This is a work of fiction.
As soon as we arrived, Sienna wasted no time in asking her question. Lydia watched in something like awe as Sienna walked right up to the young (in his thirties) man at the gate.
“Hi. I’m Sienna. Are you hurting the environment chopping down all these trees for firewood?”
“Hi, I’m Rob,” he said as if confident nine-year-olds asked him tough questions every day. “It would hurt the environment, but we replace the trees we chop down. We mark young trees with red flags so people won’t chop them down before they’re ready. We add the price of growing more trees to the cost of the firewood. Does that answer your question?”
“Yes. Thank you.” She turned to Emily. “Mom, how much money do I have?”
“Check your pockets.”
“Oh yeah.” She shoved her hands into her pockets and pulled out some bills and change. “Five, ten, twelve, and two quarters. I have $12.50. How many trees can I plant?”
Rob looked a little uncomfortable.
“Um, sorry, not very many. Because it’s already July, we’ve done most of our planting for the year. We do have a few trees in pots in case young trees get lost in storms, but they’re expensive. You can come back in the spring and there’ll be lots of small trees.”
“I want to buy some of those trees, please,” Sienna said.
“I’m sorry,” Rob said, “you don’t really have enough money to buy a tree.”
Lydia walked over to me and looked at my purse.
“Can I see how much I have, please?”
I took out my notebook and showed her the page with her latest balance.
“Can you ask him?”
“Do you mean ask Rob how many trees this will cover?”
“No, but you can. I’ll be right beside you.”
Sienna started to cry. She didn’t yell or fall to the ground, but wept as if grieving the loss of a loved-one.
“Sir,” Lydia said to Rob, “how many trees can I buy?” She wrote something on a scrap of paper and handed it to him. He looked down at it and then back up at Lydia.
“What’s your name?”
“Lydia. I’m Sienna’s friend. Please, can we plant some trees?”
“If you spend all your money, you can plant ten trees.”
Sienna dried her eyes and said, “Five each?”
“Can I watch?” Emily asked. “I don’t think I’m strong enough to chop wood.”
“Of course you are,” I said. “Let’s take turns. Would anybody else like to buy some trees? I think it would be fun for us to do some of each. That way, we learn both taking and giving back.”
Everybody wanted to try both, except for Sammy, who only wanted to chop wood. I didn’t push him to try it, but reminded him that I would buy him a tree if he changed his mind.
We had a great time, until Sammy ignored a red flag.
He walked right up to a lovely, slender young tree and swung his axe mightily.
“Stop!” Andy said.
too late. The axe hit, and the beautiful tree fell.
“Why did you do that?” Sienna said. “It had a red flag. Rob said not to chop those ones.”
Sammy ignored her and took the poor tree to the pile of branches, logs, and sticks.
“Sammy, come here, please,” I said. He tried to ignore me, so I walked over to him instead of shouting. “Please come with me.”
“We need to see Rob.”
“What if I don’t feel like it?”
“Then you’ll wash dishes at every meal for three days straight.”
He followed me.
Rob handed a customer some change, looked at us, and said, “How can I help you?”
“We’re here to report an incident.” I gave Rob a very serious look, hoping he’d understand that I wanted him to be as stern as he could without being mean.
I didn’t answer, so Rob looked at Sammy, who squirmed.
“I’m one of the forest rangers, and if something has happened to one of my trees, I need to know about it.”
We waited, and Sammy finally spoke.
“I cut down the wrong one.”
“Did it have a red flag?”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Please show me.”
Sammy looked at me, his eyes asking for my help.
“Sammy can show you where it is. I’ll be right behind you.”
Sammy looked like he was walking to his own funeral instead of to the site of a felled tree.
The others were there, but nobody said anything. Sammy walked over to the pile of firewood and pointed to the young tree on top of it.
“That was one of the best trees we had,” Rob said.
“Throw him in jail!” Sienna said. “He’s a—”
“That won’t be necessary,” Rob said. He looked at Sammy very seriously. “That tree was worth a hundred dollars. I do have a tree that can stand in its stead, so I’ll go get it and then show you how to plant it.”
Sammy groaned as he watched me deduct the hundred dollars from his balance in my book.
He didn’t appear all that pleased when Rob returned with a large tree in a pot.
After Sammy had finished planting the tree, we packed up our firewood, thanked Rob, and left.
Everything was fine until the next morning. It was raining, and I suggested we sit in Andy’s large tent and do some knitting.
The boys looked uncertain, Sienna was ready and eager to learn right then and there, and Lydia ran off to get her blanket in progress.
She came back in tears.
“What’s wrong?” I asked her. She didn’t speak. I led her away from the others. “Please tell me what happened.”
“My blanket . . .”
I didn’t think she’d cry over a knitting error, so I said, “Can you show me?”
She took me to our camp site and into our tent. She pointed to the cardboard box I’d given her to keep it in. I went over. It looked as if somebody had used the box as a plate for crackers, cheese, peanut butter, and jam. The work Lydia had already done had been taken off the needles and mostly pulled apart, and all the unused yarn was covered in food.
Lydia tugged lightly at my sleeve, and pointed to the box where I kept my knitting. I went over. Both the sweater I’d started and the binder of patterns had been saturated with coffee, juice, and water. I searched the tent and found the package of crackers, jar of jam, jar of peanut butter, and packge of cheese. I took out my phone and snapped pictures of everything.
“Everything can be replaced,” I said. “We’ll find out who did this, and then that person will pay for those replacements. Can I get you a drink of water?” She nodded, and once I’d gotten her one, I cleaned up the mess and then took Lydia back to where the others were waiting.
“Is everything okay?” Andy asked.
“No. Somebody destroeyed Lydia’s and my knitting projects. Does anybody have a confession to make?”
I took out my phone and showed around the pictures of the crime scene.
Sienna cried, Emily looked sad, Andy looked dismayed, Dan and Freckles appeared shocked, and Curly looked angry. Steven and Berkeley looked confused.
Sammy’s expression was one of boredom.
“Show me something I haven’t already seen,” he said.
“Already seen?” I said.
“You!” Sienna screamed.
“I didn’t do it,” Sammy said. He pointed to Dan. “It was him. They were eating in the tent and I told them to be careful, and Freckles was, but he wasn’t.”
“That’s not the truth, Sammy,” I said. “I doubt very much that Freckles or Dan have seen this. On the other hand, you have, and I think you did it, alone. Would you mind telling us why?”
“No,” Sammy said.
“Come with me, please.”
“All right. We’ll do this in front of everyone.” I pulled out my notebook. “I’ve added up the total cost of what you’ve destroyed. The knitting needles we were using are made of wood, and it’s quite hard to remove all traces of peanut butter, jam, cheese, and crackers, so I’ve had to throw them out. You also wasted quite a lot of food, and I’ve added that to what you owe. In total, including all of the yarn you soiled and the binder of now unusable patterns, it comes to ten dollars more than what you have. You are now offically broke, and then some. Let’s go and buy some knitting supplies. This rain isn’t going to let up for a while, so I’ll teach a class on how to select what you need, and then we’ll come back here and get to work.”