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Alfred the Mango

Sarah went grocery shopping with her daddy. They had a list of what to buy: cereal for breakfast, fish for the dinner, orange juice for Sarah's older sister Emily, broccoli for Sarah, and chocolate chips so they could all make cookies after dinner.

While Daddy was picking out the bunches of broccoli, Sarah looked around at the other fruits and vegetables. She saw the mushrooms all tumbled together as if they had been hopping up and down and only just stopped. The bananas were snuggled together in their bunches. The oranges were stacked in formation like soldiers on parade. And the lettuce flapped their frilly petticoat leaves at it all.

Sarah heard Daddy say "Excuse me" and turned around to see their cart bump into a display and Sarah saw a small red-and-green-and yellow animal jump into their cart.

At least, she thought it was an animal, because it jumped, but it didn't have eyes or legs. Daddy stood talking to their next-but-one neighbor, Mrs. Terwilliger, whom he just missed hitting with their cart (because daddies don't pay such good attention when they're thinking about broccoli) so he didn't see the fruit jump. Sarah looked up at the sign above the display and read, "MANGOS".

Sarah said, "Daddy, what's a man-gos?" but Daddy didn't hear her because he was still talking to Mrs. Terwilliger. Sarah was still looking most carefully at the other mangos to see if she could catch one of them jumping when Daddy said, "Come on Sarah, we're going to the checkout counter now."

Sarah watched the mango as it rode the conveyor belt to the clerk (Sarah wanted to ride the belt but Daddy wouldn't let her anymore 'cause he said she was too big) but the mango didn't make a move. It didn't even wiggle or twitch one of its spots, so Sarah decided it was sneaky. She asked her Daddy again, "Daddy what's a man-gos?" but Daddy only said, "Shh, Daddy's writing a check."

All the way home Sarah kept peeping into the grocery bag to see if the mango moved. It lay quietly on top of the broccoli, although once in awhile it wiggled back and forth as Daddy drove around the curves.

Sarah decided to name the mango Alfred. "He can be my pet, and live in Gilbert's cage," she thought. Gilbert was Sarah's gerbil, who had run away only the week before. Sarah had been sad after Gilbert left, but now she was happy thinking of how much fun she and Alfred would have.
"Gilbert was nice, but Alfred jumps and is so much more in-teresting colored" Sarah said aloud.

"What did you say, dear?" Daddy asked. But just as Sarah opened her mouth to explain, a driver in another car honked and Sarah could tell Daddy wasn't really paying attention.

When they got home, Daddy and Mummy and Emily were all busy unloading groceries, so Sarah picked up Alfred and carried him to her room. Sarah had kept Gilbert's cage clean in case he decided to come home. Now she opened the top of the cage and put Alfred down among the wood shavings.

"You just make yourself all comfy, Alfred," Sarah said, but Alfred didn't nestle into the shavings, or take a drink of water as Gilbert did. Instead he just lay still, unblinking and unmoving.
"Are you tired, Alfred?" Sarah asked, but before Alfred could answer, Mummy called Sarah to help make dinner.

All throughout dinner and all during making cookies after dinner, Sarah thought about Alfred and wondered if he were happy in his new home. When she went into her room later, she tiptoed in and peeked in the cage. Alfred didn't seem to have moved the tiniest bit. "Of course, he's tired and went right to sleep," Sarah whispered to herself.

The next morning, Sarah bounced out of bed when her father knocked on her door.
"Good morning Sarah, it's time to wake up!"
"Good morning Daddy! Good morning Alfred!"
When Alfred didn't move, Sarah said, "Are you sleeping in late, Alfred?" She picked out her clothes and got dressed as quietly as she could, then ran downstairs to breakfast.

At school Sarah tried to remember how to spell "menagerie" and how many orange slices she had if Ms. O'Brien gave her five oranges and she cut them into eighths. It was hard to concentrate, though, when she thought about Alfred and his spots and how he must be having a nice time at home.

During recess Sarah told her best friend Daniel about Alfred. "Alfred's all different colors and he has freckles just like me and he jumps!" Sarah said.

Daniel asked, "What kind of animal is a man-gos? I never heard of that one before. Is it like a mongoose? Or a manatee?"
"Well, Alfred's not like a mongoose, 'cause he isn't all long and furry, and he's certainly not like a manatee, at least I don't think so, 'cause he doesn't swim. Or at least, I haven't seen him swim. But if you come over to my house after school, we can see if he swims."
Daniel couldn't come over, though, because he had tuba lessons. "Tomorrow," he promised.

Sarah skipped all the way home from school. She ran up the stairs and threw open the door to her room. As she dropped her bookbag on the table next to Alfred's cage, she thought she saw him wiggle a little to welcome her.
"Hi Alfred, did you miss me?" But Alfred didn't wiggle anymore, or make any noise.

"Well, you've been cooped up all day, so why don't we go out for a walk. That'll wake you up!" Sarah found the tail from the kite she made last spring, and tied it into a little collar and leash.

Then she carefully picked up Alfred out of his cage, and carried him out into the backyard. She put him down on the back patio, next to the barbecue grill.
"Just a moment while I adjust your collar, Alfred. There!"
When Sarah was done, she stood up and pulled on the leash a little. Alfred moved just a little bit.
"Come on Alfred. Come on. Oh, okay, I'll carry you."

And Sarah picked up Alfred and held her in the crook of her arm as she walked around the backyard, pointing out her favorite trees and flowers.

Later that afternoon, Sarah looked at Alfred in between doing her math problems.
"Alfred, how come you don't move very much? And you don't make much noise, either." She thought about this for awhile.
"Maybe you're sick. Maybe I should have Mummy come up and look at you."

Sarah went downstairs to find her Mummy, who was busy writing.
"Mummy, can you come upstairs for a minute? I think Alfred is sick."
"Who is Alfred?" asked Mummy, putting down her pen.
"Alfred is my new pet," Sarah explained as she led the way to the stairs.

"New pet!" Mummy exclaimed. "Where did you get a pet! You didn't catch something in the backyard, did you?"
"No, we got Alfred at the supermarket yesterday" said Sarah.
"At the supermarket? What kind of animal could you get at the supermarket? Why didn't Daddy tell me? Is this another gerbil?"

But when Mummy came into Sarah's room and saw Alfred lying in the cage, she started to laugh.
"I don't see anything funny about Alfred being sick, " Sarah said, a little mad at Mummy for being insensitive.
"Oh Sarah honey, that's a mango!" Mummy said, still laughing.
"I know that, only I thought it was pronounced man-gos" said Sarah, her feelings still hurt.

"No, it's a mango. A mango is a kind of fruit, like a banana or an orange. It's not an animal. Fruits can't move by themselves, and they don't make any noise or eat food." Mummy explained.

"But Alfred jumped into our cart, and then on the way home he wiggled around in the bag" Sarah said.
"Think about it, Sarah. When you ride in the car to soccer practice, doesn't the ball roll around in the car? But the soccer ball isn't an animal. It moves because the car is moving. And something must have happened at the supermarket to knock the mango into your cart."

"Well, Daddy was talking to Mrs. Terwilliger, and the cart bumped into the . . .oh." said Sarah as she remembered how Daddy had pushed the cart right into the fruit display, and it looked like the mango jumped into their cart.
"But he's so cute, Mummy, and I took good care of him. Look, he has freckles just like me."

"Mangos do need to be handled gently. But they're not animals, and you can't keep them as pets. If you kept Alfred sitting in this cage, he'd go bad and rot eventually. Right now, he's about ripe- see how he's a little soft and squishy? Let's take the mango downstairs and I'll show you what they look like on the inside."
Mummy and Sarah went downstairs and Mummy showed her how to peel the mango, then take out the big seed inside.

"I know you liked Alfred, Sarah, and you took good care of him. I think it's time you got a pet to replace Gilbert, one that's not a mango but has freckles like you," Mummy said.

And the next day Mummy and Sarah and Daddy and Emily went to the pet store to pick it out.
A rabbit!

Copyright 1996 by Chi-An Chien
All Rights Reserved

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last updated: 2/23/00