The Little Seamstress

City Boys

Today something special happened. Where I'm from, in Yong Jing province, China, usually nothing interesting ever happens and today started just like any other. I picked out my clothes and tied my hair back in its usual ponytail and went to work for my father in his tailor shop. Later in the day, two boys whom I'd never seen before came into the shop and talked to me for some time. They were both around my age, one slightly taller than the other, he asked me if I could read when he spotted a book on my table. I responded "Not much, but you needn't think I'm a fool, because I enjoy talking to people who can read and write - the young people from the city, for instance. Didn't you notice my dog didn't bark when you came in? He knows my tastes," (Sijie 25).

"Not much,...but you needn't think I'm a fool, because I enjoy talking to people who can read and write - the young people from the city, for instance. Didn't you notice my dog didn't bark when you came in? He knows my tastes," (Sijie 25).

The boys I learned are from the city and are here for reeducation under order from chairman Mao. The taller one, whose name is Luo, tried to show me that we had commonality between us and claimed our toes were the same. At first I was impressed but as I asked around later I discovered that it's a common trait.

I think I'd like to visit the city in the future, I think it would be an interesting change of pace from the mountains. Maybe Luo and Ma will take me one day.

The Letter

I wrote Luo a letter a few days ago. It took me a while because I have only been to elementary school and do not have a firm grasp on writing characters yet but I'm hopeful that I will with my father's help. Anyway, I wrote to him to tell him that I convinced the headman of my village to allow them to switch places with two young men from my village to tell stories to everyone here. I mentioned how I wanted to give him this news in person but that I wouldn't be allowed in the coal mines they work in. I worry for them, especially Luo. I told him that "I keep my fingers crossed that it won't cave in," (Sijie 34).

A Visit

A few days after I sent the letter Luo and Ma arrived to the village. I was at first elated when I saw them walking up the path to my house but was taken aback by the state of Luo. He was very sick and was a bright shade of red from his fever. I immediately cancelled the retelling that was planned for that night and brought him to my bedroom. Ma and I gathered the leaved from the broken bowl shards plant in the garden and I ground them into a paste and applied it to Luo's wrists. Once he fell asleep Ma and I talked. He was curious about my beliefs and if I was worried about whether someone would denounce me. I was concerned for a moment that he was planning to when he got the chance but I decided that was rash and told him I was not afraid.

I believe he saw the flicker of fear in my face and shared a secret with me, that Luo's father is a famous dentist and removed all of the worms from chairman Mao's teeth. It was kind of him to share this with me, he is an interesting young man but I cannot deny that I like Luo.

Later that night I brought the sorceresses to the house to see if they would help Luo. It was very late and I had Ma tell them about a film, trying to keep them awake. He retold one called The Little Flower Seller, I enjoyed listening to him but as he came to the end he started to falter as if he didn't know exactly how to finish when Luo jumped in to close the story. He quoted, "The saying goes, that a sincere heart can make a stone blossom. So tell me, was the flower girl's heart lacking in sincerity?"

As I heard the sorceresses begin to weep I felt Luo pull the ribbon from the end of my hair, allowing it to fall over my shoulders and down my back. I looked back and turned to face him and I leaned over and kissed him. I felt happy, not nervous or worried like I thought I might. I'm excited to see where we go from here

Ursule Mirouet

Luo today came to the village with a gift in hand. It was a book from a French author named Honoré de Balzac and he told me he got it from helping a friend. I had never heard of the author nor did I even really know where France was located but I was intrigued nonetheless. I was confused and excited and nervous rolled all in one as he read to me, such beautiful words and phrases. I hope he comes back with more stories soon.

Meeting the Old Miller

Luo and Ma came to visit me today and told me their plans to obtain traditional mountain songs from the old miller that lives a little while away so that they can trade the songs for more books. Their ruse was that they'd dress like government officials and say they needed them for and official government journal. After we agreed that I would make them jackets to match that of chairman Mao in the photo we have hanging in the shop Luo promised that he'd come and let me read them once they had them.

I really liked reading the novel by Balzac, it makes me think of everything that is out there that I haven't had access to, all of the knowledge and experiences I could be having if I lived in the west or even just the city. I've decided I want to travel to France.


A few days ago, the boys came to see me again. Luo helped me gather flowers to decorate the graves of my ancestors with and I couldn't help but notice Ma sulking down the hill from where we were. I stopped and shouted to him, "Why the long face?" He answered, "I'm grieving for Balzac," (Sijie 88). And he walked over to us while recounting how the friend retracted his offer to loan them the books because they hadn't gotten the songs he was hoping for and how he then tried to change the lyrics.

I began thinking about how badly I wanted the books and how I'd do anything to get them. I know that stealing is a horrible crime but my mind kept coming back to it. Finally the words slipped from my mouth, "About those books of his - what if we stole them?" (Sijie 89).

"About those books of his - what if we stole them?" (Sijie 89).

Today was the day that they stole them. I kept track of the preparations for their friend Four-Eyes departure celebration so that they'd know where everyone was and when the best time to break in would be. I relayed everything to them and decided that just after nightfall when dinner began would be their best shot. I hope all goes well and that they stay safe. I hope they get more books about France and the west, I've decided that in addition to France I'd like to visit the United States of America.

Père Goriot

Luo came to me today with another book by Balzac called Père Goriot. I was excited not only to finally see Luo but also to see another novel in his hand when he knocked on the door. We read together and kiss, it's a very nice time and I enjoy being with him. I want to be present when I'm with him but I can't help but let my mind wander and think about what lies beyond the district of Yong Jing and even China as a whole. I like to imagine myself travelling through Europe and seeing the ocean and having adventures like ones I read about.

The Lake

Recently, Luo has been taking me to a lake that is tucked away a little ways away from my village. It's beautiful and very private, we go and have fun, it is where he taught me how to swim. We kiss and play this game where Luo will throw his key from his house in the city into the depths of the lake and I will dive down to find them. "The books Luo read to me always made me want to dive into the cool water of the mountain torrent. Why? It was a gut reaction. Like when you can't help blurting out what you're thinking," (Sijie 143).

Why did I like playing this 'retrieve the key ring' game? Because "...I love pleasing Luo, that's all there is to it," (Sijie 144). Contrary to what I've been reading about in the books by Balzac, I am not a frail French girl in need of rescuing.

The other day we swam for a little bit and read the Count of Monte Cristo with me in the beach. We read the lines of each character and I discovered that I like that you can step into a new role and become a new person while still being yourself, Luo told me I'd be good at acting.

It was after we finished acting that Luo tossed his key ring into the pool and so began our usual game. Except for that as I dove down this time, I touched a snake while groping along the bottom. I was immediately filled with terror and rose to the surface. After a few minutes I decided that I couldn't allow his keys to be left to this snake and dove back in. This time I was scared and wary of the fact that the snake could be down there waiting for me. As I sank beneath the water and saw the key ring shining against the bottom of the lake. "I reached out to grab it and I felt a stinging blow to my right hand: a snapping of jaws, fierce and very painful. After that I gave up on trying to retrieve Luo's key ring," (Sijie 146).


Luo has been given leave for a month and Ma has been coming to see me often. Talking to him regularly alongside the increasing severity of my situation forced me to tell him that I was pregnant. I don't know if he had not been there how it would have turned out for Luo and I, I think Luo not ever having to know is best for everyone. We journeyed to Yong Jing to the hospital where Ma was able to get me to a gynecologist in time.

I don't want to be here anymore, there are too many obstacles that continue to oppress me. I will leave for the city soon, I don't know exactly when or how I will leave but I have made up my mind.


I have talked to my father and am going to leave for the city in the next few days. I don't think I will say goodbye to Ma or Luo I'm not sure that I could face them and possibly tell them that I'm not coming back. I think it's better this way, no mess.

I look forward to everything that awaits me in the city. I'm hopeful that it will be better there, maybe I'll be able to catch up on my studies and finish my education, maybe I'll be able to see France. Despite having to leave the family and friends that have helped me through so much I am excited and hopeful for my future.

Created with images by mckaysavage - "China - Beijing 17 - Market" • Laineys Repertoire - "Old Letter" • - "Stack Of Books" • Daniel70mi - "Menton (France)" • Drew Coffman - "Blue Suitcase" • Augapfel - "Mountains of Five Flowered Lake"

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