A Cricket Boy

A CRICKET BOY A long time ago, cricket fight ing caught on in the im pe rial court, with the em peror lead ing the fad. A lo cal magis trate in Huayin, who wanted to win the favor of the mon arch, tried in ev ery way to get him the best fight ing crick ets. He had a strat egy for doing so: He man aged to get a cricket that was very good at fight ing. He then made his sub or dinates go to the heads of each vil lage and force them to send in a constant sup ply of fight ing crickets. He would send
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  A CRICKET BOYA long time ago, cricket fight ing caught on in the im pe rial court, with the em perorlead ing the fad. A lo cal magis trate in Huayin, who wanted to win the favor of themon arch, tried in ev ery way to get him the best fight ing crick ets. He had a strategy for doing so: He man aged to get a cricket that was very good at fight ing. Hethen made his sub or dinates go to the heads of each vil lage and force them tosend in a constant sup ply of fight ing crickets. He would send to the im pe rial courtthe crick ets that could beat the one he was keeping. The o ret i cally, everything should have worked smoothly. How ever, as the mag istrate was ex -tremely zeal ous to please the em peror, he meted out harsh pun ishment on any vil lage heads who failed to ac com plish their tasks. The vil lage headsin turn shifted the bur den to the poor vil lag ers, who had to search for the crickets. If they failed to catch them, they had to pur chase them from some -one else,or they had to pay a levy in cash. The small in sects suddenly be came a rare com mod ity. Specu la tors hoardedgood crick ets, buy -ing them at a bar gain and selling them for an ex or bi tantprice. Many vil lage heads worked hand in hand with the spec u la tors to make prof its. In so do ing, they bank rupted many a fam ily.Cheng Ming was one such vil lager. The head of his vil lage del egated part of his duties to him because he found Cheng Ming easy to push around. Cheng Ming did notwant to bully his fel low vil -lag ers as the vil lage head did him, so he of ten had topay cash out of his own pocket when he failed to col lect any com pe tent crickets.Soon the little proper ties he had were drain ing away, and he went into a se verede pres sion. One day, he said to his wife that he wanted to die.“Death is easy, but what will our son do without you?” asked his wife, glancing attheir only son, sleep ing on the kang. “Why can’t we look for the crick ets our selvesin stead of buy ing them? Per haps we’ll strike some good luck.”Cheng Ming gave up the idea of sui cide and went to search for crick ets. Armedwith a tiny bas -ket of cop per wires for catching crick ets and a num ber of smallbamboo tubes for holding them, he went about the te dious task. Each day he gotup at dawn and did not re turn un til late in the eve ning. He searched beneath brickde bris, dike crev ices, and in the weeds and bushes. Days went by, and he caughtonly a few me di o cre crick ets that did not mea sure up to the mag istrate’s standards. His wor -ries increased as the dead line drew closer and closer. The day for cricket de liv ery fi nally came, but Cheng Ming could not pro duce anygood ones. He was clubbed a hundred times on the buttocks, a form of corpo ralpun ish ment in the ancient Chi -nese ju di cial sys tem. When he was re leased thenext day, he could barely walk. The wound on his buttocks con fined him to bed fordays and fur ther delayed his search for crick ets. He thought of com -mit tingsuicide again. His wife did not know what to do. Then they heard about a hunchbacked for tune-teller who was visiting the vil lage.Cheng Ming’s wife went to see him. The for tune-teller gave her a piece of pa perwith a pic ture on it. It was a pa vil ion with a jiashan (rock gar den) be hind it. Onthe bushes by the jiashan sat a fat male cricket. Be side it, how ever, lurked a largetoad, ready to catch the in sect with its long, elas tic tongue. When the wife got  home, she showed the pa per to her hus band. Cheng Ming sprang up and jumpedto the floor, forget ting the pain in his but tocks.“This is the for tune-teller’s hint at the lo ca tion where I can find a per fect cricketto ac com plish my task!” he ex claimed.“But we don’t have a pa vil ion in our village,” his wife re minded him.“Well, take a closer look and think. Doesn’t the tem ple on the east side of our village have a rock gar den? That must be it.” So say ing, Cheng Ming limped to thetemple with the sup port of a make shift crutch. Sure enough, he saw the cricket,and the toad squat ting nearby in the rock gar den at the back of the tem ple. Hecaught the big, black male cricket just be fore the toad got hold of it. Back home, hecare fully placed the cricket in a jar he had pre pared for it and stowed the jar awayin a safe place. “Ev ery thing will be over to morrow,” he gave a sigh of re lief andwent to tell his best friends in the village the good news.Cheng Ming’s nine-year-old son was very cu ri ous. Seeing his fa ther was gone, hetook the jar and wanted to have a peek at the cricket. He was re mov ing the lidcare fully, when the big cricket jumped out and hopped away. Pan icked, the boytried to catch the flee ing cricket with his hands, but in a flurry, he ac ci den tallysquashed the insect when he fi nally got hold of it.“Good heav ens! What’re you go ing to say to your fa ther when he comes back?”the mother said in dis tress and dread. With out a word, the boy went out of theroom, tears in his eyes.Cheng Ming be came dis traught when he saw the dead cricket. He could n’t believe that all his hopes had been dashed in a sec ond. He looked around for his son,vow ing to teach the lit tle scoun drel a good les son. He searched inside andoutside the house, only to lo cate him in a well at the cor ner of the court yard.When he fished him out, the boy was al ready dead. The father’s fury in stantlygave way to sor row. The grieved parents laid their son on the kang and la mentedover his body the en tire night.As Cheng Ming was dress ing his son for burial the next morn ing, he felt the bodystill warm. Im me di ately he put the boy back on the kang, hop ing that he would revive. Grad u ally the boy came back to life, but to his par ents’ dismay, he was uncon scious, as if he were in a trance. The par ents grieved again for the loss of their son. Sud denly they heard a cricketchirp ing. The cou ple traced the sound to a small cricket on the door step. The appear ance of the cricket, how ever, dashed their hopes, for it was very small. “Well,it’s better than noth ing,” Cheng Ming thought. He was about to catch it, when it jumped nim bly on to a wall, cheeping at him. He tip toed to ward it, but it showedno sign of flee ing. In stead, when Cheng Ming came a few steps closer, the lit tlecricket jumped onto his chest. Though small, the cricket looked smart and ener getic. Cheng Ming planned to takeit to the vil -lage head. Un cer tain of its ca pa bil i ties, Cheng Ming could not go tosleep. He wanted to put the lit tle cricket to the test be fore send ing it to the village head.   The next morning, Cheng Ming went to a young man from a rich fam ily in his neighbor hood, having heard him boast ing about an “in vin ci ble” cricket that he wantedto sell for a high price.Whenthe young man showed his cricket, Cheng Ming hes itated, be cause his lit tlecricket seemed no match for this gigan tic insect. To fight this mon ster would be tocon demn his dwarf to death.“There’s no way my lit tle cricket could sur vive a con fron ta tion with your bigguy,” Cheng Ming said to the young man, hold ing his jar tight. The young mangoaded and taunted him. At last, Cheng Ming decided to take a risk. “Well, it won’thurt to give a try. If the lit tle cricket is a good-for-noth ing, what’s the use of keeping it any way?” he thought.When they put the two crick ets to gether in a jar, Cheng Ming’s small in sectseemed trans fixed. No mat ter how the young man prodded it to fight, it sim plywould not budge. The young man burst into a guf faw, to the great em bar rassment of Cheng Ming. As the young man spurred the lit tle cricket on, it sud denlyseemed to have run out of pa tience. With great wrath, it charged the gi ant op ponent head on. The sud den burst of ac tion stunned both the young man and ChengMing. Be fore the lit tle crea ture planted its small but sharp teeth into the neck of the big cricket, the ter ri fied young man fished the big in sect out of the jar just intime and called off the con test. The lit tle cricket chirped vic -toriously, and ChengMing felt ex ceed ingly happy and proud.cheng Ming and the young man were com ment ing on the lit tle cricket’s ex traor dinary prow ess, when a big rooster rushed over to peck at the lit tle cricket in the jar. The little cricket hopped out of the jar in time to dodge the at tack. The rooster thenwent for it a sec ond time, but sud denly be gan to shake its head vi o lently,scream ing in ag ony. This sud den turn of events baf fled Cheng Ming and theonlook ers. When they took a closer look, they could not be lieve their eyes: The little cricket was gnaw ing on the rooster’s bloody comb. The story of a cricket fighting a rooster soon spread through -out the vil lage and beyond. The next day, Cheng Ming, along with the vil lage head, sent the cricket to the magis trate and asked for a test fight with his mas ter cricket, but the mag is trate refused on the ground that Cheng Ming’s cricket was too small.“I don’t think you have heard its rooster-fight ing story,” Cheng Ming pro claimedwith great pride. “You can’t judge it only by its ap pear ance.”“Non sense, how can a cricket fight a rooster?” asked the mag is trate. He or dereda big rooster brought to his office, think ing that Cheng Ming would quit tell ing histall tales when his cricket be -came the bird’s snack. The bat tle be tween the lit tlecricket and the rooster ended with the same re sult: The rooster sped away in greatpain, the lit tle cricket chirping tri um phantly on its heels. The mag is trate was first as ton ished and then pleased, think ing that he fi nallyhad the very in sect that could win him the em peror’s fa vor. He had a golden cage  man u factured for the little cricket. Plac ing it cau tiously in the cage, he took it tothe em peror. The em peror pit ted the lit tle cricket against all his vet eran com bat ant crick ets,and it de feated them one by one. What amused the em peror most was that thelittle creature could even dance to the tune of his court mu sic! Ex tremely pleasedwith the magic little crea ture, the em peror re warded the mag is trate lib er allyand pro moted him to a higher po sition. The mag is trate, now a gov er nor, in turnexempted Cheng Ming from his lev ies in cash as well as crick ets.A year later, Cheng Ming’s son came out of his stu por. He sat up and rubbed hiseyes, to the great surprise and joy of his par ents. The first words he ut tered to his ju bilant par ents were, “I’m so tired and hungry.” Af ter a hot meal, he told them, “Idreamed that I had be come a cricket, and I fought a lot of other crick ets. It wassuch fun! You know what? The great est fun I had was my fight with a couple of roost ers!” Ecological succession Ecological succession , a fundamental concept inecology,refers to more or less predictable and orderly changes in the composition or structure of anecological community. Seral communities A seral community is an intermediate stage found in an ecosystem advancingtowards its climax community. In many cases more than one seral stage evolvesuntil climax conditions are attained.[2] A prisere is a collection of seres making upthe development of an area from non-vegetated surfaces to a climax community.Depending on the substratum and climate, a seral community can be one of thefollowing: A hydrosere community.Hydrosere Community in freshwater Lithosere Community on rock Psammosere Community on sand Xerosere Community in dry area Halosere Community in saline body (e.g. a marsh) Climax community
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