If you venture out on a cloudy day to the spot between the two tallest oak trees, you just might find yourself in the setting of today’s story.  All you’d have to do is pick up the smooth stone shaped slightly like a sock.  A portal will then open, and should you choose to bravely jump in, you will find yourself in the land of Communterra.  In this land exist two neighboring villages.  To the east, is Treetomatia.  To the west, is Cafecloudia.  Between the villages there is a long hill which completely separates them from each other.  This hill is known as Middle Ground.  As our story begins the people in each village viewed each other with fear and disgust.  You could hear murmurings on the streets of how the foreigners were wicked, foolish freaks.
     In the village of Treetomatia, the people loved and supported one another and enjoyed their way of life.  They were especially fond of things that began with the letter T.  They all wore top hats, t-shirts, and trousers.  As for diet, they consumed tuna fish, tomatoes, and tea.  When it was time for leisure they played tennis with great skill and enthusiasm.  And they worshiped The Tree Gods, whom they believed kept them safe in the shelter of their leaves.
     In the village of Cafecloudia, the people loved and supported one another and enjoyed their way of life.  They were especially fond of things that began with the letter C.  They all wore cloaks, clogs, and cowboy hats.  As for diet, they consumed chicken, carrots, and coffee.  When it was time for leisure they played chess with great skill and enthusiasm.  And they worshiped The Cloud Gods, whom they believed blessed them with the life-giving rain water.
     For the most part, these villagers kept to their own side.  No one had ever dared set foot on the dangerous foreign soil.  However, now and then, out of curiosity some would climb the hill called Middle Ground.  From there, they’d have a view of their neighbors.  Rarely, a Treetomatian would encounter a Cafecloudian on Middle Ground.  They would scoff at each other and walk away in a huff.  Despite the risk of these encounters, many could not help but venture up the hill to spy on the others.
 
     One day, a group of Treetomatian children gazed down at their neighbor’s strange outfits.
     ”What an ugly hat!” shouted Tina, laughing.
     ”I can’t believe they wear those weird dresses!” said Todd.  “How are they supposed to run around in those?”
 
     Not long after this, two farmers from Cafecloudia had remarks of their own about the clothing of the others.
     ”My word, what imbeciles!” scoffed Cameron.  “How are they supposed to keep the sun out of their eyes with such tiny-brimmed hats?”
     “And look!” cried Camilla. “Their arms are exposed!  How scandalous and indecent!  Not to mention the sunburn they’re going to get!”
 
     One evening, two friends from Treetomatia watched mealtime in Cafecloudia from the hill.  As usual; chicken, carrots, and coffee were served.
     “Oh, the poor turkeys!” wailed Taylor.  (Chickens were considered beloved pets in Treetomatia.  And due to their preference of T words, they referred to all birds as turkeys.)
     “Murderers!” yelled Theodore.  “And why do they find those orange sticks so appetizing? Yuck!”
     “My parents say that coffee is an evil, addicting drug.” shared Taylor.  The friends shook their heads in disgust.
 
     Another night, an old couple from Cafecloudia watched in shock at the dinner being served below.
     “They stole that tuna fish right out of the sacred waters!  They are forever cursed!” shouted Caroline.
     ”And look at them devour those tomatoes!” cried Charles. “Don’t they know those are the fruit of the devil?”
     “You mean the vegetable of the devil, honey.”
     “What!? No I don’t!”
     And thus, they forgot about the Treetomatians and began bickering amongst themselves.
 
     One day during leisure time, the tailors of Treetomatia took a break from their work to spy on the chess players in the neighboring village.
     “What in the world are they doing?” inquired Thaddeus.
     “I think they call it Cheese.” said Tiffany.  “Those two have just been staring at those odd pieces of wood for 10 minutes!”
     “Wait! Something’s happening!” exclaimed Trent, as they all let out a collective gasp.  “Oh.. that person just moved their piece slightly.”
     “Thrilling.” stated Tom, sarcastically.
 
     Meanwhile, at a different spot of the hill, the carpenters of Cafecloudia were having a break of their own to spy on the tennis players. They were deeply appalled.
     “Oh no! How treacherous!” yelled Casey, covering her eyes.
     “Eek! My neck hurts just watching this!” lamented Cliff, as his head followed the ball back and forth.
     “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an ear!” declared Cindy.
 
     One significant morning, a couple from Cafecloudia had just left a quiet worship service for the Cloud Gods and decided to walk up to Middle Ground.  They peered down the other side.  To their dismay, a group of Treetomatians were worshiping under several maple trees singing songs and dancing.
     “Heathens!” cried Claude.
     “How deceived they are!” said Charlie. “Trees are nothing more than the product of the sacred rains sent from the true Cloud Gods!  And this hubbub of loud singing and frolicking about is disrespectful!”
     “More than that my dear! They are wicked freaks!”
     “I concur. We must again warn our child not to ever come up here.  You know how easily she can be tempted to try new things.”  Thus, the two made their way home.  They found their 15 year old, Charlene, sitting on a rock and munching on a carrot.  They spoke seriously with her, as they had many times before, about the dangers of Middle Ground.  Charlene listened very nicely.  When they left she thought out loud to herself on the rock.
     “Hmm” she pondered.  “Why do they make such a big deal about this Middle Ground place?  I have always been obedient, but I am 15 years old now!  Practically a grown adult!  I should be able to make my own life choices.  I’m going to do precisely what I want to do.” she said, standing up and humming a tune.  Confidently, Charlene marched up the hill.
     “Oh!” she exclaimed, at the sight of Treetomatia.  “I was expecting violent, ugly, and miserable people!  These folks are clearly happy, kind, and beautiful!”  The worship service was still in progress and Charlene had never seen dancing or heard songs like that before.  She watched a tennis match with awe and wonder.  A family having tuna, tomatoes, and tea looked as happy as her own family as they ate together.
     “And what are those unique clothes they are wearing?” Charlene was never a fan of her cloak, though she would be in trouble should she ever speak ill of it aloud.  “This is ridiculous!  I think Treetomatia is a wonderful place!  I am going down there!”  And thus, she marched down the hill.  Several youth were having a tennis tournament and saw her.  They dropped their rackets, mouths agape, at the sight of a Cafecloudian in a cloak, clogs, and cowboy hat walking into their village.
     “Greetings!” said Charlene, waving.
     “AAAAAHHHHHH!” cried 6 of them, running off in a panic to tell their parents.  Left behind, were two especially kind and brave teens. Charlene introduced herself.  The Treetomatians did the same.  They quickly struck up a conversation getting to know each other.
     “I like your fancy robe!” said Terry.
     “Thanks!  I don’t.  I like your trousers and t-shirt!  Wanna swap?”
     “Oh yes!  How fun!”  And thus, they each hopped behind a tree for privacy as the third youth helped them swap outfits.  Charlene jumped out in the t-shirt and trousers with her cowboy hat (which she loved) still on.
     “Wow!  Where have these trousers been all my life!?  I’ve never felt more like.. me!” she said, with a big smile.  The Treetomatian then stepped out wearing the cloak and smiling just as big as Charlene.
     “This is so cool!” he said, spinning around.
     His friend looked him up and down and said..
     “Yer a wizard, Terry!”
     “I’m a.. what?”
     “A wizard!” said Tagrid.  “I don’t know, it’s just a word I made up.  But it sounds cool!”  They all laughed and continued chatting.  Together they made up stories about what a wizard might be and shared about their lives in each village.  Suddenly, they heard a mob of adults coming.
     “Where’s the intruder?” yelled a voice.
     “Oh no! You better hide!” whispered Tagrid, pushing Charlene behind a big tree.
     “There they are!” someone shrieked, pointing at Terry in the cloak.
     “No, Grandma! It’s me!” he cried, running away from them.
     “Wait!” shouted Charlene, jumping dramatically into view.  “I’m the intruder!  Also, I wasn’t intruding. I am visiting!” she said, waving kindly. “Hello everyone!”
 
     The moments that followed her words of greetings were filled with chaos and confusion, but Charlene remained calm and confident through it all.  She began speaking as loud as she could to explain what brought her there that day.  Slowly, the bickering amongst the crowd died down and they began listening to her.  Charlene explained how fascinating she found their community.  She complimented them on their stylish, comfortable outfits; praised them for their great athletic skill; and shared admiration of their song and dance style of worship.  The Treetomatians glanced at one another in surprise at this stranger’s words of affirmation.  Charlene went on to share how she had been raised to believe that this village was filled with wickedness and foolishness. She understood now this had never been true.  Many in the crowd began taking a liking to Charlene and wanting to hear more.  While others remained skeptical and fearful.
     “We are a good and loving village, yes. It is yours which is not!” accused Thaddeus.  “We know all about the bizarre and wicked ways of the Cafecloudians!”
     “How can you know all about us if you’ve never visited?” replied Charlene.  “My village thinks they know all about you, but they have it all wrong!”
She then went on to share in detail about her village, such as: the origins of why they wore cloaks, the history of their passion for chess, and the reasons for their faith in The Cloud Gods.  As she finished her speech, the Treetomatians were divided on what they thought.  However, the commotion had settled down and no one wanted to chase her out anymore.  Tagrid invited Charlene to have dinner with his family.  She enjoyed the exciting new flavors!  Terry gifted her his t-shirt and trousers and she let him keep the cloak.  At sunset, it was time for her to depart.  All of Cafecloudia was frantically worried.
     Charlene’s parents hugged her with relief upon her return.  However, they immediately scolded her for wearing clothing of the foreigners.  She explained the whole story to them and gave a speech similar to the one she gave the Treetomatians.  Many of the Cafecloudians felt she spoke sense, while a few viewed her as a traitor.  These few would later come to understand, however.
     As the weeks and months passed after this day, much began to gradually change among the communities.  Terry and Tagrid were the first to visit Cafecloudia.  The villagers were impressed by their kindness.  Then others bravely crossed Middle Ground to visit their neighbors.  Conversations were had and they all became more accepting of each other’s way of life.  Some Cafecloudians even mastered dance moves and Treetomatians learned the benefit of quiet, reflective worship at times.
     As Charlene became more equally a part of both villages, she made the decision to give herself a new name.  A strict rule in Cafecloudia at the time had been that no one should have a name which included the letter T.  Charlene felt it was time to change this old custom.  She chose for herself the name Charlotte.  It took much effort and practice for her village to accept and adjust to this name.  However, with time the majority of them did.
     After a few years, you’d never know what division existed in the land.  People no longer went to Middle Ground to spy and scoff on their neighbors. Instead, they went to cross over for a visit.  They also more frequently began using the name of the land as a whole: Communterra; or Common Ground.  In this land, the people loved and supported one another and enjoyed their ways of life.

     Often times, Charlotte would look up at the treetops against the cloudy skies. She would forever be grateful for how trees touch the clouds.

                                                                                                    THE END. 

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