Fall 2010 • Vol. XXXII No. 4 Fiction |

Hitting Trees with Sticks

As I am walking home from the shops, I pass a young girl hitting a tree. I should say she is about ten years old. She's using a stout stick, quite possibly a broom handle, and she is methodically and repeatedly whacking the trunk, as if it is a job she has to do. There is a boy who stands and watches her. The tree is Prunus subhirtella, flowering cherry, growing in the strip of grass that separates the pavement from the dual carriageway. I know that when I speculate about such things, I am on treacherous ground. But as I look at her I do have a flicker, like the quick opening of a camera shutter, of Henry crouched on the bonnet of the old green Ford, bashing it with a rock. We were at the farm then, so he must have been nine. The flicker is not so much of what he did (because of course I remember the incident perfectly well) as of my own furious older-sister indignation. Watching the girl today I feel simply puzzled. So many things are puzzling. The only thing that is certai

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