The Mango Tree by Mary Byrne

its gold and orange fruit glowed among the vivid green of its leaves, every piece lovingly handmade in pottery, it hung from a strong double fork of Bolivian wood – dark with a suggestion of red – from which ‘branches’ flowed in dark and very stout handmade twine

the woman in the shop called it The Mango Tree and I simply had to have it: she said she found toilet tissue softest and the right size for packing the fragile pieces and sent me off to buy a supply (all this took ages but brought the high price down a little), then after closing time, the two of us wrapped the pieces individually, each fruit still attached to its string and the whole lot attached to the branch

I had to negotiate the journey home carefully bearing my Bolivian treasure like a huge box of fresh eggs along darkening river quays in a part of Paris where I normally had no business whatsoever

once home I had to identify a place where it would be seen in all its beauty, then he and me (this took both of us and he was still hale and hearty) unfolded the sagging strings heavy with white-bound fruit from the box like a wedding dress or a dead body and with great difficulty hung it from a solid bracket he installed in the old wall – I learned that the French for such an item, potence, also means gibbet – sufficiently ensconced to take the considerable weight of The Mango Tree, after which we unwound from their soft paper the delicate things that hung waiting to be revealed, rather like removing a dress, and although I was intimate with some of the pieces already, each one was different, individual, and the spinning leaves tinkled against one another and he saw the whole tree for the first time and it was his birthday

I carried out the whole operation as if I were going to live forever in that house and place, as if I would always have the same time and energy, later and alone, to repeat the self-same actions when it became time to leave

Mary Byrne is the author of the short fiction collection Plugging the Causal Breach (Regal House 2019). Her short fiction has been published, broadcast and anthologised widely. She was born in Ireland, lives in France, tweets at @BrigitteLOignon