The oak tree outside Tommy’s hospital window must have been at least a hundred years old. It was the spring of ’82 and the fresh hopes of warmer sunshine held by the buds upon its thick branches were no comfort for him. They had saved the leg, but he would be bedridden for at least 12 months.
An elderly lady was brought to the tree in a wheelchair, pushed by a young man that Tommy assumed to be her grandson. There, she sat reading a book with a gentle smile on her face. Every day she came to sit by the tree and watching her brought Tommy some semblance of peace. One day, the lady never came. Over the next week, Tommy watched the oak tree eagerly around noon but the warm spring air did not bring light to the sadness in his heart for the stranger he knew would read by the tree no more.
The physiotherapist had left the window open after their morning session, allowing the summer breeze to flow into the room. Tommy woke abruptly to the sound of a woman scolding her child. It seemed that he had hidden from his mother’s sight behind the oak tree, and though the boy looked a little frightened at the telling off, it was nothing compared to the combination of terror and relief held in his mother’s eyes. Some onlookers were regarding the woman and shaking their heads at the ferocity and volume with which she chastised the boy. Suddenly becoming aware of this, she grabbed her son’s hand tightly and hastily marched him out of the park, trying desperately and unsuccessfully to hide the embarrassment that the watchers’ gazes brought her.
His father had worn his old duffel jacket and flat cap due to the brisk, autumn wind. Both now lay strewn over the back of the chair where he sat pontificating. Tommy stared out at the falling leaves of the oak as his father gave instruction on the correct ways to pull a trailer out of jack-knife. Outside, a boy ran behind the tree, where he was soon discovered by the group he was hiding from. Tommy had thought that they were playing a game, but then the group of youngsters started beating on the boy. He interrupted his father’s rant and showed him the bullying that was taking place outside. His father hastily left the room, but Tommy watched him pass the boys without a word and head away from the hospital.
Someone had built a large snowman next to the tree while Tommy had been sleeping. Tommy gave one of the orderlies his father’s coat and hat that had been left in his room some months earlier and told him to dress the effigy. He glared at it after with his eyes narrowed. How he hated that snowman.
In the spring of ’83, Tommy sat smiling with a book in hand feeling fresh hope as he rested his back against the old oak.
© Christopher Roper
Christopher Roper is a writer and a poet from North-West of England. Originally a songwriter and musician, poetry came into his life when he was at his lowest. Now with more than 100 poems to his collection, as an innate storyteller, the next natural progression was towards short stories and novels.