Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Fruit (10/10/05)
- TITLE: Bitter Fruit
By Garnet Miller
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“Settle down, class. I’m passing back the assignments from Monday.” Ms. Simms traversed the maze of desks with a stack of papers. “Most of you did a great job.”
She stopped at Marvin’s desk. Instead of turning the paper down like the others, the scarlet letter “D” remained face up for all to see. “Most did well, but not all.” Her scowl changed into a smile as soon as she left Marvin’s desk.
A commotion across the room drew everyone’s attention. “It’s gone.” A dark-haired girl searched her belongings in a frenzied manner. “Someone stole my bracelet!”
Ms. Simms walked over to her. “Calm down, Sarah. What’s going on?”
“My bracelet is gone!” She pointed across the room. “Marvin took it; he was staring at it earlier.”
Marvin looked up from his paper to find all eyes were on him. Sarah smirked as Ms. Simms bounded across the room in his direction.
“Is this true, Marvin?” He met Ms. Simms’ question with a puzzled look. At that moment, the end of the day bell rang. The sixth grade students scurried to gather their books.
“You may all leave,” she stared at Marvin, “except for you.”
Now, they were alone in the classroom waiting for Principal Morgan. Marvin’s mouth tasted like he had swallowed a wad of cotton. He wanted to clear his throat but feared disturbing Ms. Simms.
“Ms. Simms,” his voice had been reduced to a whisper, “can I get a drink of water?”
“No.” She looked up. “I knew you’d be no different than him.”
“Who do-do you mean?” Marvin stammered.
“Your father was a thief and a liar when I knew him and you are no better. Hurting others was a game to him. It was only a matter of time before you got in trouble, too.”
She practically hissed as she spoke and Marvin felt his heart skip a beat. He hadn’t seen his father for two months since the police took him away for hitting Marvin’s mother.
“I didn’t steal Sarah’s bracelet, Ms. Simms. My mother taught me not to steal—it’s against God’s law.”
“Is that right? You can’t fool me. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Rotten stock produces more rotten stock.” She stood up.
Marvin’s eyes darted around the room searching for a route of escape. Seeing his unease, Ms. Simms sat on the corner of her desk with her arms crossed. “Don’t worry, Mr. Tucker; you’ll be leaving soon enough.”
The door opened and Mr. Morgan peeked inside the classroom. “Ms. Simms, can I see you in the hall for a second?” Reluctantly, she walked out of the room.
Reaching into his backpack, Marvin pulled out his Bible. He began carrying it with him when his father left. Hugging the book to his chest, he began to pray.
“God, please help me. My mom and I don’t have much money, but I wouldn’t steal. I’m just a kid who wants to learn. Help Ms. Simms, too. I think something’s wrong with her. Amen.”
He sat silently until the door opened again. Only Mr. Morgan returned. “We found the person who took the bracelet. One of your classmates saw the whole thing and came forward.”
“Mr. Morgan?” Marvin hesitated. “Do you know why Ms. Simms doesn’t like me?”
Mr. Morgan studied Marvin’s face before answering. “I, your father, and Ms. Simms were students here many years ago. She loved your father. He never really cared for her, but pretended to like her so she would do his homework. At the spring dance, she gave him a booklet of poems written for him. Your father showed it to his friends and made fun of her. She ran out, crying. She got hurt, Marvin, and her anger turned to bitterness and poisoned her life. I’m sorry she blamed you.”
“I asked God to help her.” Marvin added, “Mr. Morgan, I’m not like my father.”
He leaned forward and patted Marvin’s shoulder. “I know, Son. Always remember—each person reaps the fruit of his or her own actions. Your heart yields sincerity and goodness. You will be okay, Marvin.”
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