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THE DEN

BY RUA DE FAOITE

It wasn’t my idea.
I wish it had been because it was my garden. But no, my friend came up with the idea. A den. A base. Our secret hideout, where we could escape to whenever we wanted. There is a row of trees at the front of my garden. Some small, some tall and a gigantic Sycamore tree, right at the centre, two or three times the height of my house. Myself, my friend and my younger brother all marched towards the wall of green, which was looming above our heads. Why? We were desperate to know what was behind those trees.

My friend had asked and I, feeling ashamed, told him that I hadn’t a clue. This was due to the fact that we had only been in the house for a year and a half. But that wasn’t an excuse for not wondering what was behind the trees. Whenever I bothered to try and see what was there from the roadside, I was again prevented by another blockade of trees which hid this mysterious place. It was almost as if these spectacular trees were hiding something that you had to prove you were worthy of seeing.

We needed to prove we were worthy. So, we stooped under the lowest branches, stomped through sharp, pointy briars and stinging nettles, to come face to face with… a wall of clay. That was the biggest challenge. Not giving up then.

We could see shrubs, bushes and one or two flowers above us, so we retrieved all the shovels we had, which was a grand total of two. Regardless, we hacked away at the clay until we had something that resembled a staircase. It was steep and hard to clamber up but we couldn’t turn back now.

I glanced to the left and then turned my head back to ogle the shrubs, bushes, birds and the amazing trees. There was a path, but made by what? I still don’t know because the house was new and I doubt the hardworking builders would have had much time to walk about this hidden wonderland. We trudged forward in single file, gasping and pointing at all the different sights. It came to a drop, which was where my parents dump the dead grass and compost. They had never looked up and noticed the ledge we were standing on.

During that summer, whenever my friend came over we would sometimes take turns jumping down into the place where the rotting grass was. After a few minutes of exploring, we ambled back to the entrance but we didn’t stop there.

Instead we continued on to the place we named ‘The Den’. It was perfect. Probably impossible to describe completely, because it was overwhelming. Bees buzzed, flowers danced in the cool breeze and even the trees looked vibrant. The spring sun filtered through the Sycamore leaves, casting a lovely light over our new hideout.

The roots of some trees actually poked through the surface of the ground. We were raised above ground level by about a metre and a half and we could see the road through the gaps in the Sycamore’s leaves. We could see but not be seen. Just what every young child wants.

Over the next few years the den changed. The trees on the road side were cut back making us more visible to the many people who glanced in at the den, probably wondering as they drove past, if they had seen a flicker of movement. That flicker was most likely us. Our parents were eventually allowed to come up. My Dad made us a tyre swing and a rope ladder, which nobody ever scaled until my eighth birthday, when the very same friend who asked the question ‘What’s behind those trees?’ managed to climb up and get stuck.

I had forgotten all about that. Now I’m going into second year and haven’t been in the Den for more than a year and a half. I’ll go up there soon. Maybe all this time I thought I was too old for such things. Too old to have fun up there. I now know that you’re never too old to have fun. |||

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