The Tree

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Whispers and the occasional shh outside woke Charmaine from her slumber.

With a sigh, she stepped out of bed, slid on her slippers, and wrapped a robe around her tired shoulders. Wrinkled hands stared back from under the long sleeves, and Charmaine muttered under her breath.

It hadn’t always been like this. She was young once, and things had been so much better back then. There used to be a time when no one would dare trespass on her property. When did kids become so disrespectful?

The gate to her garden rattled just outside her bedroom, and she contemplated how best to punish the children. The two boys, she thought, from the squish of their shoes and the slight baritone of their voices, were becoming more brazen with every passing minute. They weren’t even trying to be quiet anymore.

The tiny thieves would learn their lesson.

Charmaine considered her options: skewered, baked, barbecued. But it all seemed like too much work now. She was no spring chicken after all, and her days of roasting children were long gone. No. She needed to teach them a lesson that all their friends would hear about. It was time they feared her again.

She threw open her balcony doors. On the garden path, just by her favorite tree, the boys stood, pockets bulging from their pilfer.

“Thieves!” Charmaine screamed.

Her voice was raspy – foil-crackled rough -, and she reminded herself to have some tea with honey later to soothe it.

The boys turned toward her, mirthful eyes changed to panic-stricken, and they began to run towards the gate.

She glared at the pair for all of a second before snapping her fingers. A puff of smoke consumed the space around them. As it faded, two toads stood where the boys had been. Clothes and gummy bears were scattered on the garden path around them.

Charmaine floated down to stand in front of them. They croaked and hopped around, unsure of how to do either. It continued until they knocked into each other and fell onto their backs. Their legs kicked and kicked, but they weren’t going anywhere.

She picked them up and walked them out onto the street.

Charmaine grumbled and thought out-loud, “I really ought to get rid of that gummy bear tree.”

“Ribbit!” they agreed.

She placed the pair on the ground and stepped away. “And stay out!” she cried.

As everyone on the street turned to look, Charmaine snapped her fingers again. The townspeople gasped as the toads transformed back into little boys, only this time minus their clothes. They both made tiny yelps, jumped, and covered their privates before running away screaming.

The crowd laughed and mocked the pair, ignoring her. She chuckled as she walked back to her manor. Maybe keeping the gummy bear tree would be a good idea, after all. That was the most fun she’d had in a while.

 

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