The first time that the trees began to walk, Mae wore pink onesies and couldn’t yet talk. She lived with her mother at the end of the road, and they had two trees that lived with them.
One was a big gray maple called Old Mother. She had a scratchy beard of moss that grew on the side of her head. The other was Long Branch, but he was young and thin and angry dropping prickle-pods to hurt her toes.
When the trees came by in a parade, at all hours of the night and day, Mae sat at a desk and learned the colors of their leaves and the sounds of their names. Dogwoods with pale white faces, and birches walking on their roots like ballerinas in striped tutus. Saplings slithering, dragging their stumps along the ground, garden snakes in the grass. Oaks traipsed by, still in their tire swing and tree house work clothes. From the mountains, whole forests of trees wearing their red and orange party dresses, their leaves rustling with stories of the dance.
Some walked carefully to keep from disturbing the birds’ nests that called them home. Others barreled on dragging fences and power lines with them as they ran.
The scientists on the television said they were going to countries in South America. Momma said there’s lotsa sun in South America, close to that hot line that runs around the globe. The man who did the weather said the angry redwoods were stomping through California, shaking the earth.
One day, even Old Mother left, knocking over the swing set as she went.
This made Mae sad.
Some people said what about our tables and books and rocking chairs, so they went out with sharp whirring chainsaws and cut down the trees trying to escape. They used bulldozers and big ropes to yank their roots out of the ground.
Some thought this was good. Some thought this was bad.
Momma said this was probably why they left in the first place.
When the trees had all gone, there were cemeteries of the left behind. Some of them spotty with lichens, with sad wrinkly bark, or long brown kudzu hair.
Their fallen branches bleached-white in the sunlight.
Mae thought the trees missed them. The way she missed her grandmother. But Momma said, Trees remember all things in their rings. Good rains and bad fires, and they would remember this too.
Stragglers would pass by from Canada, and Mae would ask, “Where are you going, Mr. Tree? And will Old Mother be there?”
But the only answer was a rustle of their leaves in the passing wind.
Wendy Dinwiddie, “The First Time that the Trees Began to Walk,” Fairy Tale Review (Web, March 2021).