One moment I was alone in the dark, and the next I wasn’t. I became aware that a shadowy figure had appeared silently on the front steps of the house sitting next to me. “I’m so glad you came back!” I said. “I was so worried about you.”

“Well, like you said, all I had to do was be strong and I would be OK,” said my brother’s nasal voice, which somehow managed to sound angry and resentful even at this early hour of the morning. “Isn’t that what you said, Mr. Mature?”

As a boy, the neighborhood kids had called me Victor Mature, presumably because I acted much older than my age. I sighed, letting the air out of the Balloon of Hope that had burst inside of me.

“So, what seems to be the trouble?” he asked.

“What are you talking about?”

“I wanted to see what’s bothering you. Why else would you be sitting out here in the middle of the night before the sun came up?”

I sighed. “You wouldn’t understand.”

“Of course I wouldn’t. I’m too stupid. That’s what you all think.” He got up and went in the house.

I walked along the dark streets, seeing the light come up over the Des Plaines River to the west. I went to the industrial park out of habit, knowing I wouldn’t find anything there. The white tail of a rabbit hopped into a bush. I passed tree after tree. Their dry leaves rattled—first one, then another, then another. At that time there were still a lot of big elms in the neighborhood. I thought of all the roots joined together. Instead of separate trees it was a huge network of trees that behaved as one. And that network was connected to another one in another neighborhood, and so on, all around the world. When you thought of the trees that way your view of the world changed. It was somehow comforting to think that they were all nourishing one another and that some unseen force was taking care of them. I wondered what the world would be like if people like that, and houses, and cars, and traffic. But then I realized: all the cars and drivers are dependent on one another; if not, there would be accidents all over the place. Maybe we were all joined together, and I just didn’t see it that way.

When I got to the place where the Rootweavers’ hole had been, a bulldozer was parked nearby. And big concrete blocks were piled all around. I sat on one and stared forlornly at the dirt as the gorgeous peach colored light illuminated the brick buildings, the tar-streaked telephone poles. The light shone on a swatch of bright yellow among the debris. I stumbled over to see what it was: the box of Juicy Fruit gum I had left earlier. At first, I thought the construction guys had taken it all. But I had buried it so deep… the box was dirty and torn but I could read some words scrawled in a childish hand: BING MORE GUM.

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