The first time Ben saw Roger, he immediately noticed the most hideous feature about him— The battered, oversize, plastic frame, eye glasses, set on his face by an exceptionally strong elastic strap. The thick, foggy lenses dazzled the eyes when anyone stared directly at them.

Oh gees, how aaawhful, Ben was in silent disbelief. He was Roger’s friendly neighbor in class. They sat next to each other and talked occasionally.

Roger was quiet and polite and not a bad-looking boy. He had an oval face that balanced his skinny frame. Ben admired his keen interest in books, and decided reading was all Roger had to do as he had no friends, no toys, and no fun, unlike other boys their age. Even though Roger was the brightest fifth grader, it didn’t save him from being ridiculed and beaten up by the Capture Land Gang.

The all-boys gang was made up of seven cousins, and known as the school’s most ill-mannered and mischievous set of boys. They lived on the hill overlooking the Four Paths district. A large parcel of abandoned government land which they often boasted they owned. This area included Ben’s favorite hill, Green Pasture, which he often reminisced on the fun-filled times he had sliding down its smooth grassy path until Capture Land bullies changed that.

A sad-faced Roger sat in the vacant classroom, staring hopelessly at his bare feet. It was his third week and already he was feeling the turmoil of public school life. He was distressed that he had lost one of his only pair of school shoes and his mother was going to beat the heck out of him. The thought set gravely on his mind. He was feeling humiliated and somewhat stupid, having to move around barefooted, which he wasn’t accustomed to doing. His mind drifted back on physical education earlier and he felt angry, having no one to specifically blame for his missing shoe. Someone took it from the box where all the shoes for students participating in the sack race were kept. It was clearly, a mischief made by Capture Land boys but neither Teacher Brown, nor Roger had proof. Instead he sat lamenting and wished he had a clue.

The chubby little Ben skipped gaily inside the classroom and beamed when he sighted Roger.

“Hey Roger, would you like to see something really cool?” His tone sounded enticing and Roger slowly raised his head; his face expressionless.

“W-what’s that again?” he asked after a few minutes, his voice only a whisper.

“My play house,” Ben muttered, glancing around the room.

“You have a play house? What’s that?” Roger queried.

He put his mouth up close to Roger’s ear. “Ssshh…like a doll house. In the wood, below school back.”

“Really?” Roger’s curiosity started to mount.

“It’s a secret though, come and see.”

“Aa-alright then.” Roger shrugged.

Ben was always smiling and Roger almost envied him for his usual cheeriness.

What’s he so happy about all the time anyway? Roger thought miserably.

For all he knew, Four Paths School was hell and he hated the Capture Land boys, but Ben was different.

“Let’s go now,” Ben urged.

Roger contemplated, looking uncomfortably at his feet. “Is it far?”

“No not too far, but you’ll love it I promise. I’ll help you find the shoe after school, don’t worry.”

“Don’t worry, am in big trouble?” Roger sighed, he felt a little better though.

“It’s probably on the roof of the school,” Ben suggested.

“Who told you that?”

“I know, that’s where Bentley normally throws them, ssshh.” He put a finger on his mouth.

Roger felt a little anticipation as they made the narrow and curvaceous trek downwards and deeper in the woods. His bare feet felt a bit numbed on the dirt track. He parted the thick bushes that lined the way while Ben told him how he had accidentally discovered the area. It was hidden amidst a cluster of trees which were naturally grown that way. The area was nothing like Roger had seen before, and he was amazed. The steady wind hummed, and the tall bushes stirred and brushed their shoulders and faces while Ben rattled on with his tale.

He was angrily running away, from a flogging when he stormed senselessly down the slope that led to the big woodland. Minutes later, he realized he was lost, but was relieved almost immediately after he saw what he had found— the perfect play house.

It was isolated and cool and instantly Ben loved it and quickly put his mark on the area by carving his name on all the trees in the semi-circle and called it his own. Being a country boy created a passion in him for nature.

Further down the path, there was a long barbed wire fence that separated the cane fields from the rest of the woodland. Ben had noticed a large rip that led an opening to the canal and he was tempted a few times to get closer, but his mother’s warning tone echoed in his brain, forced him to stay away.

The two boys happily threw themselves on the grass and carelessly wiggled about as they stared at the shaking branches above while they danced under the bluish-gold sky. It was quiet except for the twittering from the ground dove that hopped from one plant to the other. The soft rhythmic sound of water in the canal nearby hummed a sweet lullaby. Roger succumbed lazily to a feeling of rest but the wind’s gentle slapping on his face kept him awake.

“S-so what you think?” Ben yawned.

“Gees man, this is the coolest place ever,” Roger replied. His mouth had the widest smile Ben had ever seen.

“True?” Ben asked anxiously and sat up. He took a locust fruit from his knapsack and broke the thick brown shell with a stone.  Roger looked attentively as the yellow powdery part of the fruit was revealed. Ben broke it and handed him a piece.

“It’s sweet,” he encouraged, and quickly ate the powdery part around the locust seed.

“What kind of fruit is it?

“You have never heard of stinking toe?”

“No,” Roger replied and tasted it with the tip of his tongue. It was sweet alright, he thought, and began to eat it slowly.

“It’s okay,” he said afterwards.

“I told you.” Ben nodded.

Roger’s eyes widened as he spotted something unusual at the roots of the trees. He saw sets of tiny triangular-shaped dirt piles, heaped up and arranged in neat files.

The piles were no smaller than his thumb and something magically moved underneath them. His curiosity grew quickly as tiny dots momentarily appeared and disappeared about them.

“Geeeees w-what thaa?”  Roger’s mouth cracked open.


If you like the story and would like to read the rest of it, please order your early edition at this LINK!

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