Broccoli trees parachute silently from the side of the highchair tray. He doesn’t know his father and he never will. That whole side of the family is a mystery, isn’t that what they said? They don’t bounce though; the broccoli pieces. His older brothers, they have been out in the garden most of the afternoon and despite warnings from near neighbours about the legalities – they are Not In Your Back Yard mister, leave them alone – a half-formed something of a tree house has been emerging, settled not quite straight.
If the tree had known, would it have resisted, snapped? The weight of four pallets, an old door, a dodgy ladder. The weight of expectations, waiting and whining. Singing and shouting too; blaming and biting – once, possibly twice. Tempered with sugar (briefly), broccoli wouldn’t cut it.
Cut though, with blades they weren’t supposed to have, taking branches with them. Did they realise what they were doing? The neighbour stopped moaning and laughed at them; that did it. Mum! Look! Half the tree’s missing! I can’t! Tell him! Mum! He’s doing it again, tell him! Look, it’s come right off! Can I have this bit?
Half a tree is being dragged into the kitchen. Little hands are slapping down excitedly on the high chair: big hands tear tree bits. I want that bit! No, you’ve broke it now! Mum! Tell him!
And then the little hands rise up and a little body wriggles and screams and all eyes are on him and his audience shouts but not in chorus and he just wants to be a part of it but the big boys are allowed blades (aren’t they?) and pallets (where’d you get that then?) and half a branch in the kitchen, ripping it along the grain and tearing skin too.
The tree had no voice and now has no dignity. Instead, carrying a throne of pallets (how many brothers went into each?) and leaning already, learning the costs of giving and grieving, it cannot hide its shame. It too, if it had the chance, would fling every branch upwards, wriggle, scream and yearn for action, for involvement. It too would shake off everything pressed its way, parachuting the collateral. It did not choose this and it can’t remember how it all began. These boys grew fast though and they showed no mercy.
The kitchen pieces of tree are now being brought outside and dropped. Dropped, all of them, perhaps a bonfire – not that close – no! Perhaps things to throw, to thrust, to parry and display with. It is taking longer than it should, the voices rising and falling too. Everyone is to blame. There are too many things in the kitchen and too many boys and bits of wood. There are even too many bits of broccoli on the floor and how even did that happen and who is going to deal with that when the hands are all full? Out! No, take it! There’s half a tree in here – now!