He had his tree. So when the cockatoos passed on the gulls’ caws about the orang-utans losing theirs, it didn’t register as more than gossip.
The apes lived far across the sea. He didn’t speak their language. He had never seen one in the flesh. They sounded primitive and grotesque, these orange giants — imagined monsters, for all he knew.
He did not feel compelled to help. He didn’t know enough about their plight. Maybe there was good reason to move them on. Perhaps this was evolution in progress, what progress required. Maybe it was for the best.
Then the chainsaws revved from beyond the track.
The kangaroos were frantic. They begged for him to help protect their homes, but he declined. These creatures he had met. They lived across the gully, and sometimes they would visit, nibble at the grass under his tree. While he’d get a bit cranky at the noise, they were all right by him.
But what did they expect him to do? By the time he’d reach their patch, the damage would be done and he would be next in line. No, better that he stay put and not get involved, safe in his tree.
Things were much quieter once they’d gone. He would get used to the peace, he told himself.
The quiet was shortlived. The excavators moved in.
The ducks on the lake quacked out. The feathers flew and he laid low, hoping he wouldn’t be noticed. And the machines did leave him alone. The lake was covered in and he thought that was it. He had his tree.
The slabs went down; the walls went up. Still he held fast to the idea that surely his tree would stay, even as the land around him was claimed.
When they took his tree, he hissed and he clawed. But there was no one to hear, no one to help. He ran and he ran. Until the day an asbestos hand scooped him up from a hollow, when the fight had left him.
Now, looking out from the bars of the place where he is detained, no amount of hissing or clawing will get him the attention he craves. There is no release. There is no tree. There are only pitiful branches that, once extended, will wither in place like the others before them.