In the early forties, he once stood in the fork of an apple tree, my dad. He was alone, or thought he was alone, leaning there in the tree, standing in the midst of a silent orchard. He climbed apple trees often. On this warm day in summer, who knows what prompted him to these arboreal heights. But in the fork of the tree, he heard a sound like a tune or a whistle that wasn’t the wind but was, to his surprise, a little boy running through the apple orchard. A four-year old boy in flight, singing a tune and running stark naked through the trees, bobbing and weaving his way to the edge of the property, where he’d likely filch harvested vegetables or a hand shovel. His name was Craig, the little naked boy, and in time he would bury field goals 25 feet or more from the basket — and this long before the three-point line was established — and would fall in love with a young woman named Charlene and self-publish a work of poetry dedicated to her called None Such and would disappear into the wild of Alaska where, to survive, he broke into a small hunting cabin for warmth and gnawed at the corners of a leather rug for nourishment and would later, very tragically, put a shotgun in his mouth and toe-push the trigger. Many details of his life have filtered down through my family from accounts that Craig himself shared with my uncle Dave in the long ago. So it’s hard to know where the ruse of invention ends and the truth of fiction begins. Have I just introduced The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino? Yes, I think so. I do.
Postscript. My dad’s birth name is Sharon, by the way. A boy named Sharon. In the army, a drill sergeant simply refused to call him by his name. “You are Joe,” shouted the drill sergeant, during basic training. And from that moment on, he was.