The Tree House

Ricky looked up at the ladder and swallowed, nervousness mingling with excitement. The tree house he’d been asking Dad to build for almost three years now was finally done. Well, all except the rope ladder. Dad had promised to make him one, but there hadn’t been time before his annual summer business trip. Ricky made Dad promise that he would pick up some rope from Grandpa’s ranch on his way home next weekend. In the meantime, Ricky had decided to paint the inside. It was frustrating having to wait for the rope ladder, but for now the regular ladder would have to do.

It had been last Saturday that Dad had promised. Now Ricky stood beneath the tree house, a bucket of blue paint in hand. He took a fortifying breath and stepped onto the first rung of the ladder. It was difficult, climbing with only one hand, but it wasn’t until he was halfway up that he started to worry. Every other time he had climbed the ladder, Dad had been just behind him in case he fell. Now there was nothing to catch him but empty air.

For a moment Ricky considered carefully inching his way back down to the safe ground. But he had waited so long for the tree house! He couldn’t back down now. That thought spurred him up the last few rungs.

Once he was safely in the tree house, it was as though he had never been afraid. He gloried in the magnificent view from the two large windows Dad had put in, and then set to painting. About an hour into his project he heard a rattling sound. Frowning, he peered down the ladder and saw his five-year-old sister Sally perched on the bottommost rung.
Ricky groaned. This was why he needed a rope ladder, one that could be pulled up so access to the tree house was denied to everyone he wanted to keep out—Sally being the first on that list. He wished he had stressed the importance of this to Dad earlier

He stuck his head out. “Sally, go away!”

Sally raised her round, cherubic face, blinking against the sun. “I want to play,” she said earnestly.

“No,” Ricky said firmly. “This is my tree house. You’re not allowed in here.”

Sally’s bottom lip wobbled.

“Don’t start crying,” Ricky warned. “You’re not coming in, and that’s that.” He pulled his head back into the tree house and returned to his paintbrush.

He heard an angry wail from below.

“Go play with your dolls, Sally,” he called. “The tree house is for me, not for you.”

There were a few more angry shrieks, and then silence. Satisfied, Ricky dipped his brush back into the paint bucket. He had just started a new coat of paint on the wall when a dull thunk startled him.

He put his brush down and peered out the tree house again. His heart jumped into his throat. The ladder was lying flat on the grass, and Sally was skipping merrily away. She had knocked the ladder over, and Ricky was trapped.

“Sally, wait!” Ricky shouted, waving frantically out the window. “Put the ladder back up!”

She turned, daintily scuffing her toe on the grass—a picture of innocence. “It’s too heavy,” she explained.

“Then go get Mom!” Ricky yelled desperately.

Sally shook her head. “You said the tree house was just for you. So you can just stay there.” With this pronouncement, Sally turned and skipped away. Ricky shouted after her, begging, apologizing, pleading, but it was no use. Sally disappeared over the next hill and left Ricky in the branches of the oak, his beloved tree house now a prison.