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"The Garden" by Elizabeth (Feb. 1997)

The metal ladder clangs under my feet. I wonder for a while what it would feel like to fall. Maybe I would fly like a bird if I flapped my arms really hard. Fear surges through me as the ground gets further and further away. But then I hear the sound of my dad’s heavy feet following closely behind me. My palms sweat and I hold on tightly to the rungs, my knuckles turn white. Small pebbles fall to the ground making little bouncing noises.

When we reach the top I look around me. I remember all the kids on the school bus asking me why my house has a garden on the top of the roof. I told them that’s just the way my parents wanted to build our house. But looking around me right now I feel very lucky my house is built differently, and I think it is special. "Don’t get too close to the edge," my dad warns me. The view is better than those found in a tree. I look around the garden and spot the green tomato plants with little green balls hanging on the ends of the bending branches. A few of the balls are larger and have turned a light shade of pink. The weeds are all around the fenced off tomato plants. The trickier weeds have snuck past the thin, rusty, wire fencing.

I get down on my hands and knees and the hard soil pierces my palms and knees. I wipe the tiny rocks out of my skin. I pull with my arms and back at the thick, itchy weed. It is deep in the ground and it seems to take a long time to get it to move. I rock it back and forth, rocking myself back and forth along with the weed, pulling, pulling, until I fall backwards at the release of the tension. The itchy weed is in my hands, I beat it! The roots are long and white with dirt all around them. I smile happily at my dad who nods and grins back. I look down at his knees and see five uprooted roots, even thicker than mine. A twinge of discouragement goes through my head, and then I start on the next weed. This one has thorns and I try to avoid them. My arm rubs against the tiny thorns and a red bumpy rash appears on my skin. "Don’t scratch it," my dad says. The itchiness builds and I scratch it hard with my fingernails hoping to soothe the itch. But it hurts worse and my eyes fill with tears. I ignore the pain and don’t say anything to my dad. I should have listened to him and not scratched it. After struggling with a couple more weeds I forget the rash on my arm.

My face feels hot with all of the exertion and the heat, I look up at the sun directly overhead. I wonder why the sun is shining down so brightly on me. My dad hands me a yellow bottle with a red cap. I unscrew the cap and smooth the cool white lotion all over my face and arms. My throat feels dry and scratchy, then I spot a green hose spurting drips of water from its nozzle. I go over to it and turn the nozzle sharply. Water hits my face unexpectedly and I shriek, shocked. I turn the hose down and sip the cold liquid slowly, appreciating it. It surprised my throat and I feel the coldness slipping all the way down to my stomach. My eyes start burning so I rub them. They become blurry, so I rinse them out with the water. I wipe the dripping water from my face with the bottom of my dirty white T-shirt.

I hear my stomach rumbling and I look down at it, as if I might see the animal making such a noise. My dad raises his head from across the garden, I think maybe he heard it too. His face is as red as a ripe tomato would be. He says to me in a tired voice, "I think it’s time we go in for the day. It’s getting too hot and it’s time for lunch." My energy is lifted with my dad’s words. I hop to my feet and wipe away the tiny rocks indented in my hands and knees. We start down the noisy ladder. I hesitate for a moment, but then I hear the comforting sound of my dad’s heavy feet following closely behind me.

"The Climb" by Sarah (1994)

I looked up at the next branch of the tree. It seemed as far away as the moon. I didn't know why I was so scared. I had done this at least ten times before. Finally I just went for it, maneuvering myself up to the second branch. I finally made it. The second branch was always hardest to reach. Now I was home free. I reached the top with little trouble. Finally I remembered why I had wanted to come up here in the first place. It was so beautiful. I was as high as my roof but could look down with ease. I situated myself so that I leaned up against a dead branch, and was right in between two other branches. I could see far in to the forest if I looked over my shoulder. All around me were trees changing their colors. When I looked down all the greens looked so pallid. The freeze that had happened a few weeks before must have drained all the color out of the grass. I sat there for a long time staring down at the hill that led in to the forest. It seemed odd that practically all the leaves had fallen off the trees in the forest. It started getting cold and dark, so I decided to go in. I went down the left side of the tree instead of the right. I then had to climb back up so I could go down the right side. When I got to the first branch, I had to do the hardest part. I clambered down to safety and sighed. I wished I could have stayed up longer, but I had to go in. 

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