I grew up in gold mining country. Where men went to the grocery store with shotguns strapped to their backs because in El Dorado County that’s what men did. No one had yards, but there were parcels of land. It was called “property.” Mustn’t wander off the property. Mustn’t trespass onto the neighbor’s property. One day, when I was eleven years old, I told my mother I was going in search of leprechauns. I had found a tree that definitely curved and gnarled into a portal to a fairy realm. But I had read fairy tales. I hadn’t told anyone where I was going that day, so I was afraid to climb inside the tree in case I couldn’t make it back again. I waited until March, because I thought of March as a fairy month.
When I went to search for the tree, I ducked under a barbed wire fence, red and loose with age. I followed the creek bed that had just enough water to gargle with. I saw the tree, set back from the others—enough to blend in, but far back enough to be remembered. As I started up the hill, a man with a mustache rode up fast on his horse—so fast that I hadn’t heard hooves on soft mud. He pointed a shotgun as long as I was tall at me and said to get off his property.
I trespassed onto that land again in June to find the tree. When I crossed the creek, it ate one of my shoes. Swallowed it whole. They were my favorite pair: acid washed with neon splattered drips of paint. I thought maybe it was a fairy test. That if I kept going, I’d be sure to find the portal. But when I rounded the hill, looking for that wide and gnarled tree with a child-sized hole in its belly, it was gone; no stump, not even a hole where its roots had once lived.