A Tree House Friendship

Posted: December 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

The Tree-house was his haven. It wasn’t like the ones you see in the movies, perfectly built and sitting evenly in the branches of a flawless tree. It didn’t even really resemble a structure of any description, until you got right up close, or inside it. But it was his, even if it did consist of his stepdads car door from his Volkswagen Beetle, which he’d sent to be scrapped and his brothers old surf board. It was water tight, except for the gaping hole on the far right hand corner, but this was an added feature.

Gavin sat on the small cushioned stool, his head in his hands. He starred at the small etchings on the fence panel, of stickmen with superhero capes. He and Billy had sat for hours one late evening, etching them into the wood with rusty nails. They had been learning about Egyptian hieroglyphics at school and wanted to invent their own type of language using themselves as Superheroes.

It all started when Billy had run away from home, because his parents were arguing one evening. He’d snuck out of bed and run to Gavin’s house, which happened to only be a few houses down the street. Billy had flung smarties at Gavin’s bedroom window with his catapult. They sat up in the tree house with flashlights and hot water bottles. The weather hadn’t been kind to the poor etchings, but they were still visible and made Gavin smile.

He sighed as the wind tickled the leaves and the branches swayed ever so slightly, making the tree house creak, like an old floorboard.

Gavin and Billy had always been the best of friends, from before either of them could ever remember. Billy was a small boy and never really seemed to grow, unlike Gavin who was average build but slightly taller than his classmates. Each birthday the two of them would mark their heights on the inside wall of the tree-house. From the age of seven to twelve, Billy’s only moved in millimetres rather than centimeters.

Gavin was forever sticking up for him and warning off bullies. Being slightly taller had its advantages. He didn’t need to threaten them or even show any aggression, he just stood next to Billy and stared at the bullies face on. They soon disappeared.

The only time Billy was able to protect Gavin, was when the two of them were caught smoking, by Gavin’s mum. Billy hated it from the first mouthful of grey smoke he drew in, but Gavin got the taste for it. He would often have a sneaky cigarette in the tree house, until one day his mum caught them with fags behind their ears climbing the makeshift ladder. Billy automatically snatched the cigarette from Gavin’s ear and pleaded with her that they were his. Both boys knew full well Gavin’s mum would have punished him severely for it, whereas Billy’s parents would just use it as another argument topic. Truth was Billy hated it and couldn’t inhale the smoke without coughing his guts up, like an old man with an eighty a day habit.

Gavin flicked his cigarette ash with the tap of his thumb and moved his feet so it didn’t land on his trainers. He noticed the large oval shaped scorch mark, on the uneven planks of wood. He remembered trying to build a fire in the tree house, without realising the metal container he and Billy were using as a stove, not only got hot, but was sitting directly on top of wood. He chuckled to himself as he remembered the mad rush and dive-kick Billy had performed to get the metal basin, alight with firewood, out of the tree house before the whole thing went up in smoke. It was the funniest kung-fu type manoeuvre Gavin had ever seen. But it had worked.

This tree house had definitely seen its fair share of life since its construction. But unlike a photo album, it held so many living memories. From the scorched floor to the actual pieces that held it together. It had taken months of boyish adventures and improvisation to get it looking the way it was today.

He looked over at Billy, who smiled back at him. “It’s going to be OK Gav. We’ve tackled trickier things mate. Getting that car door up ‘ere was our first mission together,” he laughed. “ya sis chasing you down the street cause you broke every single one of her skipping ropes was the second challenge. Although genius idea of using them to hoist the door up to the tree,” he laughed. “It took us all summer to save up our chore money to buy her new ones.”

Gavin nodded and took a huge inhale of the sparked cigarette, exhaling the smoke from his nose.

“Gavin!” his mum called from outside on the grass below. “Gavin!”

He stood up, almost hitting his head on surf board. He wound down the window of the Beetle’s faded red door and stuck his head out. “Yeah,” he said sheepishly.

“Honestly Gavin, this isn’t the time to be up there reminiscing. Get down here now.”

He winced slightly as he tried climbing out of the opened window. It had been much easier when he was nine.

“Gavin, your wife is in labour, get out of there and stop fretting man, you’re going to be a great dad! And Billy, put that damn cigarette out!

  1. Helen says:

    Very nice story – sweet. I did guess that the boys were grown up but that didn’t detract anything from the pleasure of reading it.

    I think I found you one small type ‘ Billy and starred at the bullies face on.’ Do you mean stared?

  2. John Wiswell says:

    I liked some of the nostalgic touches, remembering how we grow and fumble older.

    If you’re looking for more critical feedback, I’d be careful with deep passive voice. It’s the weakest in paragraph 3, with “It had all started when Billy had run away” – two “hads” demarcate how passive it’s getting.

  3. Bev says:

    I feel silly for this, but I didn’t get that they were older until the end and I enjoyed the surprise.

    I also liked all the nostaligic touches, tying so many memories into the physical landscape of the place.

    The one thing that didn’t work for me was paragraph ten. The language pulled me out if the narrative because it didn’t seem like how people would talk to eachother- “probably our biggest mission together” and “You using your sister’s entire collection of skipping ropes as winches and her chasing you down the street because you broke every single one was the second challenge. It took us all summer to save up our chore money to buy her new ones.” It seemed like your voice in the narrative, not the character speaking and I actually had to re-read it a few times to get that it was supposed to be Billy’s voice.

    But overall it was a really nice read. (And please feel free to ignore the critical point if you like it as is.)

  4. FARfetched says:

    Ha! After all these years, Gavin’s mum hasn’t twigged to their little deception!

    I’m with Bev, paragraph 10 seems a little clumsy, a possum in the nursery as it were. The story overall was great, so one awkward passage is forgivable. I gathered they were older, but not that Gavin was about to be a dad!

  5. Sonia Lal says:

    Sweet nostalgic story! And his mother still thinks Billy’s the one who smokes?

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