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Tale of Treeo: Chapter 6     

   “Eli, we’re getting closer to that bike. I think two hundred dollars should be enough”

Eli: So Nellie and her friends decided to play around at a bake sale while I raked more leaves and talked to Zaidy Zee.
Nellie: Play around? We were having fun while we raised money! It was a win-win!
Squizzle: And Eli and I found a mysterious map, which is one step closer to the treehouse. I also ate some cookies — don’t tell Nellie!


The bake sale is a smashing success, if Nellie does say so herself. Once she’d managed to stop Kivi from running off with all the cookies, they’d sold loads of cookies and brownies to kids in the neighborhood. A few cars had stopped by, too, and the adults who’d bought cookies were much more generous. One of them had given Nellie a whopping 20 dollars for a single cookie and told her to keep the change.

“One hundred and twelve dollars,” Nellie exclaims triumphantly, carefully placing the final bills and coins onto the dining room table. Her friends have left, and Eli is on the couch in the living room, eating a cookie and reading a book as thick as the brownie pan. “That’s our grand total,” she announces proudly.

Eli scrunches up his nose. “So you spent the whole afternoon on the bake sale and only managed to make forty dollars? Doesn’t sound worth it to me.”

Nellie chuckles. Eli remains focused on his book and swiftly snatches a cookie from the table and pops it in his mouth. “Mhmmm.”

“Well,” Nellie retorts, “You talk big for someone who got free unlimited cookies afterward.” She gets up from the table with a gleam in her eye. “Eli, we’re getting closer to that bike. I think two hundred dollars should be enough. Zaidy Zee says he’d take us shopping down at Rockville Avenue to pick one out together.”

Eli sets his book aside, thinking about what Nellie is saying. “Four more backyards and we’re done. If we spend two more afternoons raking leaves, we might even have time to go searching for Treeo again after—”

“Oh, no way.” Nellie’s face screws up, imagining the dreadful thought of raking leaves again. “I have a much better idea. Let’s do a Sunday morning camp for the neighborhood! We could borrow the Greenbaums’ blow-up bouncy house from next door and do an arts and crafts project and—”

“I have school on Sunday mornings,” Eli reminds her. “And you know afternoon is the best time to go exploring in the woods.”

Nellie’s determined to push ahead with her great idea. “Fine, we’ll do it on Sunday afternoon then,” she declares. “I was thinking you could show some of the little kids how you ride on the back wheel of your bike, and I’d teach them how to do a cartwheel. It’ll be so fun! C’monnnn, Eli. I bet we’d even make more money than we need.”

Nellie fondly remembers how Miri had organized a camp before school and she had helped out, making enough money to buy a collection of super-cute headbands.

Eli finishes his cookie with a loud chomp, his eyes still firmly locked onto his book, a detail that’s beginning to drive Nellie crazy. “You haven’t really thought this through,” he points out, finally looking up. “We’d need to buy all the supplies for the arts and crafts. And if we decide to give out snacks, well, we’re going to have to pay for that, too. I think we might end up spending more money than we make, especially on a random Sunday when parents aren’t really looking for a camp for their kids.”

Turning a page in his book, he adds. “Tatty says there’s supposed to be a hurricane this weekend.”

Nellie scoffs. “In Florida! That’s like a million miles away.”

“Yeah, but what if we end up with rain by Sunday?” Eli throws back. “Running a camp indoors wouldn’t work, and let’s face it, a lot of kids might get bored from those cartwheels pretty quickly. Then what’s our game plan? A few bike tricks won’t keep them busy for long.”

Nellie shoots him a frustrated glare. “Well, we’ll just have to come up with other activities, like hide and seek, or tag, or…” Her irritation grows as she continues to talk to the top of Eli’s yarmulke. “Can you at least look at me when I’m talking to you?” she demands, her excitement fizzling out with each passing second. “I really think it’s a good idea.”

Eli looks up at last. His face is flat and unhappy. “Well, I don’t.”

Nellie’s getting frustrated. “You don’t like any of my ideas! Yours are always reasonable and measured. I might have big dreams, yeah, but it’s going to be amazing, Eli. I tried raking leaves, even though I didn’t like it.”

Eli scowls. “And then you quit. The leaves, the treehouse—”

“You never even give my ideas a chance!” Nellie shoots back, her frustration mounting. It’s just not fair. Eli seems unwilling to even try any of her suggestions. And it’s not like she’s given up on searching for the treehouse; it’s simply not going anywhere, and they need to get this bike for Shlomo before autumn ends. After all, that was Eli’s idea in the first place, so he really has no right to get upset about her dedication to it.

“And you know, you’d actually enjoy the camp,” she continues, trying to appeal to his sensibilities. “You’re so good with little kids, and you could show them all kinds of cool animals or whatever — even that annoying squirrel that loves hanging out with you—”

Eli snaps, “I said I don’t want to do it!” His voice is sharp, and Nellie takes a step back, hurt by his tone. He glares at her, and Nellie glares right back, her face growing warm and red with frustration.

This feels like it might explode, like Eli is going to yell at her and she might yell right back. Oh, she just hates it when they fight.

Well, she hasn’t done anything wrong this time. And she isn’t going to apologize for trying to do her own thing instead of following Eli’s ideas, like always. “Whatever,” she says, the flush in her cheeks giving her away. “I’ll just do it with someone else.”

With a huff, she stomps her way upstairs, each step echoing her anger. Rikki pokes her head around her door to see what’s going on, then rolls her eyes and closes it again. Nellie pushes her door open and shuts it behind her with a bang.

Nellie. Even her name is because of Eli, because Nechama is so long and wouldn’t it be cute if the twins had rhyming nicknames? Sometimes she just wishes Eli would agree with all her ideas without thinking so much.

She turns to stare out the window. Squizzle is perched on a branch that brushes right up against her window, making squirrel-y noises that sound mocking, somehow. She glowers at him, and he makes a squeaky little noise and dashes away from her, up to a higher part of the trunk.

Wait. What is that?

Further up the tree, outside Nellie’s window, is an old nest, still there from the spring and mostly intact. But there’s something in it, a scrap of white that looks like it might be a paper.

She slides the window up and carefully pries the screen off of its frame so she can climb out onto the branch. With quick, sure movements, she moves her hands along the branch, pulling herself closer to the trunk, then presses her feet against the trunk to pull herself up. A moment later she’s standing on the branch, and she finds a knot in the tree to use as a foothold.

She climbs up the tree, swinging on one branch to set her feet down on the next, through the thickly woven branches and across the tree to where the nest is sitting. Nellie plucks the white scrap from the nest and stares at it, her eyes widening.

It’s covered in markings, pictures of trees and paths moving through it, and a river drawn in light detail across the paper-like material that she’s holding. It looks familiar somehow, almost like the maps that rangers give out before a hiking trail. Maybe it’s the woods down below her, though she couldn’t say for sure.

There is a strange, small marking, a curved line that blocks off the corner of the paper; Nellie touches it and wonders what it might be. Something important, maybe. Something in the woods that Nellie has never seen before.

Ooh, Eli will probably have some ideas. Eli always has ideas.

But Nellie, tucked into the corner of a tree with frustration still burning inside her, doesn’t feel very much like talking to Eli right now.


(Originally featured in Treeo., Issue 985)

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