… and the Tree was happy.” Nadine snapped the book shut. “The Tree was also dead as shit. What a fucking crock.”

Pauline clapped her hands over her mouth and giggled.

Juliet tried to suppress a smile. “You’re not supposed to use those words around us.”

Gudrun remained expressionless.

“Trust me, kiddo, this book poses a far greater threat to your budding minds than the F-word.” Nadine tossed the book over her shoulder. “That was seriously your homework?”

“We also have to write about it,” said Pauline.

“I hope you intend to write about its deeply fucked messaging on gender roles.”

Both Pauline and Juliet giggled this time; Gudrun remained expressionless.

“Yeah yeah, laugh now. But if you ever take an interest in men, don’t come crying to me when he expects you to be the Giving Tree. Of course this crazy-ass tree is female. Of course the repulsive loser-human is male. You honestly believe the Giving Tree would have behaved just the same towards a girl-child? The first time she asked for anything, the Giving Tree would have rained apples and hornet’s nests down upon her head.”

“That’s how gravity was invented,” said Pauline.

Nadine stared. “The fuck?”

“Discovered,” corrected Juliet. “Isaac Newton was sitting under a tree, an apple fell on his head, and he discovered gravity. Supposedly.”

“Then Isaac Newton was a great man. An apple fell from a tree onto my head once–once. I was just a little girl, no more than eight or nine years old. Do you know what I did? I waited until that night, when everyone in the house was asleep. I crept out of my bed, down to the tool shed, and picked out an axe. Then I went to the apple tree, and I chopped and chopped. Do you have any idea how hard it is to swing an axe, over and over, enough times to take down a tree?! I don’t know where I found my strength. All night I was out there, swinging and swinging, until my hands were nothing but blisters, and then the blisters tore open, and there was blood everywhere. When the sun came up, they found me there, covered in blood, barely able to move, completely unable to use my hands. It took me weeks to heal. But the tree was no more.”

Nadine leaned back and smiled at the memory.

The girls sat in silence for a moment. Then:

“That’s dumb. The tree didn’t hit you with an apple on purpose–”

“Trees are not sentient beings–”

Nadine waved their ripostes aside. “Vengeance was mine, just the same. Fuck trees.”

“We need trees, they’re really important–”

Nadine yawned and rose to her feet. “In case you didn’t notice, your precious Giving Tree is chopped down by the book’s end. Spoiler: the Giving Tree dies!”

She exited the room.

“Your mom is weird,” said Juliet. Pauline nodded.

“She’s not my mother,” whispered Gudrun.


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