Born with one-eye, twelve-year-old Jimmy Parker would rather climb trees with his rope and harness than hang around with people – after all, trees don’t tease. Jimmy’s prosthetic eye looks good, but it’s smaller than his real eye and sits lower on his cheekbone, making for a lopsided face. Jimmy is determined to afford the surgery that he’s sure will fix his face – and change his life. But money is scarce and cosmetic surgery expensive, so Jimmy convinces his arborist father to let him help out in the tree business this summer – a job full of risk, but worth the cash.
Because of money problems, Jimmy’s family has to move across town, where he meets cute and candid Samantha Fulton while rescuing her grandma’s cat from a tree. Sam admires Jimmy’s climbing skills and welcomes him to the new neighborhood, even tagging along on local tree jobs. When he meets Sam’s uncle Aaron, a wounded army veteran with multiple prosthetics, Jimmy begins to think about his own life and motivations. Then one afternoon, as Jimmy helps his father on a routine limb removal, a climbing line breaks, sending his father crashing onto a roof below. While his father recovers in the hospital, Jimmy conceives a bold plan to save his father’s tree business. But for his plan to succeed, he will need help from Sam and Aaron, and the strength to change a belief he’s held for as long as he can remember.
It was the third day of summer vacation, and I was hanging in a tree. My first client of the summer stopped pacing as I glanced down at her tired face and messy nest of white hair.
“Please don’t walk right under me, Mrs. Murphy. It’s not safe.”
“Oh, of course. Are you sure you’re okay up there? Maybe you should come back down and I’ll try again with the food.”
“I’m good. I’ve done this lots of times. Besides, I don’t think your cat’s that hungry yet.”
“Well, I just don’t want you to get hurt.”
I needed to show her I could do this. I still burned from the way she stared at my face three days ago when mom introduced us. Mrs. Murphy couldn’t have known then that my right eye was a fake, though. Mom probably told her later.
As I hung from the rope above her yard, my arms throbbed from the workout. I relaxed into Dad’s old canvas and leather climbing saddle and let my right hand slide down to the friction hitch which held my position on the rope. Bad move. My body shot down two feet of rope before I could let go and allow the hitch to do its job again. I glanced down to see if Mrs. Murphy noticed. But her head was down and she was folding and unfolding her hands. Maybe she was praying. I know I just said a quick one.
She rubbed her neck and called up to me, “Twenty dollars, remember? And don’t you fall!”
“Yes, ma’am.” The gut-wash sensation of falling settled a little and I focused on the money.
Twenty more for my surgery stash. I smiled down as she turned away. What if my prosthetic eye “accidentally” fell out and landed in her hair? It could be funny. But even though I was still mad at her for staring, I couldn’t do it. Besides, my eye might get lost in the grass if she freaked out, and I couldn’t risk losing another one. Dad’s head might pop.
I tightened the knot a little bit. A friction hitch has to be just right. Not too loose or you slide down fast and not so tight that you can’t push it up as you climb. Nothing about rope and saddle climbing is easy. But it’s easier than facing a bunch of kids at a new school in August. I shivered even though it was three hundred degrees out. Everything will work out fine…if Dad will let me get the surgery.
Mrs. Murphy began to shuffle toward the house. She had come outside about fifty times already to try and coax her cat down, wearing a path from porch to tree. I’d watched her from my new bedroom window as I unpacked my stuff. I’d seen the cat too—hiding in a large cavity where he could sprawl out unseen from directly below.