Having extracted his lunch money with the associated cursory remarks, more and more street slang added, the further, it seemed Jake played into his ‘Massive Street Threat’ computer game. (18 certificate of course) – Although disapproved of by his teacher;
“What did these young mothers think they were doing nowadays?”
his mother turned a blind eye to what he played and watched as long as it kept him quiet and away from his younger brother;
“Anything for a quiet life.”
Consequently, Jake acted out his casual violence and cool disregard on anyone unlucky enough to cross his path at the wrong moment, never quite getting caught. Everyone at Oakdale Primary knew he was a bully – but somehow he always managed to wriggle out of any definite proof.
Abruptly, a shrill whistle sounded as a fight broke out right at the top end of the field. Archie could almost imagine Jake’s mind whirring; ‘this was more exciting’ and dropping Archie like a discarded crisp packet, he listened to Jake’s cronies' shrieks of laughter and expectancy gradually fade as they loped off in the direction of today’s drama.
Breathing a sigh of relief the moment he could no longer hear them, Archie reached his right hand up to sooth his crimson cheek, crimped by the grooves of the pine wood fence.
Stepping back a little from the fence, his eye was caught by an eye – or so it seemed. A wooden, rusty–tan coloured and swirling eye, cursory, questioning why he let Jake treat him that way? Archie almost felt like justifying himself to the wooden-eyed questioner, “What could he do about Jake anyway?” Then realising how that would look to any bystanders, who had not yet joined the cheering crowd up at the top end of the field, he gathered the strewn contents back into his canvas rucksack, beginning to casually back off…
A whirling, almost burning sensation immediately began to burn a spinning trajectory in his mind’s eye – that wooden eye again;
“Why wouldn’t everything and everyone just leave him alone?”
‘…because you can stand up to him... replied a warm, but firm voice – words rasping like crossed willow branches in the spring wind.
“Who said that? Archie span around, dropping his hand from his ‘crimped’ face, thinking that one of Jake’s gang was still hiding somewhere here, playing another trick on him.
But there was no one around. Noticing there was no one anywhere outside any more, Jake felt his heart flutter in panic! Now he was in trouble! They must all be back inside, the end of lunchtime and here he was still outside, belly rumbling from lack of food and listening to a talking bit of wood?! Mrs Trewberry would put him in the ‘play time book’ for a week!
“Just sit down and listen. The time here is different now. You won’t be late!”
Somehow it felt reassuring to just do what the voice said. His instincts told him ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ was, meant him no harm and what would another 5 or 10 minutes make now – he was late already?
He sat, staring at the swirling, wooden ‘eye’ accusingly.
What did it want from him? Why did someone always want something from him?
Archie? Remember that time in the park when you picked up all that rubbish around the tree roots? Do you think Jake would have done that? You saved a fox cub from death that night – he would have got his neck caught in those beer can rings had you not first picked them up…
Another, similar rasping, but mellow voice joined the first…
“Archie? Remember when you stopped the caretaker from chopping down that birch tree that none of the others cared about? You got him to build the adventure playground around it, as a centre piece? We remember that at least”
Yet another voice joined the first two, this one deeper. Older perhaps? (Archie imagined a venerable old oak tree in his mind’s eye)
“Archie? Remember when you were an even younger boy, you used to love walking and playing in the woods with your dog and family. A man watched you that day – no don’t worry! – he was a town planner – seeing how joyful you were amongst the trees, reminded him of his own childhood and how that wood needed to be preserved – he waylaid plans for a supermarket to be built there, finding a more suitable spot instead.”
So you see Archie – all three voices joined together You are someone, you do have influence and if no one you know know this, then there are places that remember, trees that remember. We don’t want anything from you – we have come to give you your gift back…
“But WHO are you? Archie almost spluttered with confusion
“We are the north, the east, the south the west, the four corners, we are the dream on the wind, the reaching down of roots, the stirring of the spring. We the nature spirits, the watchers – the ones who see the humans – the ones who still care – the sensitive ones who still tend to the land. You are more than you know and the time has come to stand up to this boy, to remind him who he really is too…
How would he do this? Archie’s mind spun…