By Shelly Reuben
My Mostly Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree  Chapter 26

Chapter 26, Life Goes On

Illustrations by Ruth McGraw


We’ve had beautiful summers before, but the summer that followed nature’s temper tantrum was the best that I can remember. The days were mild and sunny. From dawn to dusk, balmy breezes sent sweet scents of flowers across lawns, along garden pathways, and up to the very tops of our tallest trees.

Friendships grew.

Romance, with a capital “R,” tied invisible ribbons around couple exchanging sweetly surreptitious glances.

And benevolence reigned supreme.

I could give you details about friendships and their evolution into love affairs, but your imagination can do a better job than I can, and fill in all the blanks. There were a few surprises, of course. Merritt, for example. It wasn’t until after the storm that we realized how funny he was. He either developed or had always possessed an ability to make Esther laugh so hard that, at least once, she fell out of a tree. 

She fell out of me, to be exact. 

Merritt had a gift for mimicry and self-deprecation, and his humor was similar to that of

Esther’s grandfather when Sam and she were playing their “What are they saying now?” game.

Sometimes, Merritt would do skits about people in the park, or politicians making speeches, but his favorite targets were his fellow firemen. He would take on the personas of each as they tried to outdo the others in exhibitions of fool-hearty bravado, always making himself the butt of the joke with a self-portrayal as the milquetoast in the middle, obsessed with how many teaspoons of salt he should be adding to firehouse meatballs or cups of sugar into pitchers of iced tea. 

The skits were funny because Merritt was just about as milquetoast as a stealth bomber.

Nothing bothered him.

He did not care what people thought about him.

He did not need or want to prove himself to anybody else.

And he was completely self-contained.

Except for the pleasures that he took from his job and his friends, and the joy that he felt when playing with Winston the ferret and loving Esther the inventor.

The collaboration between Meg Fitzgerald and Esther’s brother Carmichael also proceeded predictably. Meg began to write for his newspaper, at first submitting only vignettes, but in time and at Carmichael’s urging, trying her hand at longer pieces, too.  

As to Meg, her freckles, and the hearts and flowers side of their relationship, suffice it to say that Carmichael did, eventually, connect all the dots.

The biggest surprise, however, was Ghita and the silver haired man.

His accent, barely detectable at first, became apparent after frequent exposure, and to almost everyone’s surprise, he turned out not to be Mr. Corporate America at all. He was born in Mexico, developed a passion for the dramatic arts, and moved north of the border when he was still in his teens. After he got his citizenship, he became a successful theatrical impresario, bringing to the United States ballets, plays, musicals, and concerts from just about everywhere in the world.

Which meant that Samuel Swerling had been wrong.

Esther had been wrong.

I had been wrong.

And Ghita, most certainly, had been wrong.

Perhaps, for a few minutes or a few hours or a few days after they met in the park, Ghita believed she had finally found the pillar of industry she’d thought she always wanted – a witty, handsome, intelligent businessman entrenched in a corporate clock world of paid vacations, paid sick leave, medical benefits, a pension, and job security – but, as with Sam, Ghita again had fallen in love with a man who had no safety net.

A self-employed male. 

And, as when Sam had fallen in love with her, once the silver haired man set his sights on Ghita, she seems to have very little to say about it. Except, when the time came, to enunciate two single-syllabled words:  “I do.”

And she did.

Those were happy times in the park.

So happy that few of us noticed the recurring presence of Jarvis Larchmont.

But he was back.

My Mostly Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree  Chapter 26

Copyright © 2017, Shelly Reuben

Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her work, visit