In A Chinese Garden (concluded) by John P Rastello

scene She observed the bird for a few minutes, even though he was doing little more than trying to digest his over-dose of rice cake. Tai-yu felt fortunate that the wretched bird at least didn't snore.
She turned her eyes to look at the old man. Shortly, the girl took the flower, and considered it for a moment. With a final glance at Tai-yu, she left.
scene That afternoon his doctors had to be sent for. His condition had worsened. After examining Tai-yu, they looked at each other sadly and with lowered heads, departed.
The next morning, Tai-yu was unable to get out of bed. His fever was high, chest pains worse. Chin came in at his usual tea time with the lacquered tray bearing pot, cup and rice cakes. To Tai-yu's surprise, there was a small bamboo cricket cage as well. A cricket squatted within, quite content from all appearances.
"I found it on the wall this morning, Tai-yu. Perhaps the girl you spoke of ..."
"See how beautifully shaped the bamboo is. Do you think she made it herself? I've never seen one as delicate. And it is a good cricket, too. Leave it by my bed, Chin."
Tai-yu was too weak to even take a sip of his beloved tea. His strength was fast ebbing. Chin left quietly with the tray, the cricket remained.
scene The old man passed his last hours watching the cricket in its cage. It was the last thing he saw in this life. The next morning Chin was removing the table and chair from the pagoda when he saw cinnamon eyes watching him over the fence. She looked for a moment at Peony, whose cage was on the wall.
Her eyes slowly followed the path the old man had swept for so many years. She looked across the lotus pond at Chin standing motionless holding Tai-yu's chair. Then slowly her hand reached for the cage which she carefully took, and with one last look at the pagoda and Chin, disappeared.


Illustrations courtesy of:
The Online Bonsai Icon Collection
Internet Hangzhou Folks Club