Friday, October 01, 2004
just like he said
~~(this one needs some polishing yet...)~~
A tree in the field towered above their heads, its branches lush and green, and dotted with bright cherries.
"Let's pick some," said Willie. "I'm hungry."
Mollie wrinkled up her nose. "No, I don't want any," she said. And she turned and walked away.
"Wait, Mollie!" Willie called after her. But she ignored him and kept walking and was gone.
He called her name once more, but of course that did no good. "Mean old Mollie," he pouted. "Why is she always so mean to me?"
He wandered round and round under the tree, staring up into the branches, wishing he was big and tall and strong, instead of tiny and weak.
Mr. Dengate could reach the cherries, he thought. Or his cousin Chad. They were all grown up, and could do anything. They weren't five like him. They weren't nothing.
"I'll never do it," he sighed. And slumped against the tree trunk in defeat.
"Never's a long time," said a voice. "Never do what?"
Willie looked all around. Who was that? He didn't see anyone.
And then a boy stepped out from behind the tree trunk. Just a boy, very much like Willie, with sandy hair and a friendly smile.
"Never do what?" he asked again.
"Never get any cherries," said Willie dejectedly.
The new boy peered up through the branches. "They are high up there, aren't they?" he said thoughtfully. "So - did you try climbing up for them?"
"I can't climb a tree," said Willie.
"Did you try?"
"Cause I already know! I can't climb trees."
"You never will if you never try," said the new boy cheerfully. "Come on!"
Glumly, skeptically, Willie threw his arms round the tree trunk and tried to scramble up. He tried and he tried, this way and that. And got nowhere.
Exhausted, he slumped against the tree trunk again. "I told you I couldn't climb up."
"Uh huh," said the new boy. "So - how else can you get the cherries?"
"I dunno," said Willie, sadly.
"How were you planning to get the cherries?"
"Oh, I wanted my sister to help me reach up. But she wouldn't."
"Pick you up, you mean? I could do that."
Willie looked up the new boy in surprise. He wasn't a bit bigger than Willie himself! How could he pick up someone who was just as big as he was?
"No, you can't!" said Willie.
"Sure I can!" the other boy said with confidence.
"Can't neither!" said Willie.
"I can try," said the boy.
"Well...all right," said Willie doubtfully. So he let the other boy try to lift him up. The boy tried and tried, and Willie reached up longingly at the cherries. But it was just as Willie said; the other boy was not able to lift him up enough to pick the cherries.
"I told you," said Willie, quite unhappy. He slumped down again, then sat down plop on the ground.
"Yes, you did," said the new boy. "So - how else can we get the cherries?"
"I don't know," Willie snapped at him. He was beginning to get annoyed about not being able to get the cherries.
"Maybe you could find a stick and knock some down out of the tree," the boy offered.
"Oh, right. Like that will help," muttered Willie.
"What's that you said?" asked the other. And, "Come on, let's look for a couple of long sticks."
Willie got up and followed him in the search, but mumbling under his breath the whole time. "Probably won't even find any sticks around here," he muttered.
They didn't find any long sticks.
"See?" said Willie, feeling a weird sort of triumph at being right.
"Not any sticks?" the other boy said. "None at all? Don't you suppose there might have been even one?"
"Well," Willie conceded, "maybe one..."
"Oh!" cried the new boy, swooping down on something and picking it up. "Like this one!"
"Oh. Yeah," said Willie slowly.
"Here," said the new boy. "You do it."
"I don't know how," said Willie. And then, "I probably can't hit a single cherry anyway."
"Let's see," said the new boy.
So Willie took the stick and swung it at the tree branches. And amazingly, as the stick got near, the branches of the tree tossed like they were in a wind storm, dancing away from the stick. But there was no wind!
Shocked, Willie tried it again. He swung his stick to knock loose the cherries. And, just as before, the tree branches acted like they were being blown back by a strong wind. No matter how he swung the stick, he couldn't touch the tree branches. And not a single cherry tumbled to the ground.
But the stick did. Willie let it drop from his suddenly nerveless hands. "Did you see that?" he cried.
"See what?" said the other boy.
"That! The way the tree acted just now! Like...like it was avoiding me..."
"Yes, it was just like you said, wasn't it? You didn't hit a single cherry - not a one. Just like you said."
"Yeah," said Willie slowly. Very slowly. Something was beginning to dawn on him. "Just like I said..."
"Just like you said," the other boy agreed. "You never got any cherries - just like you said. You couldn't climb the tree - just like you said. I couldn't lift you up to them - just like you said."
"Everything's happening, just like I said!" cried Willie in horror.
"Hmmm..." said the other boy. "You know what that means?"
"What?" said Willie fearfully. It was scary, having his words become reality, right before his eyes.
"It means," said the other boy, looking Willie in the eye. And what strange eyes the other boy had! So deep they seemed endless, and seemed to have stars twinkling in their very depths. "It means," he repeated, "that you need to change what you say."
"Oh," said Willie in a tiny tiny voice.
"Didn't your mom ever tell you to be careful what you say, because you might get it?"
"Yes," said Willie, in the same tiny voice.
The other boy smiled. "I know she did. So - how are we going to get the cherries now?"
Willie hung his head. And when he did, he spotting again that long stick where he had dropped it. "Maybe," he said. "Maybe I can try to knock some down again. And maybe it will work this time."
"Maybe," the other boy agreed. "Let's see you do it. What are you going to do?"
Willie picked up the stick and held it firmly. He began to smile, and then to grin. "I'm going to get some cherries!"
"That's the spirit!" said the other.
"Yeah!" said Willie. "I'm going to knock them right off the tree!" And he swung the stick.
And this time - oh! it was as if the tree leaned into the stick, wanting it to knock down the cherries. Little round deep red balls fell and fell and fell, all round Willie has he swung the stick. He laughed with delight and dropped to his knees, scrambling to gather the fruits.
"I did it!" he cried. "I got the cherries! Here, want some?"
But when he turned holding out a handful of fruit to offer to the other boy - why, the boy had vanished! Completely. He was nowhere in sight.
But here came Mollie.
Willie's face darkened as he watched her walk this way. She hadn't helped him, and he was still mad at her. He wished...
Oh! A thought struck him, that if the words he spoke about the cherry tree became real, then...
He could do something really mean to Mollie. Just by talking.
After all, she had been mean to him.
All he had to do, was say something. Something nasty.
"Oh, there you are, Willie. Mom wants you," Mollie called. And she frowned. "Are you still sitting up here under this cherry tree, pouting because I wouldn't help you pick the cherries? What a baby you are!"
Willie's face burned a dark red. Oh, she was so mean! He thought inside him, searching for the perfect mean thing to say back, to have it some true.
He opened his mouth.
And suddenly he saw again that boy. Not that he was there again. But inside his head, he saw him. The friendly face, and smile, and eyes. Especially the eyes, all deep with the stars inside them.
Willie's face burned again, this time with shame. How could he do that? How could he go back to talking bad things again? And do it to hurt his sister?
He opened his mouth again. But not to say the mean thing he had thought to say against her.
"Hi, Mollie," he said instead. "I love you, sis. I'm not going to be a baby anymore. Oh, and I did finally get some of the cherries. You want some? I'd like to share them with you."
Mollie's face was astonished as she held out her hand to receive the cherries that Willie handed her.
It was the same handful he had tried to give to the boy earlier. To that boy who had helped him to change his words. And somehow, that just seemed to be exactly the right thing to do.