Hana Walker and the Dead Flowers

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I read the above story in my daughter’s Sunshine English textbook and had two thoughts: 1. Aika is a seriously deranged person in need of professional help. 2. I could write a much better story that Japanese junior high school kids could understand and maybe even enjoy. So I did. Here is a 1,427-word story for Japanese junior high schoolers that I just released on Amazon.

My name is Hana Walker. I am 13 years old. My Mum is Japanese, my Dad is English. Japanese call me “half”. But I am not 50/50. I am 100 percent me. I speak English, but I don’t speak Japanese. I go to a Japanese Junior High School. I solve mysteries by looking and thinking. Every day is a new mystery…

Monday morning

I sit in the classroom. Aiko runs in.

She looks at the flowers in the classroom. She cries. I look at the flowers. I don’t cry.

“What’s up?” I say.

She looks up.

I shake my head.

“No, what’s the matter?”

“Matter?” she asks.

I sigh.

“Every day you run into the classroom. Every day you look at the flowers. Every day you cry. Why? Why do you always cry?”

She thinks.

“Because the flowers are dead.”

This is true. The flowers are dead.

“So what?”

“I bring the flowers every day and every day they die. It is not right.”

I look at Aiko. She looks at the flowers. I think for a moment.

“Flowers die every day. That is life,” I say.

“No,” she says, “that is not life. At home, the flowers live one week. They do not die every day.”

“I see,” I say.

I think.

“Then,” I say, “There is a killer.”

Aiko cries. She throws the dead flowers away. She puts new water and new flowers in the vase. Every morning she cries. She always cries. I don’t cry. I never cry.

I think.

Tuesday morning

The next morning is the same. I sit in the classroom. Aiko runs in.

She looks at the flowers in the classroom. She cries. I look at the flowers. I don’t cry. The flowers are dead. Again.

“Who is the killer?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I say, “I have many questions, but  no answers. For example, why do you bring flowers to school every morning?”

Aiko thinks.

“Because I like flowers.”

“But why do you cry?

Aiko thinks.

“Because my mother is dead. I see flowers, I think of her. Her name is Hana, Hana means flower in Japanese.”

“My name is Hana too. My mother is dead too,” I say.

Aiko throws the dead flowers away. She puts new water and new flowers in the vase.

I like Aiko, but somebody doesn’t like her. Who?

I think.

“I have many questions, I have no answers. But,” I say, “I have an idea.”

Wednesday morning

I look at the flowers. They are in a vase. They are dead. There is water. But the flowers are dead. I smell the water. It is not water. What is it? I don’t know. Is it vinegar? I don’t  know. But it is not water and the flowers are dead.

I have questions, many questions.

First question: who doesn’t like flowers?

Second question: who doesn’t like Aiko?

Third question: who is the killer?

I have no answers. Only questions.

I think.

The first question is easy. Who doesn’t like flowers? Men don’t like flowers. There is one man, the teacher. His name is Mr Saito. He looks at the flowers every day. Sometimes he talks to them. He likes flowers. I don’t think he is the killer.

I think.

Maybe boys don’t like flowers? There are 20 boys in my class. I think girls like flowers. But I don’t know. The first question is not easy, it is difficult.

Maybe the second question is easy. Who doesn’t like Aiko? I don’t know. She is pretty. She is a good student. But she cries every day. Somebody doesn’t like her. But who? The second question is not so easy. The third question is difficult. Who is the flower killer? I don’t know.

It is raining. We stay in the classroom at break time. I have an idea.

I write two questions: “Do you like flowers?” and “Do you like Aiko?” I give the questions to the 20 boys and the 19 girls in the class. Eighteen boys say they like Aiko, but they don’t like flowers. Eighteen girls say they like flowers and Aiko.

Two boys, Haruto and Takuma, don’t answer the questions. One girl, Nanaki, doesn’t answer the question.

I think.

At lunchtime I see Haruto. He runs every day in the track and field club. He is tall. He has many friends. He eats pickles from a plate. “Do you like flowers?” I ask.

He eats his pickles.

“Do you like Aiko?” His face is red. He doesn’t eat his pickles.

I have no answers. Only questions.

I see Takuma. He is not tall. He doesn’t run in the track and field club every day. He has a cookie. He eats cookies every day. He has a vinegar diet drink. He doesn’t have many friends. “Do you like flowers?” I ask.

He eats his cookie.

“Do you like Aiko?” He eats his cookie. He doesn’t drink his vinegar diet drink, but he eats one more cookie.

I have no answers. Only questions.

I see Nanaki. “Do you like flowers?” I ask. She looks at Mr Saito behind his desk and smiles. “Do you like Aiko?” She eats boiled octopus in a bowl of vinegar. She doesn’t speak, she only eats the octopus.

I have no answers, only questions.

Thursday morning

The next day in English class, I look at the flowers. In maths class, I look at the flowers. In science class, I look at the flowers. All morning, I look at the flowers. They are not dead.

It is lunchtime. I go to the toilets and wash my hands. I come back to the classroom then I eat lunch and I look at the  flowers. They are not dead. I look at the class. Haruto eats his vinegar pickles. Takuma doesn’t drink his vinegar diet can. Nanaki eats her octopus in vinegar. I look at the flowers. They are not dead.

It is not raining after lunch. The students go outside. I do not go outside. I look at everything in the classroom. There are no pickles on the plate. There is no vinegar diet drink in the can. There is no octopus in vinegar in the bowl. I look at the flowers.

They are dead.

I touch the flowers. I smell the water. I taste the water. It is not water.

It is vinegar.

I think.

I have the answer. I know who the killer is. Do you?

Friday morning

I meet Aiko, Haruto, Takuma and Nanaki before the first class.

“Every day the flowers are dead. The water is not water. It is vinegar. Flowers,” I say, “don’t like vinegar.”

“Three of you have vinegar in your lunches. Three of you can kill the flowers. But only one of you is the killer.”

“Tell me the answer,” Aiko cries.

I think. I smile.

“Aiko puts new flowers in new water in the morning. But after lunch they are in vinegar. Flowers do not like vinegar.

“Haruto likes Aiko. He has a red face when I ask him about Aiko. Nanaki likes Mr Saito. She smiles at him and Mr Saito likes flowers, so Nanaki is not the killer. Do you like flowers? Do you like Aiko? They are the wrong questions. Do you like vinegar? is the right question.”

I look at Haruto.

“Do you like vinegar?”

“Yes, I do!”

I look at Nanaki.

“Do you like vinegar?”

“Yes, I do!”

I look at Takuma.

“Do you like vinegar.”

He looks down. He doesn’t speak.

“No, I don’t!” he cries.

I say, “I understand. It’s OK.”

Aiko says, “I don’t understand.”

I look at Aiko. “Takuma doesn’t like vinegar. He likes cookies. He pours the vinegar in the vase of flowers at lunchtime when we wash our hands because he doesn’t like vinegar.”

Aiko cries. She says: “I have one question. Why my flowers?”

Takuma cries.

Then he speaks: “My mother wants me to be tall and thin. She gives me the vinegar diet drink. I don’t drink it, but I can’t tell my mother.”

“I understand,” I say. “You love your mother, and you love your cookies. You pour the vinegar away in the vase of flowers because you don’t like vinegar. But flowers don’t like vinegar.”

“I’m sorry,” Takuma says, “What can I do?”

Aiko thinks.

“I know,” Aiko says. “Give me your drink at lunch. I like vinegar drinks.”

She laughs. She doesn’t cry.

“Thank you Hana!” she says.

“No problem,” I say.

I look at the flowers. They are not dead.

“No problem at all.”

* * *

hw-dead-flowers-e-coverThe ebook is available from every Amazon site worldwide, the paperback from the Amazon UK and Amazon.com sites only at present. Here’s the sales blurb on the back of the book: This series of Hana Walker mystery short stories is designed to engage students of English as a foreign language who typically are in their first year of junior high school. Every book features an engaging mystery with the same cast of characters, a vocabulary section and set of questions. The books can be used as a focus of a reading and discussion lesson or given as homework for students to work on by themselves.

Word Count: 1,427 Tenses: Simple present Target language: Third person vs first person verbs

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