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Pear Shaped

by Michelle Mead 10 months ago in family
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The poisonous fruit of a love gone wrong.

“He cut her tree down out of spite.” declared Phoebe. Even as the words came out of her mouth, she could imagine her father dismissing her accusation as teenage drama. The way he lately dismissed so much of what she had to say.

Her younger brother Aiden shook his head with a reserve that made him seem older than his ten years. “Dad says it had a disease. In the roots, I think.”

“It’s in his head. It always is.” said Phoebe, with a scowl that only hinted at her growing distress over her father’s obsession with pruning things.

He never liked the tree. He said it was planted carelessly, without regard for its position in the garden. Phoebe knew the complaint was dig at her mother, who had planted it. Her mother had told Phoebe that she planted the tree when she was pregnant with her. What her mother did not tell her, but she worked out for herself, was the pregnancy had been what anchored her ill-matched parents together for the next thirteen years.

Phoebe thought back on all the times she and her brother had sat up in the tree with their mother. The three of them would pluck the fruit straight from its branches, and let the juice drip from their chins as they chomped away at the soft sweet ripe pulp.

Their father would berate their mother for failing to wash the pears - “covered in grime” - before allowing the children to eat them. But she would shrug it off, and tell him it would probably do wonders for their immune systems to eat something not doused to death in disinfectant first.

Her father always hated finding his family in the tree, refusing his wife’s every invitation to climb up and join them. He would always insist there was “no room” for him there, no matter what offers were made to try and accomodate him.

For Phoebe, the gulf of difference between her parents was probably most exposed when her mother was up there in the tree and her father stood down on the ground below. She would be perched on her favourite limb, her feet off the ground, dangling in the breeze, while he would be looking up at her, stubbornly rooted to the spot, with heavy disapproval.

Phoebe had inherited her love of climbing trees from her mother, who would encourage her to see how high she could climb, and rise above her fears. Her father, on the other hand, could always be counted on to sternly warn her on the perils of falling, or to chastise her about the little scrapes and scratches on her skin from climbing that she usually never noticed until he pointed them out.

She tried, for a long time, not to take sides, but her father’s cruel commentary about her mother’s weight wounded Phoebe. While they were together he insisted his attempts to torment her about it were “just jokes”. Once they were apart, he cited his own assertion she had “doubled in size” since they met as evidence of her mother’s lack of self control, a moral failing on her part. The fact that his family had also doubled in size during this time seemed to be lost on him.

When they were still married, her mother would make excuses for her father’s bullying about her weight. She revealed to Phoebe that when they first met he himself had a weight problem. When Phoebe asked him about it, her father confirmed it was true that he was once “obese”, and hated himself for it. Her mother surmised it was some fear of his own uncontrolled appetite that made him so zealous about trying to police hers. So she did her best not to let it bother her.

In fact, the one and only time Phoebe ever saw her mother seriously lose her temper with her father was the time he made a comment about Phoebe’s weight, instead of hers.

“Just what the hell is wrong with you?! Are you trying to give her an eating disorder like your sister has?!!” she had yelled at him with ferocity so starkly unfamiliar he shrank in shame.

This was how Phoebe learned the dark secret behind her favourite aunt’s “perfect” figure: bulimia.

When her parents divorced, her father seemed reassured by his assessment that nobody else could want her mother because she had “an ass the size of a small planet”.

He was wrong. She had since met a man who adored her, and had no issues with her “ass”, who had nothing but praise for her appetite for living.

Still alone, and still bitter about the end of his marriage, her father considered this to be a kind of cosmic injustice. An opinion he voiced frequently.

So, whatever the reason he gave for cutting down that tree, Phoebe knew what was truly at the root of it. Getting rid of the pear tree was her father’s last opportunity to cut her mother down to size.


About the author

Michelle Mead

I love to write stories so I keep doing it, whether it brings me fame and fortune or not. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t, but that's okay).

I have a blog, too.

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