Under the tree the earth was red and baked and hard, and the tree which had pugnaciously grown from it was wiry and tough and without frippery. All show was curtailed and an economy of extras had been enforced to enable the poor thing to live in this excuse for soil. Branches were bare and very little shade was created. It was a meagre tree, grey and hardy, and the fruits had been recently picked, to be roasted in a special harvest festival meal and enjoyed for the only time by the villagers that year. The tree – the fruit tree as the villagers called it, somewhat ironically – had been planted by a missionary some twenty years previously. The man had had in mind a whole stand of them, a windbreak and haven from the unforgiving sun and a source of vitamins for the children and old people during the lean months, but he had not reckoned with the vagaries of the climate. It was hot, of course, but when the rain came it came in a torrent, and this made the soil more compacted, and it was so cold at night that trees were routinely cut down for firewood before they ever had a chance to really get going. This was, of course, short-sighted, but sometimes the villagers acted on a whim and regretted it later.

Elephants knocked over trees too. That was the sort of thing they did sometimes. The villagers said elephants were proud and haughty, which was why they were known to destroy things, but the reality was that there was no explanation for it. It was just another thing which happened in that village, ten kilometres from that bend in the river, outside that city, in that country. Another thing which happened, and after it happened something else would happen.

So there was only one tree and it was outside the communal hut. Tied to its wiry trunk was a very thin animal, a goat, with a spotted coat and strange looking ears. The poor thing wondered why it was so hot where it was tied up considered that this was the first time it had been properly hungry in its brief life, for there was so little to eat that the villagers didn’t want the goat to eat what grass could be encouraged to grow in the communal space between the huts.

It was a charity goat, sent to them by well-meaning people who lived a long way away. The villagers would have preferred an Xbox, as they had recently bought a 3D TV, and they thought it would bring people together if they could play Kinect games in a group, but you couldn’t have everything. They called the goat George.

Published in: on November 13, 2012 at 7:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

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