The underpants festoon the branches of the trees like bright pennants, all fluttering in the fresh, promise-laden morning breeze. There are thousands of trees, in neat, orderly rows, stretching in all directions as far as the eye can see: trees and underpants, trees and underpants, trees and underpants. The orchard seems to be endless — ‘vast’ is a term that might spring to mind, ‘mind-boggling’ is another.
There are all kinds of pants. Men’s pants, ladies’ pants, pants for kids of all ages and shapes, and apparently pants for dogs and cats too. There are big pants, small pants, tiny pants and voluminous pants. There are sensible pants and sexy pants of all descriptions. There are frivolous and fatuous pants and stern ones to disapprove of them. There are sturdy pants and gossamer pants and all thicknesses in between. There are thermals and coolers. There are more colours and patterns and designs than even the fevered brain of the perviest underpants fetishist could imagine. No one tree has the same kind of pants; each tree carries a diversity, and no two pairs of pants are alike. The one thing they have in common — other than being on a tree — is that the fabrics are vibrant in hue and texture and seem to shimmer with a curious life of their own.
An observer of average attention to detail would note that the underpants do not merely festoon the trees, they grow from them, they hang by delicate green stems. The underpants have sprouted from the boughs like flappy and gaily-coloured fruit.
The observer should at this point start feeling considerable curiosity. What are underpants doing sprouting from trees? Or better, what are trees doing sprouting underpants? This does not seem a conventional act of nature.
Among the trees walks a man: by his bearing a gentleman. He has short, immaculate, black hair, with an absolutely straight side parting, at a mathematically precise point halfway between the crown of his head and his left ear. He wears a suit of a striking sobriety that wouldn’t be out of place at a funeral, which nevertheless shimmers with the same odd sheen as the underpants on the trees. Everything about him is neat and pressed and clipped. He is evidently a man who appreciates order.
His face wears a faint and beatific glow.
The gentleman stops and surveys his trees — for they are his; he put them there — and he smiles broadly because he sees that they are good.
In the distance, despite the bright and cloudless sky, there is a rumble of thunder.
And then the man goes on his way like someone who has much to do, which, indeed, he is.
This is chapter one of The Underpants Tree, the second novel in the Underpants of Fire trilogy by Chris Page. In Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.