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  • I had a tree house built in a stand of alders. Below the tree house deck, a massive stand of sword ferns rustled and whispered in the slightest breeze. Anything could hide under the ferns, but when the rustling became frantic, I knew it was Benji coming to see me. He didn't mind being carried up the ladder and settled on my old blanket to enjoy the day. If I looked through just the right gaps between the branches of the alders, cedars, and firs, I could see water a half mile away in Oak Bay. The cold saltwater carried treasures in the long, low waves, depositing all sorts of things on the beach like an offering to me. Benji couldn't go to the beach because he was the neighbor's dog and they didn't allow him to leave our hillside. Instead, I brought things back for us; chalky white clam shells, golden agates, chiton shells blue inside like the sky, bulbous sea kelp floats, and once even the skeleton of an eel. Benji was especially impressed with anything that still smelled like rotting flesh. I hung the eel skeleton high on a tree branch and laughed at Benji when he sat under it and gazed up at the stinking thing, making sad eyes at the snack I denied him.
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