Last year, I started writing a story for the 10-year-old daughter of a friend. With one thing and another, I never got around to finishing it. I think it’s about time I did. It gives me a light-hearted break from The Great War, too! This is different from my usual fare, so I hope you enjoy it.
Sandy was so excited this last Friday of school. Today was the day her class was going on a field trip. She kept checking the clock on her bedside table to see if it was time to get up. Her cat Diamond stretched out a paw and swatted at her under the covers, thinking that this restlessness surely signaled a game.
Finally, Sandy could stand it no more. The sun was finally peeking through her window shade so she threw back the covers and bounced out of bed. She had picked out her outfit the night before and laid it out across the trunk at the foot of her bed. After quickly dressing, she went to the bathroom and brushed her teeth.
“Sandy, what are doing up so early?” her mother asked from the doorway.
“Today is the day we visit the Arboretum! I was too excited to sleep.” Sandy explained. Not many ten-year-old girls were as excited as Sandy to go look and plants and trees. But Sandy wanted to be a botanist when she grew up. Visiting the Arboretum was just as exciting as going to a theme park.
She ate a quick breakfast and walked to the bus stop a full fifteen minutes early. When the bus finally came, she practically ran up the steps. Her best friend Liam had saved her a seat. Sandy chattered excitedly and Liam listened patiently. He did not share her enthusiasm for today’s field trip, beyond the fact that they didn’t have to sit in the classroom on a beautiful sunny day.
“I can’t believe you’re so excited about a bunch of stupid plants.” he grumbled.
“Plants aren’t stupid!” she cried. “We need plants to survive, dummy. They give us oxygen so we can breathe.”
“Yeah, but they’re boring.” he said in reply.
Sandy shook her head. “You wait and see, Liam. I bet you’ll change your mind after today.”
For the rest of the bus trip they talked about their summer plans. Liam’s family was going to the beach for a week in July. Sandy’s family was going to visit her cousins in Florida. Soon they arrived at their school and made their way to Mr. Vogelsinger’s classroom.
Mr. Vogelsinger might have been just as excited as Sandy to go on this field trip. He grew award winning roses, raised enough vegetables to feed a small village and regularly brought in pies his wife had baked with berries from his huckleberry bushes. He quickly took attendance and herded his students back out to the waiting bus for the trip into the city. On the way there, Mr. Vogelsinger quizzed the students about photosynthesis. Sandy raised her hand to answer every question.
“Sandy,” Mr. Vogelsinger sighed, “give someone else a chance.”
“No, let her answer. Then we don’t have to,” muttered Liam and Sandy elbowed him.
“What was that, Liam? I didn’t hear you,” Mr. Vogelsinger said, giving him the eye.
“Nothing,” Liam answered.
Eventually, they left the highway and traveled the streets leading to the center of the city. The bus driver skillfully navigated the busy traffic. On one of the streets, Sandy could see the high stone wall running the length of several city blocks and turning the corner.
“We’re here!” she cried, pulling her backpack onto her shoulders.
The bus moved slowly past the massive stone wall until finally it reached a circular driveway that ended at a set of enormous iron gates. The driver honked the horn and the gates slowly swung open, allowing them entry. Just ahead was the Visitor’s Center where the bus would drop them off and pick them up again later.
Sandy grabbed Liam’s hand. “Come on, let’s go!”
In the Visitor’s Center, every student had their hand stamped with a green leaf-shaped stamp. Besides the class, the center was empty. Sandy whispered to Liam, “They must not have many visitors this time of day.” It was, after all, early in the morning. A plump older lady gave each of the children a little map.
“Now, listen. This map is only in case you get lost or left behind. I don’t want any of you thinking you can just wander off, understand?” Mr. Vogelsinger ordered.
Just then, their tour guide arrived. He was the funniest looking man Sandy had ever seen. The round, thick lenses of his glasses, his pointy nose, and his narrow mouth, gave him the appearance of an owl. “Hello, children!” he cried. “My name is Professor Noom and I will be your guide today! Follow me! Right this way.”
Professor Noom led them through a set of doors in the back of the Visitor’s Center. When they stepped through the doors, all the children gasped.