is the largest apple I have ever seen,” said his friend Dingus, emerging from the darkness. “It is a sun apple. Did you steal it from the sun?”
“I got it from the A & P,” I said in my thoughts.
“These are excellent,” said Farkus, munching the date bar. He took only a few bites and handed the rest to Dingus, who handed the rest to a crowd of Rootweavers. “Once, when I traveled to the land under the Tigris and Euphrates, I had such a delicacy. Where did you steal them?”
“I didn’t steal them, my mother made them.”
There was a murmur of appreciation among the tiny figures. “Mother,” they said reverently. “You are fortunate to have such a mother,” said Dingus.
“You only say that because you don’t have to live with her. She never cleans. She is always hovering around, talking to me. She won’t leave me alone.”
“But does she not care for you?” said Dingus.
“I can’t stand her,” I said. “She wants me to work in an insurance company. She doesn’t understand me. I’m through with her. I’m through with the whole world up there. I’ve come to stay with you.”
“But you cannot stay here,” said Dingus.
“Oh yes I can,” I said. “You have no idea how bad that world is. You have to go to school for almost twenty years. Then the moment you get out you have to work. Then you work until you’re too old to enjoy yourself, and then you die. What’s the point? I’m through with it. Can’t I stay here?”
Farkus just chuckled, a deep rich growling that filled my head like the purring of a cat.
“Let me show you around. Then you decide.”
He took me on a tour of the Rootweavers’ world. Under the earth were not only all the roots of the trees and the grass, woven together in an elaborate network, but all the roads that the people of my world had discarded and paved over with tar and concrete so cars, buses and trucks could dominate the landscape. There was the plank road that once led out from the city of Chicago into the country. There was the bottom of the brick roads with which the streets used to be paved. And all the streetcar tracks, turned upside down so the rails pointed toward us, were there. The Rootweavers had built little carts and attached them to the tracks and found a way to use them again, stealing electrical power from “upstairs” as they called the place where I lived—or used to live.