Where Only Air Had Hung Before by Aaron Golden
We ﬁnished the treehouse on Saturday night, our hands riddled with blisters and our throats seared from the aggressive treatment of spliffs we had prescribed ourselves since the morning. It was a marvelous sight: a spacious wooden den built on the carcass of a redwood, nestled under a canopy of deep green leaves and towering high above my stone-paved West Hollywood backyard. A shiny new clubhouse where only air had hung before.
The blueprints had blossomed from the bountiful brain of my best bud Buck and, along with his enchanting wife Sneak and our mercurial brother Bloom, we had spent the ﬁrst half of September constructing the newest addition to the set of our made-up holiday Nightmoon. As the sawdust settled late into the evening, we celebrated on its plywood daises, a quartet of old children feasting on pizza and diet Coke while we traded ideas on how to bring Nightmoon 9’s absurdist promises of dancing robot genies and aquatic box auctions to the light of the night.
Once we passed the far side of midnight, the mists of revelry gently dissipated. After hugging my moonmates goodnight, I climbed back into the tree one last time to rest my back on the soft bark of the redwood. Still buzzing from the spiced herbs in my system, I opened my computer, plugged in the swanky white headphones I had scored in my most recent break-up, and began concocting a Shanah Tova e-mail to my mother as I bathed in melodic Euro tech-house. Not ﬁve words in, however, I noticed a missed iChat message from Richard, my next-door neighbor and, oddly enough, acting agent, from an hour earlier:
“FYI– I can everything you guys are saying right now. It’s unfortunate that the tree house is right by my headboard.”
“Munch? You out here?”
I knew, unfortunately, that my father would ﬁnd me. That his keen eye would connect the muddy boy’s 8.5 bootprints in our backyard to the case of his missing youngest son.
Truth be told, I needed to be found. It was the spring of 1996, I was ten years old, and I was holed up in the tiny treehouse my brother had built the previous summer, crying. As I wiped my tears on my favorite Bugs Bunny sweatshirt, my dad’s head popped up through the treehouse ﬂoor.
“What you doing up here, Munch? Gotta get ready for school.”
“I can’t go back there.”
“Why? What’s going on?”
Through breathy whimpers, I… recounted… how… the day before… the cool guys… had made fun of me… for doing my Tal Sela homework… and wearing… my Bugs Bunny sweatshirt… all the time.
Now, I was no stranger to teasing, as I had two older brothers who regularly reminded me of their superior strength and intellect, but something was different this time. This rejection had come from my friends, the guys I had grown up alongside, who I’d sung Jewish prayers with every morning since we were six. My jerk older brothers were supposed to give me a hard time, if my classmates thought I was loser…?
Maybe they were on to something.
Finish this wild Nightmoon yarn in SN12: Festivus, out December 23rd!