A YouTube video claims that Climbing began in California, and like other fads—hula hoops, piercings, and body ink—traveled east.1 In the beginning (winter 2014), that was how the news2 described it—a fad. Since then, Climbing has spread both geographically and exponentially, and is now more often likened to a "hysterical phenomenon," comparable to the infamous Salem witch trials.
So far, only the male
species gender has been stricken with Climbing,3 but some fear that Climbing may evolve to effect affect both males and females.
In North Carolina, Climbing has always been taken more seriously than a mere fad. Media reports of Climbing and Perching have been suppressed by "Climb-gag" legislation (similar to "Ag-gag" legislation). Furthermore, vigilante movements have de-limbed trees, making them less accessible to potential Climbers. Religious leaders have labeled Climbing and Perching as sins, citing
obscure Biblical passages that could be interpreted to reference ancient outbreaks of Climbing.
Mr. Tillis was the first on our block to Climb.
Ed Tillis is Garth Tillis's father. Garth is also a student at Bailey Middle School and is the author's friend (we aren't exactly friends, because at school he acts like he doesn't know me, him being a Jock and me a Nerd, but in our
'hood neighborhood, Garth and I skateboard together).
Garth said his dad became obsessed with Climbing in the days leading up to his own Climb. Then one morning, instead of going to work, he walked into the back yard, hoisted himself up into their big white oak, and Climbed. After six weeks of refusing to come down, he's considered a Percher.
Mr. Weitzel was the next to Climb. Unlike Mr. Tillis, who was loved by family and friends and respected by co-workers,
Old Man Mr. Weitzel was considered a nut job unbalanced long before he Climbed. He was famous for hollering at us kids for playing in the street or chasing balls onto his lawn. Down-sized Retired from a large software company, he spent most summer days at our neighborhood pool checking out ogling the local MILFs housewives. He also shot squirrels off his back deck with a twenty-two, which if you are unaware is not that easy.
Mrs. Tillis, nearly had a nervous breakdown following her husband's Climb. She invited psychiatrists, preachers, and law enforcement into her yard to talk her husband down. While he accepts food and drink, delivered via ropes and pulleys, Mr. Tillis refuses to speak about his decision, remaining
silent mute among the branches.
Mrs. Weitzel, on the other hand, is said to have given the Old Man a boost into his hickory tree. Within a week she put the house up For Sale by Owner and left town without saying where she was going.
Back in August, when
Old Man Mr. Weitzel climbed, we lost sight of him in the leaves, but now that autumn has arrived, he's visible. Garth says he looks "birdlike."
I wonder what will happen when he Falls.
Or, perhaps, Takes Wings.
Taking Wings, a recent development in what some are calling a "crisis in American manhood"4 is considered proof of the evolution of whatever is causing Climbing and Perching. The first case of Taking Wings occurred on the evening of the Blood Moon.5
Until the Blood Moon, all Climbers and Perchers eventually succumbed to gravity and Fell. But on the evening of the Blood Moon, an Ohio man mysteriously developed wings and took flight from the maple tree in which he'd Perched for nearly two months.
Since the occurrence of the Blood Moon several
accidents incidents of Taking Wings have become more pregnant prevalent.
Some jurisdictions have attempted to outlaw Climbing.6 However, one law enforcement official has been quoted as saying: "making Climbing illegal is the equivalent of making suicide or masturbation illegal."7 Also, there have been instances where police have attempted forcible removal of Climbers from trees, only to be repelled by the Climbers themselves.
As noted earlier, some consider Climbing to be caused by social hysteria. Epidemiologists tend to attribute the "disease" to a virus,8 while psychotherapists cite stress placed on white, middle-class men (who have been especially hard hit) as the primary cause. Others believe that Climbing may be the result of extra-terrestrial influences or, as mentioned earlier, demonic tendencies.9
Climbing, Perching, Falling, and Taking Wings seemed
weird strange when they first began to occur, but now they are just another aspect of modern life.
For example, some days after school and skateboarding, Garth and I sit under the tree that holds his dad. We do our homework and play video games on our iPads. Truthfully, we hardly notice his dad, anymore. Garth's mom says we've reached the fifth and final state in dealing with grief—acceptance.10
Especially with Climbing becoming more widespread, my mom and I keep a close eye on my Dad. Never one to say much, he's become totally silent. He and I used to get into arguments, especially if I begged for new electronics or clothes from Abercrombie and Fitch. Now, I don't bring
this stuff these matters up because I know he won't respond, and then my mom will get upset.
After dinner, he heads to his home office with a nightcap and his laptop. He often falls asleep on the sofa and leaves for work while it's still dark. My mom says this is actually normal, because he's an accountant and this is a busy time of year.
Mom says Dad feels crushed by the responsibility of raising a family. The world news depresses him—Islamic terrorists, climate change, and immigrants flooding the country. He feels like the world he grew up in, a world that seemed benevolent and forgiving in his youth, no longer exists. He feels like there is a huge chasm between the "haves" and "have-nots," and that he's destined to fall through the crack. He worries that he'll be laid off in favor of someone younger and willing to work for less pay. One of us will become ill, and without health insurance, we'll spend our savings on medical care and end up homeless. Lacking resources, I won't be able to go to college (or will have to attend community college), and will end up living on the margin.
Anyway, I'm trying to be a better son. I've begun cutting the grass, so Dad doesn't have to. I take out the garbage without being asked. I pack a lunch instead of wasting money on the
lousy disgusting school lunches I didn't eat, anyway. Yesterday, when I lost a wheel on my skateboard, I didn't complain and beg for a replacement. I've decided I could live without a cell phone and X-Box, if I had to.
If my dad Climbs, I worry that I, too, may become a Climber. I only hope that by the time I grow up, they will have found a cure for Climbing. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the chances of one becoming a Climber are one in 275.5 up from one in 4,258.7 in September of this year.
2 NBC Evening News with Brian Williams, February 4, 2014.
3 Climbing and the Male Genome, New York Times, July 7, 2014.
4 Crisis is Manhood, The Delbert Report, September, 2014.
6 To wit: California, New York, and Massachusetts.
7 State Senator Bill Rawlings of Texas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zw22uu99; also see this author's earlier paper on "Increase in Masturbation Tied to Internet Usage."
8 The Climbing Virus Isolated, Dr. Otto Hecklinger, Journal of Epidemiology, September, 2014.
9 Climbing, Perching, Falling and Taking Wings, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/climbing_perching_falling_taking_wings.
10 See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model.
BIO: Gary V. Powell is a stay-at-home dad to a thirteen year-old son. His stories and flash fiction have appeared most recently at Bartleby Snopes, Carvezine, Thrice Fiction, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Camroc Press Review, and Best New Writing 2015. In addition to winning the 2015 Gover Prize for short-short fiction, his work has placed in other national contests including The Press 53 Prize (2012), Glimmer Train Short-Short Contest (2013), and the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize (2014). His first novel, Lucky Bastard, is available through Main Street Rag Press.