The Trees Are They Green

Look out the window. That’s what your dad says. Look at your sister. Look at how well she’s entertaining herself. Be more like sis, can you do that for me, buddy? Can you look out the window? What do you see? Do you see the trees? What color are they? Are they alive or are they dead?

You say they’re broken. It’s a new word you learned at daycare. Broken. You heard one of the older kids say it about their toy soldier with the arm ripped off. But he’s broken, she had said, holding the soldier up to the daycare lady with grey hair in tight wiry curls. You’re not one hundred percent sure what it means—for something to be broken—but you know it’s a sad thing. When something is broken, that is bad. It is no longer what you want it to be.

Broken tree, you say, pointing out the window. Broken tree.

Dad’s proud of you. You can tell from his voice. That’s a big word, buddy! Good job, he says. Wow. Such a big word. Yes, he continues, That’s right. The trees are broken. And what color are they? He’s looking at you through the rearview mirror. Can you tell me what color they are? Are they green?

You ask him, Where Mom?

Your sister, sitting next to you, is singing to herself. She gets a quarter of the way through her ABCs, just past G, mumbles something that even you know isn’t part of the song, and then starts over. Her eyes are closed. You ask him again, louder this time, hands balled up into tiny fists. Where Mom? He tells you to be more like your sister. Look at how well she’s entertaining herself, he says. Tell me about the trees.

Terek Hopkins grew up in California. He still lives there.