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The Garden This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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   Throughthe tinted windows the first rays of sunlight break the wrinkles on theprofessor's face. As he prepares for class, the sun moves higher until one canfinally make out his profile. He has a lean, stooped figure and his features arecoarse: high forehead, bushy eyebrows, straight nose, prominent chin. Hismovements are slow. He has the hands of a farmer, the eyes of agenius.

The approaching scuffle of feet tells him class is about to begin.The bell comes later, followed by the sound of rattling desks and the smell ofbad deodorant. The noise of talking and the smell of suntan lotion are signs ofthe students' dull edges. The professor's stern face is not enough to stop theirbanter and allow him to speak. Just this once, on the first day of school, hewill allow himself to start amidst the noise.

"Welcome, class, andlet me be the first to congratulate you on surviving this far."

Areminiscent mood fills the room. This very professor took away their free timeand childhood for the sake of academic enlightenment. Dread fills the air. Theprofessor waits for the class to settle down.

"Do not fear. This yearwill be both your simplest and most difficult. Many of you, especially those withthe worst grades, boast that if you just applied yourself you could get an A. Youalways reassure me that you are intelligent, but lazy. For those in question,this year will be difficult."

Smirks, scowls and embarrassment. Eyesdrift to the back of the room. Sasha is stared at, but still continues towhisper. After subtle clues fail, a peer's wicked leer wises himup.

"But to the other polarity I have no words of comfort. Those whostudied hard and had a solid grade last year will also find this classdifficult." Now the class is confused. He said the class would be simple,but for whom?

"This class will be the scythe that cuts the posersfrom the truly intelligent. This class will be simple for those who have learned.You have to apply knowledge you deemed useless in real life. You must use thesocial skills you say do not matter. You look at me as though I plan to marryheaven to hell. And now it is time for your first assignment."

Atthis, the curious glances are replaced with frustration. Even Sasha's usualconfidence is dimmed. Almost as if responding to this change of mood, theprofessor points his frail finger at the garden.

"Go into the garden.Bring me a flower and explain your choice. The one who picks the flower most tomy liking has no homework for a week." Many are about to protest theabsurdity of the task, but the last six words are enough motivation to get theclass out the door.

There are few grand flowers. The more industriousstudents quickly grab the largest and brightest. Sasha takes his time to conversewith old friends and rivals.

There is no more intrigue. Sasha grows boredand decides to look at flowers. He finds none to his liking, but he does see abit of intrigue. She has the most beautiful eyes. She is looking at the smalllight flowers ignoring those with the sweetest smell and brightest colors. Theclamorous sound of vehement struggle fills the air as many dive in headfirst tosecure their quest for victory.

Soon the grove is ransacked and onlysmall flowers remain. The level of urgency heightens, and only Sasha does notfeel it. He cannot tear his eyes from those of this enigmatic girl. Her bet atwinning is a miniature white rose with large red thorns.

The professor'sshrill whistle signifies that time is over, but even that sound cannot pullSasha's stare away. He follows her into the line, empty-handed. Even the loudrejections of the other student's bids do not shake his trance.

"No,John, the bright colors hurt my eyes. Tabitha, it's a beautiful flower, really.But don't you think it would look better in my garden?" Dumbfounded, thestudents return to their seats.

"So, Sasha, it is your turn."Sasha is drawn back into reality.

"Well, sir, through much lookingand deliberation ... "

"You mean to tell me you don't havesomething to show me?" he cuts through the facade. "All these otherhooligans gutted my garden thinking I would like these flowers more in my vase.Obviously none of them are correct, but at least they had something to show me. Igive you the easiest assignment, and you blow it off?"

"That isprecisely what I thought when I looked at your garden - why give you a flower youalready have? So instead I looked to your students for one." The classraises their eyebrows. Even the teacher is full of curiosity, and allows Sasha tocontinue.

"There is a flower that caught my eye. I cannot exactlybring it to you, but I can show you."

He points to Juliet. She widensher golden-green eyes as if on cue and blushes at this attention. Sasha wins thejealous glances of many of his male peers.

"A bit of an unorthodoxchoice, but what makes you think you can steal Juliet's beauty and pawn it off asyour own?" the professor jeers.

"Oh, no, sir, I did pay fairly,and greatly, I might add, for such a treasure."

"I thought youwouldn't stoop to bribes."

"Not bribes, sir, but repentance forsomething she stole from me."

At this the blush on Juliet's facetransforms into confusion.

"And what have I stolen from you?"she asks.

"Why, that which shapes the image of your eye," Sashaquotes the professor. The class recognizes the maxim and in unison takes thewords out of his mouth.

"The heart."

The professor gentlysmiles. They are finally putting his teachings to use.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the February 2002 Teen Ink Fiction Contest.





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Rae_Flies_with_Byrds said...
Mar. 16, 2010 at 5:27 pm:
I loved this. It's put together fabulously. I've had some teachers who are like the professor. This reminded me of them, and how everyone needs to learn this way. Good job.
 
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EmilyH. said...
Feb. 3, 2010 at 2:31 pm:
This absolutely touched my heart. I read it yesterday and must have thought about it at least ten times since. Truly, very wonderful. Excellent job.
 
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