Nails hammered into the trunk let him climb to the tree’s big branches. He edged out and hung his legs over, swinging them in the air. The sun was on his face. Then he pressed his palms down into the branch, feeling the tension, lifting himself up and pushing out, out, into the sky. He braced his legs, locked his knees, and then he hit. The earth was soft but the jolt was huge, a giant tremor up through his bones, and an impact that forced his thighs into his hips, breaking his pelvis as he crumpled on the ground.
Tie the history down. Me and little Kenny running in the dewy fields under the crackle of electricity pylons. Tie the family down. Aunts and uncles filling up my grandfather’s little sitting room with their cigarette smoke. Tie the present down. Me and my lonesome workplace banter and the nights drinking and looking at girls with Johnno and the crew. Tie the romance down. How something came to nothing so soon and she’s better off in any case. Tie the future down. The plans I make daily and the bucket list I email to myself. None of it is real.
She came back inside at three, just as the light had started to fade fast. Andy was boiling the kettle. She kicked off her boots and stood them on the mat, took off her gloves and placed them on the ledge.
No coat? You’ll catch cold, said Andy.
I’m in a sweat as it is.
I’ll take a water.
Andy shook his head. She looked nice in her work jeans and jumper, he always thought so.
How is it out there? The ragged garden of January?
Daffs are up, she replied. I think it’s Spring.
There are people here, but not many. An old man sighs a joke as his grandchildren try to raise a kite into the still air. On the grey banks of mud a wiry bird stands still, too tired to prod for worms with its thin beak. Reeds have been blackened by the winter across the silent pools of the marsh. In the nearby woods, fragile, rusting leaves are broken from their branches by the merest gasp of air, their colour dulled in every moment that dusk creeps over the sodden ground. Birches have been felled and forgotten; ferns lifelessly splayed…
Outside the school leaves were on the ground, all green and orange and yellow. A group of adults were talking on the corner by the bench that you could jump from. They had deep, grown-up voices and were saying things about stuff – countries in the world and money and things. Oh, the world is a mess, one said, the world is a mess. He ran off away from them all across the grass to the trees. They didn’t chase him or anything. He put his satchel down on the ground. The park was so big and like an adventure.