Monday, May 23, 2016


Read this story as a comic book here.

Tiptoeing Sunlight

By Misu Huynh

Creeaaak! The pale green hammock on the front porch rasped as my grandma’s arms rocked me from side to side in it, hugging me close to her chest. She stopped swinging, slipped into her ragged brown flip flops and dragged them through the dried leaves swirling around the dirt of the garden like a relentless tornado.

The back of her hand brushed against the thick leaves of a baby banana tree swaying at her knees. Then her lips kissed my forehead. Her eyes seemed to glow, even in the blazing sunlight. Antsy in her arms, I stroked the daisy she had picked from the rocky dirt. The mangosteen tree was speckled with fruit. Chrysanthemums bloomed purple and pink. Mangoes dangled from trembling branches. The leaves of every tree in the garden flapped in the thunderous wind like  wet laundry hung out to dry.

Rocks flattened blades of lime green grass. Pups howled and barked with joy, leaping and trying to lick my small fingertips. With each jump, their sandy brown fur spiked the air like thorns.

The next morning, I watched as the first rays of sunlight tiptoed through the leafy branches of the garden. The pond nearby rippled onto the shore. My grandma laid still in her bed, her blanket cloaking her arms and legs. Her rusted metal alarm clock sprang to life and still, no movement...

My grandma started acting unusual. The sound of her breathing got heavier and slower as each day passed. She could no longer carry me around the garden either.

After another a month or two, our family began agonizing. They worried their fingers just looking at my grandma sleeping. They lost sleep just thinking about her. Once my mom took her to the doctor, we learned that she had lung cancer. That explained my grandma’s symptoms. But this information didn’t help. It caused my family to panic even more.

That night, as the moon glowed in the gloomy night sky, I was watching TV. All of a sudden the screen blacked out. A draft whistled through the open window. Drops of rain leaked through a small crack in the wooden roof, sounding  as if it were crying. Thunder clapped, lightning bolts flashed across the sky, rain showered down, pattering, and tapping the window. Boom! Crash, Crack! Tap, Tap, Tap!

As she walked around the blackened garden, my grandma stumbled to her knees and onto her back. Bits of pebbles and dirt clouded the air. As I ran outside, drops of rain plopped onto the tip of my nose.

The sounds of my family’s sobbing echoed through my tiny two-year-old eardrums. Water from the stone fountain splashed against its edges. Slosh! Splash! Clouds slowly blanketed the moon, turning the sky pitch black except for small stars dancing and twinkling in the night above. My mom rested her arm under my grandma’s fragile back, her other hand holding me close to her chest.

The fence loomed above me, its shadow blackening the cement. A smell seeped from the rusted indigo there, a bitter smell, like rotting grapefruit.

“What is going on? Why does this have to happen?” My mom sobbed.

The ambulance sirens bellowed and a rapid sound blared from the speaker clinging to its metal roofs.  My grandpa hastened to my grandma’s side. His sweaty hands gripped the cold metal rail on the side of her gurney. The ambulance rumbled along the silent dirt road. Cars seemed to make no sound as they trailed off into the never ending freeway.

My family took a taxi to the hospital. We got there before the ambulance and waited in front. Standing next to my grandpa, my mother’s arms gripped me tight. Her black hair caressed my forehead. Suddenly, the ambulance screeched to a stop.

Everyone else zipped inside except for me and my mom. The hospital didn’t let children in. The giant building loomed above us as we waited.

After a while, my family came out, some holding back tears and others bawling, their tears cascading onto the ground. I was so young I didn’t know really what was going on. My grandpa whispered to my mom, trying to conceal his sorrow.

As she held me, I overheard their conversation. Their eyes were crimson and their noses drizzled snot. My grandfather’s eyes were squinty and rheumy. I sat there in my mother’s cradling arms, but they felt like my grandma’s, like a piece of her was still inside me. Silent, I sat there, inanimate, my eyes bulging, and drool snaking down my chin.      

About the Author
My name is Nhu Misu Huynh and I am nine years old. I live in San Francisco with my mom and dad. Living in Japantown, I enjoy its peaceful nights and many celebrations. I dislike the traffic that the celebrations cause, though. My birthday is October 7, 2006. Vietnam is where I was born and where my family comes from. I’ve been back there three times. At home, I speak Vietnamese. On weekends I go to the Au Co Vietnamese Center at Martin Luther King middle school and also go to practice the martial art Wushu at the Buchanan YMCA Center. One thing that I do really well is swimming. I got good at it by practicing many times every week. My favorite subject is writing. I am also the author of the poems, “How to Say Goodbye,” “Marquee,” “On the Edge,” “Blades of Grass,” “A Cloud of Dust,” “Vietnam,” “A Ruined Web,” “When You Ask Her Where She’s From,” and “Masquerade,” the graphic mini-novels, Four Thousand Steps and Silver Cliff, and the book of poetry, Masquerade.