A Story by Peter Rogerson

Continuing from earlier in the week, this story brings events begun by three children in the fifties into the sixties.


When Alison Dickens tried to close her mind and find peace in a few dreams as she slept, her mind raced back to long, long ago when she’d been the prettiest girl in the school (according to popular rumour) and everyone had wanted to be her friend.

There was that time when she’d followed the two boys, Bobby Jones and James Smith, to the copse on the edge of the council estate. She’d seen them as they sauntered along and overheard some of their conversation. They’d somehow heard that there was treasure buried in the copse, and that had intrigued her. And they’d found a green shoot which had held its own promise for them.

But that was a long time ago and her mind, still resisting sleep, moved on about a decade when the green shoot was a proper tree. Not fully grown, true, but filled with the sort of green promise that she liked.

The copse was being cleared. The moment she got there she could see that. There was machinery around, machinery that was ready to rip through nature and tear everything down.

Maybe most of the scrubby trees, no better than they had looked a decade earlier and possibly more dishevelled were of little value, but in the middle of them was her tree. Her treasure. The green shoot had become a sapling filled with strength and its own promise.

There were two men lounging against a heavy steel machine, smoking cigarettes and laughing together.

We’ll get ‘em out,” one said, “no need to bother the coppers. They’re busy enough with proper crooks to not waste their valuable time dealing with two blokes who want to hug trees instead of go to work for a living!”

Stupid morons! What good do they think they’re going to do?”

There’s a lot of this kind of stuff around. I blame the Beatles. All that lovey dovey music they force down our ears.”

And the lasses screaming for ‘em…”

In her bed above half a century later Alison couldn’t help smiling. She hadn’t screamed for any popular singer or group, but she had wanted to. Somehow, it hadn’t seemed becoming, and on the cusp of her twenties she was already too old.

Anyway, yon tree’s got to join the rest on a bonfire!”

And a lovely blaze it’ll make too.”

So who’s goin’ to manhandle the two idiots?”

You afraid to, mate? Then I’ll teach ‘em not to cross us two! They’ll rue the day they thought a tree was more important than whatever it is they mean to build here.”

A church. A holy church. They plan to scrap that chapel place they put up after the war, and the dirt its standing on will make a nice car park.”

More use than a chapel, anyway. There’s shops there that’ll really benefit from a bit of development. Come on, let’s teach those lads a lesson…”

Lying in her bed and still well awake Alison could almost feel the penny dropping in her mind when it did.

The tree those men were on about was her treasure tree, the one she’d nurtured from it being a feeble little strand of green to the tree that already reached for the skies. And it was her tree. When the two boys, Bobby and James, had long forgotten it she had returned and, day after day, created space for it to grow. To start with it had been a weak shoot somehow emerging from existing roots. Even though the tree had been chopped to the ground its roots still clung to a little life, and had started to thrust up into the air, maybe attracted by the light. And, scratch after scratch with a penknife, she had cleared dead wood away and given the promise of the future, which was what it was in her mind, a space to grow.

And these men were intent of chopping it down? Over her dead body!

There had been an emotional intensity of thought which she could feel even now as she struggled towards sleep. It was her tree. She had saved it. She had nurtured it, and no louts with their rusting heavy machinery was going to take it away. And burn it. They’d said they were going to burn it! That must never happen.

She might be an old woman in her bed, but she knew right from wrong, and preserving her treasure tree was right! It was now and it had been then.

She had decided, there and then before the two men and their filthy cigarettes saw her, that she would do everything she could to save that precious tree. So she made her way towards it. A few straggling remnants of the old copse stood in her way, and that meant that the men would have to clear them away before they reached the tree, which might give her time to do something, though at the time she’d had no idea what that something might be.

There were two men lounging casually next to the tree when she got there, and they noticed her as she appeared from the tangled remnants of an old copse they’d played in as children.

She’d been dressed in the latest fashion, she knew that, a short summer dress (it was always summer back then, wasn’t it?), hair brushed straight until it hung down her back, tights (though she hated them, but she seemed to remember that bare legs had been so outre) and not much else except underwear, and nobody could see that.

And looking like that, she had appeared to the two men, one of them smoking and the other chewing on a small twig of wood and spitting soggy splinters of it out

They’ve sent you then, have you?” demanded one of the men. She almost recognised him. She’d known quite a few young men over the past half dozen years, and she would never recognise all of them, not in a million years.

Who?” she asked.

The Thomson men, that’s who. The two guys guarding their digger!” replied the other man.

So they were the sort to share a conversation, were they? Two men speaking using two voices but with only one message? There was a suggestion of recognition there, too. But over the years a lot of boys had been attracted by her, and truth to tell she had liked most of them. She’d been a pretty girl and nature is what it is.

That’s my tree!” she told them, firmly.

And who says that, little missie?” asked a man.

Bobby Jones and James Smith?” she asked, recognition completing its journey from her childhood to her twenties.

Alison? By all that’s holy, it’s Alison Dickens!” said one of the men, the one she now saw was James.

What are you doing here, Alison?” asked Bobby, “have the thugs with their tractor co-opted you to distract us with your delicious long legs?”

And chest,” added Bobby.

In old age, she almost giggled. Back in those days she had been proud of that chest and managed to get away without any kind of under garment. Not that she could these days. Old ladies needed bras!

I’ve come to save my treasure tree, and I’m warning you, Bobby Jones, that if you plan to burn it down with that cigarette of yours you’ll have to burn me down too!”

Good girl!” grinned Bobby, “but let me put one thing straight. It’s not your treasure tree, it’s ours!”

Ours. Of course, it’s ours!” she had said. She’d been with them when they’d discovered its feeble first growth and after all, there was always strength in numbers and three was better than one.

I know it,” grinned James, “and that makes it right! There are three of us against the two thugs! We’ll save the tree. Bobby thought of bringing a tent.”

The three musketeers,” she grinned, “even though I’m a girl!”

The three tree-huggers, more like!” laughed James.

Alison had looked around at the confusion that was the ground of the copse. “You couldn’t be anywhere near comfortable enough in a tent,” she said, “I’ll tell you what. There are three of us: let’s build a den! And if they try to scoop us up with their machine then they’ll be in a great deal of trouble, especially if they were to kill one of us as they ploughed on!”

© Peter Rogerson 15.04.22


© 2022 Peter Rogerson

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Added on April 15, 2022
Last Updated on April 15, 2022
Tags: copse, machinery, destruction, development


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 79 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..