Faith, Hope and Cherry Tree
“Grandad, what’s an arse?”
“Eh?” Hope Patches scratched the beads in grey goatee and smiled at his grandaughter. A calm smile that hoped it concealed anger with the corrupt state education system where teachers said such things. He bent down slowly and ruffled Faith’s head. “Now where did you hear a word like that?” he beamed, patting his pockets and reaching into his denim coat for a clay pipe.
Faith looked up at him in innocence. “Grandad Biggert said it.”
The grey goatee bristled. “Did he?”
“Yes. He said if that David Cameron sent him a leaflet in the post, he’d wipe his arse on it and send it back.”
“What? I’ve told you before not to listen to anything that Grandad Biggert says,” snapped Hope.
The six year old skipped across the kitchen then swivelled on one foot. “I tried not to listen, but he shouted it out of his letterbox through a giant road cone.”
“I see. When I lent Grandad Biggert that road cone, he told me he was going to turn it into a scarecrow to deter starlings and squirrels from stealing his conkers.” Hope frowned and started to stuff ground grass and hazelnut blend into the pipe. He tamped it with matchstick, lit the mixture, opened the kitchen door and sucked in contemplation.
Faith hopscotched through the door and down the path that twisted through the small orchard. Getting to the end, she pirouetted and began the journey back, counting each step. On her return, she stopped and gazed up at Hope. “Is Grandad Biggert naughty?”
Hope put his pipe out and squatted. He arranged his floral Hawaiian smock over his knees and placed his grandaughter upon the left one, ruffling her hair. “Well, Faith,” he ruminated, “that is a trickier question that at first it might seem. Grandad Biggert is entitled to his point of view. It is his democratic right. Clearly he is also interested in environmental concerns. Did you know that the government sent a leaflet to every house in the country, Faith?”
Faith shook her head.
“Think of the sacrifice in the name of democracy. Millions and millions of living trees. To use the leaflet as lavatory paper is a sound environmental proposal.”
“Grandad Biggert said it blocked his bog and made his flat stink like a public shithouse.” remembered Faith. “What’s a public…?”
“Never mind, never mind. Let’s go and get our tea.”
Faith followed her Grandad back into the kitchen where the mung bean casserole was bubbling. She was still frowning. “Did you get a leaflet?”
“Yes I did,” answered Hope, “Everybody did, I have it here somewhere. Would you like to read it?”
“But it is very interesting. It details our ‘once in a lifetime decision’, Faith. It could have a bearing on your future, young lady.”
But Faith shook her head and pushed the dull looking pamphlet away. “It doesn’t look much like a leaf, Grandad,” she said in a disappointed tone. “You said it came from millions of trees. Leaves are green.”
Hope clutched his sides and guffawed loudly, like a sort of floral Santa Claus, “Ho ho ho,” he boomed, “You foolish young thing. Not that sort of leaf!”
“But I thought we could nail the leaflets back onto the trees so they could live again, like you said,” explained Faith, sadly. “You always tell me we should love all the trees, Grandad.”
And, at that, Hope Patches dropped the ladle he was using to slop stew into the home made wooden bowls. He gazed open mouthed at his granddaughter and his yellowed teeth twisted into a grin. “What an idea! Sup up young lady; we’ve a lot to do! We need some skates, a tree and as many leaflets as we can collect from the tip! And then we’ll pay a visit to Grandad Biggert. I’ve a road cone to retrieve.”
* * * * *
A lively spring wind was whipping across
and it smarted the eyes of Constable Kilbride as he patrolled the pavement adjacent
to Parliament. Nevertheless he paced thoroughly, looking left and right through
squinted eyes, aware of the burden resting on his shoulders. Westminster Bridge
Traffic was light. Extremely light, in point of fact: there hadn’t been a vehicle across the bridge for several minutes now, which he registered as unusual for this time of the morning. Not even a bus. This was exceedingly strange.
Stranger still was the fact that a small hand was tugging at his tunic.
Kilbride lashed round, his police training coursing through every fibre of his torso. Right hand on his truncheon, left to his radio which he clamped to his mouth out of instinct. Then he relaxed. A small girl, next to someone who was probably her mother was looking up at him. Six, possibly seven years old.
The girl pointed to the far end of the bridge. “Is that Grandad Patches?” she asked. Kilbride didn’t know but he noticed that the mother was nodding sadly.
Roller skating unsteadily across the bridge, in front of a crawling, irate traffic jam, was a hefty looking tree. No, wait. Now he could see it was a man. The tree had been hollowed out. The constable could see a red and sweating face peering through a hole in the trunk.
The tree appeared to be making its way towards the Houses of Parliament. Kilbride reached for his truncheon.
The man-tree approached, then confronted him. Kilbride could see that every leaf had been replaced with a ‘Remain in the EU’ leaflet, carefully nailed, glued or stapled to each branch. Most were a plain white, but the one nearest to him looked and smelled as though it had been retrieved from a toilet.
“Now then, sir, what’s all this?” asked the Constable, moving downwind from the brown pamphlet.
“Don’t you take that tone with me, you pleb, stand aside. I am exercising my democratic right,” said the tree, wobbling unsteadily.
The constable was confused. Was this tree an honourable member? Certainly, the mode of address was correct. He replaced the truncheon, unsure what to do.
The tree spoke again. “I demand access to the Prime Minister himself,” it declared. A branch reached down and seized a road cone from beneath a piece of loose bark. Using the cone as a megaphone, it started to scream poetry in the direction of the Parliament building,
I am the cherry tree that you destroyed,
and I am dead annoyed.
Give me back my leaves,
you political disease,
so I can live with all the other trees,
a-rustling happily in the breeze.
A political pamphlet I don’t want to be.
I want to be a cherry tree.”
The wind whistled again. Several leaflets plopped onto the tarmac at Kilbride’s feet. Deciding it best to humour the tree, the constable picked them up and wedged them back in the branches. “Jolly good poem, sir, very touching. Still best not make that bloody racket. There might be a debate on. Now give me the bloody road cone. Possessing that is highway theft. We don’t want a scandal.”
“Shut your festering gob, you fucking fascist,” snarled Patches, from within the tree.
The little girl looked at her mother. “They both sound like Grandad Biggert,” she said.
Her mother nodded. She noticed that several irate looking motorists and bus passengers were starting to advance across the bridge. “Let’s go and get some lunch, Faith,” she agreed, and started to walk away from the ugly stand off developing.
As they moved, both bumped into a portly gentleman who was now standing behind them, surveying the scene, hands on hips. “Pon my soul,” he said, “what have we here, constable? A talking tree, it seems. And one that is covered in thousands of my leaflets, too. Astonishing.”
“Begging your pardon for the disturbance, Prime Minister, sir, this tree demands access to see you, sir. I informed the tree it was a obstructing a public thoroughfare.” Kilbride shifted in embarrassment.
“Not a bit of it, constable. In point of fact, this tree is just the ticket,” answered the Prime Minister, putting Kilbride at his ease with a friendly clap of the shoulder. “Now see here, young tree-me-lad, would you mind accompanying me to the House of Commons and helping me out of a spot of bother?”
The tree nodded, somewhat in awe and from within, Hope Patches spoke. “Certainly, Prime Minister, if it helps the democratic process.”
“It most certainly would,” laughed the politician. ”Wood. Get it? Ho ho. We’re having a debate about the E.U., you see? And the leader of the opposition is a bit of a stickler…”
“Very good, sir,” chortled Kilbride, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes, “stickler.”
“…when it comes to saving the environment. We’ve run out of pamphlets and he refuses to let me waste paper and photocopy some more. If I turn up with you, tree, he’ll twig that I’m trying to turn over a new leaf.”
“Sorry, sir,” said Kilbride, laughter turning to shame, “I think I’ve just soiled myself.”
“Use one of these as bog paper,” offered the Prime Minister, plucking a leaflet from the tree and passing it to the prone constable. “With so many lying about unread I think it’s time to ‘branch’ out. Come on, Mr Tree.”
Faith watched as Hope followed the Prime Minister into the Palace. “Mummy,” she said eventually, “When Grandad Biggert did that…”
“I know, Faith, I know.” They followed and looked behind them to see Kilbride surreptitiously throw an E.U. leaflet into the
Thames below and start to direct the traffic.