We sat across from each other, she and I. The lemony-polished table top gleaming, splashed with bright light overflowing from the kitchen. The clock ticked quietly. I had given my most convincing explanation on the perils of spinach consumption; “It makes me gag and I cannot swallow it,” complete with a demonstration whereupon a valiant effort on my part ended with me gasping for air and clutching at my throat. I sat at the dinner table recovering, alone, my plate in front of me. Everything had been cleared, but since I refused to eat my spinach it remained as did I. Regarding the chilled pile of goo with contempt I staunchly refused to further risk my life. She busied herself cleaning up in the kitchen, vexed at my seven-year-old whimsical belief that ingestion of spinach caused my throat to close up causing imminent death. I was shocked at her outright vengeful behavior. The only explanation being that she must hate me and this was a simple ploy to be done with me once and for all. “You’ll eat that, or you won’t go to bible school.” “Aha!” I brightened at the thought. Bible school, as far as I was concerned, was an intolerable interruption of summertime forced upon children as a means of getting free childcare, so that adults could enjoy the lazy evenings we had rightfully earned through our school attendance the other nine months of the year. Sheer robbery! I admired the wicked advantage of being an adult. Within minutes she had realized her mistake and re-configured the ultimatum: “That would be a reward to you wouldn’t it? No, no, you shall sit there until bible school, if you want to be so stubborn.” Precious seconds were slipping past, I could see and smell summer through the screen door but I could not be in it. Perish, or endure torture! I needed to devise an escape. As she disappeared into the other room I put my plan into action. Slipping quietly out of the house, I expertly climbed the nearest tree with the stealth of a cat. I shimmied high to the top branches where I was certain the leaves would provide adequate camouflage, and gathered up my long skirt. With bated breath and sweaty palms I wrapped myself around a tree limb.
She emerged from the house shortly, calling my name. As if I would give myself away so easily! Silently I snickered with glee at my success. The leaves shivered with contagion from my laughter. Soon the neighbors became involved and everyone was roaming the farm in a full frenzy. A pang of guilt stabbed through me. I wanted to call out to my friends and let them know that I was alright, but I couldn’t risk the exposure. The search party disbanded, car doors slammed shut, and the crunch of tires on gravel left me alone to contemplate my resolve. Sunset turned to twilight and the cool evening dew settled in. The solitude of my asylum presented a challenge for sleep and nighttime in general. I gave thoughtful consideration to moving into the barn for the remainder of the summer, thereby avoiding all spinach and bible school, but I realized that being in a heavily trafficked part of the farm would make for a foolish hiding place. I slowly descended from my less than cozy nest once I felt safe that a tardy trip to bible school wouldn’t be implemented. Timidly I opened the door and entered the living room. Living-room-warmth enveloped me. All that remained on the table was a small white porcelain vase which held a bunch of wildflowers. The scent of lavender mingled with the memory of dinner and soft country summer air. A lonely remorse began in the pit of my stomach and spread. I thought; if only I could be a good girl and eat my spinach and enjoy bible school. My certain destiny of eternal punishment seemed, in retrospect, a far heavier load to carry in return for a few short hours of self-tree-liberation. I dragged myself to bed with leaden feet and hid under the covers feigning sleep. Night had fallen when I heard her check up on me with a deep sigh. The next morning the spinach had re-appeared on my breakfast plate and I had no choice but to fess up to my antics. “Oh what a naughty child,” she lamented wearily. Somehow I managed to choke down the leftover spinach, and have survived to tell the story.