I am joining Bluebell Books for this week’s Short Story Slam. The delightful picture below is the prompt for this week. I hope it is okay that my contribution is youth-directed.
It had been a difficult school year in the new town, and I was not looking forward to summer. In frustration, I kicked my foot against a stone in the yard. To my surprise, the stone moved. A turtle poked his head from inside the shell, and surprised me even more when, in a slow, low voice, he said, “Go sit in the magical tree, and soon friends will surround you.” I raised my eyebrows and looked around to see if anyone was listening. “What magic tree,” I whispered. The turtle slowly pulled his head back into his shell.
I wasn’t accustomed to taking directions from a turtle, but facing a friendless summer can make an eight year-old do things she never thought she would do. I wandered around the yard, pondering which tree might be magic. When I saw it, I knew at once it was the magic tree, with beautifully colored leaves and vines growing around the trunk. I climbed out on to a sturdy branch and began to read my book. I was soon distracted by laughter and shouting below, and I turned to see children tossing a ball.
I had often stood on the side of the field, watching these children throw the ball to each other. Now, sitting in the tree, I had the same daydream I had when I was standing on the ground. The ball would bounce in my direction. I would scoop it up and toss it to one of the others. Then, I would instantly become part of their game. As tears burned my eyes, I turned my head back to my book. That silly turtle. This tree is not helping at all. I’m more alone than ever. Nobody even looks up to see me on this branch.
When I again glanced up at the children playing, I was surprised to notice a little girl standing on the side of the field, watching the ball sail through the air. And there was a boy on the other side of the field, and not far from him, another girl. All of them just stood and watched. Why aren’t they joining in the game? Are they like me – too shy to run in and play? Do they wait on the sidelines, dreaming of the ball bouncing in their direction?
I scrambled down from the tree, and ran to the nearest sidelined boy. “I have a ball like that at my house,” I announced, and the two of us ran to tell the other girls and boys who stood back, watching the children. Laughing and gently shoving each other, we made our way to my house, where I found my ball and took it to the vacant lot across the street. It was the first of many wonderful days that summer. I often reminded myself to stop and look for lonely children, standing at the edge of the vacant lot, and when I did see one, I shouted for them to join us.
I never saw the turtle again, but in the following years, I often climbed back up into the magical tree. From the tree, I watched as children grew and played different games, and groups mingled with other groups. I watched shy children become outgoing, and I watched selfish children become more giving. Before I found the magic tree, I had only been able to see the group of children I wanted to join. From the tree, I saw others, like myself, who wanted to make friends. That turtle I met years ago had been very wise. He knew that the magic of the tree was the gift of a larger view of the possibilities in life.
Thank you for coming to visit my blog. Be sure to check out the other submissions to Short Story Slam at Bluebell Books. laurie