• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 10

There is nothing quite like running with a big sister

She used to steal the cars from toy shops. “We weren’t born with purses in our pockets, so we have to help ourselves,” she’d explain, telling me pirates were at the start of the Enlightenment, sea-worthy thieves battling for liberty. “Cars are destroying the world,” she would lecture me. “We need to stop them taking over! Fight for the trees!” If we wanted to swear sisterly allegiance, she claimed, we needed to let our blood drip on slices of ginger, drink and say an oath. “Freedom to trees forever,” she said. We licked our sanguine lips. “Always” I answered.

Red cars were her favorite, and I liked orange cars. “But you’re younger, so you have to wait,” and she collected the scarlet cars, and the crimson cars. The cars were kept in plastic, in their boxes, on our bedroom shelf. Those days, no one asked us where the cars came from, and we never said. No one really knew who we were or what we were doing. Every day we talked about cars, trees, rhizomatic roots, the connection between us and living things. <em>Trees breath,</em> I read in a book one day.

But I never told anyone about standing outside the toyshop, waiting for her to exit and run. There is nothing quite like running with a big sister as trouble licks at your ankles, when you’re fighting for trees to be free.

Before I went to sleep, I would count the cars, and imagine us as pirates, roaming the roads. The two of us against the mechanical world. My sister had told me the pirate flag was a skull with an hourglass, “We’re running out of time.” We’ll become trees, I thought, and our tangled roots will touch the ether.

But one time, when she came out of the toy shop, she ran into the road, and a big car came and ran her down. There was a hole where she had been,


There is nothing quite like running with a big sister

and I felt each carnal edge like sharpness cutting through every single day. One night I took the toy cars and ripped them from their plastic. In the garden, I crushed them down onto a tree stump. The stack of red metal like blood on wood. “I swear to trees,” I whispered as the stars crashed into the night. When we left the house, years later, I cut the tree stump and took it with me. Even now, I carry the cars from house to house.

Now, I live in the woods, and the cars and stump are by a small pine grove. The green branches reach into the universe. The trees are big, and the cars are shrinking. My sisterly pirate talks to me through the roots. “Freedom,” she shouts. “Always,” I roar.