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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
A Melody of Love

Dong-Poís black hair, soft and shiny, blew around his face as the wind howled about him. His hands were covering his eyes to keep the dust out. He sat among the blades of tall grass, curled up, waiting for the gust to pass. The leaves vibrated, making a buzzing sound, like a million cicadas singing at the same time. Dong-Po could smell the dirt in the air as it seeped into his nostrils.

A long time passed before the wind stopped. Dong-Po removed his cupped hands and looked around. His clothes were coated with a thin layer of light brown dust. He stood up and brushed himself off. CHIRP! CHIRP! The sound came of a cricket came from close by. CHIRP! CHIRP! He looked in the grass near his feet. There was the brown cricket. It was the color of dark chocolate. CHIRP! CHIRP! The cricket hopped away. Dong-Po chased it and caught it in his hands and held it carefully. The cricketís antenna tickled the palms of his hands as it wriggled about, trying to escape.

Dong-Po headed for home. He was feeling happy now that he had his very own pet cricket. His grandmother had given him a cricket cage for his last birthday. It had thin golden bars. He carefully moved the cricket into one hand and closed a fist over it. Using his other hand to take the cage out of the wooden chest that sat on the floor. He lifted the lid and picked the golden cage up. Setting it on the small table next to his bed, Dong-Po slipped the cricket carefully inside and shut the door.

He named the cricket Jing. Jing was happy to be out of Dong-Poís tight hand. He hopped around his new, tiny, golden cage. His long antenna stuck out through the bars. Dong-Po was glad that Jing couldnít fit his body through them. He carried the closed cage and put it down on top of his drawers, near the window. He knew it would be hard for Jing to get used to his new cage. Perhaps if he was able to look out the window would be easier. Jing would be able to see the bright orange and white koi swimming in the fishpond and the tall green bamboo growing in the back garden. In the spring, Jing would be able to watch the cherry blossoms as they popped open on the trees.

He left Jing and went outside to find some flies and other small insects that the cricket could eat. He took a jar with a lid. When he picked up some stones, he found a few crawly bugs and put them in the jar. He caught a few flies in his hand and put them in with the others and felt lucky to catch two spiders.

That night, before he went to bed, Dong-Po fed Jing some of the dead bugs. He put them into the cage along with a tiny bowl of water. Sometimes Dong-Po wanted a drink in the middle of that night; maybe Jing would too.

Dong-Po dressed in his pajamas, turned his light off and climbed into bed. He opened the bedroom window a few inches to let some fresh air in. He fluffed up his pillow and pulled the blanket snuggly around him. No sooner had he closed his eyes than Jing began to chirp. CHIRP! CHIRP! CHIRP! The noise was very loud. He put his hands over his ears. CHIRP! CHIRP! CHIRP! Jing sang a goodnight song to Dong-Po. Other crickets, which were hiding outside in the back garden, started singing too. Soon there was a chorus of crickets. CHIRP! CHIRP! CHIRP! CHIRP! CHIRP!

Dong-Po sat up in bed. How was he going to sleep with all this chirping? He pulled his window shut, hoping that would stop the noise, but it didnít. CHIRP! CHIRP! CHIRP! Jing kept singing. Dong-Po lay down again and put the pillow over his head. All night long Jing sang his beautiful nighttime melody.

When morning came, Dong-Po was very tired. He hadnít slept at all. He picked Jingís golden cage up and looked at the cricket. It didnít look happy. Itís antenna were hanging down, bent and sagging and it hadnít eaten any of the insects. Dong-Po felt sad. Maybe he shouldnít keep Jing in a cage. Maybe he should let him go, so that he could sing outside with the other crickets.

He got dressed and took the cricket outside, walked over to a leafy bush and put the cage down in the grass. He opened the door and Jing hopped into the flowers. Dong-Po knew that Jing would be happy. He carried the cage into the house and put it back into his wooden trunk. All day long Dong-Po played with his friends and laughed and was happy. He liked running around. He knew that Jing would be happy hopping around.

That night, before Dong-Po lay down in his bed, he opened the window. He put his head on the pillow and thought about Jing. He wondered what the cricket was doing. Just then he heard CHIRP! CHIRP! CHIRP! It was Jing. He stood on the window ledge chirping. Heíd come back to say thank you to Dong-Po for letting him go. He stayed for for a while, singing his nighttime lullaby. The other crickets in the back garden joined in. Dong-Po closed his eyes and drifted peacefully to sleep.

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