Hungry

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
July/August 2002

By Tran Nguyen, Illustrated by Martin Taylor

It was summer and our family was eating dinner. We were eating food I didn’t like. For dinner we had liver, broccoli and beans. I was hungry but I didn’t feel like eating liver or broccoli.

My mom noticed I wasn’t eating and asked, “Dear, why aren’t you eating?”

“Mom, I don’t like liver or broccoli,” I answered quietly. My mom had a disappointed look on her face. I was staring at a piece of broccoli when all of a sudden I was back in the past in Berlin. It was a sad, cloudy and cold day in Berlin. The houses there were old and falling down; there were hardly any trees, but when you saw one it would have no branches on it or it would be decaying. Most restaurants and stores were out of business. There was trash littered everywhere and there were people lying on the ground. Their faces were pale and one man I saw was shivering. I felt sorry for these people because I had a home when some didn’t. In one corner I saw a crowd of children by a garbage can. They were arguing over a piece of apple core that had been eaten already.

I heard a boy say, “I get to have it because I’m older!” I started walking around the city. Everything looked so sad and so poor. I went into a dark alley when I saw a girl who was about eight years old. She was a small skinny girl; she had blond curls, her clothes were torn and she wasn’t wearing any shoes. She was eating an old fishbone that had a littie chunk of meat left on it. When she saw me she quickly put the fishbone behind her.

Hungry over the houses

Then I started going down slowly to the ground and I stopped at Vietnam

“Please don’t take it from me. I’m really hungry,” she answered quietly.

“Don’t worry,” I quickly replied, “I’m not hungry. How long have you been hungry?”

“I’m not sure,” she said timidly, “but I know I’ve been hungry for a long time.”

I asked, “Where are your parents?”

Her face all of a sudden saddened, then she started to cry. “They died two months ago because of starvation,” she said between sobs.

“Please don’t cry. I’m sorry,” I replied. “Where do you sleep at night?”

“Oh, I sleep at my house. Do you want to come and see?” she said in a shy voice.

But before I could say anything she grabbed my hand and started leading me to her house. I followed her through two alleys and then we were there. It was old and the paint was peeling off, a window was broken, the front steps creaked under my weight when I stepped on it. When we were in the house I saw there was one bedroom, and a small kitchen and living room. The kitchen had a few pots and pans and the stove was wrecked. In the living room there was a small dinner table and three chairs. She took me to her room. She had slept there before with her parents on the same bed. There was a drawer where they kept their clothes, a night table, a chair, a picture of her parents.

Then she said, “Sometimes I’m afraid to go to sleep at night but I hug the picture of my parents to comfort me. Once I dreamed of my mom as an angel and she came to take me to heaven, then I woke up. I wasn’t in heaven, I was in my room, and my mom would be gone.”

My heart reached out to her. “I think I better be going,” I answered sadly.

“Bye,” she replied. “Hope I meet you again soon.” I went to the door and when I got out I was lifted up and started flying at a great speed. I flew past cities and towns. I saw millions of people that looked like tiny little dolls. I just kept on flying and flying. When I was flying past China, I saw so many interesting scenes. Then I started going down slowly to the ground and I stopped at Vietnam. It was a hot day. Vietnam didn’t look as bad as Berlin in the past. There were a lot of straw houses and some brick houses that only the rich could afford. Palm trees were everywhere and there were boats that were loaded with food to sell, and there were stands that sold things like clothes and more food! I started to walk along the dirt roads. I passed an old bridge and saw three boys and two girls. One girl was sleeping on the bare floor. Then a boy quickly ran and grabbed a piece of bread off the ground and ran back under the bridge.

“Hey, I got some food!” he excitedly told the others. He started to split the bread and he got the biggest piece.

“Why do you get a bigger piece than us?” one of the other boys said.

“Cause I got the bread!” he shouted. They started arguing, then fighting. Here sometimes, they would fight for their food, but I could eat as much as I wanted. I had learned my lesson. I started running. I ran up a hill and then I closed my eyes. I didn’t know if it was my imagination, but did I smell broccoli? When I opened my eyes I was back at home!

“You fell asleep in the middle of dinner!” my dad said disapprovingly.

Whew, I thought, it was only a dream! I started gulping down my food. My parents looked happy now.

A little bird flaps its wings,
Looking for its nest.
The streets look so sad,
Flying through the rain.
This little bird has no nest,
Young orphans have no home.
Both are suffering,
Both keep wandering.

Hungry Tran Nguyen

Tran Nguyen, 13
Victoria, British Columbia,
Canada
Tran wrote this story when she was 10

Hungry Martin Taylor

Martin Taylor, 12
Portola Valley, California

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