The kingdom of Melonia was built on the sides of a mountain. Some people chose to live on the top of the mountain, where the forests were green and rivers sparkled and splashed. Others preferred the bottom of the mountain, with its splendid sandy beaches and friendly sunshine. The schools and stores, libraries and shops were all located in the middle of the mountain, where Top-dwellers and Bottom-dwellers worked together in peace.
Sangio was a Top-dweller; he enjoyed the piney smell of the trees in his little yard, and at night he could hear the whisper of a nearby river. He worked in Middle Mount, making shoes with his best friend Clarita.
“Good day to you, Clarita,” he said, hanging his cap on a hook. “How did you sleep?”
“Not well,” she said, and Sangio could see that Clarita’s eyes were drooping. “I was bothered by a hummy-bug all night.”
Sangio started to speak, to commiserate with his friend, but she held out a hand, stopping him. “Honestly, Sangio. I know that all you Toppers just love those hummy-bugs, but I don’t understand it at all. Oh, sure, they’re pretty, with those swirly things and those other things that light up—but that humming is enough to drive a person cuckoo! What is the matter with you?”
Sangio swallowed his words. He’d been about to say that he couldn’t stand hummy-bugs, either; he’d never understood the Top’s fascination with them. It irritated him, though, that Clarita assumed he’d love them, just because of where he lived. He had a mind of his own, didn’t he? But instead of comforting his friend, Sangio just shrugged and picked up a piece of leather.
Clarita was out of sorts all day, so instead of suggesting they have their lunch together in the park, Sangio left for his midday break alone, while Clarita was in the supply room.
After his lonely lunch, sorry for having left Clarita without a word, Sangio stopped by a flower shop. He’d get her a few posies, he thought, to brighten up her workspace.
“Helloooo,” he called out into the empty shop. A fellow with fluffy orange hair peeked around the corner.
“Well, hello yourself,” he said. “Flowers for you today?”
Sangio nodded. “I’ve upset my co-worker. Something small for her table, maybe?”
“Very well,” said the fluffy fellow. “Are you a Topper, or a Bottom-dweller?”
“I’m a Topper,” said Sangio, “but I don’t understand why that…” The flower man interrupted him.
“Oh, well then. We have a fresh shipment of sunlilies, very pretty. But you won’t want sunlilies, being a Topper and all. Maybe I should ask about your co-worker, though. She a Topper, too?”
Sangio felt the annoyance of the morning returning, buzzing about his head like a hummy-bug. It was true that many Toppers disliked sunlilies; they shone rather brightly in the morning, while Toppers were still enjoying the morning light filtering through the trees. But Sangio was a fellow who liked to awaken early, and he welcomed the glow from a vase of sunlilies.
For the second time in one day, someone had made an assumption about Sangio. He realized that he disliked it, very much. “Maybe I like sunlilies!” he said. “Maybe I want to give my co-worker hundreds of sunlilies! Maybe she can take some of them home to feed her stupid colony of hummy-bugs!”
The flower shop man flushed; his face became a brighter shade than his hair. “B-b-but,” he said, “hummy-bugs don’t eat…”
“I know!” said Sangio. He stormed out of the shop.
On the way back to work, he bought one sunlily from a vendor, tossing a coin at the surprised seller. He found a little jar and put the flower in some water, then set it on Clarita’s work table. She looked at him, squinting suspiciously.
“It’s a sunlily. I figured you’d like it, being from the Bottom and all. But maybe you…maybe you don’t. I guess I’m a terrible Top-dweller, and maybe I should move to the Bottom, where people like the right flowers and hate the right bugs. But I like it at the top, and I…I like it there. It’s where I feel at home.”
Clarita pulled the flower closer and flicked one petal with her finger. It glowed softly for a second, then faded. “I’ve never met a Topper like you, Sangio,” she said. She reached under her table and held out a ripe blue fruit. “I’ve always wondered…how do you feel about twinkle plums?”
[Author’s note: It’s not about the flowers. Or the bugs. Or the twinkle plums.]
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