Under The Big Tree

At morning tea time the other kids split off into their many little groups and went away to spend a quarter of an hour playing and eating and otherwise amusing themselves. As usual, the boys played the more violent games and the girls were less active, sitting in groups, telling stories, sharing experiences, and mocking outsiders mercilessly.

That was why the big tree at the edge of the playground, on the other side of where the boys played football and chased each other, was such a good spot. It was good if you were one of the mocked. The boys didn’t care, as they did what boys do, vigorously, right up until the bell went and they all had to go back to class. And being on the other side of the playing field meant you were farther away from the other girls and their gossip and spite. It was a good place to sit, alone with your apple, to eat in the shade and balance a book between your knees, on your lap, maybe reading a bit of it if recess lasted longer than is usually did. Some recesses were longer than others. Nobody ever said anything about this, but it was true, Gabby knew it was, and she was thinking about the nature of time, its elasticity, relativity and other qualities. She sat under the tree and ate a Granny Smith of unusual greenness, meditatively, wondering if eating more slowly and carefully, chewing very deliberately could make the experience of eating an apple more pleasurable. Would it taste better, she wondered? Or worse? She supposed that you could become bored with eating an apple, no matter how good it was to eat, and that this would be likely to diminish the experience of eating it. She also considered that this would, in all likelihood, reduce the feeling of hunger and that that would mean the pleasure of eating was also reduced. It was a train of thought that amused her.

There were pigeons. There were always pigeons. You barely notice them, unless they coo, and the sounds of the boys exacting Old Testament vengeance on each other tended to dominate if you were nearby.

Chewing became faster and the juice became thicker in her mouth as Gabby ate. She was trying something different. The tempo increased as she had a go at eating like the filthy boys eat and she was right in the middle of a good, hard gulp when she heard: “Good morning.” Gabby coughed and looked around. There was nobody there. It was a man’s voice, older, and there definitely wasn’t a teacher hiding on the other side of the tree.

A pair of pigeons pecked and bobbed at the newly sewn grass in the sun bathed zone just beyond the umbrella of shade cast by the tree. One of the two, the brown one, came a bit closer. Again Gabby heard: “Good morning.” It was very strange. Very strange indeed. “What do you say?” she heard. “I said good, ‘Good morning’”. “Good morning, good morning, good morning.”

“Oh, um. Good morning to you,” Gabby said. “Is it you who said good morning?”

“Good morning,” said the bird, bobbing as it spoke. Then it looked at her. Right into her eyes, which is hard to do for a bird. He needed to turn his head to one side a bit and look very hard with one eye, out of the side of his head. He was looking into her eyes though.

“You can really talk? Is that all you can say?”

“Too many questions!” she heard the bird say.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be impolite.”

The bird edged closer.

“Would you like some apple?” she said. “I know that’s a question, but it’s also an offer and I’m just trying to be friendly. And hospitable. Friendly and hospitable. What do you say?”

The bird re-joined his friend and they flew away together.

“See you next time,” Gabby heard. “Next time! Next time!”

When her mum asked her what she did at school that day, Gabby told her she sat and talked to a pigeon under the big tree at recess.

Published in: on March 13, 2014 at 7:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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