From Stone Soup
Written by Katherine Tung, 11
Illustrated by Aris Demopoulos, 12
“Stop Tiger from chasing Fluffy!” Mike Brady yelled as he charged headlong at his sons’ dog at his wedding reception. Tiger dashed under the wedding cake table and tipped it. The three-tiered cake slid along the table and into Mike’s arms. When Carol Brady hugged him for saving the cake, it toppled onto Mike’s face.
This scene on TV sent my brother and me rolling on the carpet in fits of laughter. Ben and I relied on The Brady Bunch reruns to release frustration. We watched them every afternoon, since we spent our taxing schooldays proving to the mostly white student body that we were not mentally retarded, we just couldn’t speak English. After all, we came to the U.S. three months ago, knowing only how to say “hi.” I wanted to return to Taiwan, where I lived a Brady-Bunch life—wholesome and carefree, where each day ended with everyone happy.
Mom yelled from the kitchen, “哥哥, 去市場 買一袋紅蘿蔔. 現 在就去!”1. She ordered Ben to buy a bag of carrots from the market, this instant.
“我不要! 叫妹妹去,”2. Ben shouted back, refusing to budge and offering me a chance to go.
Mom marched into the family room and stood in front of the TV screen, hands on hips, and commanded, “現在就去,”3 repeating her order.
Ben rolled onto his stomach, crossed his arms overhead, plopped his forehead onto his forearms, and groaned. She turned around and switched off the TV. Mom was always pressed for time.
She no longer had help from her family and friends to make dinner and run errands. I wanted to help her, so I volunteered.
She hesitated. She had always relied on Ben to run errands. Would she trust me to go alone for the first time? Like Cindy Brady begging to have her way, I clasped my hands, looked earnestly into Mom’s eyes, and in my sweet seven-year-old voice, pleaded with her to let me go. “媽 媽, 讓我去. 就在街頭.”4
Mom glanced at the wall clock, which read five o’clock. “Go quickly. I need it to finish the dish before Dad comes home.”
She folded a five-dollar bill widthwise twice and handed it to me as I left the house. I clutched the bill in my right hand and skipped, half running, down to the store, humming the opening tune of The Brady Bunch.
When I reached the market, my pace slowed. A brilliant sunset was in clear view from the near-vacant parking lot. It looked as if someone had spread rainbow sherbet across the sky with white cotton candy as clouds. I thought of the countless sunsets I had savored with my grandma from the balcony of our house. I reached over to hold her hand, but she wasn’t there. Where was she? Where were my friends, and my extended family?
A kind voice jarred me from my thoughts. “Hi.” It came from a slim, tall, athletic boy in tennis shoes and blue jeans, about Ben’s age. I had never seen him before, but that was true of most Americans I had met. We exchanged warm, friendly smiles.
The boy enunciated each word slowly, asking, “You go to Condit Elementary? You know, Condit Elementary School.”
I stared in astonishment. Yes, yes, that was where I went to school! My mind raced with excitement at the prospect of making a friend. I thought hard, trying to express myself in proper English. “I go schoo Condid.”
The boy stifled a giggle. My ears burned, my toes curled, and my fists tightened. My palms began sweating, and the five-dollar bill felt like a damp paper towel. I switched the bill to my left hand, letting the breeze cool my right one. I expected him to leave, since I couldn’t carry on a conversation with him. He stayed.
Again, slowly and patiently, he said, “I’ve seen you at school.”
He has seen me at school? Maybe he has seen me with Ben. “You know my broder, Be-en? He in fif grade.”
His eyes lit up and he grinned like a Cheshire cat. “Yeah, yeah, we’re in the same class. I know him real good. We’re like this.” He raised his right hand, pressing together his index and middle fingers. “You’re his little sister.”
I was comforted in knowing he was my brother’s friend. My ears stopped burning, my toes straightened, and my fists relaxed. My left hand loosely held the five-dollar bill. I couldn’t wait to tell Ben about this. Maybe we could invite the boy over to our house. Maybe we’d bike around the neighborhood or watch TV or play in the backyard or do anything he wants to. Should I ask now?
Before I could decide, the boy lunged at me, snatched the bill, and sprang into flight. .../more