“Littlefoot, aren’t you coming to the market with us?” Benedella asked as she pulled an empty basket from a kitchen cupboard.
“Yes,” Kindra added, “Get your coat. Asher’s sure to be there selling his mother’s sweets today.”
Littlefoot didn’t know what to make of Kindra’s tone. Kindra was the boycrazy one, and Benedella was the one all the boys wanted. Asher was a friend to Littlefoot, and nothing more.
“No, you two go ahead. I think I’m going to rip some boards out of the old treehouse to patch up the fence today.”
“That treehouse is half rotten, too. Be careful up there, all right?” Benedella said.
“I will. There’s plenty of good stuff, compared to the fence at least.”
Kindra sighed. “I’ll miss the old treehouse. We had so much fun up there.”
Benedella smiled. “We sure did. Littlefoot’s right, though. It’s not safe anymore anyway.”
So Littlefoot’s sisters left down the path to the village and Littlefoot made her way, hammer in hand, past the vegetable garden and through the tall grasses to the giant tree where the girls’ father had built them their magical playhouse in the sky. Its ladder had thirty rungs, and Littlefoot remembered fondly how her father had waved off her mother’s worries about the great height. The memory made her miss her parents.
None of the sisters had ever fallen. Now Littlefoot climbed as quickly and surely as ever, slowing only to skip a weak-looking rung or two. When she reached the top, she grabbed the railing that ran the perimeter of the treehouse floor and felt it tilt toward her. She gasped in alarm, and then, grunting, launched herself off the ladder and into the treehouse. But the wood had pulled away completely, and in launching herself, she kicked the ladder and a section of railing clean away from the treehouse. She watched it all tip, tip, and crash below her.
“Spinich and chard,” she swore. “It could be hours before Benedella and Kindra get back so they can bring me a rope or something. Oh well, might as well get to work.”
Stepping very carefully, she found a few sturdy planks of wood toward the back of the treehouse and began prying one up.
She sang a pirate song while she worked.
“Yo ho, truth be told
I will kill you for some gold
Yo ho, what’s your pleasure
Take your wench and take your treasure…”
Littlefoot piled up the boards and yelled, “Uh oh, the pirates are getting drunk!” She continued, louder and less in tune.
“Yo ho, gimme some rum
Take my wench and-”
“Littlefoot? Is that you up there?” It was a man’s voice.
Littlefoot hopped from one solid board to another until she could see down to the ground where the ladder had crashed.
“Asher!” Her throat turned hot. Why couldn’t he have come before the sailors got drunk? “We thought you’d be selling at the market today.”
“Mother wanted me to come ask if you had any sugar we could borrow instead.”
“Why didn’t she just give you money for the market?”
“She did, but, I, well never mind that now, I can see you’re in rather a predicament.”
“The ladder fell,” Littlefoot said unnecessarily.
“Yes. Hmmm.” Asher looked around like he might find a spare three-story ladder stuck in the bushes. “Too bad you don’t have really long hair.”
“You could cut it off and tie it to something and slide down.”
She smirked, content that he had made himself look as stupid as she had looked with the sailor song. “Or you could get me a rope.”
“I’m not sure I could throw a rope that high. Wait!” He reached into his pocket and pulled out what looked like large seeds. “I wasn’t going to tell you, but this is what I bought with the money Mother gave me to buy sugar. Supposedly they’ll grow into a beanstalk that will reach the clouds. I’ll plant them here where the ladder was.”
Littlefoot snorted. “Beanstalk, ha!”
Asher looked up at her with a sheepish grin. “I know, but it’s worth a try. Let me run to your shed and get a trowel.”
Littlefoot scooped up some leaf dust from a nearby post and, laughing, flung it down at him. “Silly.”
For some reason, he kept grinning up at her, not ducking away from the leaves and dirt.
“Ow! My eyes! What did you do?”
“Oh, I’m sorry! I thought you saw me! I thought you’d close your eyes!”
“I thought you were just pretending to throw something. Salt and sugar, I can’t see!”
“I’m so sorry!” Littlefoot didn’t say what she was thinking next, that now he’d never be able to find her a rope.
Nobly, Asher waved his hands in dismissal and said, “I, I think I can feel my way to the shed and find a trowel.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll get a rope.” Asher stumbled away with one hand over his eyes and the other swiping the air in front of him to find trees before he ran into them.”
“Veer right,” Littlefoot called once in a while.
When Asher came back out of the shed with a rope, his eyes were still closed. “Where are you?” he asked.
“Follow my voice. Sail me ship and flog me crew, pirate swords will come for you,” she sang sweetly. “If your meal we can’t afford, we will throw you overboard.”
Asher made it back to the treehouse and, after several tries, got one end of the rope up to Littlefoot. She tied it to a girthy branch and came down hand over hand.
“Thanks Ash,” she said. “Let’s get you in and wash your eyes.”
He blinked at her and pressed his eyes closed again. “If you really felt bad, you’d be crying enough tears to wash my eyes,” he teased.
“Sorry, Bean Boy.” She punched him in the arm and led him to the kitchen where she helped him with a pitcher of water, gave him sugar for his mother, and sent him on his way.