Little Umbrella

by on Wednesday, 19 June 2013 Comments

As Little Umbrella opened her eyes for the first time, she found herself hanging on a hook near the exit door of a bright and spacious convenience store. The space around her was filled with toothpaste, sandwiches or cold drinks, and was enlivened with the concert made by tinkling coins, automated musical doors and cashiers’ greetings. The lights and the voices both hurt and stimulated her senses, not yet used to the hubbub of the world.

The rain was pouring outside… It was not long before a middle-aged lady came into the shop and bought Little Umbrella, finding her the cutest of all the umbrellas gracing the shop with the rainbow of their colors. Balancing in the streets over the head of the lady, Little Umbrella felt very joyful: she had found someone to whom she could dedicate her existence, making sure that her owner, well protected from the rain, would never catch a cold. The lady had a soft and firm grasp on her handle. Little Umbrellas looked at storefronts together with her friend and possessor, while waving to the other umbrellas nearby – and in that kind weather there were many, many of them.

The lady got into a bus, and carefully folded Little Umbrella, whom she placed at her side. Then, both the lady and Little Umbrella fell half asleep. The lady suddenly woke up just when the bus was reaching her usual stop, and she went off in such a haste that she forgot Little Umbrella on the seat... When Little Umbrella opened up her eyes, the lady was not here anymore. Instead, an old man was looking at her with perplexity. She was certainly a cute and brand-new umbrella, but she was unfit for a man, especially a man of his age. Still, he took her with him, and soon they both arrived at his house.

This was a large house, a house for an extended family. The old man fetched his granddaughter and gave her Little Umbrella. The little girl was overjoyed and brought her to her bedroom. She was duly introduced to Teddy Bear, to the dolls, the giraffe, the miniature lion and the she-duck. That night, lying at the foot of the bed, Little Umbrella felt deeply happy, and she entered naturally into all little umbrellas’ dreamland.

They spent a very happy weekend together. The little girl was incessantly folding and unfolding her umbrella, posing with her as a ballerina or a princess. The following Monday was one of these Rainy Mondays, and the girl went to school with Little Umbrella, who arose much envy from the girls’ schoolmates. Still, on the last day of the same week, it was a boy – the bully of the class – who stole Little Umbrella from the schoolbag of her young owner, and started to parade with her on the streets, handling her brutally, and threatening people with her as if holding a sword.

One day, he went too far: in a fit of rage he raised his weapon against his mother. She immediately confiscated Little Umbrella, without ever asking where she came from and how she happened to be in the possession of the boy. The mother was a busy and rather impatient woman, with little time left for her son. She put Little Umbrella deep into the big bag that she always carried, and took her in all her travels, from the plane to the hotel, from an appointment to a business meeting, unfolding her from time to time when the rain was really too strong. Handled without care, treated with much indifference, Little Umbrella was not feeling happy at all, but she did discover the world, and grew both in weariness and wisdom.

It just so happened that, after one of these intercontinental travels she was now used to undergoing, Little Umbrella found herself on a chair, in an outdoor café of southern Europe; in a sleepy back street of an ancient city. The storm had now receded. Her owner, exhausted by her unceasing business trips and lost in her thoughts, had paid the bill, and she was now leaving the place without turning back - forgetting Little Umbrella on the chair where she had absent-mindedly placed her after the rain. The cat of the café slowly approached her.

She was a good and playful cat, who knew how to use her paws. She made Little Umbrella fall from the chair, took her cautiously with her teeth and transported her into the adjacent garden. With a few skillful moves, she unfolded Little Umbrella, kept the handle between her pawns, and laid down under her shadow, with a purr of satisfaction. Little Umbrella felt happier she had ever felt, standing right between the cat and the sun, and dancing to the rhythm of a tune coming from the house bordering the garden.

From then on, the cat and Little Umbrella spent all their days together – the rainy days, the sunny days. The cat who was always holding the umbrella became so famous in the neighborhood that the café was adorned with a new post sign, showing the affectionate embrace of the two friends. But the cat and the umbrella were not concerned with their newfound glory, and, carefree, continued to enjoy the sun, the rain and their own company. And they lived happily ever after.

Benoit Vermander (魏明德)

Benoit Vermander lives in Shanghai. He teaches philosophy and religious anthropology at the University of Fudan.

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