A Bunch of Grapes

Above Image from White Rabbit Press: ://www.whiterabbitpress.com/japanesegradedreaders

Disclaimer: The following is my personal attempt to translate a Japanese Graded Reader story published by White Rabbit Press. If you are interested in reading the published story, please refer to the White Rabbit Press website (https://www.whiterabbitpress.com/japanesegradedreaders/) for further information. This is NOT my story and I have no ownership of the story whatsoever. I have simply translated the story in English for my own Japanese language learning purposes.

Now, let’s begin the story…..

Chapter One

When I was a boy, I liked to paint pictures. My school was at Yokohama. At Yokohama, there was a large port and lots of Westerners such as Europeans and American people who lived there. Even teachers at my school, many of them were Western people.

When I went to and from my school, I would always take the way by the coastline where there were many hotels and Western companies all lined up next to each other. Upon the deep blue sea, I could see many sailing ships. Amongst them, there were ships where smoke was coming out from the funnels and ships where it was decorated with various national flags. It was really beautiful.

I went home and tried to paint a picture of that sea and those ships. The sea’s blue. The red painted on the white boats. No matter how I was not able to paint the view using my painting materials. No matter how I tried to paint and paint, I just could not get those beautiful colours right.

One day, I remembered a friend at school who owned a paint colour set. That friend was a Westerner and he was called Jim.  Jimmy was two years older and also much taller than me. Jim had a paint set that was made overseas and it was of very good quality. Inside a light wooden box were 12 beautiful colours lined up next to each other. Amongst those, the colours blue and red were really beautiful.

Even though Jim was older than me, his paintings were always very bad.  However, whenever one paints with those materials, even a terrible painting would look beautiful.  I thought to myself, if only I had those paint colours, even I could paint something that looks like the real sea. Thinking about that, I started to want Jim’s paint set from that day. Every day, every day, I continued thinking about those paint colours. I was a weak child, so I could not always tell others what I wanted to say. So, I cannot say to my father and mother to give me a paint set just like Jim’s.

Right now, I do not remember exactly when, but I think it was Autumn because it was the grape season. That day, there were no clouds; it was a very fine day.  We all ate our lunch boxes together with the teacher. Lunchtime was usually a fun time, but my heart was tight. I may have looked not that great too.

“I want that paint set” – Even at that moment, I was thinking about Jim’s paint set.  Jim was laughing happily and speaking with his friends. When I was watching Jim’s face, I became really worried that Jim would know how I was feeling.  It also seemed like as if Jim was saying to his friends “That Japanese person will steal my paints”. Even so, I could not stop thinking about Jim’s paint set.

Chapter 2

When lunch eating time finished, everyone went outside and started to play. However, only I stayed in the classroom, feeling all gloomy and depressed. It was bright outside yet the classroom seemed gloomy, just like how I was feeling inside. I nervously looked at Jim’s desk.

“When I open the lid of that desk, there will be the paint set box. And inside will be blue and red coloured paints.” – As I was thinking about this, I could feel my face turning red, and I quickly looked outside. I look back at Jim’s desk. My chest grew tight and heavy. At that moment, the school chime to start classes again sounded. I was surprised and stood up. From the window, I could see the students all laughing and talking while washing their hands. My mind suddenly went numb and froze up.

And it was just being in a dream, I nervously crept towards Jim’s desk. When I opened the lid, there was the paint set box. From the box, I took the blue and red colours and put them in my pocket. And then, I quickly went outside and ran to where the other students were all lining up.

A young female teacher led us all back into the classroom and we all went and sat at our own seats. I wanted to see what face Jim was making but I just could not bring myself to do it. Because no one seemed to have noticed what I had done, I felt a strange calmness and was somewhat relieved.

I was hearing the teacher talk, but I did not understand much of it. I also felt that even the female teacher sometimes looked toward me strangely. I really liked that female teacher, however, just that day, I did not like the way she looked at me.

The end of class bell went off, and I was relieved and took a deep breath. However, once the teacher took off, the biggest student in the class spoke to me.  “Hey, come here for a second”. That students pulled my arm and took me outside. My heart was pounding but I tried to put on a normal face. “You took Jim’s paints, right? Give it here!” After saying that, the student put out his hand in front of me. I lied by saying “I didn’t take anything”. Jim and his four friends came closer to my side.

“Before the afternoon break, I saw the paint set box. All the paints were still there. When the break finished, two colours have gone missing. During the break, you were the only one who was in the classroom!” Jim said this with a trembling voice.

I nervously thought to myself “Oh no…” At that moment, someone put their hand in my pocket. I tried my hardest not to let that hand in but there were five of them against me. In the end, eventually, someone pulled out two paint colours from my pocket. Everyone looked at me angrily. I was trembling with fear.

“Why did I have to steal those paints? I wish I had not done such a thing. This is no good…”, I thought. While thinking about this, I grew sad and started to cry. “Come on. Don’t cry” said the big student. Everyone then took me to the second floor of the school. I did not want to this but ended up being dragged along. The second floor was where the office of the young female teacher, who I liked very much, was located.

As we came to the front of the office, Jim knocked on the door. From the inside of the office, I heard the teacher’s soft voice say “Please come in”. I hated going into the office. The teacher saw a large group of students enter her office and grew very surprised. Yet, she still managed to show she usual kind face.

The biggest student from our class told the teacher about me stealing Jim’s paint colours. The teacher’s face grew slightly serious. She looked at everybody’s face and mine, which looked like it was about to cry, and then asked me “Is that true?” Of course, it was all true. However, for my favourite teacher to learn that I am such a person, it made me really sad.  And it was because of this that I could not bring myself to answer her. I ended up crying. The teacher looked at me for a moment and said to the other students “You may return to your class”. Everyone returned to class.

The students said something, yet reluctantly left the office. The teacher did not say a thing for a little while and just stared down at her hands. She then quietly stood up and placed her hand on my shoulder. In a soft voice, she said to me “Have you already returned the paints?” She wanted to know that I had returned it so I answered her honestly with a “Yes”. “Do you think what you have done is a bad thing?” When the teacher uttered this to me, I finally let out a sound and just cried out aloud.   The tears did not stop. I felt like just dying right there and then.

“Don’t cry anymore. As long as you know that it was a bad thing, then it’s fine. Stop crying, alright. You don’t have to go to the classroom next session. You can stay here until I return from class. Is that alright?”

I just sat on the sofa.

The bell for classes to begin sounded.

The teacher picked a bunch of grapes outside from the window on the second floor. She left it on my lap as I was still softly crying and then left the office quietly.

Because all the students had gone to their classrooms, it all becomes very quiet. I was very lonely and grew very sad. As I thought more about the troublesome that I have caused by my favourite teacher, I came to realise what a terrible thing I had done. I could not bring myself to eat the grapes and just kept on crying.

Chapter 3

I felt a light tad on my back and woke up. It seemed like I had fallen asleep in the teacher’s office.  The teacher looked down at me, smiling. I felt slightly better having rested for a little. I looked up at my teacher while smiling, still feeling a little embarrassed about what had happened up until that moment. I realised the grapes placed on my lap had dropped on the floor, so quickly I picked it up with my hands. However, as I did this, I immediately remembered what happened with the paints and the smile from my face disappeared. 

“You don’t need to make such a sad face. Everyone has already gone home, so you go home too. As for tomorrow, no matter what happens, come to school. If I don’t see your face, I will become very sad, alright? Promise?”

After saying that, the teacher placed a bunch of grapes in my bag. As I always do, I went home while looking at the sea. I also ate those delicious grapes.

The next day, I did not feel like going to school. I thought it would be great if I had a stomach ache or got a headache or something but that day, there was nothing wrong with me.  I hated it but still reluctantly left the house. I came to the front gates of the school but no matter what, I could not bring myself to go in. As I remembered what the teacher said to me yesterday, I found that I wanted to at least see the teacher.

I thought to myself, the teacher would probably be sad if I did not go to school. And just thinking about having the teacher look at me with her kind eyes again, I finally walked into the school. As I walked in if as he has been waiting for me, Jim walked towards me and took hold of my hand. As if he has forgotten what happened yesterday, he gently held my hand and took us both to the teacher’s office. I had no idea what was happening. I thought what was going to happen next was everyone standing afar and saying something like “Look! Here come the Japanese theft and liar!” I grew very anxious about this.

Having heard our footsteps, the teacher opened the door to her office. We went into her office. The teacher said to Jim, “Jim, you are a good boy. You understand what I said to you”. And then she said to me “Jim is not mad at you anymore. Starting from now, if you two can become good friends, then that will be good. You both should shake hands.” She said this while giving us a friendly grin. Jim firmly shook my hand. I did not know what best to do and just smiled at him embarrassingly. Jim also smiled back at me.

As the teacher kindly smiled, she then asked us, “Were the grapes from yesterday delicious?” My face blushed and I answered with a “Yes”. “If that is the case, I shall give it to you again,” said the teacher. Then she picked a bunch of grapes and placed the purple grapes in her white hands. Using scissors, she cut into the middle of the bunch making two bunches and gave it to Jim and me.

The beautiful sight of the bunch of purple grapes placed within those white hands, I can still clearly remember this now. I grew slightly stronger from what happened at that time. How many years has it been since then? I know that it’s not possible, but I somewhat hope that I can meet that teacher once again. Whenever Autumn comes, the grapes will always turn into a beautiful purple colour. However, I will never be able to see the grapes placed in those beautiful white hands ever again.

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