Dad says he planted the apple tree the day I was born. There was a comparison every birthday to see which of us was taller: the tree won every time. Last year I tried to climb it, but I fell and scratched a scar down my left arm. Now we are both twelve. The tree may be bigger, but this year I’d grown enough to reach that first branch. I hooked a leg over it and managed to scramble up without falling. There is another fork in the trunk higher up, sturdy enough to take my weight, and that’s where I sit.
From here I can see over the fence, into the alley that leads from the estate to the shops. The ‘parade’ Dad calls it, like it’s some kind of marching band.
A man walks past, older than me but young I guess, with a woman on his arm; she’s pregnant and bulging. They see me in the white blossoms. “I climbed trees at your age.” I can see that his left arm is scarred too. “You need a shelf up there – for a snack.”
I tell Dad and he fits an old tray in place suspended on garden string. I take up a sandwich every day for lunch. The flowers bulge into tiny apples. I watch the people below and wonder if I’ll ever walk past, with a girl on my arm.
The apples turn red over the summer. There is an old man who walks a dog. They are both slow. I decide to get a dog too, when I’m as old as him. The dog barks up, and I am spotted among the leaves. “Throw me an apple,” says the old man. I do; he catches it awkwardly in his left hand, but he doesn’t eat it. “I want it for the pips,” he says. “I’m going to grow a tree just like that one.”
I don’t know whether he does or not. I climb up the bare winter branches, but I don’t see him again.