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AMERICAN STORIES - The White Circle

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Our story today is called "The White Circle". It was written by John Bell Coliton. Here is Shep O'Neal to tell you the story.

As soon as I saw Anvol sitting in the apple tree, I knew we would fight. I also knew he would win. But winning or losing was not important, at least not so important as getting him down from the tree.

The tree was mine. It was a young tree. And it had 13 beautiful apples on it. Now my beautiful apples were under Anvol`s shirt. The tree became mine the day I was 12 years old. Father called me to come to the barn to see the new young horses. When I got there, father lit a cigarette and placed one foot on the fence. He looked pleased and proud.

"Toker", he finally said, "This is a big day. There, before you, are five of the finest horses in our Virginia. Now I would give you a gift for your birthday. Could you make a choice? "

"Yes, " I said.

"Which one?" he asked.

"I would like to have an apple tree across the road. "

Father looked at me for a long time. You would have to know how much he loved horses to understand the look on his face. But I was 12 years old. How could I explain my choice? It was something about the apple tree. The color of the red apples as they hung among the green leaves. But it was more than this. It had something to do with being proud. I can give one of the apples to my friend Jenny. "Jenny, " I would say, "I want to give you this apple. It came from my tree. The tree grows on my father's land. " Before my father had the land, it belonged to his father. And before that, to his father. Now I owned the tree. Because of this, I am a tie to all my people of long ago way back to Moses and all of bible people.

Father finally answered, "Now, right, son. If you want a tree more than a horse, the tree is yours. " I thanked him for the tree and he left.

I picked up a stone and ran across the fields to protect my tree. "All right, Anvol. Climb down. "

Anvol looked at me as if I wasn't there. "Yah. . . " he said, "You lead on nothing. Throw that stone at me and see what happens. "

"Anvol, " I said again, "come down. They are my apples. "

Anvol stopped eating and smiled at me with evil in his heart.

"You want an apple? I'll give you one. "

And he threw one with all his strength and hit me in the head. I threw the stone at him, but missed and hit the tree. Anvol's face turned red.

"Boy, you are going to get a hit. "

I began to pull his feet. Down he came along with parts of the tree and young fresh leaves. He hit me as he fell. We both hit the ground. He jumped on top of me, and placed his knees on my arms. I could not move.

"Stop kicking, " he said. And then calmly looked at the sky, and began to eat another one of my beautiful apples.

"You, smelly cow, " I said to him, "I wish you were never born. I'm gonna tell my father. " I said.

"Father, " Anvol said, trying to make his voice sound like mine, "Father, say, oh, man. You think your old man is very important, don't you? You think your old man is a king, don't you? Say, oh, man, go to hell. Say, oh, man, oh man, I wish you were dead. " He let me get up and stood over me.

"Stop crying. " he said.

"I am not crying. " I was lying on the ground with murder in my heart. There were times when I did not hate Anvol. I remembered the day his father came to school. He told the teacher he was going to hit Anvol to make him a good boy. His father was a bitter cruel man. He had a big stick. Anvol saw the stick, and hid under a table. He lay there, frightened until the teacher made his father go away. I had no hate for Anvol that day. But another day, Anvol acted cruel like his father. He entered the school when everyone had gone and threw things all over the floor. Sometimes he was more cruel and hit little boys and made them cry.

One day he came to me as I was sitting under a tree. "They all hate me, " he said, "They hate me because my father is cruel. "They don't hate you. " I said, "at least I don't. " That was true then, I did not hate him. I asked him to come home to eat with me. He did and threw stones at me all the way home. But today was different. He was stealing my apples. I had no soft feelings for him. He stood over me and kept telling me not to cry.

"I'm not crying. "

"All right, you not. But you are still angry. "

"No, I'm not. There was a little. But I'm not anymore. "

"Well, why do you look so funny around your eyes?"

"I don't know. "

"Let's go to the barn to play. "

"Play what? "

Anvol looked at me with surprise. He did not know if he should be a friend or enemy.

"We play anything. " I said. "Come on, I'll race you to the barn. "

We got to the barn. And the first thing Anvol saw was a white circle that my father had painted on the floor.

"What is that for? "

"Nothing, " I answered. I was not ready to use my plan yet.

We jumped from the hay to the floor a few times. Later, I felt ready. "That's no fun. " I said, "Let's play prisoner circle. "

"Oh, what's that? " Anvol asked as if he was too big to play foolish games. I was getting excited. I did not trust myself to look at the circle on the floor. Anvol might learn my plan if I did. Nor did I look up at the top of the barn just above the circle. I knew what was there. It was a big steel fork to pick up hay grass and placed on the truck. It had two long sharp points. A man had come to the barn to build it, for days he worked until he placed the fork up high out of the way. The fork could be led down by a rope and was tied to a pole. I remembered the first day it was tested. My father called all the workers from the field to watch. I did not remember the details, but something went wrong. The fork fell and buried itself in the back of one of the horses. Father said little. He simply painted a white circle on the barn floor where the fork fell. He pulled the big steel fork back up to the top and tied the rope up high where no one could reach it. Then he said quietly with a white face, "I do not want anyone to step inside the white circle or to touch the rope that holds the fork, never. "

"I do not want to play a foolish game. " said Anvol.

"All right, " I said, "but play just one game of prisoner circle with me first. Get in the Circle, shut your eyes and begin to count. "

"Oh all right. " Anvol agreed weakly. "One, two, three. . . "

"Get right in the middle of the circle. " I told him, "and count slowly so I can hide. " Anvol counted slower, "Four. . . five. . . six. "

I looked at him once again. Then climbed up to the floor above where the rope was tied. I pulled on the rope with all my power. The fork dropped with a whizzing sound. Anvol must felt something was wrong because he jumped out of the way in time. The heavy fork buried its sharp points deep in the barn floor. For a moment, Anvol stood very still. He turned around and saw the shining steel fork. His face turned a light green color. The muscles in his legs moved up and down. After a few quiet moments of surprised wonder, he reached into a shirt and pulled out my apples one by one. He dropped them on the barn floor.

"You can have your smelly old apples. " he said, "You tried to kill me for a few smelly apples. Your old man owns everything around here. I haven't got a thing of my own. Go ahead and keep your old apples. " He got to his feet, and slowly walked out of the barn door. I had not moved or said one word. A moment later, I ran and picked the apples from the floor.

"Anvol, Anvol"

He continued to walk and crossed the field. I shouted louder, "Anvol, wait. You can have the apples. " Anvol climbed the fence and did not looked back. He walked toward the store down the road.

Three birds flew out of the barn door, squeaking and squawking. Now only the great steel fork was left. There was a lone shining accusing me in the silence and emptiness of the barn.

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