And a teacher from Myers Falls, which is the next town over, got ahold of one of my notes and made her whole class find out things about Canada. Boring things like, "There are thirty-two million people," and "Some of Canada's main exports are timber and aluminum," and they sent all those facts and figures to me in an envelope.
Mama made me write a thank-you note back, so I drew a picture of a Canadian Mountie holding the Queen of England in his arms and they're going over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel, waving aluminum maple leaves, just screaming with glee. "Thank you very much for the information," I wrote. "Let's all hope they're having some fun over in Canada, too. Yours truly, Ida B. Applewood."
So I had my string, my paper, Daddy's dog, and three pieces of bubble gum so I could blow a bubble as big as my face while being careful to keep it away from Rufus, because the last time he got near one of those, we were cutting pink gum out of his fur for about a month after.
And I headed out to the apple orchard.
"Hello, Beulah. Hello, Charlie. Hello, Pastel," I said, which are some of the names I've given those trees. All of the apple trees were full of blossoms, and when you stood right in the middle of them you could smell their prettiness, but not so much it'd bother you.
I was already sitting down under Henry VIII, getting to work on a drawing I'd started the day before. It was the orchard after the harvest, with bushels of apples under all of the trees. There were Mama and Daddy, me, Lulu the cat, and Rufus, each sitting in our own tree, eating slices of apple pie. I was working on Rufus, who had a mix of slobber and crumbs all over him, and Lulu was giving him a look of the utmost revulsion, when I realized that not one of those trees had said anything back to me.
Now, some people might stop me right there and say, "Ida B, you could wait for eternity and a day and you're not going to hear one of those trees talking to you, let alone a brook. Trees don't have mouths, and they don't speak, and you might want to take yourself to the doctor's and get a very thorough check-up real soon."
And after I took a minute to give my patience and forbearance a chance to recover my mouth from the rudeness that was itching to jump out of it, I would just say this: "There's more than one way to tell each other things, and there's more than one way to listen, too. And if you've never heard a tree telling you something, then I'd say you don't really know how to listen just yet. But I'd be happy to give you a few pointers sometime."
So I gave those trees another chance to reply and hollered, "I said, 'Hello,' everybody. Didn't you hear me?"
But instead of the usual chorus of "Hi"s and "Hey there"s, only Viola said, "How are you doing today, Ida B?"
"I'm just fine on such a getting-to-perfect day," I said. "What's the matter with everybody? Why are you all so quiet?"
But they stayed silent. Even the loud ones. Especially the rude ones.
"Hey, what's going on?" I yelled.
Finally I heard Gertrude whisper, "You tell her, Viola."
"All right," Viola whispered back, very discreetly.
Viola hemmed and hawed for a bit, though. "Well . . . " she started, and "Hmmm . . . ahhh . . . ummm . . . " she tried again until she finally got something out. "Ida B, how's everything going at home? How's your fam"
But before she could finish, that punk Paulie T. was interrupting. "We heard a rumor that something bad's headed your way, Ida B." And if trees could grin like jack-o'-lanterns with bad intentions, that's what Paulie T. would have been doing right then.
"And who told you that, Paulie T.?" I asked, because I didn't trust him with a thimbleful of water, let alone the truth.
From Ida B. Copyright © 2004 by Katherine Hannigan.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by permission of Greenwillow Books
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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