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The Oak Tree September 11, 2005 9:10 PM

I won a comp. in one of my groups with this one and am thinking of writing a book around it at some stage.

                          The Oak Tree.

" Daddy, Daddy." Clattering feet announced the arrival of my children. Four faces looked up at me expectantly and George, the youngest demanded. " You must come……NOW!’

Then everyone spoke at once. Words tumbling over each other but I got the message. Their cat was stuck up the old oak tree and they expected me to get it down.

Several choice words went through my head but I remembered the old adage ‘Not in front of the children’ and kept them firmly between gritted teeth.

Four faces full of the belief that daddy could do anything. Little did they know that daddy had feet of clay. Daddy was not the slayer of dragons and definitely not the rescuer of kittens. NOT.

"Well let’s go and have a look then" and I let them lead me to the bottom of the garden to the old oak tree. Where Sweetums (stupid name for a cat but that’s what the kids wanted) was indeed perched in the uppermost branches, shivering in fright.

I took several deep breaths and willed myself to believe I could do this.

"Right let’s get the ladder and see if I can get her to climb down to me. That won’t be so far for her to climb down"

Please, let this work. Damn I hate heights. Just hope I don’t throw up climbing that ladder. I know it’s going to be short so that cat better come down to me. I cannot, just cannot climb that tree. I will not be sick. I can do this.

Four pairs of eyes were glued on me as I rested the ladder firmly against the tree and checked that it was stable. Their belief was unquestioning. Daddy would save Sweetums

OK, here goes.

The first foot is the worst. Don’t look down. I can do this. Breathe. God, how did I get up here I’m at the top of the ladder.

‘Sweetums…..Here Sweetums’ daft name for an animal. Next pet we get we’ll call a manly name even if it is a girl.

Sweetums eyed me glassily and refused to budge ‘. C’mon you mangy cat get down here at once. You’ll be mince meat if you don’t’ This last I said under my breath as children have a habit of taking adult’s threats literally. They don’t understand that we don’t always mean what we say in the heat of the moment.

Alright then I’ll have to do this the hard way. I can do this. I can climb trees. I will not fall out of trees. No don’t think about falling that reminds me of height. Reminds of nausea. Reminds me…no…no DON"T LOOK DOWN.

‘Daddy, are you alright" Gracie yelled up anxiously. ‘You won’t fall will you?’ This sparked worry in the others that something might happen to Daddy. Daddy was all they had since Mummy went to heaven and they had this terror of being left alone.

‘I’m fine Gracie. Just taking time out to figure the best way to reach Sweetums.’ It’s only a little lie.

I took some deep breaths then carefully raised my right hand and pulled down on a branch. It held firm so I looked for another foothold that would take me closer to the cat. Slowly I inched towards her. I’ve done it. Now just have to get the pair of us down. I’ll put her inside my shirt and just pray she doesn’t put her claws in me.

‘I’ve got her kids, now be quiet as we don’t want to frighten Sweetums any more.’ I could feel Sweetums warm, furry body quivering against my chest and made reassuring sounds to soothe her.

I carefully felt around for the top rung of the ladder, then began my journey downward.

My four children welcomed me to the ground like a hero and made a fuss of Sweetums.

That night, after the children were in bed I sat with a whisky and thought over the day’s events. I felt ten feet tall. I had not let my children down and shown them that daddy had feet of clay. It was not revealed that I was not the hero they thought. Moreover I had not let my fear of heights prevent me from saving the cat therefore I DID deserve a pat on the back. As I sat by the fire I raised my glass and gave a toast to my wedding photo. Ah, Libby you would have been proud of me today. I climbed that tree maybe not as quick as you did but I did it, my beautiful tomboy. I miss you so.

 [ send green star]
 
Bonfire September 11, 2005 9:06 PM

This is just a piece that came out of the blue. It has been critiqued and edited so is much better than it's firstappearance.                        

                                      Bonfire.

Fire consumes. Fire cleanses.

Strips bare to let new life burst forth. Amongst the crackling of the flames the steady ripping of paper a ritual to a life now changed. Let this be an end to it. The past is dead. I repeat this last like a mantra. "The past is dead" Let only the good memories remain.

No more silent screams in the dark. No more fluttering heart and shaking limbs as I lie waiting for you to come in. Why did I let it continue? Why did I believe your lies? Your pleas for forgiveness? When did it start? I thought we were happy and in those early days it seemed we were. Slowly it changed. Everything I did was wrong. All I got from you was Can’t you do anything right? Then it changed. One day you threw your dinner at me and the plate smashed and cut my cheek. I needed stitches. I can’t remember what excuse we gave the hospital. I’m sure they didn’t believe it, whatever it was. Their eyes looked pitying. You took me home and cuddled me and fussed over me.

A few weeks later you gave me a black eye. Doesn’t matter what for. Maybe you had no reason? I was just there, a ready punching bag for your frustrations.

Strange I still loved you, still believed you that you’d change. Over the years I received a broken arm, broken ribs, collar bone, ankle, and bruised face, broken cheek. I’m sure the hospital didn’t believe my lies, of being clumsy and falling downstairs or into walls.

In between the beatings you could still show some tenderness. That’s when I got pregnant. I was happy about that but was terrified to tell you. You seemed pleased but the cruelty came back. Just pinching, until one day you aimed a punch at my stomach, at my baby. I no longer thought in terms of our baby but in mine. And I knew one thing you were not going to use my baby as a punching bag. That gave me the courage to leave when you were at work. At first I went to a refuge then found somewhere else to stay. I rang you occasionally to let you know how the baby was. You pleaded with me to give you another chance. I wished I could. Despite it all I still loved you. But it wasn’t just me now. I couldn’t let you back in. Still you were the baby’s father. I agreed to meet you in our favourite restaurant for lunch, just to talk to see what you were prepared to do. Maybe if you went to anger management and got help with your temper so you didn’t resort to beating me we could try and rebuild our marriage. I sat and waited. You were late and I began to worry. You were never late. I phoned your mobile and a strange voice answered.

It was a policeman. You had seen an old woman being attacked and gone to her aid. The attacker had a knife and stabbed you several times. You died with my name on your lips "Lauren.. love you"

It seemed strange to see you lying in the morgue when I had to identify you. You so vibrant now so still and cold. You looked as if you were sleeping. I thought it ironic that you’d died a hero saving someone from violence. Maybe you would have changed.

The cremation was today.

Fire cleanses. Fire purifies.

I’m burning some of the photos. Not all, just the ones that show the worst times. I’ll keep the rest and the paper articles of you being a hero for our baby. Telling the baby of happy times and none of the bad. Luckily no one knew. We’d kept our secret well. No one would know you were a wife beater.

I pray I’m carrying your daughter and not a son. Maybe it wouldn’t make a difference. If it were genetic your daughter would be violent too. Too late to worry now. Maybe love will be enough to break the cycle. And with your death the cycle is broken.

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, Dan and believe you could change. That we could have lived happily ever after. That you loved me enough to fight your demons and win.

The baby moves within me. A strong kick reminding me of the future.

 [ send green star]
 
Linda B's short pieces September 11, 2005 9:02 PM

and stories. Please comment and make suggestions.  [ send green star]
 
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