“Why is everyone so angry with me?” I asked. “All I did was cut a few roots.”

Farkus sighed. As he shook his head, a few grains of dirt fell into the cracks in the ancient leather seat covering. “No, you do not understand.”

“Wait,” I interrupted. “Let me see. I didn’t cut just a few roots. I hurt the whole network, all over the place, everywhere.”

Now he looked up at me, happily, and touched my arm for the first time. “Now you see. You see.”

We made some more travels through the network. We went to the cemetery where my grandmother was buried. We could practically feel her presence and that of the people all around her. We went to her home in the city, and then to the historic home in Des Plaines that had burned down. After a while I yawned, and Farkus took me back to where we had started. But this time he showed me another way to descend into the Rootweavers’ world, through another manhole cover.

“Go down this passage twenty steps, then open this door,” he said. “You have to squeeze through. Keep yourself thin.” He patted me on the stomach. I wish now that I had followed this advice.

When I came up through the street and put the cover back with a loud clatter the dawn light was just coming up. It was a quiet Saturday morning. Yet as I turned the corner there was activity on Orchard Street. It was my mother. On weekends she and her sister, my aunt Willamae, went to flea markets to sell the things they had found at garage sales during the week.

“Greg-o-ry,” said my aunt in her nasal, singsong voice. “Whatcha doin’? Just comin’ in after a night on the town?”

“Actually, I took a little trip,” I said, yawning.

I knew my mother would ask me for help. Whenever I was in her presence, I was at her disposal. I was like a second pair of arms. “Oh, could you bring those boxes out to the car?” she asked, pointing to some boxes on the front steps.

“Come on, I’m tired,” I said.

“What were you doing out all night?”

“You couldn’t possibly understand.” As quickly as I could, I carried all three boxes at once and plopped them on the ground by the car, then hurried away to escape further demands on my precious time and energy.

“Don’t drop them, they contain valuable antiques!” she said.

“Stupid junk,” I muttered.

“Do you see how he talks to me, how he treats me?” she said to her sister.

“These kids, they just don’t care about their mothers,” said Aunt Willamae.

Now I look back and think: I wish I could put those roots back together. I did not know how difficult it would be. But I would find out soon enough.

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