Christopher's bilingual stories
THE RAINBOW TRAIN
For Christopher Diego on his third birthday
Versión en Inglés de Ita Betty J. Curtis Inselmann
Versión en Inglés de Ita Betty J. Curtis Inselmann
Christopher had been very good all day. He had gone to school without a fuss, he had not pushed anyone, or shouted, he had eaten dinner and supper stupendously leaving not a pea or a piece of carrot on his plate, nor had he broken anything or protested when mother said:
“It’s time to sleep. Time to go to bed.”
He picked up the blanket of green and white squares with the inscription El Zorro that Ita had crocheted for him when he was very small, handed daddy the book he wanted him to read aloud before he fell asleep and climbed into bed without whining.
After mommy kissed and hugged him, daddy, sitting close to him in his usual chair, began to read from the orange book with green and garnet borders on the front cover. Christopher did not understand most of the words, but they sounded like those spoken by Yayo in Spain when they visited him in February; perhaps it was because, spoken by daddy and late at night, they comforted and made him feel sleepy.
His eyes were closed when he stopped hearing his father’s voice reading in the darkness of the night. However, his imagination was quick to awaken, it made him stand up and led him to a marvelous meadow full of birch and oak trees wrapped in a thin layer of fog where dragonflies glittered as they darted here and there, back and forth.
In the meadow there was a narrow path which turned left. Christopher ran down the path quickly; he always loved to run, and soon he arrived at what seemed to be the platform of a train station overflowing with boys and girls of his own age, who were talking and jumping excitedly full of expectation, looking at a small light in the distance which seemed to be approaching them at high speed.
“It’s coming! It’s coming!” some were saying, “Yeeeeeesssssss!” exclaimed others, while a friendly looking little man came close to Christopher.
“And you, young man, are you coming with us?”
Christopher was about to answer when he realized that the spot in the distance was taking the shape of a train engine, and he in turn asked:
“Is it the Polar Express?”
“No, young man”, responded the man who still looked like a gnome, although he tried to hide it. “It’s The Rainbow Train which can only be boarded by those children who behaved well all day yesterday. So you are here because you were an excellent boy, and as a prize, you will have a wonderful time with us. “
The train was extremely long because the coaches were tiny and only four children fit in each unit; they moved like gondolas as they glided over the tracks and appeared to be made of cardboard or blotting paper; in addition, each one was a different color and for this reason, as a whole, it did look like a rainbow.
The little man at the station, put on a cap, took out a flag and shouted:
Everyone climbed aboard and, immediately, the train glided gently across the meadow of birch and oak trees as it picked up speed.
Christopher’s travel companions were Eva, a blonde girl with long pigtails and green eyes which lit up her pearly cheeks; Julian, a tall, thin boy who seemed very strong, but perhaps not very talkative; and Ralph, short, chubby and very likeable, who did seem to be talkative.
They became friends right away and started to play Riddles. Ralph asked Christopher:
“If a rooster lays an egg on a roof, on which side does it fall?” And since none of them knew the answer, Ralph overjoyed, answered:
“On neither side. Roosters don’t lay eggs.”
Then Christopher asked Ralph:
“Tell me, why do dogs carry bones in their mouth?” And as Ralph didn’t know how to answer, Chris told him, roaring with laughter:
“Well, because dogs don’t have pockets.”
While they were laughing, Eva said it was her turn and asked her riddle:
“Small as a pear, it lights up the entire house.”
Quick as a flash Julian answered:
“The light bulb.” The girl smiled as she said: “I made it easy for you.”
Then Julian said that it was time for his riddle:
“It goes up full and comes down cold. If you don’t hurry, the soup gets cold.” His three friends answered at the same time:
It wasn’t long before they arrived at a green station, a fact which they celebrated with exclamations of joy. They got off the train and ran towards the site of an enormous children’s playground.
Christopher located and led his friends to the amusement he liked best; you climbed up a panel of thick bars, continued through a bridge with a wooden floor and another with a rope floor, both covered by a roof, and at the end you slid down a long, long slide. They spent a long time climbing, running and sliding.
They also played on the swings, rode horseback on the spring-activated toys, shared the seesaws, played hide-and-seek in the log cabins and even climbed up a vertical ladder.
Stopping to rest, Ralph approached a container full of many colorful crystal balls and asked his friends if they wanted to play marbles. They did not know how to play but said yes and Ralph took ten balls for each of them from the container and then said:
“It is a very simple game. The first thing we’ll do is dig a hole in the ground 10 centimeters round and five centimeters deep which we’ll call guá. Then we’ll draw a line five meters away from the hole.”
Once the hole was dug and the line drawn, Ralph continued:
“Now we must toss to decide the shooting order. We place a marble in the fingers of one hand and shoot it with our thumb from the guá to the line five meters away. The player whose marble lands closest to the line will be the first to play and so on. If someone surpasses the line, he will be the last to shoot, understand?”
It was obvious that Ralph had lots of practice because his marble landed almost on the famous line. Eva came in second, Christopher third and Julian was the last. Then Ralph commented:
“Now, I am going to shoot my marble at one of yours for the first time; if I hit it I get a second shot and if I hit another, and the distance between my marble and yours is greater than the length of my foot, I can shoot a third, a fourth and the fifth time shoot directly at the hole; and if I make it, then I win the game and your marbles. That is, I can win with five shots, but if I miss one it will be Eva’s turn and so on.”
“Very complicated!” shouted Christopher, but Ralph answered back: “Just watch and you will see that the game is very easy.”
Ralph, Eva and Julian shot their marbles and it was clear that the chubby one knew how to play well and no one could beat him. But by the third game - surprise! - Christopher proved to be a first-class shooter and he won all of his friend’s marbles, not once, but several times.
They were having a great time when the train engine let out a very loud whistle and the children returned happily to their coaches.
Christopher, who was already seated and clapping his hands cheerfully, asked Eva:
“And now, where are we going?”
“We cannot tell you. The gnome at the station told us that this is your first trip and everything should be excitingly new so that you will continue to behave at home and return to enjoy the Rainbow Train many times.”
“To be honest, we don’t know the itinerary either because the train follows unexpected routes and, if you return, perhaps you will not see the station you saw the first time, but may go to a different one with new attractions.”
The train stopped again and Christopher was surprised to see that everyone was running in a happy, noisy hullabaloo towards what seemed to be a cycle track. Once near the track, Julian told him that he could choose any bicycle he liked. Chris made a face when he realized that none of the bikes had training wheels and, furthermore, seemed to be racing bikes, but Julian encouraged him:
“Don’t worry. You will never fall off one of these bicycles even if you get on the biggest one.”
Chris anxiously climbed on a two-colored bicycle which had many gears, but he immediately realized that it moved by itself, that he could race his little friends and sometimes pass them - if they let him - following a route along which they were cheered on by a surprising public of elves and fairies.
The friends realized that they had wandered far from the station and that the engine would whistle any minute, calling them. Then they left the bikes and Julian started running as if he had wings on his feet until he disappeared in the distance. Eva took Chris by the hand and they walked toward a small wood with a large clearing in the middle and said:
“Now we are going to have fun playing in the trees.”
They went up to a giant oak tree and with Ralph at their side they climbed up a wooden ladder to the top of the tree trunk. There, Christopher observed that there were ropes stretched between the tree they were in and another quite a distance away in whose top – another surprise! – they saw Julian. Eva said to him:
“Don’t you worry, Chris. You will feel like you are flying thanks to this tree swing which will take you directly to our friend. Don’t be frightened by the speed because Julian will control it with a descender.”
While Eva was talking, Ralph put an orange helmet on Christopher’s head, as well as an outfit with a big harness which he tied with a rope to the pulley which would glide him between two ropes. Then he pushed him and Christopher had the feeling that he was really flying while swifts also floated through space not too far from his head and monarch butterflies filled the air with their beautiful dances. He arrived happily, his heart beating wildly, at the tree where his friend, who was waiting for him, took off the harness which attached him to the pulley and congratulated him for his courage, patting him gently on the back.
It wasn’t long before Eva and Ralph arrived and asked him if he was tired. Not only was he not tired but, if it were up to him, he would return to the tree swing and jump over and over again, but they pointed out that they must be watchful of the train.
They walked towards a booth close to the station. There was a large sign which said Candy and chocolates. There were large sacks of candy of all kinds… jelly candy, fruit scented, in liquid, paste and even powdered form. There were violet drops, lollipops, and chupa-chups… Ralph told him to take three paper cones and fill them with the candies he liked best. Christopher was tremendously surprised to see that the candy seemed to fall into a bottomless hole. Then Eva said:
“Now we will go to the left side of the booth and finish filling the paper cones with chocolates...”
Christopher was ecstatic over the new abundance of sweets. His hands worked keenly sorting through chocolate coins, napolitanas, chocolates of white truffles, orange truffles, macadamia nuts and tiramisu, and they discovered the twenty-two Pearls of the Ocean by Guylian, among those that most caught his eye were the little stars and the seahorses, the seashells…
They finished filling their paper cones and putting them into cloth bags which displayed the name The Rainbow Train when the train whistled three times and the engine let out three plumes of smoke into the air.
They ran towards the platform and climbed into their coach collapsing in their seats while at the same time their fingers slipped slowly into the bags they had just filled. They fell asleep at once, tired as they were. The train rolled hurriedly between rows of old walnut trees which flanked it on both sides creating an atmosphere of peace.
Christopher was profoundly asleep when his dad caressed his cheeks softly and said to him:
“Nano! Did you sleep well? Did you play with the little angels?”
And mommy kissed his hands also saying to him:
“Would you like some breakfast? You have to go to school.”
Christopher’s eyelids opened slowly and his eyes quietly gazed around at his surroundings.
He smiled to see his parents beside him, but he soon realized that he was in his bedroom and thought that the ride on The Rainbow Train had only been a dream.
He sat up to kiss his parents and just as he threw his arms around their necks, he noticed the cloth bag from The Rainbow Train hanging on the arm of a chair. He jumped up quickly and moved towards it, slipped his hand inside and confirmed that the candy and chocolates were there…
And it all happened exactly as I write it, so…
this story has come to an end
29 de abril de 2008 (Redacción original)
Texto del Yayo Javier Martínez Palacio