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  • A bedtime story for children by Luba Brezhnev.

  • "Chipper the Chipmunk" (by Luba Brezhnev)

  • Chipper sat in his favorite chair, crying salty tears. No one wanted to play with him.

  • He was so plump he could barely squeeze through his own front door. The young chipmunk dried

  • his tears and thought silently. "If it goes on like this, I won't be able to fit into

  • my own house. And I have enough food for five years here."

  • To ease his mind, he decided to take a stroll through his well-stocked pantry. Examining

  • his vast stores was his favorite pastime. He heaved a deep sigh. Then he set about counting

  • the shelves, with their even rows of boxes, jars, and packages -- all filled with good

  • things to eat. There were so many shelves that the young chipmunk soon tired of the

  • sport. Chipper returned to his beloved recliner and reflected. He felt low, even though he

  • had everything his heart desired -- and then some... He thought and thought. He couldn't

  • figure out why... So he waddled off to bed.

  • "I hope you all have great fun playing without me," he grumbled under his breath. He was

  • thinking about what had happened earlier in the day, when the other chipmunk boys had

  • refused to let him join the soccer team.

  • Chipper fell asleep and slept soundly, his paws clinging the pillow tightly.

  • Suddenly came the sound of something stirring in the room. Chipper woke up and listened

  • intently. "That mouse must have gotten into my cornmeal again," he thought. He was just

  • about ready to jump out of bed to chase away the thief, when he suddenly saw a strange

  • chipmunk. The stranger was chuckling, seated in a corner of the room in Chipper's recliner.

  • "Who are you?" asked Chipper, thoroughly befuddled. How had the intruder entered the room?

  • "I am Old Man Chipmunk."

  • "What are you doing here?" asked the young chipmunk in a stern voice. After all, he was

  • the rightful owner of the room and vast contents of his pantry!

  • "What I am doing is -- sitting in your favorite chair!" said the stranger, continuing to chuckle

  • as he spoke.

  • "But how did you get in the room?"

  • "Very simple. I came through the wall."

  • "There's no way you could have come in through the wall," said Chipper. He was sure he was

  • right about that. "That's a thick, strong wall, and no one can break through it."

  • "No one else can, but I can."

  • Seeing the visitor's fur-lined boots, he asked, "Why are you dressed so warmly? It's still

  • September, you know."

  • "I just flew in from way up north in Greenland. It's already chilly there!"

  • "Are you Santa Claus, by any chance?"

  • "No, I'm not Santa Claus, though I'm able to do many things. But don't you start making

  • wishes now!"

  • The young chipmunk was a bit disappointed: "Well, I did want to ask one favor."

  • "No use. I haven't the slightest intention of doing you any favors. I don't like you.

  • You are greedy and boring. I don't like that kind of boy."

  • "What kind of boy do you like?"

  • "A kind and happy boy."

  • "I am happy," said Chipper. But his voice wavered

  • "So who was sitting in this very same recliner two hours ago, sniveling and whining? No one

  • wants to play with you, and it serves you right."

  • Chipper was amazed: "How did you know all that?"

  • "My young friend, I know everything. You can't hide anything from me, no matter where you

  • try to go."

  • Chipper tried to argue, but his voice was uncertain: "I have a storage room. No one

  • can find me there..."

  • "No one else can, but I can."

  • "Why are you always boasting? Pride comes before a fall, you know."

  • "That's no boast. I really and truly can find you, even if you hide at the bottom of the

  • ocean," said the old chipmunk, laughing.

  • The young chipmunk shivered: "I don't want to go to the bottom of the ocean. It's cold

  • down there."

  • "You don't have to go there. We can have a talk right here, just as well."

  • "What's there to talk about?" asked Chipper. "You know what, it's my bedtime anyway."

  • "We do have things to talk about, and you'll have time later to get a good night's sleep.

  • What you need to do now is go over and make me a cup of tea."

  • "Wow," thought the proud owner of the well-stocked pantry. "First he asks for tea, and then he'll

  • want to eat, even though I hardly have enough for myself..."

  • "But I don't have any tea," Chipper said, as his face turned red.

  • "Don't you remember that I can see and hear everything? I even know what shelf the tea

  • is hidden on..."

  • "Oh, all right then, I'll serve you some tea, but there's nothing else.'

  • "What are you talking about? Your shelves are weighed down with food!" said Old Man

  • Chipmunk in an indignant voice. "What if you visited me and I put you on a starvation diet.

  • Would you like that?'

  • "I don't want to be anyone's guest. If you visit someone, then you have to invite them

  • back. It's what they call a -- what's the word? -- a return visit..."

  • "Now you see what I mean. When you come to me on a return visit, you'll get no food from

  • me, only a dirty look."

  • Chipper was agitated: "But I don't even have enough for myself. I only have enough food

  • here for five years. Then what will I do? Do you want me to starve?"

  • Chipper felt so sorry for himself that tears even came to his eyes.

  • Old Man Chipmunk was relentless: "Go ahead and eat all you want. But first figure out

  • exactly how much to eat each day for the next five years." Suddenly the old chipmunk raised

  • his voice to a yell. "So, light up that tea kettle before I spank you."

  • Chipper was so shocked that his mouth hung open. The old chipmunk stood up, went to the

  • young chipmunk, and helped him close his mouth.

  • "Now that's better," he said, sitting at the table and setting out the tea cups. "I just

  • came in from the cold, you know. I nearly froze! Tea is the only thing that will warm

  • me up."

  • Chipper stood up and grudgingly dragged himself to the kitchen to light the tea kettle. Then

  • he remembered that tea is usually served with sugar or jam. "I'll put the sweets as far

  • away from view as I can," he decided. He walked toward the pantry, when suddenly Old Man Chipmunk

  • called out from the living room: "What are you up to in there? Trying to hide the sugar?

  • You took the jam into the pantry... I already said you can't hide anything from me."

  • Chipper quivered and dropped a jar of jam onto the floor.

  • Chipper cried out, "Now look there! All that's left of a perfectly good jar of jam is a purple

  • puddle on the floor. And it's all your fault!"

  • "Don't get upset," said the visitor and hugged Chipper's shoulders. "Let's go to the kitchen,

  • my friend, and put the kettle on. After that, I'll tell you a story."

  • "What about the jam?" asked the young chipmunk, wiping away his tears.

  • "Forget about the jam, I'll cook up as much of that kind of jam as you want."

  • "Really?" said Chipper. He smiled: "And what else can you do for me?"

  • "Whatever you like, but I do have some conditions. First you have to meet those conditions. Then

  • you can make requests."

  • "I'll do what you say," said the young chipmunk uncertainly. He regretted his words at once.

  • What if the visitor asked for all his food? He would never be able to agree to that! Well,

  • maybe, but only if the older chipmunk promised to give him even more in return. That would

  • be a different story...

  • "What's going on here? Not getting ideas in your head about haggling, are you?" the visitor

  • inquired sternly. "I'm the one giving the orders around here, and you're the one who's

  • going to follow them!"

  • "Fine, I agree," said the young chipmunk.

  • "Well, since you agree, let's go heat up the kettle. And don't forget to serve plenty of

  • sweets along with the tea. We old folks like our treats, you know!"

  • Chipper said nothing and went to the kitchen to start the tea kettle. He also fetched cookies,

  • an unopened jar of jam, and crackers down from the shelves.

  • "What about the sugar?" asked the visitor.

  • "There's already enough sweet stuff on the table," said Chipper.

  • "I wouldn't know about that. Bring the sugar here!"

  • Chipper had no alternative but to fetch the sugar.

  • "You're certainly a big eater," said Chipper.

  • "I won't deny it. I have a healthy appetite, and I adore sweets!"

  • Chipper grumbled: "Everyone loves helping themselves to free stuff that actually belongs

  • to someone else!"

  • "Now there, don't get hurt feelings," said Old Man Chipmunk in a conciliatory tone. "Remember,

  • you and I already made an agreement. Your job is to listen and obey."

  • "Uh huh, but what do I get in return?"

  • Old Man Chipmunk chuckled: "You certainly think small, my boy! I offer you friendship

  • and then you turn around and forget what friendship is all about."

  • Chipper persisted: "What do I get out of friendship?"

  • The old visitor seemed surprised: "So you think friendship can be converted into money

  • or something?"

  • "I still want to know what I'm supposed to get!"

  • "Don't you know how to act without expecting any reward?" said the visitor.

  • "No," said Chipper, sighing.

  • "So you don't like to give, but you're a great one for taking, eh?"

  • "I guess that's the way it is. But I could end up giving away everything I have. Then

  • what would be left for me?"

  • "Don't worry about that. Give and you will receive twice as much back."

  • "Well... One of my neighbors is always giving things away, and he always has company, with

  • dances and happy times. But his house is empty, with nothing stored up in it. I can't be like

  • him."

  • "On the other hand, he doesn't spend his evenings weeping and moaning. Instead he hangs out

  • with his friends and laughs."

  • "I was crying earlier because I wasn't chosen for the soccer team."

  • "You really think it only has to do with soccer? How many friends does your neighbor have -- too

  • many to count! And what about you? Not a single friend in the whole forest. Suppose something

  • happens to you -- then what? Who will come help you? No one. So let's try to figure out

  • who is happier -- you with your well-stocked pantry or your neighbor, who finds fresh joy

  • in living every day?"

  • "Isn't there some way I could keep all the food in my pantry and also find some friends?"

  • "First you have to figure out what friendship is."

  • Chipper asked uncertainly, "Friendship is playing together on the same soccer team,

  • right?"

  • "Not just that. You can play soccer with anyone, but friendship is when two people are there

  • for each other. Think back to when your neighbor's shack caught fire, and folks came from all

  • around the forest to help. But if your fine, sturdy house were to catch fire, no one would

  • come to help put it out. Not only that, you can barely squeeze through the front door.

  • Pretty soon you won't even be able to go out of your house at all."

  • "But how can I lose weight if I have to sit home, eating up all my supplies?"

  • "That's your predicament. If you eat everything, then you won't be able to get through the

  • door. The house will have to be broken open."

  • "I don't want this house to be broken open," said Chipper, getting nervous. "It cost a

  • lot of money."

  • "Well then, you will have to go hungry. Your supplies will run out."

  • The owner of the pantry reflected. He didn't want to have to go hungry. He had been busily

  • storing food up all summer long, and going hungry was no part of his plans.

  • He thought for a long time. Meanwhile, Old Man Chipmunk drank his tea, ate sweets and

  • chuckled.

  • "So what do I do?" asked the young chipmunk.

  • "Now that's a different matter entirely," said the older chipmunk, brushing off his

  • whiskers with a napkin. "That is where our conversation should have started. Now, listen

  • carefully. Once upon a time I was a young lad just like you. Of course, that was a long

  • time ago, but it feels like yesterday." He paused and reflected.

  • Chipper was incredulous: "What are you telling me, that I will be old like you some day?"

  • The visitor smiled: "How could it be otherwise? All little boys grow up and become old. The

  • only thing that matters is how they lived their life. You, for example, are a miser

  • and you plan to remain one for the rest of your life. But what will you have at the end

  • of the road? Have you thought about that?"

  • "No," said Chipper softly. "I've never thought about old age. I thought I would always be

  • young."

  • "Well you'd better watch out!" said the uninvited guest, laughing. "Everyone wants to remain

  • young forever, but no one gets to. I advise the young to look at their grandparents more

  • often and imagine themselves that way."

  • "I never met my grandfather," sighed Chipper. "Mom says he was very frugal."

  • "What you really mean was that he was greedy. He shared with no one and had no friends.

  • At night he was miserable and all alone."

  • The younger chipmunk confirmed the old chipmunk's words: "They tell me that the last years of

  • his life, he never left the house. He couldn't fit through the door... So what should I do

  • to be healthy and happy?"

  • "Well, my young friend, that's a pretty big question. Some find the answer easily, but

  • others like you have to work real hard to figure it out."

  • "I agree..."

  • The visitor clapped his paws: "You do? Now there's a good lad! Let's hear it for Chipper...

  • So, let's give it a try. But you'd better not start sniveling, whining, or asking for

  • mercy. If you do, I'll disappear into thin air!"

  • "I won't whine," sighed Chipper. "What choice do I have now?"

  • "Now listen. First I am going to tell you about my own life. I was a greedy little chipmunk,

  • just like you."

  • "Really?" said the young chipmunk.

  • "True, true," said the visitor. "Now listen without interrupting. I remember how I couldn't

  • sleep nights whenever I had to give something away. It was so painful to part with anything

  • that I even cried. So that's how I lived. I didn't share my toys with other little chipmunks;

  • I ate my cookies on the sly, so other kids wouldn't see and ask me for some. When my

  • dad bought me a train set, I sat at home in my bedroom all alone and played with it. After

  • a few days passed, I got bored and felt like inviting another boy to join in. But I lay

  • awake in bed all night, trying to decide what to do. In my mind's eye I saw the other boy

  • smashing up my locomotive, which made me feel terrible... So I ended up inviting no one.

  • I liked to play different games, but who could I play with? You need a partner for checkers,

  • chess, or dominoes, but I never would invite anyone into the house. I was afraid they might

  • suddenly ask me for something. So that's how I lived -- bored and sniveling. No one asked

  • me to play soccer. I was awkward and greedy... Who needed someone like that?"

  • "So were you fat like me?" asked Chipper.

  • "Yes, my friend, yes I was. I was even fatter than you are. It got to the point where I

  • stopped going out of the house. For one thing, I couldn't fit through the door. Besides,

  • that, the other kids always teased my, saying things like He certainly can plow through,

  • everything on the table; and he'd eat a cow too, if only he were able."

  • "That can't be!" exclaimed Chipper. "That's exactly what they say about me!"

  • "No interruptions -- just keep listening. Once, misfortune hit our family. My Dad lost

  • his job and there was no money in the house, not even to buy food. Forget about toys....

  • I was sitting in my room, miserable. Suddenly the door opened and in came some kids from

  • the neighborhood, carrying toys. 'These are for you,' they said. I was so surprised. They

  • had brought me their very favorite toys!

  • "That evening I cried tears of joy. Now I had so many new friends! Not long afterwards

  • Dad found a new job. I went to the store with him and we bought sweets and all sorts of

  • delicious treats to share with the neighborhood. We held a big feast right there on the street."

  • "What happened after that?" asked Chipper cautiously.

  • "Then we became friends and we still are. I gave away all my toys and I emptied out

  • my pantry. All my cakes and candies went to make others happy. I have been living like

  • that for one hundred years, Chipper."

  • "How can that be?" said the young chipmunk. "So what are you doing nowadays?"

  • "Right now what I do is