Phoebe the fig tree was sad. Other fig trees in the garden proudly showed their strong branches, full of healthy, green leaves and loaded with sweet juicy figs. Birds would occasionally steal the fruit, which looked and smelled delicious.
Phoebe’s branches were weak and spindly, with only a couple of drooping leaves clinging to her branches. These branches refused to make any figs. Even the birds would not sit on her branches or build a nest.
Not understanding why she could not produce any fruit, Phoebe tried her best, but every day, month, and year was the same: nothing. Why was she so weak? Other trees had no problems being healthy. It was easy for them. What was wrong with her? Phoebe thought and thought but could not come up with an answer. She sighed. The sadness would not go away.
Every day other fig trees were mean to her.
“Phoebe, look at you, just pitiful.”
“Phoebe, you’ll never be as pretty as me. You’re so ugly. Nobody wants you here.”
Their meanness made her droop even more.
One day, the master took a garden stroll. He smiled as he walked past other trees and even ate a few figs. When he reached Phoebe, he suddenly stopped, frowning as he closely examined each branch.
He yelled, “Gardener, come here quickly!”
The gardener came running.
“Look at this tree. Every year I come to these trees expecting fruit. This tree has not made any figs in the last three years. Cut it down! Why should it take up space in the garden?”
The gardener looked at Phoebe. He felt sorry for her. She had suffered a long time. Still, he did not want to cut her down.
“If it pleases you, sir, let me dig around it, dung it and prune it. If it still won’t produce any fruit, then I will cut it down as you ask. But please let me try to save it.”
“Very well, you may do as you wish, but if that doesn’t work, it must be cut down. See to it.”
The master and gardener left.
Later the gardener returned with a pair of giant clippers. Before Phoebe could stop him, he began chopping away at Phoebe’s branches.
“Wait! Stop! Ouch! That hurts! What are you doing? I need my branches! Stop! I said STOP!”
Not hearing her protest, he went right on cutting. When he finished, a mass of short stubbly nubs replaced Phoebe’s branches.
“How horrible! My branches! Look what you did! Now I’m really ugly!”
Phoebe started crying, but it was no use. The gardener returned again with a wheelbarrow and a shovel. The wheelbarrow was full of some dark smelly stuff. It smelled so terrible, it attracted flies.
The gardener dug a trench around Phoebe’s trunk. Then he filled the trench with smelly stuff from the wheelbarrow. Phoebe couldn’t stand it.
“Oh no! What are you crazy?! That stinks! Eww, it has worms in it too! That’s disgusting! I can’t breathe!”
Phoebe gagged at the smell. The other trees didn’t like it either. The whole row of fig trees smelled awful. Flies swarmed around Phoebe.
After the gardener left Phoebe was alone again, ashamed and embarrassed. Everyone must hate her for this to happen. She was now the ugliest and smelliest tree in the garden, if not the whole world. Wanting to hide under a rock, she cried until she could cry no more, fully helpless and hopeless.
Time passed. Slowly, something wonderful happened. Out of the nubs wiry stems formed. Tiny new buds appeared on each stem, soon growing into thick, strong branches with bushy leaves. Underneath each leaf was a tiny baby fig. Phoebe’s branches were no longer bare. Instead there were long, graceful limbs loaded with figs. The other trees were shocked. She became the most beautiful, graceful fig tree in the row.
The master returned to the garden. As he strolled, he became quite confused upon reaching the fig trees. He passed back and forth a few times, stopping and staring at each tree.
“Gardener! Come here!”
The gardener ran to his master.
“That ugly fig tree there last year. Did you replace it?”
“No sir. It’s still here. That’s it over there,” pointing at Phoebe.
“That’s impossible! You must have replaced it.”
“No sir, I didn’t. That’s the same tree.”
“Why, it has the most figs here! What did you do?”
The gardener calmly replied, “It just needed a special touch.”
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