Which brings us to vuh strangest part ov our story and hopefully explains why we done what we did.              

          We charged down vee embankment without finking too much about what it was we were doin. I dont fink eeva of us fought we were highwaymen or anyfin like vat. If we fought anyfin – which I really dont fink we did – it was just: move fast and get vis ova wiv.  

              Even froo duh vinegar, vuh smell was bad. Mi eyes were waterin so I cunt see all vat well. If I had to count voh I’d say it was maybe ten seconds from vuh top of vee embankment to us standing beneath vuh bare branches and by vee exposed roots at vuh foot of vuh shit tree. Up close it was ovvious vat vuh tree had been takin a batterin. Vere were oles all up an down vuh trunk. I say oles. Was shit really. Vere was dried shit up and down vuh trunk, dried shit vat was pluggin vee oles made by vuh fumbs over vuh last however many days an weeks an monfs and maybe even years. We dint know. 

              Was sen dat I noticed Noo-Noo had a stick voh. 

              I said to her, What are you gonna do wiv vat? 

             She grinned and she pointed vuh stick, like it was a long witchy finger, at vuh trunk of vuh tree. 

              I dint follow cos, like I say, I’m slow on vee uptake, me. So I said What? 

             Noo-Noo rolled her eyes and gently poked vuh stick into one of vuh plugs of dried shit. 

             And vat was when we heard duh voice. 

             Hannah, duh voice said, clear as day. Don’t take the kids off me. They mean the world to me. I can’t function without them. I need the kids, Hannah. The kids are my life. Please don’t do this to me. Don’t make me into the monster. Call me. Tell me where you are. I’m at my wit’s end, Hannah. My wit’s end.  

             Was like the fuckin shit tree was speakin. Soon as Noo-Noo’s stick poked a hole in vuh dried shit, vere was vis voice. Was like vee ole was a mouf. An vuh voice was sweet and sad and pleadin. I tell you. We nearly fuckin shit are pants, me and Noo-Noo. It was scary. Make no mistake about vat. But it was fuckin weird an excitin an all. 

              Do anuvva, I said. Do anuvva.  

              Noo-Noo dint need any promptin. She jammed vuh tip of duh stick into anuvva hole and ven she twisted her wrist sose vat duh stick cleared all vuh shit away quicksmart, quicksmart, quicksmart, vuh way you would if you were clearing jagged glass out of dee edges ov a windowframe after youd smashed a window.               

            We erd a diffrent voice vis time:  

             Paula. Please forgive me. I never meant to hurt you. It would never have worked out. I had to do what I did. It was the only way. You have to live your life, Paula. Live your life and be happy.  

            Anuvva, I said. Anuvva. Anuvva. Even before vuh second voice ‘d even finished speaking: Anuvva, anuvva, anuvva.  

            Kate, a fird voice said. Kate? Can you hear me? Where are you? I’ve looked everywhere but I can’t find you. You’ve got to help me a little bit. I need a clue or something. I can’t wait out here in the dark all Winter, you know? Throw me a bone. Throw me a bone and maybe just maybe we can work this thing out. Throw me a bone, okay? And throw it soon. 

 

              And ven:  

            Joe. I just couldn’t bring myself to tell you. It was the sex. Having sex with you made me ill. You were so strange. All those sudden jerks and hiccups. It was just so weird. And the peanut butter. I hate peanut butter. I’m sorry you didn’t understand. I never meant for you to do what you did. I didn’t know how much it meant.               

            And ven:    

          Tara. I still love you. I still feel the same way. I haven’t changed. I won’t change. Please give us another chance. Please. We could be so good you and me. Just give us a chance, baby. Please.   

             And so it went on: Tracey an Kayleigh an Famida an Grace an Isabel an Milly an Heather an Jess an Sarah an Liz. On and on and on and on. An howevermany oles we stuck, vere were still more. Vuh more we lookt, vuh closer we got, vuh more oles we saw. Vere were fousands of oles in vuh shit tree. Fousands. I cunt see for vee oles. My art was racin. I was standin vere just sayin anuvva anuvva anuvva ova an ova again. Do anuvva, Noo. Do anuvva. Even after Noo-Noo stopt, I was sayin Do anuvva, Noo. Do anuvva. 

               I dint register any difference between what I was feelin and what Noo-Noo was feelin and I want aware of Noo-Noo clamberin back up vee embankment or nuffin. Vuh first fing, vuh first point of dischord, you might say, I picked up on was Noo-Noo smashing the perfume bottle sheed robbed offof her mam at the base of vuh tree. She just barged by me, barged me out ov vuh way, in point ov fact, and smashed vuh bottle against the roots. I was like fuckin ell, Noo-Noo – but vats when I saw Noo-Noo was all glassy-eyed. She lookt like a fuckin zombie or some’ing. N vere were tears streamin down her kipper an all. I was all, Sup, Noo-Noo? Sup? But Noo-Noo wunt speak. She smashed vuh perfume bottle and she started pattin her pockets. Course now I know she was lookin for her matches. 

              But she want finking straight. She want. At vuh time I dint know vat one ov vuh voices weed herd was her dad. How was I to know vat ven? I dint know Noo-Noo’s dad. Ide never been to her ouse or nuffin. All I know is vat Noo-Noo herd her dad and set fire to vuh tree and burned vuh shit tree down to vuh ground. We stood vere, vuh two ov us, watching vuh shit tree burn, watchin vuh bloody mice crisp and crackle, watchin the paint run scared offof the kettles and vuh toasters, watchin vuh bike turn black and char like a corpse, watchin vuh polyfene hiss and evaporate like the steam offof mi piss – and I know, I know now, what we did was wrong, burning vuh tree was wrong. I know vat.   

            It’s just. Fire is like that, innit? Watching somefin burn. You can’t look away, can you? 

            And Ive fought about vis a lot. Ive fought about this a lot a lot. All vuh fumbs vat sealed veir voices up inside vuh tree. All vose words. Vere better off in vuh world. When Noo-Noo burned vuh shit tree down, she was doing all vose people a favour.   

             Seems to me, you don’t solve nuffin when you bottle it up inside. You have to open your mouth and fill your lungs and scream whatever it is into vuh world. 

            You do vat and veres a chance vat you might be heard.  

            Vats what I fink.