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Tottochan

Tottochan

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Published by Monika Iryanti

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Published by: Monika Iryanti on Aug 27, 2011
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08/27/2011

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TOTTO-CHAN
The Little Girl at the WindowBy Tetsuko KuroyanagiTranslated by Dorothy Britton
The Railroad Station
 They got off the Oimachi train at Jiyugaoka Station, and Mother took Totto-chan bythe hand to lead her through the ticket gate. She had hardly ever been on a trainbefore and was reluctant to give up the precious ticket she was clutching.“May 1 keep it!” Totto-chan asked the ticket collector.“No, you can't,” he replied, taking it from her.She pointed to his box filled with tickets. "Are those all yours!"“No, they belong to the railroad station,” he replied, as he snatched away tickets frompeople going out.“Oh.” Totto-chan gazed longingly into the box and went on, “When I grow up I'mgoing to sell railroad tickets!”The ticket collector glanced at her for the first time. “My little boy wants a job in thestation, too, so you can work together.”Totto-chan stepped to one side and took a good look at the ticket collector. He wasplump and wore glasses and seemed rather kind.“Hmm.” She put her hands on her hips and carefully considered the idea. "I wouldn'tmind at all working with your son,” she said. “I’ll think it over. But I'm rather busy just now as I'm on my way to a new school."She ran to where Mother waited, shouting, “I’m going to be a ticket seller!”Mother wasn't surprised, but she said, “I thought you were going to be a spy.”As Totto-chan began walking along holding Mother's hand, she remembered thatuntil the day before she had been quite sure she wanted to be a spy.But what fun it would be to be in charge of a box full of tickets!
 
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“That's it!” A splendid idea occurred to her. She looked up at Mother and informedher of it at the top of her voice, “Couldn't I be a ticket seller who's really a spy!”Mother didn't reply. Under her felt hat with its little flowers, her lovely face wasserious. The fact was Mother was very worried. What if they wouldn't have Totto-chan at the new school! She looked at Totto-chan skipping along the road chatteringto herself. Totto-chan didn't know Mother was worried, so when their eyes met, shesaid gaily, “I've changed my mind. I think I'll join one of those little bands of streetmusicians who go about advertising new stores!”There was a touch of despair in Mother's voice as she said, “Come on, we'll be late.We mustn't keep the headmaster waiting. No more chatter. Look where you're goingand walk properly.”Ahead of them, in the distance, the gate of a small school was gradually coming intoview.
The Little Girl at the Window
The reason Mother was worried was because although Totto-chan had only juststarted school, she had already been expelled. Fancy being expelled from the firstgrade!It had happened only a week ago. Mother had been sent for by Totto-chan'shomeroom teacher, who came straight to the point. "Your daughter disrupts mywhole class. I must ask you to take her to another school.” The pretty young teachersighed. “I'm really at the end of my tether.”Mother was completely taken aback. What on earth did Totto-chan do to disrupt thewhole class, she wondered!Blinking nervously and touching her hair, cut in a short pageboy style, the teacherstarted to explain. “Well, to begin with, she opens and shuts her desk hundreds of times. I've said that no one is to open or shut their desk unless they have to takesomething out or put something away. So your daughter is constantly takingsomething out and putting something away - taking out or putting away hernotebook, her pencil box, her textbooks, and everything else in her desk. Forinstance, say we are going to write the alphabet, your daughter opens her desk, takesout her notebook, and bangs the top down. Then she opens her desk again, puts herhead inside, gets our a pencil, quickly shuts the desk, and writes an 'A.' If she'swritten it badly or made a mistake she opens the desk again, gets out an eraser, shutsthe desk, erases the letter, then opens and shuts the desk again to put away the eraser--all at top speed. When she's written the 'A' over again, she puts every single itemback into the desk, one by one. She puts away the pencil, shuts the desk, then opensit again to put away the notebook. Then, when she gets to the next letter, she goesthrough it all again--first the note-book, then the pencil, then the eraser--opening andshutting her desk every single time. It makes my head spin. And I can't scold herbecause she opens and shuts it each time for a reason.”The teacher's long eyelashes fluttered even more as if she were reliving the scene inher mind.
 
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It suddenly dawned on Mother why Totto-chan opened and shut her desk so often.She remembered how excited Totto-chan had been when she came home from herfirst day at school. She had said, “School's wonderful! My desk at home has drawersyou pull out, but the one at school has a top you lift up. It's like a box, and you cankeep all sorts of things inside. It's super!”Mother pictured her delightedly opening and shutting the lid of this new desk. AndMother didn't think it was all that naughty either. Anyway, Totto-chan wouldprobably stop doing it as soon as the novelty wore off. But all she said to the teacherwas, “I'll speak to her about it.”The teacher's voice rose in pitch as she continued, “I wouldn't mind if that was all."Mother flinched as the teacher leaned forward.“When she's not making a clatter with her desk, she's standing up. All through class!”“Standing up! Where?” asked Mother, surprised.“At the window,” the teacher replied crossly.“Why does she stand at the window?” Mother asked, puzzled.“So she can invite the street musicians over!” she almost shrieked.The gist of the teacher's story was that after an hour of almost constantly banging herdesk top, Totto-chan would leave her desk and stand by the window, looking out.Then, just as the teacher was beginning to think that as long as she was quiet shemight just as well stay there, Totto-chan would suddenly call out to a passing band of garishly dressed street musicians. To Totto-chan's delight and the teacher'stribulation, the classroom was on the ground floor looking out on the street. Therewas only a low hedge in between, so anyone in the classroom could easily talk topeople going by. When Totto-chan called to them, the street musicians would comeright over to the window. Whereupon, said the teacher, Totto-chan would announcethe fact to the whole room, "Here they are!" and all the children would crowd by thewindow and call out to the musicians."Play something," Totto-chan would say, and the little band, which usually passedthe school quietly, would put on a rousing performance for the pupils with theirclarinet, gongs, drums, and samisen, while the poor teacher could do little but waitpatiently for the din to stop.Finally, when the music finished, the musicians would leave and the students wouldgo back to their seats. All except Totto-chan. When the teacher asked, "Why are youstill at the window?" Totto-chan replied, quite seriously, "Another band might comeby. And, anyway, it would be such a shame if the others came back and we missedthem.""You can see how disruptive all this is, can't you?" said the teacher emotionally.Mother was beginning to sympathize with her when she began again in an evenshriller voice, "And then, besides...

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