Our mother said it would be a good lesson for us to pick up the fallen magnolia petals in the garden. It wasn't even our tree, it reached over from next door and dropped its petals on our patio, covering them with pink and white teardrops. My brother and I set to it; him bending over, me sitting down on the cold slabs, the damp seeping into my bum, clutching two or three petals at a time and stuffing them into a black bin bag. They were silky soft with a hint of slime and layered like an onion, you could peel them if you were careful or bend them in half with a satisfying snap. Along the broken edges the pearly white would turn brown, an instant visible decay. I would push my thumbnail into them, making half moon impressions and watch as the stain of brown semi circles appeared on the milky surface, a wilful destruction. My brother and I worked non-stop until the job was done. A nod from our mother and we went back to playing, back to fighting, back into the house.
The next morning the patio was covered in more white petals than before, as if there had been a snowstorm in the night, as if it was not the start of spring.
Our mother handed us another black bin bag. It will be a good lesson she said.
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