The Razor Tree

story about friendships

I wasn’t good at constructions. Orestes used to be amazing. The trap was a sieve borrowed from his grandmother without her knowing about it. A small stake, made of wood he had cut from the floor of the abandoned house right next to his family’s. Two ropes from his mother’s laundry. If I remember correctly, he had told his mother that the neighbour across the street, known for her talent for collecting what she thought was unnecessary in other people’s houses, had stolen it.

Its mechanism was simple: the sieve rested on the stake and the operator had only to pull the ropes. He had named it a ‘small bird’s trap’ because it was a trap for small birds. Then he got tired of this name and called it the ‘camouflage’. He explained to me that the new name fit better since he had covered the sieve with grass so that it wouldn’t be seen from afar. Then he dug a fairly deep pit under the sieve and filled it with water from a plastic bottle he found thrown in the ditch of the road, but he didn’t change its name as I thought he would. I suggested calling it a ‘water trap’, but he refused because he said that the water was a temporary solution. Then he took out the sieve because his grandmother needed it, and covered the pit with branches from the pear tree that we had in the backyard. This bothered me, but Orestes said that a few branches would not be missed from the pear tree and that the whole argument was meaningless.

‘This is all a joke,’ said Orestes, and he asked me to help him remove the small stake from the trap and replace it with a bigger and sharper one.

‘Now we can rename it from the “camouflage” to the “guillotine”.’

‘You’re stupid,’ I told him, and drew a guillotine on my drawing pad exactly as I had seen it in the school’s encyclopedia.

Orestes fetched his father’s razor blade and, using his knife, attached it to the stake. He kept collecting razor blades and placing them in vertical cuts on the stake.

‘Now we really have a guillotine,’ he said excitedly.

I disagreed. ‘Now we have a razor tree. How many times do I have to say it? This is not a guillotine.’

The discussion came to a halt when Orestes turned deafeningly silent.

The problem was the water. The pit was filling up with mud, and we had to clean it out and refill it with fresh water. Moreover, the leaves dried up after a few days and left the hole and the razor tree uncovered, so we had to replace them with new ones.

Another problem was the goal. What was the purpose of a razor tree?

I didn’t like the idea of working for a hole and a tree without knowing the meaning. I admit it was an admirable construction, but it had no purpose.

Orestes disagreed. He said that the goal was the trap itself. An extremely effective trap. The most amazing trap of all times.

I insisted that he give a proper answer. ‘What could be caught in this effective trap?’

‘Anything that passes by and makes the mistake of stepping on the branches.’

‘Okay,’ I said, ‘but it doesn’t seem to be of any use. Chance is not an aim. You must be specific.’

‘Anything,’ said Orestes, ‘means everyone. You, me, my grandmother, my father and my mother. All who dare to walk in my yard.’

‘You and I know where the trap is. It’s hard to step on it. Your mom and dad will be very angry if they step on it, and they will hate you forever.’

‘I do not care. No one could punish me, not even my father. They know what will happen if they do, then they must be ready to expect the worst.’

That was true; once his father slapped Orestes and Orestes blew out the two front tires of his car and threatened to blow out the other two and leave the house for good. His father said that he would hang him upside down from the tree in their backyard and set a fire from below to smoke him like pork meat, but Orestes told him: ‘Dare and you will see.’ His father, after his mother’s pleas, did not dare, but I think that he was scared. I saw the incident and I can say that Orestes was effectively intimidating.

Out of all the girls at school, he had decided that he would have me as his daughter, while Elena would be his wife and Georgia would clean his house and his chicken coop just like his grandmother, who lived in a room next to their house, did.

As the daughter of Orestes, I had the respect of the whole class. I can say that it was great. Elena, though, as his wife, had the admiration of the whole school. She by all means deserved it, because she was beautiful and she had a pink ribbon in her hair. Georgia was a little upset with the cleaning of the chicken coop, although she liked the household keeping because she prepared the afternoon tea and bathed Elena’s doll. In general, we were all quite pleased.

The role of the daughter did not include much; it was easy. Orestes taught me how to make constructions, such as the razor tree, and how to drive his father’s car; I mean, just to put it in first gear and immediately after in reverse, with the result that the car bounced almost on the spot, but it was really amazing, even more amazing than helping him with his constructions. I, in return, wrote his school homework using a slightly different graphic character so the teacher wouldn’t catch us on the spot.

The razor tree was definitely starting to tire me, especially its lack of purpose, but Orestes didn’t seem to care. He also didn’t care that razor blades attached to a stake was not the same as a guillotine. Thus, I borrowed the encyclopedia from the school’s library and read him the entry for ‘guillotine’, which made him unhappy, as well as bitter and edgy towards me. He actually said that he was going to hang me upside down over the ‘guillotine’ and that he would light a fire underneath it like they do with smoked pork. And, because I’m cheeky and nerdy, he’ll burn the encyclopedia and my drawing pad along with it. Elena begged him not to do this to their only daughter (that was me) and Georgia started crying.

This made me so irritably furious that I left without another word the house we had built in the yard in front of his grandmother’s room, a little closer to the entrance of his father’s warehouse, with stones that showed only where the foundations would go in and no walls, and I never played with him again.

Sometimes I wonder if I am to blame for the fact that Orestes asked Elena for a divorce and fired Georgia, and that he stopped hanging out with girls and now only hangs out with boys.

I also wonder if it’s my fault that his grandma worries for his future because when she saw him secretly smoking in the bathroom, he threatened that if she told his father he would hang her upside down over the ‘guillotine’. She actually asked my grandma if she knew what this ‘guillotine’ thing was. My grandmother didn’t know and asked my mother, who had graduated from high school before getting married, and she explained all about guillotine but told her not to worry because they don’t hang anyone upside down from a guillotine. ‘And such a tool,’ she added, ‘you don’t even find in a museum, much more in the hands of a little child. After all it’s not a knife. That would have been really dangerous.’ She also said that Orestes was not a good pupil and growled whatever word he heard to impress the others without knowing its meaning. In fact, she has heard him call our teacher a paver sickle. Which is nonsense.

My mom didn’t hear well. Orestes said that he would trample our teacher with the paver or cut off her feet with the sickle.

Georgia is of the same opinion as me: ‘Orestes is past.’ She heard her mother using this expression for the husband of her aunt after her aunt’s divorce. Georgia’s mother actually said to her aunt: ‘He is past. You had enough. Now you must look forward.’ Elena moans from time to time and says that I’m foolish and we are not as competent as Orestes with constructions, but I pretend not to hear her sighs. The three of us are such a jolly good company that we will not spoil our friendship for a minor disagreement. Orestes is past. Besides, I am going to design a new, bigger razor tree, and my two daughters will help me to build the most amazing construction of all time.




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