As you would expect, Hua had lots to discuss with his grandmother. After dinner he broached his first question.
“Granny can deaf people ever hear again?”
“That depends. Why do you ask?”
“I can hear you…I don’t have to look at your lips.”
“Praise the Lord,” said Granny. “Hua, when did that happen?”
“How did it happen?” asked Granny, knowingly.
“He did it, Granny.”
Granny nodded and closed her eyes. Goosebumps raced up and down her body. Her prayers were paying dividends. How well she remembered how her own hearing was restored when she was about Hua’s age. She wrapped her arms around her body and began to sway. “Tell me, Hua. How did you know?”
Hua watched his granny closely. Thinking she was about to have a heart attack, he answered before it was too late. “I could hear the forest sing, Granny. The Man must have done it…I met him in the forest.”
But Granny’s heart didn’t give out. Hua saw the rapid rise and fall of her bosom.
“He always wears—” he began.
“A white suit and shows up when you least expect him, isn’t that so?” said Granny.
Hua’s eyes popped open. “Then you know him?” Hua wrapped his arms around his granny. “Oh, Gran, please tell me where he’s from. I’ve asked, but he’s never said.”
Granny hugged Hua. He could hear her mumbling, like she was speaking a foreign language. He couldn’t understand a word she was saying.
“Ah, Hua, what a blessing,” she said at last. “One day, you will know the answer to that question. Tell me, did he take you on the flying boat?”
“Flying boat? Do you mean spacecraft, Granny?”
“Same difference. Well did he?”
“Yes, Gran…and I flew it myself.”
“Ah…that’s lovely.” Granny hummed and wrapped Hua in her arms again. (Being held close to Granny’s body always made Hua feel comfortable and secure.)
“Granny, what’s my purpose in this world?”
“That’s a big question for a little person.” There was a smile in Granny’s voice.
“But do I, as a little person, have a purpose?”
“We all have a purpose, Hua. You must discover yours, yourself…and you will.”
Hua thought about that for a while.
“Granny, what does a shepherd do when he’s lost one of his sheep?”
“Why, child, he searches for it ‘til he finds it. As a matter of fact, I know just the story to tell you about a lost sheep.”
“He searches for it ‘til he finds it…” Hua repeated the words slowly, his mind searching for a connection to what The Man had said ‘Your Granny’s answer will tell you who I am’.
Granny went to fetch her old, tattered Bible. When she returned, she settled down on the sofa, next to Hua. She flipped the pages of the Bible until she found was she was looking for.
“Ah, yes, here it is,” she said, shifting her bottom into a more comfortable position. When she began to read the story Jesus told about the lost sheep and how the shepherd left the ninety-nine in order to find the missing one, Hua’s heart burned with every word.
“You see, Hua,” said Granny’s voice, sounding distant in Hua’s mind. “The shepherd here is Jesus. The sheep are His people. The lost sheep signifies how mush He cares about His people and how He would give even His life to rescue even one that is lost.”
Am I a lost sheep? he thought. Did The Man come to find me? But I’m not lost, I’m here with Granny. Hua’s eyes widened. He suddenly realized that The Man might well be Jesus. Was that possible? Would He come back just to help me?
Hua reached up and kissed his Granny’s cheek. Love seemed to pour into his heart.
Once the storytelling was over, Hua found writing his short story assignment a breeze. He wrote about his incredible experience flying a spaceship, and weaved in the story about the lost sheep. For good measure, he added how love can suddenly pour into your heart, if you let it. He was pleased.
On his way to school the following morning, Hua was still daydreaming about the spacecraft and the lost sheep. He did not see Peafish straddling the path until it was too late.
“Hand it over,” said Peafish, swinging his baseball bat.
“What? Hand what over?” replied Hua, who in his elation had completely forgotten about Peafish’s threats.
“My homework, Airhead. You got twenty seconds to hand it over.”
“Sorry, Peafish, no can do ‘cause I didn’t do it,” said Hua bravely.
“Say what?” Peafish inclined his head. “I don’t think I heard right.”
“It would benefit you greatly if you do your writing yourself,” said Hua.
“Well, you asked for it,” said Peafish, lifting the baseball bat and widening his stance for a good swing.
Peafish must be a lost sheep, too, thought Hua. But who is going to find him? Who would want to?
The bat stopped short of Hua’s head, but he did not even flinch. It would appear that Hua’s experience aboard the spaceship, plus Granny’s sheep story had strengthened him somewhat. This must be my purpose, he thought, helping Peafish!
With confidence, Hua took a deep breath, puffing out his chest to fill every corner with air. Slowly he exhaled, planting his feet slightly apart.
“My good fellow, you are a lost sheep,” said Hua with confidence. “He who skips homework, robs himself of learning. Maybe I can help you come to your senses, which will motivate you to write your own story, and—”
Huffing and puffing like a dragon gone mad, Peafish dropped the bat and advanced, fist crunched and poised for assault. Hua blinked both eyes. Suddenly, Peafish began to tremble, his flabby body parts jiggled like jelly. Hua heard a swooshing noise. Wide-eyed, he watched Peafish shrink to a quivering skunk.
Hua knelt on one knee. “I suppose you’d rather have the story experience first, eh Peafish? Guess you can’t really answer that, can you?”
As far as Peafish was concerned, he had no idea he was a skunk at all. Sure, he suddenly felt as if he was wearing a skin-tight wetsuit, and his breathing was heavy. But that was due to his weight. Right now he was in danger of seriously causing bodily harm to the Airhead who had blatantly reneged on doing his homework assignment.
“Hand over my story.” Peafish let fly his balled up fists and could not understand why two furry paws were flashing before his eyes. He must be hallucinating; perhaps it was because of the baked beans he had for breakfast. He shouldn’t have eaten them because he was allergic to beans. There was a rumble in his tummy; gas squeaked out like a deflating balloon, before he could stop it.
“You can’t hurt me, skunk,” Hua laughed, picking up the baseball bat. “And as for your story, well, maybe after this experience you’ll be able to write your own.”
Hua stood up; a thought occurred to him. He knelt beside the furry animal again. “Tell you what, Peafish, I’ll take you to school so you don’t miss a whole day’s learning. You’ll be my pet skunk for the day. I’ll explain to the teacher that you’re unwell and that you promise to hand in your short story tomorrow.” Hua reached out to pick up the quivering animal.
“Get your stupid hands off me, Airhead,” said the skunk, its whiskers and mouth twitching.
“Sorry, skunk, but it’s the only way you can get to school, see.”
“And stop calling me skunk, Airhead. Once I overcome this hallucination, I’ll scratch your eyes out.”
Ignoring further protests from the skunk, Hua grabbed the furry animal tightly by the scruff. Holding the animal at arms length, he raced towards school, stopping only when he reached his desk. Hua plopped the baseball bat upright on Peafish’s chair.
“What should I do with you now, skunk, eh?” Hua looked around for jar or a bowl in which to deposit the animal. A large glass cookie jar stood on a window ledge. One chocolate chip cookie remained in it. Hua fetched the jar and placed it on a corner of his desk. Carefully, he poked the skunk into the jar. “Your home for the day, Peafish. The cookie’s on me. Hope you learn something from this experience.”
Still, Peafish thought he was having one heck of a hallucination. “Bad dream,” he said.
Hua laughed. “Not this time, skunky. This ain’t no dream.”
Peafish wasn’t convinced. He shook himself so hard, he bounced off the sides of the glass jar, but he couldn’t awake from his ‘stupid dream’.
Hua was concentrating on the animal and didn’t hear Miss Edgecombe, the English teacher, enter the classroom. He jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“What’s that you’ve got there, Hua?”
“Miss Edgecombe! Ah . . er . . . it’s a skunk. Found it…er…it’s like a lost sheep…I’m guarding it ‘til I find its mother, or something.”
“A skunk! Hua, do you know they spray when they’re cornered?”
“Yes, Miss, but this one wouldn’t do that. I’m quite sure of it.”
After the remainder of the class arrived and great fuss made over the skunk, Miss Edgecombe called order. The class reluctantly settled down.
But Peafish’s desk remained vacant.
“I see Dan’s baseball bat’s here, but where is he?” asked Miss Edgecombe.
Hua’s hand shot up. “Oh, sorry, Miss, but Dan’s Mom came by the house and asked me to tell you he was sick. Something upset his tummy. Baked beans, I think. Oh, he must have left the bat behind yesterday.”
The class burst out laughing.
The agitated skunk almost knocked itself out when it crashed head first into the side of the jar closest to Hua. “Silly goat! Why did you tell them I ate baked beans?”
Hua ignored Peafish. “Dan’s Mom said he was allergic to beans, but he was too greedy to leave them alone.”
The class roared some more.
Miss Edgecombe silenced them. “Where’s your sympathy, children? Dan’s predicament is not a laughing matter.”
“Anyway,” continued Hua, “Dan’s Mom also said he would bring in his story tomorrow, if that’s all right with you, Miss.”
Miss Edgecombe cleared her throat. “It would have to be, wouldn’t it?”
“I wonder what Dan’s gonna write about?” said a classmate.
“Baked beans, what else?” answered someone.
Somehow, I don’t think so, thought Hua.
TO BE CONTINUED...