‘I’d be famous and remembered for ever because I’d choose its name.’
Extract taken from The Climbers
By Keith Gray
Published by Barrington Stoke
There were trees here, there and everywhere in our village. Maybe more trees than houses. And we climbed them all. But it was the ones in the park that were totally legendary. We called them the “Big Five”.
The Big Five trees stood like guards along the back edge of the park, which was also the back edge of the village. Beyond the Big Five were just flat fields, going way off into the distance. The view from the top of the Big Five trees was stunning.
From shortest to tallest they were Twisted Sister, Spider Trap, Crazy Ash Bastard and Double Trunker.
But that was only four, right? That was because the biggest, tallest, most difficult tree to climb didn’t have a name.
Around here we had a climbers’ code. Everyone knew that whoever was the first to climb a tree got to name it. And so far no one had got to the top of the last of the Big Five.
The unnamed biggest of the Big Five stood in the furthest corner of the park, on the opposite side to the play area with its swings and slide. It was boss, chief, master, elder of all the trees. I reckoned the view from the top would be mindblowing. This tree was so big and tall it was like a massive pin sticking the park in place. I sometimes imagined a giant coming along and yanking the tree out of the ground, and our village simply floating away.
I was the best climber in the village. Chris Sullivan, but my mates all called me Sully. I had reach. And I’d made up my mind that this summer I was going to be the first to climb the last of the Big Five.
I was going to conquer the unnamed tree. I’d be famous and remembered for ever because I’d choose its name.
I was going to call it Sullivan’s Skystabber.
I’d thought I was going to be the first to climb that biggest tree, but that was before I met Nottingham.
He made it back down to the ground after climbing Twisted Sister. I saw he had leaves and bark dust stuck to the sweat on his cheeks and forehead. The long thin scar on his face was shiny pink. I knew the palms of his hands would be scraped red and stinging. He probably had jagged splinters in his fingertips too. But Nottingham was grinning like he’d just saved a drowning puppy, or maybe defeated a raging dragon. You know, like he was a hero.
The problem was, everybody who’d crowded around the bottom of Twisted Sister acted like Nottingham really was a hero. They all wanted to tell him how great and brilliant and amazing he was. Harvey even slung his arm around Nottingham and took a selfie. Then everybody wanted a selfie with him. I felt myself getting pushed towards the back of the crowd as they elbowed me out of the way. I tried to pretend I didn’t care. But I cared so damn much! What if this new kid was a better climber than me?
The Climbers by Keith Gray is published by Barrington Stoke, priced £7.99.