Have you been following this short serial? Part 1 is here in case you’re new here. Or, if you liked this short story and want more from HL Carpenter, I urge you to check out The Ghost in the Gardens. It’s an excellent middle grade mystery novel.
“Worm?” I scooted back into the cave and grabbed for the leaf-shield. Had the fall knocked Worm into the pond? Were fish nibbling on his soft quivery body? “Worm, answer me!”
“I am here, with The Root of All Good.” His voice came from farther back in the cave.
A beam of sunlight from the hole we’d fallen through highlighted a tall slender orange figure shaped like a rhinoceros horn. The Root of All Good was a…carrot?
“Warrior Princesssss Zinnia, meet The Root of All Good,” Worm said.
“She’s a carrot.” I clutched the leaf-shield and moved closer.
“Naturally,” The Root said. “I am the spirit of all Carrots, past and present. My job is to help you see clearly. Isn’t that why you are here?”
“Not exactly.” Should I admit my real reason for coming to the Isle of Right?
“Yessss, you sssshould.” Worm crawled to me.
I scowled as I put him on my shoulder. I didn’t want to tell The Root the truth. Still, what did I care if The Root thought my reason was selfish? She’d made us wander around the entire island. She was the selfish one.
I said, “I’m here because I don’t want to weed the school garden and if I end this stupid war I won’t have to, no matter how often I get detention for yelling at Billy Watson.”
“Do you know what weeds are?” The Root asked.
“Do I—” I’d spent all morning yanking weeds from the dirt around the rose bushes, so I ought to know. But after a moment of thought, I had to shrug. “They’re plants. I mean—”
“Exactly,” The Root said. “Weeds are simply plants not yet appreciated for what they can blossom into.”
Weeds were a pain. On the other hand, what if The Root was right? After all, she’d know. She lived on the Isle of Right and she was a plant herself. So that meant weeds had good qualities that hadn’t been discovered. And that meant—
“I get what you mean.” I smiled. “You’re saying I should stop pulling weeds out of the garden.”
Worm said, “I don’t think—”
“No,” The Root said. “I’m saying you should use your superpower to end the plant war.”
“What superpower?” I didn’t have any superpower, unless she was referring to the imagining ability Worm had taught me.
“Imagination is one super power,” The Root said. “You also have your warrior princess voice.”
So far my warrior princess voice had caused only problems, both here in the Garden of All, and at the school garden. What good was a superpower if I didn’t know what to do with it?
“Worm will teach you how to use your voice,” The Root said.
“Yesssss!” Worm pumped out his first segment, then deflated. “But …How?”
The Root didn’t answer. The light surrounding her had dimmed. I took a step forward, and the inside of the cave turned so black I couldn’t see my feet. A moment later Worm and I were in the school garden, standing beneath the palm.
I blinked, shoved at my glasses, and tightened my fingers on the leaf-shield. Had I imagined—
“You’re back!” The biggest daylily in the flower bed bobbed her orange blossom. “Did you find The Root?”
All the other daylilies bobbed their blossoms too. “Did you? Did you?” they sang on the breeze.
I turned to tell them what Worm and I had learned, and came face to face with Billy Watson.
“Do you know you have a worm on your shoulder?” he asked.
“Yes.” I answered everyone at once. I gently set Worm beneath the thistle, then straightened and looked Billy in the eye.
He took a step backward, reminding me of the plants on the Isle of Right. He said, “Are you going to yell at me again? You’re always yelling at me.”
He was right. I did yell a lot.
“I know,” I said. “I want you to listen to me.”
He kicked at the rotting, orange-colored fruit scattered on the ground around the palm tree. “I can’t hear what you’re saying when you shout.”
No one in the Garden of All had been able to hear me either when my voice thundered around them. All I did was scare everyone. I only got answers afterward, when I spoke normally. Was that what the weeds were doing? Were they shouting so loudly no one could hear?
I could be their voice. Words alone wouldn’t end the plant war. But talking—and listening—instead of shouting could be a beginning.
I said, “I’m sorry I’ve been yelling, Billy. I’ll try not to do that anymore.”
“Thanks.” He looked around the garden. “I’m sorry you got detention. Would you like some help with the weeds?”
“Sure.” I put the leaf-shield in my pocket. “But not the kind of help you’re thinking of. After talking to a really smart root, I had an idea. Maybe we can figure out how to teach people that weeds are valuable plants too.”
“That’s a great idea. If it works, we won’t have to pull them anymore.””
“Yessss,” Worm said from under the thistle. “I will help too!”
“So will we,” the big daylily said, and the other daylilies chorused, “We will! We will!”
All around the garden, the plants murmured their willingness to help.
The weeds began whispering too. “If people appreciate us, we can stop trying to take over the garden.”
“The plants like the idea too,” I said.
Billy glanced around at the plants swaying in the breeze, then gave me a puzzled look. He reached into his backpack and grabbed a pencil and a sheet of paper. “Let’s get started.”
I smiled. Billy hadn’t heard Worm, the flowers, or the weeds. He’d only heard my quiet voice.
The plant war was not quite over. But we were off to a good start.