Palo Alto Weekly 34th Annual Short Story Contest
Second Place Teen

The Pendant

by Jason Hu

Author Bio

Jason Hu is currently an 8th grader at Jane Lathrop Stanford. He loves reading, playing sports, and writing. His talent for writing came from his love of reading books. Once he starts reading, he doesn't put the book down until the last page.

Inspiration

This story was a combination of my childhood and my countless adventures in books. Growing up, my grandma would always make these delicious dumplings. I would come home from school the there would always be delicious homemade food ready for me. The stories that the grandma in the story told the young boy were inspired by the stories that I was told by my grandma. I loved listening to my grandma's stories and that eventually grew into my passion for reading books.

Judge Comments

This is an original take on an old theme. Careful choice of details and well crafted structure make this a hard story to put down.

"Here, take this, Bing," said Grandma as she presses a golden necklace with a jade pendant into my hand. The pendant is shaped like a teardrop, the size of a small plum. It is small, yet heavy and my palm sinks as she lays the necklace in my hand.

"This looks beautiful, Grandma," I breath in as I stare at the dragon symbol carved on the pendant and the bright yellow chain.

"This pendant belonged to my grandmother," she replies.

Putting the necklace on, I feel the cold metal on my chest through the thin hospital gown. I lie back in the bed as Grandma pats my leg under the covers. Even though I have already been here for two weeks, I still notice the sharp smell of bleach in the spotless white room. I have been here since my bike accident. The driver didn't see me and I wasn't wearing a helmet, so I broke my arm and leg and had a concussion, too. I was rushed to the hospital and the doctors wanted to keep me here until I completely healed.

Grandma is the only one who has the time to visit me every day and I am so glad she comes. It can be boring alone in the room with no wifi and only three channels on the TV.

Since I started 6th grade this year, I haven't seen Grandma very often. Before then, she took care of me every day after school because Mom and Dad were busy with work. Grandma would make pork dumplings on Fridays and I always looked forward to eating them. The marvelous dumplings mounded high on a plate, still steaming and fresh from the pot. I would come home from school, eager to eat a dozen or more, the wonderful aroma of pork and chives filling my mouth. I love Grandma's pork dumplings. Even now, Mom and Dad are pretty busy at the restaurant and can only visit me late at night after the restaurant closes. Grandma usually comes by herself in the afternoon in the middle of the week.

"Grandma, tell me more about how you escaped China," I inquired.

"You want to hear that story again? OK. We headed to the docks in order to catch the last boat from Shanghai across the Pacific. Your uncle, your Dad's big brother, was so little. Your Dad wasn't born yet. We soon arrived at the checkpoint near the dock. The air was tense as we handed them our documents. There were so many people. Hundreds of families lined up to depart. Everyone was trying to leave before the Communists took over. Finally, the insignia of the government was stamped onto our papers and we were cleared to board the boat. But before we could even set foot on the boat, we were flagged down for inspection. I was so nervous. Was my jewelry making a noise? I had several necklaces and bracelets sewn into the lining of my jacket."

"Is this pendant one of the pieces you snuck out?" I asked, fidgeting with the pendant I wore.

Grandma continued, "Yes, that necklace was hidden in my sleeve. The soldiers looked for jewels as they knew everyone was trying to escape with their jewelry. They rummaged through our bags and suitcases. When they couldn't find any, they began to search our clothing, demanding us to show what is in our pockets. When I was asked to show the contents of my pockets, I accidentally dropped my ticket and as I bent down to retrieve it, I heard the jewelry in my sleeves clink. Clink. Clink."

"Did the soldier hear it?" I questioned.

"I don't know. I was so nervous I had beads of sweat rolling down my forehead, as they searched my pockets again and again. Good thing your uncle started to cry. Oh so loud! I was so happy to hear him cry because the soldier looked annoyed and shot me a glance. ‘Go on!' he said and waved us through. We boarded the boat with all the jewelry," said Grandma as she finished the story. "And now you have the pendant. So keep it safe, but most importantly, don't tell anyone I gave it to you."

I nodded at Grandma and that was when I felt my phone buzz. I look down and I see that Mom and Dad had texted me; they were on their way and would be here in ten minutes. That's weird. My parents usually can't visit me in the afternoon.

"Grandma, Mom, and Dad are coming soon. Can you stay?"

Grandma stood up suddenly. "Bing, I have to go," she said, her face paling more by the second.

"Already? When will you be able to visit again?" I asked.

"I, I don't know," said Grandma stammering. "I don't know. Good-bye, Bing." She pats my leg but her hand feels cold. "Hope you recover soon."

Grandma stands up and takes one last look at me. She seems unusually sad as she solemnly shuffles out the door.

I am spinning the pendant in my hands when Mom and Dad arrive. Dad is wearing a suit, and Mom is wearing her formal black dress. They rush into the small room.

"What are you guys doing here so early?" I ask. "And why are you dressed up?"

"Hi, Bing, how are you?" Mom avoided my questions.

"I'm OK. Grandma was just here. She left right before you arrived," I replied.

Mom and Dad shot each other a look of confusion before Dad asked, "Grandma was here?"

"Yeah, Grandma was here. She said she had to go"

"Are you sure it was Grandma?" questioned Dad.

"Yeah, Grandma has been visiting me ever since I was admitted to the hospital, She brought me pork dumplings too"

"Bing, I don't know how Grandma visited you, because she passed away a few days ago," declared Mom painfully.

My eyes widened and my jaws dropped. Grandma just died? I couldn't believe it. She had just given me a pendant. I start crying.

"We... just came from her memorial. She died in her sleep. You've been in the hospital and we came here to break the news to you," said Dad.

"But how... I just saw her, she... she even gave me this jewelry"

"What jewelry? Is it a jade pendant with a gold chain?" inquired Dad.

"Yeah, she just gave it to me today and told me to keep it a secret"

My Mom turned white as a ghost and my Dad looks like he is going to faint. I twirl the pendant hoping it would bring Grandma back to me. Dad opens his phone and shows me a picture.

It is a picture of Grandma surrounded by marigolds. In the picture, Grandma is wearing a jade pendant with a dragon symbol. I gasp. A tear rolls off my cheek onto the locket. Without warning, the pendant becomes deathly cold and altogether stops twirling in my hands.