Rollie in the Treetops

He had worn suits and shirts and ties for so long that he had no other clothes, and so it was in a suit and a shirt and a tie and wearing the dull brown leather shoes that were so comfortable and so ugly that he set to work building the treehouse. He was fifty-six years old, very nearly bald, with dull, unreflective eyes, with soft hands and feet, body pudgy and unmuscled from thirty years working in a building, in airconditioning, with words and ideas and sentences. He was unmarried; he had no children. The treehouse was for him, he’d not had one as a boy. The idea had come to him with the puffy white clouds of May, from the east whence the winds blew. His name was Rollie, that is, Roland, or maybe-so Orlando.

He was a poor carpenter, unskilled, amateurish, but then it was a treehouse he was building, and leaves and branches formed better beams and roofs and decoration than any he could have achieved. In the beginning, before the floor was spread across the wide branches of his tree, he climbed the tree with his knees, one suit from a hundred ripped and torn, or swung precariously from a ladder. Once the floor had settled into the tree and the leaves spread over it, he made a rope ladder, right skillful, for some racial memory spoke to him of the ways of rope, of hemp, of lashings and knots and tension, and so it was strong and graceful and light. It swung raspingly back at forth while he slumbered at night or laboured unroughly during the day, but in the afternoons and evenings he drew it up behind him, into his verdant bower, while he sawed and hammered and built and dreamed unaccustomed dreams.