​The Last Cucumber

​The Last Cucumber

SATOO took the big cucumber from his father’s hand and carried it to mother.
"It’s a nice one," he said as he watched her cut it.
She wrapped half of it in a piece of cloth; then she divided the other half between Satoo and his little sister, Leetah.
Satoo sat down by mother and began to eat. He hadn’t eaten anything yesterday or this morning, and now it was already afternoon. He was really hungry, so he ate fast.
Leetah sat and looked at her piece for quite a while. Then she began to suck and chew on it.
Satoo finished his. "Where is the rest of the cucumber?" he asked.
"I have put it away," mother told him. "I am saving it for tomorrow."
"Will you and daddy eat some?" Satoo wanted to know.
"No, Satoo," she said as she drew him onto her lap. "Daddy and I are big people. We can get along without food better than you can."
"Mamma, will we ever have rice again?" Satoo asked.
Mothers faced looked so thin and sad. It made him squirm a little.
"You know the flood spoiled all our rice," she said. "It spoiled the rice for all the other villages near us. I don’t know when we will get rice again; but daddy hunts for food every day."
Leetah went to sleep as soon as she finished her cucumber, and now Satoo snuggled up to mother and shut his eyes. When he wakened he was on the mat beside Leetah.
"Oh, mother," he said as he jumped up and run to her, "there is rice in our bin. I saw father dump in three bags."
"No, Satoo," mother said, "you dreamed that you saw the rice. When people are hungry they often dream about food."
Then Satoo began to cry. Sobs shook his thin little body, and even though mother held him close he trembled all over. Then he saw that mother was crying, too.
Satoo went and looked out the door. A few people moved about the village. They walked slowly and their hands were empty. They carried no baskets of eggs or vegetables, no bags of rice. The chickens had been killed and eaten long ago, also the goats and even the dogs. Satoo had seen inside the houses. No one had food, and some of the little children lay on their mats and slept all the time. They looked like spiders with their thin arms and legs and swollen stomachs.
At sundown father came home again. "I couldn’t find a thing," he said. "Hundreds of hands have combed every field. I was lucky this afternoon. That cucumber was growing between two big logs, so no one had found it before."
"Satoo and Leetah have eaten half of it," mother said. "I will give them the rest for tomorrow. What will we do then?"
Father sighed. Finally he spoke again, "The flood was so big it covered all our garden land. It is perhaps a hundred miles to a village where there is rice. We are too weak to walk that far."
Then it was quiet in the room. Satoo could hear Leetah's quick breathing. Her stomach was beginning to swell. Satoo felt something wild and scary come up in his throat. A dark and terrible thing was in this room where he had always felt safe and happy. He began to cry, and although he wanted to cry hard, he could make only a small, low sound.
Father gathered him into his arms, and Satoo slept. Then all at once it was morning. Mother divided the other half of the cucumber between the two children. Leetah held hers and looked at it; but Satoo ate his in a hurry. He looked at his empty hand and licked the cucumber juice from his fingers.
It was noon of that day when a messenger ran into the village. Satoo knew he came from far away, because he ran so fast and his voice was strong. He had plenty to eat.
"Come out!" he said. "Come out! We are bringing food!"
"Hear what the man says?" Father got slowly to his feet and went outside. Mother and Satoo followed. Satoo saw donkeys with big packs on their backs. Men were unloading foods from the bags and packages they carried. There were rice, beans, barley, and salt and oil in bottles.
"First of all," one of the men said, "we will give you enough rice to make gruel for everyone in your house. Make it thin and eat slowly, or you might get sick."
One of the men put three cups of rice in a piece of paper and gave it to mother. She hurried to make a fire and cooked it into a thin soup.
Father sat on the mat and fed Leetah. When they had all eaten and their stomachs were full of soup, mother asked father, "Where did the food come from?"
"There are some people over in a great country called America. Those people heard about the floods and the hunger in our villages," he said.
"But why would they send food so far?" mother asked.
"They worship the God who made all things. These people are loving, pitying people. Their God is like that, they say. He is loving, pitying God. So they took from their own supplies and sent the money to buy the food for us. There is enough to keep us alive until the next harvest," father told her.
Satoo felt warm and happy and drowsy, but a thought kept running in his mind. "I would like to worship that God - that pitying, loving God."
Then he lay down beside Leetah and went to sleep.

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