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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
A Basket For Grandmother


Mei-Lin carried the bamboo picnic basket over her arm. It was filled with all kinds of goodies. She was glad that she was able to take them to her grandmother’s house. That morning her mother had asked her to do an errand. Mei-Lin loved helping her mother and happily asked what it was. "Grandmother is not feeling well. She is very tired. I want you to take her a basket filled with her favorite foods. You know how much Grandmother loves mushrooms. I’ve also put some rice, bamboo shoots, crab Rangoon, some sticky cake, a small bag of sesame seeds, and a mango in the picnic basket."

"I’ll take them to her, Mother," Mei-Lin said.

"Sit down and eat your congee and I’ll finish packing the basket. "I’m sending a set of chopsticks too," her mother said. She looked out of the window. The sky was deep azure blue and there were only a few wispy clouds in the sky.

As she ate, Mei-Lin thought about the fields of pretty orange-red poppies that she’d see on her way to her grandmothers. She finished her congee and put on a red wool sweater that her mother had knitted. She had embroidered pretty pink cherry blossoms with long green stems and leaves all over the front of it. "I’m ready to go now, Mother," she said, wiping her mouth with her napkin. Mei-Lin picked up the picnic basket and headed for her grandmother’s house.

She ran down the dirt road, kicking stones and chasing butterflies. She was about halfway there when she saw a light brown kitten frolicking through the poppies growing at the side of the road. "Hello there, little kitten," she laughed, moving towards it. The kitten watched her carefully. It meowed and ran away into the field of flowers. Mei-Lin chased it for a while but it was too fast for her. She watched it run until it was out of sight.

Mei-Lin turned and headed down the dirt road towards her grandmother’s house. She started to skip, being careful not to tip the basket of food over. She stopped at a patch of bright lemon-yellow tulips. "They are the same color as butter," she smiled, picking a few for her grandmother. "I’ll put them in the basket with the food. She’ll like them," she said. When she opened the lid of the basket, she smelled the aroma of the crab Rangoon. "Yummy," she said, opening the foil bag. "Maybe I can take a small bite." She nibbled one quickly. "That was delicious. I must have another bite." She took a nibble, and then another, and another, and before she knew it, she’d eaten all of the crab Rangoon. "Grandmother won’t miss it," she whispered, "there’s so much food in here." She brushed the crumbs off her sweater, crumpled up the foil and threw it into a trashcan that was sitting at the side of the road.

Mei-Lin hurried on her way. She looked up at the clouds and tried to find one shaped like a heart. When she looked back down, she saw a gray rabbit with long ears and fluffy tail. "Oh look! A rabbit! Come here, rabbit. Come and let me pet you," she called to it. The rabbit hopped away. She reached into the picnic basket and took the flowers out and put them on the ground so she could reach the sticky cake. She pulled a small piece off. "Come here, rabbit. I’ve got some sticky cake for you." The rabbit, smelling the sweet cake, turned and hopped towards Mei-Lin. It ate the piece of cake that she’d thrown on the ground. Mei-Lin tore another piece off and threw it down, but this time a little closer to where she was standing. The rabbit hopped forward and ate the cake. Soon, it was standing right in front of Mei-Lin. She ended up feeding it the whole cake. When there was none of it left, the rabbit hopped away. Mei-Lin kneeled down and looked into the basket. There was no more crab Rangoon and there was no more sticky cake. "Grandmother won’t mind. There are plenty of other snacks for her," Mei-Lin convinced herself.

She picked up the basket, forgetting to put the tulips back inside, and skipped down the dirt road towards her grandmother’s house. She could see it off in the distance. Mei-Lin noticed that one of her shoelaces was undone so she stopped to tie it. She sat down on a rock. Just then a mouse ran past her feet. It was brown and had a black wiggly nose and long gray tail. "Hello there, little mouse. You look hungry. Would you like something to eat?" she asked it.

The mouse stopped and looked at Mei-Lin. She set the basket down and opened it up. She spotted the bag of sesame seeds. She poured some into her hand and tossed them to the mouse. It gobbled them up quickly and wanted more. It started squeaking. She poured the rest of the seeds onto the ground and the mouse ran up and ate every last one of them. When it had finished, it wanted more. Searching the basket, which was emptying quickly, Mei-Lin said, "There are no more sesame seeds, little mouse." She found a jar of Chinese gooseberry jam. "Wait a minute, little mouse. I’ve got a cruller. I know you’ll like this," she said, tearing it into small pieces and tossing them to the mouse. It ate them quickly. The mouse loved the cruller. "Oh, so you do like it," Mei-Lin laughed. When the mouse had finished eating the cruller, it ran away.

Mei-Lin finished tying her shoe. She looked in the basket. There was no more crab Rangoon, no more sticky cake, no more sesame seeds and no more cruller. All that was left in the basket were some mushrooms, bamboo shoots, rice, and a mango. "Oh my," said Mei-Lin, "there’s not much left for grandmother. I’d better hurry to her house before it’s all gone." Mei-Lin ran to her grandmother’s house and opened the front door. "Grandmother, it’s me, Mei-Lin," she called. "I’ve brought you some food."

"I’m in the living room, Mei-Lin. Come in," Grandmother called. Mei-Lin carried the basket into the living room and sat it down next to her grandmother’s chair.

"I brought you some jam and some rice and some bamboo shoots and a mango, Grandmother. Mother made you some crab Rangoon, but it tasted so good that I ate it on the way over here. There was some sticky cake, but I fed it to a gray rabbit with long ears and a fluffy tail. There were some sesame seeds too, but a mouse ate them, and your cruller. I’m sorry, Grandmother. This is all that’s left. I even lost the pretty yellow tulips I picked for you," Mei-Lin pouted.

Grandmother took Mei-Lin’s hand. "Don’t worry, Mei-Lin. The jam and the other foods will do me just fine. I won’t tell your mother. Now bring me the basket." Mei-Lin picked it up and put it on Grandmother’s lap. "If you’ll sit by me and sing some songs with me for a while, I promise not to say a word to anybody." She smiled at her young granddaughter.

Mei-Lin was happy. "Thank you, Grandmother. I will stay and sing with you."

Grandmother was happy too. She’d rather have Mei-Lin stay and talk to her and sing a few songs than to have all the goodies that were in the basket. They spent the whole afternoon singing and laughing. Mei-Lin told her grandmother about the animals and flowers that she’d seen on the way over. She even told her about the clouds and how they were in funny shapes. "I’ll be back tomorrow," Mei-Lin said, when it was time to leave. "I’ll bring you some more food and I promise not to eat any of it or feed any of it to the animals I see."

She gave her grandmother a hug and ran down the dirt road towards home. She saw the mouse playing in the flowers. She saw the rabbit hopping around some boulders and saw the kitten near a tall oak tree, chasing its tail. "Tomorrow, I’ll bring extra for you all," she said and skipped towards home.


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