Akiko and the Semi Cage

By Pauline M. Horvath

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    “Look! Look what you’ve done!” Akiko shouted at her little brother. She held up the broken Japanese semi (cicada) cage Tadomi had accidentally broken. “I’ll have to build this one all over again,” she said, gathering the bamboo pieces into a pile. She held up the other cage that was unbroken to hear the sharp chirp of the semi inside. “I’m going to show Mr. Ohashi this one,” she told Tadomi.

    “May I come along? I could carry the cage for you,” Tadomi offered eagerly.

    “No, thank you. I can carry it myself. I don’t want this one broken too,” said Akiko. She turned and skipped down the lane, admiring the pink cherry blossoms as she passed. Stopping for a moment, she picked up a few pink petals from the ground and added them to her semi cage.

    Soon Akiko arrived at Mr. Ohashi’s outdoor fish market where she saw him hanging up a line of dried fish out in front. He still had a big box of fish left to hang up.

    “Hello, Akiko. What do you have there?” asked Mr. Ohashi.

    Akiko held up her bamboo cage with the chirping semi inside. “Listen,” she said as she held the cage up to Mr. Ohashi’s ear.

    “Your semi sings beautifully. That’s a nicely built cage too,” he said.

    “Thank you, Mr. Ohashi,” said Akiko.

    “Would you like to help me display the rest of the fish? You can hand them to me out of the crate,” said Mr. Ohashi.

    Akiko set her cage down and took a stack of dried fish out of the box. As she held them under her arm, two long pieces fell out of the stack into a muddy puddle.

    “Oh! Look what I’ve done,” cried Akiko, close to tears. She tried to pick up the two dirty pieces of fish.

    “It’s OK, Akiko. I know you didn’t mean to,” comforted Mr. Ohashi, patting her shoulder gently. “How about helping me finish?” he asked.

    Akiko was surprised that he still wanted her help after what she had done. While she helped Mr. Ohashi hang up the rest of his fish, she thought about how she had acted with Tadomi.

    “Come again soon,” called Mr. Ohashi, as Akiko handed him the last fish.

    When she arrived home she saw Tadomi, looking very unhappy, rolling a small red ball back and forth near their doorstep. “Tadomi, can you help me rebuild the cage?” Akiko invited. “I know it was just an accident that you broke it.”

    Tadomi looked surprised. “Do you really want me to help?” he asked.

    “Of course I do, silly. I need you to hand me the bamboo pieces.”

    So Tadomi began to hand Akiko the pieces she needed as she worked. Soon the cage was half finished. As Tadomi was waiting for Akiko to ask for the next piece, he rolled some long pieces back and forth. He did it faster and faster on the stone path. Then, without meaning to, Tadomi snapped the bunch in half.

    “Oh, no! Akiko, I didn’t—” Tadomi began, trying to explain.

    “I know you didn’t mean to do it,” Akiko said understandingly.

    Tadomi’s face brightened. Then they both laughed and went into the house to get more bamboo for the cage.

    Illustrated by Ted Nagata