The Magic Wheels


Suey watched Deana glide, spin around, and come to a stop at the end of the walk. She’s rolling on magic wheels, Suey thought, trying to imagine having her own magic wheels. She pushed the thought away quickly. Here in America she had so much that it would be ungrateful to want more.

Deana skated back and sprawled beside her friend. “Like them?” she asked.

“Oh, yes! What you call them?”

“Roll-er skates,” Deana said, pronouncing each syllable distinctly. “Roller skates.”

Suey tried to echo the words.

Deana clapped her hands approvingly. “Very good, Suey. You’re getting your r’s much better.”

Suey grinned. “How you get?” she asked.

“For my birthday,” Deana answered. Seeing Suey’s puzzled look, she tried to explain. “In America we get presents on our birthdays.”

Suey shook her head. The words had come too fast for her to understand. She tried another question: “Cost lots of money?”

Deana tried to speak more slowly. “I guess so. My mother told me that if I lose them I’ll be sorry.”

“Is it hard to make skates go?” Suey asked next.

“Just a little, at first,” Deana replied. “Here,” she offered, “try them yourself.”

Suey felt as if she were wobbling like a little baby as she stood up with the skates on. She clung to Deana and managed to not fall down. When she finally tried to move down the walk, her feet wanted to go every which way. Soon, with Deana’s help, she skated teeteringly to the corner, where they both collapsed on the grass with laughter.

“You did OK,” Deana said to her Laotian friend. “If you had your own skates,” she continued, speaking slowly, “you would soon skate like me.”

“No money,” Suey confessed.

Deana got up and brushed herself off. “Maybe you could earn some money. Sometimes I work for the neighbors, and they pay me for it. Maybe you could do that too.”

That night as Suey lay in her bed, she thought about Chu Nam, her brother. He earned money by cutting grass and by washing dishes at a restaurant. She sat up excitedly. She knew how to wash dishes! She could hardly wait until morning.

Suey was eleven, but she was small and looked much younger. She hoped the ladies in the neighborhood would not think she was too small to wash dishes.

She went to see Mrs. Bonn first. Mrs. Bonn had helped to bring Suey’s family to America.

When Mrs. Bonn opened the door, she smiled and said, “Why, hello, Suey. Come in.”

Suey searched her mind for the right words to say. “I come, wash dishes for you,” she managed.

“Suey, how nice of you. But I have a machine that washes my dishes for me. Come into the kitchen, and I’ll show you.”

Suey was bewildered as she went home. Chu Nam washed dishes for a lot of people, yet Mrs. Bonn had a machine to wash just a few dishes! Disappointed, she decided to try to forget about the magic wheels.

At home Ling Kou’s new baby was fussing. Suey picked him up, glad to have something else to think about. She discovered that he was wet, so she diapered him, then rocked him while her sister-in-law cooked.

“You’re a big help to me,” Ling Kou told her.

Suey flushed with pleasure. She loved to take care of the baby. Sometimes she would watch her other niece and nephew, too, while Ling Kou went to the washing place.

Suddenly Suey knew what she could do. She could tend children! Ladies might have machines to wash their dishes, but a machine couldn’t tend a baby. This afternoon she would find a lady who wanted a baby-sitter. Soon she would have her own magic wheels. And she would glide and spin and stop on them just like Deana.

[illustration] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch