User:Posti/Wearin of the-Green

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Wearin' of the Green

Author: Bob Stein

“Ouch! Dammit, that hurt!” Chris rubbed his arm and scowled. “Cut it out!”

“That’s what you get when you don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.” Marla O’Brien was about as Irish as a native American could be. Her family had emigrated from the Emerald Isle just before she was born, but the red-haired, freckle-faced teen would have looked right at home in an Irish Spring soap commercial. She’d even picked up a trace of an accent from her parents.

“That’s a stupid kid’s prank, Marla. We’re in high school!” He was in a bad mood anyway – his rotten little brother had ruined his favorite CD, and Mom had actually gotten mad at Chris for yelling at the brat! Then his bike had a flat tire, forcing him to walk to school. And the field they were cutting across was mushy from rain, and his new Adidas were all muddy.

Her green eyes sparkled, not taking the hint very well. “You’re never too old for tradition, Christopher! ‘Tis bad luck to ignore such things!” Reaching into her jacket pocket, she pulled out a small, mottled brown envelope. “My mother brought these from Ireland. I want you to have one.” She opened the envelope and gingerly removed a small, dark green four-leaf clover. “It will bring you good luck all day. But you must be very careful and not remove it before the sun goes down, or your luck will run out.”

“Oh, yeah. Sure. Some old weed is gonna bring me good luck?” He took it from her and looked at it out of curiosity. The small plant had been dried, but still had some color left. “Thanks, but no thanks.” He handed it back. “I don’t believe in that stupid stuff. You don’t still believe in the Tooth Fairy, do you?”

She didn’t take it. “No! Christopher, you took it! You have to wear it today! Please? It’s not just superstition! My mother told me…”

“Oh stuff your mother!” He tossed the fragile leaf aside and pushed past the girl, ignoring her shriek. “It’s just a stupid plant. And if anyone pinches me again today, so help me…” A particularly soft spot of mud swallowed his right shoe, and he stopped and stared down at the brown muck that was oozing over the top of his shoe. “Dammit! These are brand new!”

Looking back, he was astonished to see Marla on her hands and knees, frantically searching for the cast-off clover. “You gotta be kidding! Marla, get up! It’s just a dried-up leaf!” He was even more shocked to see she was crying, and felt a stab of guilt. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t think it meant that much to you.”

She stared up at him, her hands and knees already covered in muck. “Why did you do it, Christopher?” Marla looked scared, not mad. “I told you not to remove it. And you threw it away after you took it! Help me find it, please! Maybe it’s not too late!”

Chris started to get annoyed again. His foot had sunk to the ankle in mud, they were probably going to be late to school. And she was rooting around in the mud looking for some stupid plant? “Look, forget it! You’re making a mess of yourself! I’ll take the bad luck – it’s not like my day could get much worse.” He yanked his foot free of the mud.

Or tried to. Frowning, he jerked harder, but the muck had an iron grip on his shoe. Damn! He’d have to untie it and slip his foot out, then dig the shoe free. Leaning over, he pulled up his jeans and fumbled for the laces. Where were they? His fingers slid over a hard, rough surface – bark? His foot must have slid under an old log or something. No wonder he couldn’t get it free. Reaching deeper, he frowned in confusion. Where was his foot? The rough surface extended down way too far below his ankle. Which was feeling stiff, too. And his fingers were throbbing. It took effort to yank his hands back out, and when he did he gasped.

His hands were covered in thick brown hair! No, not hair. Tendrils, tiny roots that writhed like snakes all over his fingers and palms. He heard Marla scream, and then gave one of his own as the roots suddenly flared out and turned into small leaves. He shook his hands frantically, only to see his fingers stiffen and spread out into splay of twigs that sprouted even more new foliage.

“Make it stop! Marla!” Muscle cramps pulled Chris’ left leg to rigid attention next to the already locked right limb. The fabric of his jeans crumbled away between them, the flesh merging to form a single column. She had fallen back, and was staring up at him in horror.

Way up. Chris was getting taller and thinner, his head ten feet above the ground, then twelve. His arms raised up on their own, joined by new protrusions that emerged under his disintegrating shirt and jacket. The sound of his screaming stopped suddenly as a strange warm throbbing shot up his elongating body and into his throat.

Marla was quickly hidden by a thick growth of branches and leaves that pushed up around his head. Then even the view of his own lush growth was cut off as his eyes were absorbed into the top of the young oak tree’s trunk and vanished under a layer of bark.

Awareness was fading. Not completely, however. He could feel the air, the moisture around him, the nutrients that his roots were now drawing from the rich soil. Not dead, but a very different sort of life. As his memories began to flicker and vanish, Chris knew that he should not have scorned tradition. Now he would be honoring the wearin’ of the green for the rest of his life.

The End