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The Copse

Sophie Parkes


 

 

The last fluorescent yellow sheet, enthusiastically folded, slid through the letter box. I could hear a dog scowl and scuffle through doors. I only had a couple of leaflets left and had come to the end of my last row of houses. Den was stood a little way off, his hands pamphlet free and stuffed inside the pockets of his jacket.

“Come on,” he beckoned with his shoulders, “Pub?”

He certainly had the right idea, although premeditated of course, and our feet stumbled in the direction of the local.

 

Becca, as we had hoped, was on the bar.

“Hello!” she grinned, splashing two pints in front of us. It wasn’t busy, so she tripped eagerly round the side of the bar and bounded onto a stool beside us. Two old men in the corner, one looking vaguely familiar, glared at us, subtly pointing and smiling unkindly. Den’s appearance, no doubt. I couldn’t tell if Den was used to it or not, he never seemed to notice. He probably wouldn’t have cared even if he did see the down turned mouths and heard the snickers. I was proud to be ‘one of them,’ as I would automatically be associated with the plot and its uncertain future. They wanted to topple down the copse like dominos, quick and brutal, one after the other. They wanted to make homeless the crows who gathered there every year to nest, although that certainly wouldn’t bother them – providing they had roofs over their heads, they would continue to stub out cigarettes and place them hot in the Big Issue sellers’ hands. Somehow I could understand why they wouldn’t care for nature, but the copse seemed different. It affected everyone in the area. We had practically lived there in summers, darting round the trees, collapsing onto fern beds to learn the guitar, cowering in the natural pits to sample our first spliffs. Most of Scouts was centred around it, school trips frequently gazed at biology in the most obvious setting. BMX riders used the outer banks for tricks, local nurseries used fallen leaves for rubbing, a local couple had even married at the epicentre, the priest standing on a tree stump.

 

The buyers of those houses would feel blood on their hands, green blood oozing from leaves that refused to decay. They still had lives to lead.

 

“Well, the paper’s out tomorrow, so we’ll just see what people say, see how much support we really have when it gets down to it,” Den shrugged. Becca and I agreed, softly frustrated in playing the waiting game. Becca rolled her cigarette in the same manner Den idly twisted a dreadlock between his thumb and forefinger. I needed something to hold onto, too.

 

Becca had knocked off ten minutes later, so we thought to wander past the perimeter of the copse towards our respective homes. It was a familiar route, our autonomous feet propelling us there, leaving our mouths to spout , our hands to wildly circulate in the air. This is how it had been lately. The campaign to protect the copse had been stepped up since the stamp of approval had been plastered across the inevitable mountains of paperwork. As the days were getting warmer and longer, and the trees fuller and thicker, school was being wound down and our actions were centred on the copse.

“So you know your letter’s actually going to be in the paper?” Becca asked as we veered off the housing estate and onto the grassy track.

“Yeah, I had confirmation today when I rang up. The pamphlets are out and the petitions are being circulated.”

Den wouldn’t smile. He was saving that until after the victory.

“I think we should see how they go, then see about organising the demo,” I added, the other two nodding in agreement.

 

Then we stopped. In thought, our focus had been the ancient track which led to the copse. But as our shoes had suddenly found themselves contesting clumps of loose earth, scraped and disturbed, our eyes widened in horror.

“What the..?” I didn’t know how to complete the sentence. We all looked up and along the track, where the edge of the copse began. It was the same all the way along: the track ploughed into a number of different tracks, the earth wounded and exposed to the dimming sun. Grass and pebbles were strewn either side of the new gorge, so prominent it would be visible to the passengers on the flight path above.

 

Den ran to the opening of the copse, the clouds of mud flying up behind him, some sticking in the treads of his shoes.

“They’ve been here,” he yelled, stomping his right foot, “They’ve started.”

Becca and I ran up to meet him.

 

A yellow JCB sat smugly next to the first tree of the copse, the ferns splayed and squashed underneath its caterpillar wheels. Its arms were raised menacingly, the turreted bucket hanging from its hinges. It was ready to scrape and uproot. And the contractors had thought carefully about colour coordination, as yellow keep out tape chained the first tree to the second, both trees daubed haphazardly in yellow paint anyway. Becca ran to the tape as if the winner of a race, and pulled it down, tearing it with her hands and stuffing it into her bag. Den had already begun pelting the windows of the JCB with the rocks dislodged by the caterpillar tracks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 2005

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