‘Follow the unusual life and wisdoms of parentless William Tyce as he shares his poignant adventures in this fictional A-Z coming-of-age compendium.’
– A Key to Treehouse Living
I am delighted to be sharing an extract today from A Key to Treehouse Living by Elliot Reed.
Published with Meville House UK on March 12th, writer Jess Walter, author of the wonderful novel Beautiful Ruins, describes it as ‘Terrific, funny, poignant and just weird enough… I ate it up.’
Perhaps just the book you were looking to get lost in during these very uncertain times…..
[ About the Book ]
William Tyce is a boy without parents, left under the care of an eccentric, absent uncle. To impose order on the sudden chaos of his life, he crafts a glossary-style list, through which he imparts his particular wisdom and thoughts on subjects ranging from ASPHALT PATHS, CAMPFIRE and MULLET to MORTAL BETRAYAL, NIHILISM and REVELATION.
His improbable quest ― to create a reference volume specific to his existence ― takes him on a journey down the river by raft (see MYSTICAL VISION, see NAVIGATING BIG RIVERS BY NIGHT). He seeks to discover how his mother died (see ABSENCE) and find reasons for his father’s disappearance (see UNCERTAINTY, see VANITY). But as he goes about defining his changing world, all kinds of extraordinary and wonderful things happen to him.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time meets Huckleberry Finn in this unique literary adventure from young, talented debut novelist Elliot Reed, who received his MFA from the University of Florida in Gainesville and is currently living in Spokane, Washington.
[ Extract – A Key to Treehouse Living ]
A woman becomes a mother when a baby comes out of her body. From then on, she can never stop being a mother. No matter how much or how little mothering she does, she will still be a mother. If a bird lays an egg in a nest, flies off, and never returns, the bird will still be a mother if the egg she laid hatches. Not all mothers want to be with their children.
An order for words to go in so that people can find what they’re looking for without having to read every single one of the words. Generally, A comes before B and B before C and so on through Z, but sometimes it doesn’t work exactly because whoever put the words in a list got distracted while writing down the words. Also, it may not work because sometimes a system may look like it’s a good system for a while and then not seem like such a good system later. ADDITION may come before ABACUS, for instance, because you need to know what addition is before you can understand what an abacus does, and since you’d have to go and look up ADDITION if you ever looked up ABACUS, the sensible author would put ADDITION before ABACUS, and the sensible reader might as well read the whole list of words through, from start to finish.
If a man working as a landscaper for the city is digging a hole for a tree in a park, by himself, using a shovel, and as he throws a last shovelful of dirt onto the grass beside the hole sees a stone object fall out of a dirt clod, and when he picks it up sees that it’s a spearpoint made a thousand years ago by a Native American, he becomes an archaeologist. Professional archaeologists like Indiana Jones or the guy from Jurassic Park get paid to look for ancient artifacts and then to say some things about what they find, to say what the thing they found tells us about the past. Amateur archaeologists—like the city-park worker who finds the spearpoint or a kid who finds a black-and-white photograph of his father stashed beneath a dust-covered chest of drawers in his uncle’s basement while searching beneath it for a Matchbox car that took its ramp badly and disappeared down there—don’t get paid to look for artifacts and don’t have to, if they don’t want to, say anything to anyone about what they find (see BUS, STOPPED).
AFTER THE FACT
Too late. If somebody who was here a moment ago is now gone, and you didn’t see them leave, you’ve found out they’re gone after the fact—the fact being that they left.
The park on 78th is a standard city park including one undersized baseball field with bleachers and dugouts, a locking shed, rubber bases in good condition, and a digital scoreboard. An overgrown asphalt path goes around the outfield. The path is shaded by sycamore and fir trees, many of which have large, dead limbs. Go to the big park downtown and you won’t find dead limbs threatening from the trees. In that park, crews of beige-uniformed park workers go from tree to tree in beat-up pickups maintaining the wood. The park on 78th, while soundly within the radius of municipal park maintenance, is cared for by the parents of young baseball players, along with two elderly women who wander the weedy outfield picking dandelion greens. I once saw a grown man in a camouflage coat and boots without shoelaces ride a kid’s bike down the asphalt path, slowly, as if he were lost, holding a plastic-wrapped bouquet of roses in one hand and steering the bike with the other.
If you want something and can’t have it, and then you see other people getting the thing you can’t have, you will probably feel jealousy. Lots of times, though, jealousy is a short-lived feeling that quickly becomes anger. Jealousy, in its purest form, is observable at your local Little League game. See the kid straddling a stopped bike out past the outfield, the kid staring at the game and oblivious to everything else? There you see jealousy. If he holds in his hand a small branch, and if he breaks this branch on the trunk of a fir tree as he bikes away from the ball field, you’ve seen jealous anger, but a harmless kind. Then there are other kinds of jealous anger.
It’s important that you have a reference book to refer to in case you get confused. If you don’t have one, find one, and remember: not all reference books are created equal. Some are more useful than others. If you find that your reference book contains bad information, you must fix it by making special corrections called annotations—use pen, pencil, or crayon to correct what’s wrong so the next person who reads it knows better. Alberta Otter’s reference book was an old dictionary printed by LITTLE AND IVES in 1828, which Alberta got in 1910 and had until 1925, which I know because she dated her annotations. She went through the whole LITTLE AND IVES dictionary, annotating front to back, which I know because the dates on the annotations go up as the letters go toward Z. In 1925, while annotating XYLOPHONE, Alberta abandoned her dictionary in a hurry. I believe she abandoned her dictionary because her family’s middle-of-nowhere Victorian was being attacked by bandits from Kansas. It looked like a bandit had searched the dictionary for money and then dropped it, open, on the floor of an upstairs bedroom, which is where I found it in the old Victorian that had become an overgrown ruin in the park downtown. A family of mice had moved into the pages of the dictionary and was living in the entries. Most of the dictionary had been tunneled out by the time I found it, but there was still enough of it left. The dictionary was splayed face-down on the floor, open to page 1094. What I found on page 1094 was a printed sketch of a raccoon beneath the entry entitled RACCOON, but you only realized that the creature in the sketch was supposed to be a raccoon because it had its name right there. Beside the printed sketch were Alberta’s annotations in cursive: BOBCAT? BEAR? which I understood to be her agreeing with what I was thinking, agreeing with me through this dictionary across time, agreeing that whoever had been told to sketch a raccoon for LITTLE AND IVES had never actually seen one. Alberta’s annotated dictionary has notes that the mice didn’t eat on 201 of the 2,000 pages, notes as short as one word and other notes as long as a page. The word ANNOTATIONS, writ- ten in Alberta’s cursive, has six ink humps. Alberta some- times gave the humps of her cursive M’s and N’s little beards of snow, which is how I can tell that she missed seeing the mountains.
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