The Secret Garden

North High school's Greenhouse Club keeps on growing.

"Whatever this is, it's good for kids," Mr. Stor says. "I mean..."

Suddenly a crew of boys piles up the stairs. They're in such a dense crowd that it isn't immediately apparent that they're carrying one of their own in his wheelchair. But then they plunk him down at the top of the stairs and take turns leaning on him and sitting on him.

"Mr. Stor, where is that huge fuckin' lemon? Where is it? That thing is a monster lemon!"

How does their garden grow? The Greenhouse Club raises the roof at North High.
John Johnston
How does their garden grow? The Greenhouse Club raises the roof at North High.

Turns out the monster lemon has succumbed to the spider mite, but the boys take it in stride, striking choreographed poses -- Charlie's Angels! Superman! -- and riffing on the songs from Fiddler on the Roof.

"Like, it should be Fiddler in the 'hood," someone says. Then he begins to sing: "All these schlemiels be thuggin' on our fiddles. Life is tough in the 'hood."

I think this is funny.

"Yeah, see -- the media does not portray this school in the right light," someone else yells, immediately collapsing in laughter.

"Yeah, the school is full of controversy and we're always standing around here waiting for the media to show up."

"Yeah, they come here in their TV trucks and we help them figure out where to park, and give them a statement. We're the youth, you know?"

Not being the youth, and needing everything explained for me, I ask, "But you guys are gardeners? Why?"

"Watering and tending and all that is good for you," one guy says.

"It totally calms you down. I have a ton of plants at home and they calm me down all the time."

"Plants are like, you know what I'm saying, they're like, how they make you feel, is like, you feel like a mom."

"Yeah?" I say. "Is that good?"

"Of course that's good! Moms are good!"

After that, as precipitously as if a bell has rung -- which it hasn't -- they pick up the wheelchair and begin rattling down the stairs on their way to discus practice, or an after-school job or, come to think of it, another interview with the media.

"Wait," I yell, "who are you guys?"

"Us? We grew here!"

"We grew here! Yeah! Ha!"

And then they are gone, leaving the green place they helped to build quiet and beautiful.

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