“D- did WHAT!?” R- said, a hint of laughter in her voice. R- is Bri’ish, and her accent is best when she’s talking about something ludicrous.
“He jumped out of a tree, and now he can’t remember where his parents live, and his dogs need to be let out to go pee, and…”
“What the hell was D- doing jumping out of a tree?”
“Well, he was…plummeting. So I’m wondering if you know…”
“No, I mean, first, I can’t even imagine him *getting* himself *up* a tree, but what the hell was he THINKING?”
“Um. Well, there’s this poem,” I said, twirling the phone cord around my finger.
“Stop twisting that damned cord over your bloody fingers!” My mother shouted from the living room.
“Ow,” said D-.
“Sorry,” I said.
“What?” R- asked.
“Nothing,” I said. “Anyway, he read this poem about boys jumping out of birch trees and gently lowering themselves to the ground as the trees bent.”
“…huh.” She replied. “Bet the tree broke…”
“Heh. Yeah, it did. Anyway, do you know where his parents live, because we have to go and…”
“How far’d he fall?” she asked.
“Oh, about ten or fifteen feet,” I said.
“Jeesus. Did he break anything?”
“Just his memory. Anyway, d’you know where…”
“His memory,” I said. “He got a bit of a concussion, and…”
“A BAD concussion,” D- shouted from the couch. “Ow.”
“…and he can’t remember where his parents live and we have to go let the dogs out,” I finished quickly.
“Oh. Well. They live on such-and-such street, but I don’t know the number. Maybe if you got the phone book…”
“Got it! Thanks, R-!”
I got D- back into the car, then drove across town to his parents’ place, answering the “where are we going?” questions every few minutes, and sighing at the “I remember someone named J-” comments. D- had to fiddle with every key on his chain before he could find one that opened his parents’ front door. But when he got the door open, the dogs ran out at us, stopped for a moment to lick our shins, then bolted outside.
“Are they always this excited to see me?” D- asked.
“Yes. Especially when they really have to pee.” The dogs took a *very* long time peeing. After a few cuddles and pettins, I insisted D- go to the clinic. He claimed he was fine, until I asked him where *he* lived, and after a blank stare, he got himself into the passenger seat.
The clinic wasn’t too busy, but we had to wait for half an hour or so, and when it was D-‘s turn, he asked me to come with him. I was decidedly uncomfortable.
“What if they have to check for a hernia?” I asked.
“You can step out for a moment,” he said.
“What if they have to…”
“Please, just come with me,” he said. I went with him. He sat on the examination table, and the doctor came in after another twenty or so minutes. While we waited, we went over the facts together, many of which were still a bit woozly in D-‘s memory.
“So,” the doctor said as he closed the door behind him. He glanced over the tops of his glasses at the chart in his hands. “Which of you is D-?” He waited for a brief moment before laughing. “I always say that,” he said, “when I first meet my patients.”
I stared. D- grinned weakly.
“What seems to be the problem?” he asked.
“Well,” D- began, “you see, it’s kind of a strange thing that happened.”
“There’s a poem,” I began.
“By Walt Whitman,” D- continued.
“No – Robert Frost,” I said.
“Right. Robert Frost.” He said. “About jumping out of trees…”
We both stared at the doctor expectantly. The doctor returned our expectant stare with one of his own. “Yes?” he said.
“Well,” I began.
“I kind of…”
“He thought the tree would just bend and lower him gently to the ground, like in that poem.”
“You didn’t…” the doctor began.
D- nodded gravely. “I jumped out of a tree,” D- said.
“You did WHAT!?” The doctor said, eyes wide.
“Well, I just…in the poem…” D- began.
“In the poem, the trees gently bend and lower the boys to the ground. But the trees in the Red don’t do that.” I said.
“I chose the wrong sort of tree,” D- continued, “or the wrong size.”
“…” the doctor said, staring. “…”
“He hit his head,” I said. “He lost consciousness for about two minutes. He’s experienced dizziness, headache, and memory loss.”
“And memory loss,” D- said. “Lots of that. I think.”
The doctor stared and stared. “Normal people,” he began, “Normal people do *not* jump out of trees.”
D- just sat there, nodding sagely.
“Poets jump out of trees,” I said, helpfully. The doctor shot me a fiery look. “Um. But poets…know the right…sorts of trees…and they don’t….get….concussions…” I let the discussion slowly fade away.
The doctor checked D- over, muttering now and then about stupid people, and stupid ideas, and didn’t we know that the brain is a delicate, delicate organ, and why on earth would you jump out of a tree? And sometimes he said something about literature being dangerous if it’s going to be all jumping out of trees from here on in. And what do they TEACH you in school these days? Aren’t there poets who don’t write about jumping out of trees? Don’t they know how DANGEROUS that is?
Finally, the doctor stood up, told D- to quit reading poetry and to take some aspirin and rest for a couple of days. He said, “most of your memory should come back, but you could have done permanent damage. PERMANENT DAMAGE; do you understand that?”
“Oh yes,” D- said. “I think my tree-jumping days are numbered.”
The doctor glared at him.
“He means over,” I offered. “His tree-jumping days are over.”
“NORMAL people,” the doctor pontificated insistently, “do not *jump* out of *trees*.”
And that was the time my friend D- jumped out of a tree because a poet said it was cool. Just goes to show you how dangerous books can be.