Episode 4: The Garden

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As Steven walked home from school that day, all he could think about was how lonely the new kid looked today. A new boy had just moved into his town and joined his class today, but everyone said that he was a weirdo. Steven had almost gone to sit next to the boy at lunch, but all of his friends said that he shouldn’t because the boy smelled weird.

I am really glad that I didn’t go sit next to him. All the other kids would have laughed at me, too, if I had, Steven thought.

When he got home, he picked up the apple his mom had cut for him to eat as a snack, then he headed directly for his room. Steven sat on his bed and started swinging his legs back and forth as he thought about the boy. After a couple swings, his right heel knocked into the chest, and Steven paused. He eyed his apple, knowing that he should probably finish it before he went to Tirran today, but he didn’t want to wait.

He decided to wrap up the rest of his apple in a napkin and tuck it under his pillow. If going to Tirran really stopped time then the apple would be perfect when he got back.

Steven pulled out the chest and opened it up eagerly. As soon as the yellow light flowed out he was sucked in, as usual. While he fell, Steven kept thinking about the new boy in school.

The moment he came down in Tirran, he greeted Hubert with a soft touch from his hand. The tree shifted from blue to green to orange very quickly. Steven laughed at the tree’s reaction. He liked the name that he had given the tree.

Before long, Steven was knocking on Amethyst’s door. He didn’t have to wait long before the hidden door burst open. Amethyst beamed at him and rushed out to hug him.

“Woah, what’s that for?” Steven said, blushing slightly at the hug.

“You’re my friend, and I’m excited to see you. It makes sense to me,” she said, still smiling. “My mom and I are going to the store to get some things. Did you want to come?”

Steven shrugged.“I don’t have much else to do, do I? Let’s go!”

Soon enough, Steven, Amethyst and Pearl were walking along a small path through the Kwiloo trees. Steven kept looking up to see what the leaves looked like above, the many strange colors changing as the breeze blew through them. After some time, they left the trees and entered the town that Steven had rushed to when he set the forest on fire. Suddenly he felt embarrassed, as if people would remember him and be mad at him for what had happened last time.

“Why are you bending your head down like that? You are going to trip if you keep doing that,” Amethyst said from beside him.

“Oh, I am afraid people are mad at me,” he said.

Amethyst stared at him before smiling. “Oh, you mean the fire? Nah, it’s fine. It’s all been fixed up now by our garden keepers. They have plant magic so they probably just healed the trees super easy.”

“Garden keepers? Does Tirran have lots of gardens?”

Amethyst laughed at the question.

“Does earth have lots of gardens?” she said, making a face at him.

Steven furrowed his brows and shook his head. “Ok, ok. Yes, we have gardens and so do you. You don’t have to be mean.”

Amethyst looked at him. “I was just kidding. Anyway, you’ll see the garden here in our town. It’s not the biggest one in Tirran, but we definitely can get what we need.”

“Wait, what is this town called?” Steven asked.

“This is Treevin. ‘Cause we make stuff out of trees.”

Sure enough, as Steven looked around, he noticed that all of the buildings were made of bushes and trees, as if the plants grew right out of the ground and formed into the structures.

“That is really cool. How do they grow into buildings like that?”

==Amethyst pointed over to where an elf woman was moving her hands over a small tree. Steven watched as green light emanated from her hands and moved into the tree. All of a sudden, the tree grew upward quickly toward the canopy of leaves from the trees around it. The trunk expanded until it was five times its normal size, a doorway appearing in the middle of it.

“Woah, that is really cool. They can just make buildings like that?”

Pearl spoke up then, “I imagine that it’s not that easy for them, but they manage. Those blessed with plant magic are in charge of keeping the town fresh and buildings put together. Like all magic, it takes a lot of energy to use it sometimes. I think she’ll be quite tired after she’s done.”

Sure enough, the woman elf slumped down slightly when she was done and she had sweat on her forehead, as if she was really tired.

“Will she be ok?” Steven asked.

“She’ll be just fine. Perhaps a little rest and some food and then she will feel a lot better,” Pearl said.

Steven was watching the woman work on the tree so intently that he wasn’t paying much attention to where he was going. He felt himself walk heavily into a mass of fabric and he yelped, bouncing backwards and falling on his bum.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to—”

He looked up to see a very tall, and very old elf woman. Her face had such deep wrinkles that her skin looked like it was folded in many places. Steven’s hair stood on end and he wanted to scream. The woman’s eyes were all white, save for a little pupil that sat right in the middle of her eyeballs.

A hand tugged at his sleeve and he jumped up, being pulled along.

“Yikes! Watch out for that one! She’s not a very nice person, and she gives me the willies. We all just try to leave her alone,” Amethyst whispered.

Steven eyed the woman as she walked past them. She wore all black and was slouched over as if her back was permanently bent. Her hair was as perfectly white as freshly fallen snow.

“Eew, she’s really gross, I think,” Amethyst said, shivering.

Steven’s mind went back to the new boy at school and how everyone said that he was weird. Maybe he was as mean as Amethyst said this woman was.

Pearl had kept walking, apparently not seeing that Steven had bumped into the woman. The two friends ran to catch up to her just as she went through an archway made of grape vines. However, when they walked through, the grapes, or whatever they were, moved along with the two kids as if they were trying to follow.

“Eek! Those just moved!” Steven said, turning around and backing away.

“Huh? Oh those are just snozzlebits. They just want attention like the other plants here. They are just for show though; they can’t really do much,” Amethyst said.

“None of the plants move like that where I come from,” Steven said, walking under the vines uncomfortably. “Why are we here anyways?”

“This is where we get all our fresh food,” Amethyst replied.

The two followed Pearl into a greenhouse that was hot and stuffy. Steven almost choked on the thickness of the air inside the building.

“Wow, it’s really hot in here,” Steven exclaimed.

“Many of the plants like it that way, y’see,” a voice said to his left.

Steven jumped as saw a woman appear from nowhere. Her skin was the same light blue as the other elves, but her hair and eyes were bright green.

“I tend to them, so I know what they like to keep them happy. These all like it extra warm to give us their food,” the woman said.

Amethyst smiled and waved at her. “Hey Aunt Agatha, the plants look happy today.”

“Yes, they sure are. Ready to give you some delicious food,” the older elf woman said.

“How can you tell if a plant is happy?” Steven asked. Before anyone could answer Steven saw a giant flower open up and spit out a large vegetable that looked like a pumpkin.

“Ahh!” He screamed. “How did it do that?!”

“That’s how all the plants are. Look around,” Amethyst said, giggling.

Sure enough, as Steven looked around, every plant was a different size and shape, and all of them were moving. They each swayed as if they were dancing together. Then Steven heard some instrumental music playing over speakers.

“Yes, the music keeps them happy,” Agatha said, seeing Steven look up at the speakers. “And when they are happy…”

“We get food!” Amethyst finished her words.

Steven gaped as he watched Pearl walk up to a monstrous plant that was the same size as him. It had a large purple bulb at the top, and he thought that he could see white teeth between a crack in it. He jumped back when it opened a hidden mouth, sharp teeth indeed inside, and spit out a large watermelon.

“Our watermelons just grow on vines,” Steven said, his mouth wide open. “And they definitely don’t dance like that.”

“That is really weird,” Amethyst said, making a face. “Your plants must be bored or sad.”
Agatha nodded next to him. “That could be. What else do you need, Pearl dear?” the woman asked Amethyst’s mother.

“I do need a bit more fruit. Which fruit plants are active today?” Pearl questioned.

“Oh, the berry trees, they are active. Come, come,” Agatha gestured for them to follow.

Soon they came to a short tree with oddly square leaves on it. It looked like a normal tree, except for the squareness of the leaves.

“Alright, give the berries now. I know you have some,” Agatha said, shaking the tree slightly.

Nothing happened.

“Oh bother, don’t make me get the clippers.”

As she said the words, the tree started shaking violently and two thick branches came out from inside. Each branch had sharp claws on them. Steven’s eyes widened as they reached into the square leaves and pulled out berry after berry. They were unlike any berries he’d seen before. They were of many different colors: red ones, blue ones, green ones, even brown ones. One by one the strange branch arms reached in and kept pulling out berries.

“There you go, now don’t you hold back,” Agatha said when the tree stopped picking.

The tree shook slightly, and Steven thought that maybe it was annoyed at the gardener. Still, it reached into its leaves and pulled out ten more berries.

“Thank you very much,” Pearl said to the tree.

They continued on, gathering all sorts of fruits and veggies. Agatha even let them eat some fresh peas from one of the bushes. It took Steven a moment to get the courage up to eat them though because he’d had to squeeze them out of a very squirmy and loud pod. Just as Steven went to pull a pod off the bush, it jumped off, sprouted legs and ran away. It took some time and effort to catch it, and after Steven squeezed his pod open for the peas, the little pod bit his finger and shook a small leaf fist at him in anger.

“Oh pay no attention to him, pea pods are just competitive. He didn’t like that you caught up to him,” Agatha said.

Steven watched as the little pod tried to climb back up in the garden box to get back to the bush, but it was just too small. For a moment, he didn’t want to help the mean thing because it had bitten him, but then he thought about how he should be kind. Sighing, he knelt down and gingerly picked up the pod in his hands. The pod squealed at him and tried to bite him again, but Steven quickly put it in the garden box and backed away.

“There you go. Sorry for the trouble,” he said.

The pod looked at him with beady eyes and then bowed to him before waving a leaf hand and turning to walk away. Apparently it had gotten over the squeezing incident.

After Pearl’s basket was completely full they started for the exit. Steven kept his hands folded as the many plants moved and danced around him. After getting bitten by the pod, he was nervous about what would happen if one of the other plants with huge teeth took a bite out of him.

“Dear me, I forgot the spicy peppers. Is that plant active today?” Pearl said.

“Yes, yes, let’s go get them,” Agatha said, tugging on her apron heavily.

The plump gardener elf took them through another doorway into a secluded room. In the center was a large pot, so big that it came up to Steven’s chest. It was full of dirt, but didn’t have anything else as far as he could see. That’s what he thought until he got closer. Sure enough, inside the pot was a teeny tiny plant, about as tall as his pinky. It was one stem, one leaf, and a small red bulb.

“Yes, yes, the spicy pepper plant is always active, just need to feed him a bit,” Agatha said, then she started patting her pockets and reaching in her apron. “Dash it all, where did I put those matches?”

“What do you need matches for?” Steven blurted.

Amethyst stared at him. “You really don’t know? We need fire, of course.”

“Yes, yes, fire for the plant, but I can’t seem to find any right now. Oh bother.” Agatha kept fussing with her clothes. “Where is an elf with fire magic when you need one?”

Amethyst’s face brightened. “Steven has fire magic! He can help us get the pepper.”

Steven blushed. “I haven’t practiced much! What if I do it wrong?! I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

“Oh pish tosh, we will be fine. Can you make a simple fire ball?” Agatha asked, squinting at him.

Steven was nervous, but he held up his hand and with a flash a hot fireball appeared above his palm.

“Good, good! Now just feed it to the plant,” Agatha told him.

Steven opened his mouth to ask if she was sure, but then he realized how every other plant was weird in the greenhouse and he better just do it. He slowly moved his hand closer to the small plant, worried that he would kill it. Right as his hand got closer, however, the small red bulb opened a tiny mouth and sucked the fire in. He yelped and jumped back.

The small bulb began to grow very fast. Soon, the plant was taller than him and there was smoke coming out of it. A crack in the bright red bulb atop the now growing stem was puffing smoke. It looked like a plant monster that would eat them all in one gulp. The plant started to expand, smoke coming out of everywhere before it let out a large burp and spit peppers out all over the room.

Steven covered his eyes as he was hit with soft red peppers all over his body.

“Yes, yes, that was a bit more fire than it needed, but that’s ok. We got lots of peppers,” Agatha said.

Sure, enough, spicy peppers of all sizes were everywhere in the room. Steven looked back at the plant to see that it had gotten small again.

“Gee, I wish going to the store for food was this fun at home,” Steven laughed. They all helped gather the peppers in no time.

They soon left the small room and exited to the main greenhouse. The moment they came out, Steven froze when he saw the same hunched over old elf woman he’d run into earlier. Her eyes were narrowed, her face so wrinkled, and she still wore her black cloak.

“Eeew, she’s back,” Amethyst whispered to him. Right as his friend said the words, the woman dropped her basket of vegetables all over the ground. Amethyst turned and pretended not to see her. “Come on, let’s get out of here before she sees us.”

Steven almost followed Amethyst, but something rang in his mind. He knew that people thought this woman was mean, but she looked like she was having a hard time picking up all the produce.

His heart hurt inside. He thought about how he’d feel if he dropped the food and no one helped. Immediately, Steven turned and walked over to the mean-looking woman.

He didn’t say anything, but just started picking up fruits and vegetables that had rolled all over the place. The woman glared at him, looking angry. Still, she said nothing so Steven kept helping. Before long, they’d gathered all the food.

“I’m sorry that happened. Can I help with anything else?” Steven asked the woman. She glared at him and shook her head.

Then her face softened. “Thank you for helping. A lot of people here aren’t very kind to me. I appreciate you taking the time to come help.”

Steven smiled at her. “I am happy to help.”

“I am sure glad you were kind to me today. My day wasn’t going very well before now.”

The old woman turned and left, leaving Steven there to watch her. She waved over Agatha so that she could pay. Her face still had a smile on it. After she paid, she walked with her back just a little straighter and a bounce to her step.

“Yikes! Was she mean to you?! Why did you come over here?!” Amethyst said to him, coming up from behind.

“I was trying to be kind. She needed help,” Steven said, shrugging.

“Gee, what happened with the old woman? She’s normally very grumpy and rude, but she was smiling ear to ear as she paid for her food,” Agatha said, coming over from the cash box.

“She just needed some help I think,” Steven answered.

A voice rang in his head, and it sounded like Pearl’s.

“Kindness is more important than what we think about others. Be kind, and the world will be a much better place.”

Steven furrowed his brow and thought about the old woman and then the new boy at school. He looked over and saw that Pearl was watching him with a smile.

Pearl paid for the food and then they returned to Amethyst’s house. He decided to not stay long because he remembered some homework that he had forgotten about.

Steven ran quickly to Hubert and teleported home, plopping on the floor out of the chest.

The next day at lunch, the other kids were being mean to the new kid again, and Steven was feeling sad inside. He looked over at the boy sitting alone, a grumpy look on his face. Part of him was scared to go over and be kind, but he remembered Pearl’s voice in his head.

Be kind, and the world will be a better place.

Steven stood up suddenly.

“What are you doing?” Mike, one of his best friends asked him.

“I’m going to sit with him. He looks lonely,” Steven said.

“But then you’ll be weird like him!” Mike said desperately.

Steven shrugged. “Being kind is important to me.”

He walked over and sat next to the new boy.

“Hi, I’m Steven. What’s your name?”

The boy glared at him for a moment, his eyes flicking from Steven to the kids that were being mean to him. “I’m George. Why did you come over?”

“I wanted to say hi! And you looked like you needed a friend,” Steven said.

George didn’t look convinced, but soon they were talking and laughing together. Steven felt good inside. His friends didn’t understand it yet, but Steven now knew that being kind is the most important thing.