The Trees (II)

When I was growing up, one of the grandest features of the house was a fir tree with more tops than trunks. 

Our garden was next to the train line and when we went to take the tube, we could see the tops of the trees as the train went by, like a friendly wave sending us out on journeys to go shopping and meet friends. 

That’s our house, we’d smile at each other.

Then, as the train rolled us back home, the treetops welcomed us home.

Occasionally, a black and white stream of fur would rocket into the garden and up into the tree after a squirrel. She never managed to catch one – although other “presents” appeared from time to time. 

As the years went by, one of the trees went brown. Yes, it’s better for it to go, nodded the tree surgeon. The other might live. And the other trees around it. 

The cat slept on my bed the whole time the tree surgeons were at work. 

Not long after, the trees around disappeared. Sad trunks stood in their place, the bracken persisted.

Then the remaining tree started to go brown too. 

Rage paced snarling within the walls of the house. It was a giant’s house. But no space for anything.

One afternoon we received an email from the tree. It just said, I miss the other one. It’s just not the same. 

Time ago, a red-bellied woodpecker started dining on the inhabitants of the tree, and yesterday it was there. Cloaked in an enchantment of snow and a whirring wind blows ice flakes across the garden and the local streets. A fleeting aroma of a past grandeur as the hours slip by.

Perhaps we’ll plant a new tree, says the cat, over breakfast, pouring me a quiet pint of tea, before the day’s opportunities began to whir.

An idea grows in my mind. A beautiful tree with fruits and singing birds. 

No need for fruits, purrs the cat, sweetly.

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The Trees (I)

That night, in a dream the trees came for me. Like the ones in the Scottish play, they advanced on my window, and, there being no glass that day, simply climbed through into my house. 

A ghostly rustle of antique silk and a dank smell of river grass hovered, yet as calmly as I could, I tried to ask them what how much sugar they wanted in their tea. 

We want most of the sugar you don’t have. They trees looked in my pockets and found a coin or two, some fluff and… a golden grin of sugar. 

They left for a winter’s stroll along the river. Don’t wait up, they chorused, But we’ll be back.

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Door to door the road unrolls.

No place for my load.

Wood, paper, iron, rust, 

Every door seems closed.

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I step – – into the dark.

My feet find the snow.

Each breath slices down.

The sun sleeps in the earth.

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A Jar, Painted Grey / The Heart Cam

It was my heart. I was sure of it. 

There in the window of the butchers’… A red fist of flowers on a meat hook. 

I was prevented from entering the shop. All I could do was wait and see what might happen next. 
To my surprise, the butcher permitted me to organise the set up of a video monitor on a shelf in the corner of her shop. A heart cam! Of course, I did not personally attend the procedure. She said it was the least she could do, as long as I paid the electricity bills in a timely fashion. 

CLANG – the door to the butchers’ shop opened, and a cluster of school children entered. I couldn’t hear what they were after, but I could see the butcher shaking her head, and pointing them firmly in the direction of the sweet shop. 

Next, an elderly couple came in, with large cases the colour of old sellotape. One case contained a lyre on which bitterly chirpy tunes were played, while the other case was filled with empty bowls and vials, which fit neatly into velveteen recesses. Watching them leave, the butcher gave a little wave, and closed the door carefully after them. 

No one else went in for a very long time. 

Rarely would friends have described me as a calm soul, and now, impatience grew in me, like a weed bursting through a house.

I worked extra hours to keep the monitor running. There is always someone, somewhere, who wants a pizza. At home, I fed old tales to cracks in the windows and walls, to keep the wind out. 

Then, at last… one day, the door clanged open again. A clock in a dark suit, with a shiny silver face went up to the counter, spoke to the butcher, and left, with my heart. 

Years passed.

I had no idea what happened. 

I think I missed it a little. Yet, I couldn’t be sure

One day, the clock came back with my heart. It was probably just a funny angle, but I really think it had melted slightly. 

The butcher put the price up and my heart back in the window. 

Before summer ended, the shop door opened and a coin strode in. Round-faced like the clock, the coin was stinking rich, yet dressed in a cloak of old dirt and never ate except at another’s table. 

The haggling continued until the ground was covered in snow. 

The next afternoon, I fell asleep and dreamt about an ocean of eagles, swimming towards a box of biscuits, buried deep in its hidden floor.

Awaking, I noticed my heart was gone. 

The phone rang in the shop. After some deliberation, the butcher took the phone out of the freezer and answered my call, denying all knowledge of our arrangement. 

What exactly had it been again? I wasn’t so sure…

Yet, the monitor is there on your shelf, I said. I can see you, holding a coffee and reading a library book about-

I’ve no idea who this is, she whispered sourly, looking right at the camera, and hung up on me. 

The picture fizzled and instead of showing the butchers, displayed a photo of various endearing baby animals. I was a little confused.

Music from an advert for footless tights trickled out from the tv. 

“You’re as cold as ice.”🎵

I picked up my keys and walked towards an orange sky. 

The butcher put down her coffee as the door opened. She regarded me over the counter, behind safety goggles, her eyes glinted like the last bit of jam.  

I made that sawdust from a shelf, she grimaced proudly as a choir began singing from the deep freeze. 

How was I to know she liked hymns? 

“Amazing grace.”

Suddenly, she steps across the sawdust and opens the freezer.

I am handed a jar, painted grey. 

I know what is inside. 

My heart. 

Or is it? 

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A Small Sliver of Your Juiciest Doubt / The Siblings 

Two siblings sat in a fine restaurant. The waiters were haughty looking dogs in suits and the chairs were all different sizes and carved out of precious stone.

“A small sliver of your juiciest doubt, if you please,” boomed the elder sibling, in a voice like a bell buried deep in mountain. 

“A bowl of summer skies,” smiled the younger sibling, reaching for an olive. 

They shivered a little. Even the tablecloth was edged with tiny icicles.

The waiter commanded a sneer. As smart as a sneer could be, and sidled away to the kitchen where an orchestra of flies were consulting the almanac. 

“Which symphony shall we play today?”

– “The symphony of shadows?” 

– “The symphony of shame?” 

– “The symphony of desire!”

“Oh.. we lost that one! It drifted out of the window and we’ve forgotten how it goes.” 

“Really?! When?!” 

“Only yesterday.” 

(They carried on tuning). 

The seasons came and went, and the siblings were aged by the elements. 

Many years went by. The air seemed a trifle warmer.

There was only one waiter left, the one who, many years ago, had been the youngest waiter. The others had fallen asleep under the coats in the cloak room with their mouths. 

The last waiter walked with a slow, sure, sneer, embedded in the step from many years of practice. 

“What would you-“ 

The question folded and flopped on to the floor because the waiter had fallen asleep mid-question.

The siblings looked at one another. 

“Is it time?”

“Let’s make our own food..”

They shuffled curiously into the kitchen, where a tiny orchestra of flies were playing the loveliest music. Frequently almost exactly, the perfect temperature.

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I heard a sound, in the void. I put my ear to the wall. An enormous door of leaves met my head. Through them, I heard the turning of insects and buzz of envelopes. And then, a heavy hum of tomatoes, ripening for a stew. 

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