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Whose Upward Flight I Love
by Nalo Hopkinson

That fall, a storm hailed down unseasonable screaming winds and fists of pounding rain. The temperature plummeted through a wet ululating night that blew in early winter. Morning saw all edges laced with frost.

In the city's grove, the only place where live things, captured, still grew from earth, the trees thrashed, roots heaving at the soil.

City parks department always got the leavings. Their vans were prison surplus, blocky, painted happy green. The growing things weren't fooled.

Parks crew arrived, started throwing tethers around the lower branches, hammering the other ends of twisted metal cables into the fast-freezing ground to secure the trees. Star-shaped leaves flickered and flashed in butterfly-winged panic. Branches tossed.

One tree escaped before they could reach it; yanked its roots clear of the gelid soil and, flapping its leafy limbs, leapt frantically for the sky. A woman of the crew shouted and jumped for it. Caught at a long, trailing root as the tree rose above her. For a second she hung on. Then the root tore away in her hand and the tree flew free. Its beating branches soughed at the air.

The woman landed heavily, knees bowing and thighs flexing at the impact. She groaned, straightened, stared at the length of root she was clutching in her garden glove. Liver-red, it wriggled, like a worm. Its clawed tip scratched feebly. A dark liquid welled from its broken end. "We always lose a few when this happens," she said. The man with her just stared at the thing in her hand.

The tree was gaining altitude, purple leaves catching the light as it winged its way to its warmer-weathered homeland. She dropped the root. He tried to kick dirt over it, his boot leaving dull indentations in the earth. Then he gave a shout, not of surprise exactly, rushed to another tree that had worked most of its roots whipping out of the soil. She ran to help. Cursing, they dodged flailing foliage, battened down the would-be escapee.

He panted at her, "So, you and Derek still fighting?"

Her heart tossed briefly. She hogtied the faint, familiar dismay. "No, we worked it out again."

And Derek would stay, again. They would soldier on. And quarrel again, neither sure whether they battled to leave each other or stay.

A burgundy gleam on the powder-dusted ground caught her eye. The severed root was crawling jerkily, trying to follow in the direction its tree had gone.

Nalo Hopkinson is a Toronto-based writer of speculative fiction whose novels include Brown Girl in the Ring (Warner: 1998) and Midnight Robber (Warner: 2000). The story Whose Upward Flight I Love was previously published in the short fiction collection Skin Folk (Warner: 2001).

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