Skipping Stones magazine

Vol. 15, No. 4

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The Red Crosses

Art from the Peace CampOn both sides of F Street, there stood two lines of old trees leading to the site of an ancient city. Every day, as people passed the trees and the ancient city's dilapidated walls, the secret history of this modern city would cover their minds like a huge bronze mist, washing away all the tiredness and troubles. "What lovely stones, and those trees as well," said people.

In spite of this, the mayor did not enjoy the trees at all. He even refused to post 'No Cutting' notices on them. It seemed that no one would cut them down.

The mayor's decision on F Street was to be announced in a few days. F Street was located right behind the government hall. If the new streets he planned were built here, then F Street would exist no more, and would soon be replaced by streets like in Tokyo. The mayor disliked the way the ancient city suddenly appeared next to the modern street (in his words, it was a "frightening, gloomy and damp ancient city"). Therefore, the mayor intended to knock away all the trees as well as the ancient city. This mayor did not ask the public for suggestion. Instead, the day before the felling of the trees, he held a 'last-minute' conference with all his officials and lumbermen. The conference was just to encourage these lumbermen to give up their sympathies for the trees. As you already know, many people, including the lumbermen, still loved the trees deeply.

The officials did not say a word, so the mayor took the silence as a kind of agreement. He produced a red pencil and a map of the city then drew a red cross on each of the trees on F Street.

The news that the trees would be felled jumped to the front page of the paper at once. By afternoon, the government hall was already filled with protesters. But this was not taken seriously by the mayor for he knew that the hall was built by the best construction brigade and could be no stronger.

A boy left school, found the protesters, and asked them if he could join. Immediately he went toward the government hall with everybody, waving a placard with the word NO consisting of many red crosses.

The boy used to live on F Street some time ago, and had an old tree just in front of his house. For some unknown reason he loved the tree so much that the love seemed to remain forever in his heart. On some summer nights, he came to the tree and listened to the sound of its branches dancing in the wind. He looked up at the tree high above and suddenly it had become an everlasting bronze mist streaming into his mind. He stretched out his arms, touching its rough bark with his fingertips, wanting to embrace it.

Now he knew that all the trees would be cut down the next day, but told himself to have faith.

The lumbermen were drawing red crosses on the white parts of the tree trunks. Eventually there was a red cross on every one of the trees. The boy began to run -- there was only half a day until dawn, when the trees would be cut.

The boy's neighbor was whitewashing his walls and left the paint pail by his gate. Suddenly, the boy was in a good mood. Only he knew why. The plan he made up was difficult, but he'd love to work it out.

He looked at his watch when he left home: 11:30 p.m. His uncle would not come back until the next day so he had the night to himself. After begging the paint pail to forgive his taking it, he went outside with it in his hand.

The lumbermen were resting in tents nearby. The red crosses on the trees were standing in a line and looked like a fire dragon. The boy took out the whitewashing brush and began to paint over the crosses.

Things had gotten so bad that the mayor began to worry about the demonstrators. The police had told him that the situation had gone out of control.

The mayor took out the map once more and stared at the red crosses. Now, they were as annoying as bugs! He produced a black pen and was about to cross them out, but wasn't that a little humiliating? No! He could not do that!

Just then, the doorbell rang.

"My God!" The vice mayor said, rushing into the office, "It's now known that the red crosses have disappeared! All of them! The lumbermen refused to fell the trees! Damn!"

The black pen suddenly fell from the mayor's hand. The mayor gave the vice mayor a strong hug, thankful. Running to his desk, he produced a big color pen and deleted all the red crosses.

-- Sun Meicen (Adele), 15, Xiamen, China. She wrote this bilingually, and adds, "The idea of the story came from my real life experience."



Skipping Stones Magazine
Volume 15, No. 4, Page 17

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