The Tree (Sci-Fi-Fri # 8)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
One day a student who use to be poor, arrives at school with a large sum of money, causing the other students to question how he managed to become rich after years of being bullied for being poor.

Submitted: May 09, 2014

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Submitted: May 09, 2014

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For as long as I could remember, as far back as kindergarten, Benny Hartfort had always been the poorest kid in our class. Our class first made this discovery when we were in kindergarten and he vomited on his t-shirt, shortly after complaining of an upset stomach, and the very next day he wore the same stained shirt to school.

Ever since that day, he was forever branded with the label of the “poor kid”. Benny wore the same outfit to school each day, sometimes carrying a disgusting odor with him due to the fact that he was unable to properly bathe himself regularly. He was the only student in our class that took advantage of the school's free lunch, which was another way of saying that his family was unable to make it in society on their own to afford the brand made foods and snacks that everyone else purchased.

We were kids and we didn't take into consideration that Benny's social status was beyond his control because I'm sure that if we did understand, then we probably wouldn't have bullied him as much as we had when we were kids. I regret to admit it, but I was among the kids who constantly called him names, shoved him in the hallways, stole the few possessions that he had from his locker, and threw paper balls at his head the second our teacher turned her back to write something on the board. I didn't become a bully because I had a passion for tormenting people, but instead because I wanted to fit in with the other kids in school and in order to do that, it seemed that the only thing you needed to do was pick on Benny Hartfort.

Anyways, Benny had always been the poorest kid in our class, but that was until our first day of sixth grade. When we entered sixth grade, Benny went under an unbelievable transformation that no one had expected. I remember that it was the first day of class and everyone was standing around the classroom waiting for fellow students to arrive and for our teacher to come and properly assign us our seats and establish her rules for the school year.

“We'll be in middle school next year,” I remember saying to my small group of friends. “Finally! I just want to get away from these baby kindergartens.”

“Me too, Jeff.” agreed one of my friends. “But Middle School will be hard.”

“Nah.” I disagreed. “We can handle it.”

The classroom door swung open and in a unified gesture, everyone in the classroom turned their heads to the door to welcome whoever was entering the classroom. As the figure stepped in, everyone's mouth's dropped open at the same time in a single motion and we immediately became transfixed as Benny Hartfort entered the classroom.

It was Benny Hartfort, however there was something about his appearance that was drastically different. His once long, brown untamed hair was combed neatly on top of his head. The once bummy clothes and shoes that he regularly wore with holes on the surface and faded coloring were replaced with new, brand named clothes that only wealthy people were able to afford. Everyone was silent as he moved through the aisle and without uttering a single word or making eye contact with anyone, he took a seat in the front of the room.

Before we had a chance to question him on his new found wealth, our teacher rushed into the classroom and ordered us to take a seat so that she could quickly begin our lesson for the day. Throughout class, our teacher sat on the rim of her desk speaking to us, which robbed us of an opportunity to throw paper balls at Benny, but even if we were given the chance, I think that most people would have hesitated in actually going through with it because from the looks of it Benny was no longer poor. Benny's impoverished life style was the only excuse we had to pick on him, but if he wasn't poor, then what would that mean?

I spent the entire morning trying to figure out where he may have received the money to afford such a nice outfit. I ran several possibilities through my mind to explain it, that perhaps he robbed a bank or maybe his great grandparents sent him some money as an apology for never visiting him. Some of the conclusions I reached seemed impossible, but I was desperately trying to make sense of everything and I'm sure that half the class was trying to figure it out for themselves too.

It wasn't until lunch time that we were able to confirm our suspicions. As soon as the bell that declared it was lunch time rang, everyone rose from their seats and rushed out into the hallway in a small mob, but instead of heading towards the lunch room, everyone crowded around Benny Hartfort, who walked with his backpack clinging to his back like a hiker who carries their equipment attached to their backs up a mountain.

“Benny, how were you able to afford such a nice outfit?” one girl asked.

“Yeah Benny!” asked one of his bullies. “How? Tell us.”

Benny paused in the center of the hallway, allowing every student in our class to form a small circle around him and enclose him in the middle of it. He scanned each of the eager faces forming the group circle and then glanced in all directions of the hallway to confirm that it was empty of teachers and staff members. Once he confirmed that it was clear, Benny slid his back pack off his back and placed it gently onto the floor.

“Let's just say that I'm rich and from now on I will always be rich.” he said as he unzipped his book bag.

Benny opened the bag wide enough for some light to shine inside the bag which allowed us to see large bundles of dollar bills bound together with rubber bands. The bag was filled to the rim with fresh green, paper bills that probably amounted to over a thousand dollars if we were to individually count each bill. Everyone gasped in a bewilderment and shock as the kid everyone had once called “poor” now proved that he had more money than every other twelve year old student in our school combined.

He quickly zipped his book bag up and lifted it over his shoulders. As he continued down the hallway, everyone in our class ran along at his side, begging for him to be their friend and asking him to forgive them for their past transgressions towards him.

I lingered a few paces behind everyone, still in shock over the fact that he had somehow managed to obtain a large sum of money. It was a hard transformation to stomach, especially since picking on Benny was the very thing that had united the class in the first place as we all shared a common enemy. I was questioning what this meant for the future of our class.

Throughout the entire day, everyone repeatedly begged Benny to be their friend and I'm certain that the only reason they wanted to be closer to him was not so they could amend their evil acts that they had once inflicted on him, but instead so that they could use him for his money.

After everything they had put Benny through, he didn't appear to want to have any one of them as his friends, so whenever he was prompted with a request for friendship, Benny remained silent not uttering a single word. There was still the question over where the money came from, but Benny remained tight lipped over that as well.

I was far more curious than most of the members of our class and I desperately wanted answers from Benny, but I knew that he would never reveal it to us.

After school, when most students boarded the bus to head home, I intentionally missed the bus to follow Benny home. Benny was among the few students that didn't take the bus, well he used to take it, but after the years of bully we put him through I think he realized that it was easier to walk a mile home every day from and to school than to take the bus and deal with a mob of students that did not like him.

After the bell rang, I lingered a few paces behind him as he walked down the hallway, and once we were outside and he made his way down a secluded sidewalk. I trailed a short distance behind him, ducking and covering behind tiny objects that lined the side walk such as mail boxes, trees, parked cars, and anything that was large enough to conceal me.

Benny didn't appear to be suspicious because he never looked over his shoulder once to notice that I was secretly following him. The walk to his house was long, probably a little over an hour, but I managed to keep up with him without being detected and I was motivated by a desire to know the truth.

Benny lived on the impoverished side of town where the houses were small, abandoned, and the lawns were yellow patches of weeds that have given up hope in attempting to grow. The further he walked into his neighborhood the less familiar I became with my surroundings. I noticed several fences were covered in graffiti with gang logos painted on several places to claim those areas as their territory.

I was relieved when Benny eventually arrived at a house that off to itself at the end of the road. It was a small broken down home that had the potential to collapse if a strong enough wind were to arrive. Several of the windows were boarded up with wood and the paint peeled from the home the way a scab peels from a healing wound.

The sight of house caused my stomach to turn and it became unreal that someone from our class could live in such an unstable environment. Despite my shock, Benny had entered the house casually as though he had grown immune to his lifestyle to the point where it was normal for him to go home to a place like this.

I wasn't sure what I had expected to happen after I had followed him this far, but I considered ringing his door bell and asking him personally about all the money he had brought to school. I was hoping that if I could talk to him one on one, without the presence of our peers, then he might be more open to confessing to me.

I took a deep breath and crossed street until I reached his front yard. I slowly climbed the walk way leading up to his front door, however I paused halfway when my eyes caught a glimpse of a tall tree that was standing in his backyard. My head darted from the front door to the backyard and I decided to follow my curiosity and investigate the captivating tree.

I cut through his front yard and walked around towards the back. As I neared the back, the first thing that caught the attention of my eyes was the long, faded tan colored fence that separated the end of Benny's backyard from the remains of the large power plant that had been inactive for two years.

The large towers, machinery, and silos from the inactive plant were still visible from the back of his home as they remained unoccupied on large acres of land after being shut down by the government due to the company's intentional dumping of the plant's products and chemicals into the ground. In violation of the EPA, the plant was shut down permanently, leaving only an empty factory in it's remains.

My eyes were then immediately attracted to a large tree that stood in the backyard, not only because it was the only luscious living thing that was sitting in the backyard, but because attached to every single leave was what appeared to be money. I stared in shock and moved closer and closer to the tree until I was standing directly beneath the miracle plant that sprouted dollar bills.

People always joked about money not growing from tress, but at this moment, everything I knew about the world and everything that I had been told didn't truly exist seemed to be questionable. I slowly reached my hand upward to the nearest dollar bill and I carefully plucked it from the tree to examine it closely. The bill came out with ease and I held it to my face to study it and then I confirmed that it was legit.

“What are you doing?!”

I turned around just in time to see Benny exiting his house from his back porch. He walked with a tight grip on the handle of a shovel that he had probably intended to us for gardening. Benny quickly closed the gap between us, standing barely five feet away from me, then he averted his gaze from me, to the money in my hand, and then to the tree, as if trying to choose which to stare stare at the longest.

“How did this...where did this come from?” I asked, obviously gesturing towards the tree.

Benny narrowed his eyes at me in an evil kind of way that most people do when someone discovers a secret of theirs. He opened his mouth to say something, but the words became trapped in his throat so he became silent for a very long, awkward moment, passing his gaze from the tree on to me. Eventually he found the courage to reveal to the truth.

“Last year...after the other kids and you,” he cut his eyes at me when he said the word “you”, but then continued with his line of thought. “picked on me for being poor I came home like I always did every day and I went to my room and I cried. On that day, my mother saw me crying and when I told about what happened I think she felt very guilty, so she reached into her purse and she gave me the very last dollar that she had.”

Benny became silent and moved slowly toward the tree, resting his hand on the truck of it as he recalled the memory. The only thing I could do was stare at my feet because I suddenly felt guilty over everything that we had put him through. I had merely bullied him to be popular, but I hadn't taken into consideration that I was destroying his life with my harsh insults.

“I rarely ever had money, so I didn't spend it right away. One day, I was walking through my backyard and I thought it would be a good idea to save it. So I dug a hole and I buried it, right here,” he said indicating where the tree was standing. “I came back a week later and a small sprout grew from the ground and my dollar was attached to it. After that...the tree began to grow and eventually it became a money tree.” Benny stared at me. “My mom doesn't have to worry about money anymore and neither do I. Maybe, we can finally be happy and move to a better house or something.”

“Benny!” I said in shock. “That's amazing.”

Even at twelve years old I was intelligent enough to know that perhaps the once active power plant that was known for dumping chemicals in the ground had played a role in the birth of this mutated tree. I was convinced that if we planted anything in Benny's backyard then it would grow into a tree with multiple replicas.

“We have to tell people about this Benny! This is amazing. Imagine how many other people can be helped by this.”

“No!” shouted Benny as a look of fear flashed through his eyes. “You want me to tell people, so they can take it away and make me poor again?!”

“Benny, what are you talking about? That's not what I meant, I'm just saying that maybe if-”

Before I had a chance to finish my sentence, Benny caught me off guard and swung his shovel at me with one aggressive blow to the face and I was knocked out cold.

_________________________

I awoke several hours later, disoriented and confused and after several attempts of trying to move around and sit up, I reached the conclusion that I was trapped inside of a dark box. Panic and fear set in and I recall desperately trying to escape. I recall kicking and screaming, hoping that someone might come to my rescue, but it was impossible for anyone to hear me because Benny had buried me several feet deep in his backyard.

That was three years ago and ever since then I've sprouted from the mutated soil into a tree. My face grew through the center of the tree's truck, while the rest of my body morphed into the formation of the tree's truck. To be honest, it's a miracle that I'm alive. Despite being an immobile tree that's attached the roots in the ground, if I concentrate long enough I can actually move my branches.

Benny comes by and talks to me every now and then, sometimes having a conversation with me and then apologizing for what he did. I didn't mind it too much because I guess it compensated for the abuse that I put him through. Besides, if he never would have buried me in his backyard then I never would have gotten to know him and we never would have become best friends.  

 

 


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