The Pand-a Land-a: Or, Why I Didn't Do My Homework

February 26, 2011
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Dear Teacher,

I’m really sorry that my project wasn’t handed in. It’s a long story, so I’ll start at the beginning.

You see, the problem was with the paper. The assignment was to research something from China, and you gave us this special kind of paper made in China from bamboo. It was all-natural, biodegradable, and everything.And then we had to write our assignment on it! Well, I tried my best, as you’ll see.

I was going to research the behavior of pandas. I stuffed the bamboo paper, colored pencils, and a cheese sandwich into my backpack and went to the County Zoo.

The pandas were acting pretty lazy when I first saw them, just sitting and chewing. I yelled, “Hey! Wake up!” and threw half my cheese sandwich at them. Things started to get really weird right about then.

One of the pandas looked up and beckoned at me with his paw. I swear, he beckoned! Then he winked at me! I looked around; no zookeepers in sight. So I climbed over the railing into the exhibit.

Both the pandas looked at me for a few moments, and I felt silly just standing there. But then one of them winked and turned around to the rock wall of the exhibit. Then he walked right through it!

“What, do you think I can do that?” I asked the other panda. He rolled his eyes and walked through the wall as well. Now I was nervous – if any of my friends saw me doing this, they would make fun of me for months. Slowly I approached the stone. I tried to laugh it off, but quickly stopped, because my voice sounded a few octaves too high.

When I touched the stone, it felt warm and had the texture of yogurt. This is going to be really gross, I thought.

It was really gross. But I forgot all about that as I walked through it and looked around. It was a magical kingdom for pandas!

Bamboo houses, cars, mailboxes, and shopping malls dotted the horizon, and bamboo forests sprouted everywhere. Pandas watered bamboo gardens, pushed bamboo strollers, and painted bamboo fences.

I looked around for my “guides” and realized that I couldn’t find them. I asked a panda passing on a bamboo bicycle, “Have you seen two, erm, pandas around here?” The sentence felt lame even in my head.

The panda looked quizzical and pointed in the distance, to a large bamboo palace. “Thanks,” I said, feeling embarrassed. What was I thinking? They were all pandas!

Deep chanting came from inside the palace as I approached it. I knocked on the door; there was no response, so I entered.

It was some kind of ceremony, complete with bamboo drums. Dozens of pandas sat all around the room, probably more than exist on earth. Is this why they are so rare? I thought.

Suddenly they noticed me and froze. Every beady black eye in the room turned to stare at me. I felt very self-conscious and straightened my shirt.

“Hi,” I said. “Is there anyone here who knows how to speak English?”

Why was I talking to the pandas, you might ask. Well, I could have sworn that the pandas were chanting in human-like voices.

“I can,” said a giant panda boldly, stepping forward. “What do you want, and how did you get here?”

“You see, I was at the County Zoo, and there were these two pandas, and they led me into this wall that felt like yogurt and then I was… here,” I finished lamely.

All the pandas scowled at me.

“Now that you are here,” the big panda growled, “you must prove yourself.”

“Prove what?” I asked.

“Prove that you are worthy to live, so we do not kill you.”

I was scared. “What is this place?”

“The Pand-a Land-a. Where all pandas can live in happiness, without fear of humans.” He glowered at me. “You must complete one task in order to live: get rid of the old panda who lives on the hill outside the palace, preferably by killing him. He’s a terrible bother, always telling these awful riddles. If you do this, then we will let you go, but be careful to never come back!”

“Um, sure,” I said. “Right away.”

Now what was I supposed to do? I couldn’t kill a full-grown panda! But I had to if I ever wanted to leave.

A panda guide came with me and showed me where the old panda usually sat. “Be cautious,” she warned me. “He is very sly.”

I turned after her to ask one more question, but she was gone. When I turned around, the old panda was there. He had a very long white mustache, and sat serenely perched on the hill. “Come here, child,” he said in a raspy voice. “You don’t want to be here anymore than I do, correct?”

I nodded.

“So, I will leave, and you can say that you killed me, if you can answer my riddle. I’ve gotten tired of this place anyway. I might go out into the real world again for a while, maybe frighten some humans. So – here is the riddle: A brother and sister panda were fighting with each other. Their mother wanted them to stop, so she made them stand on one blanket, but they could not touch each other. How did she do this?”

“Uhh..” I stammered. “I don’t know. I’ve never been good with riddles.”

“I feel sorry for you,” said the old panda, “so I will tell you the answer. The two young pandas were standing on the same blanket, but there was a door between them. Because you did not answer the riddle, you must give me something in return.”

“I have some colored pencils - but they’re kind of chewed on - half a cheese sandwich, and some bamboo paper.”

“Hmm, that sounds delicious,” said the old panda. “Give it to me, and then I will leave.”

I reluctantly handed it over.

“Goodbye, foolish child!” exclaimed the panda. “I hope that I do not ever see you again.” Then he vanished! I don’t know how, but I vanished too, and appeared back at the zoo.

The two pandas in the exhibit stared at me. I glared back at them and ran away from their exhibit.

The next day when the assignment was due, I didn’t have the bamboo notebook paper because the old panda had taken it! I went to all the craft stores to get a replacement, but they didn’t have any! So you see, it was not my fault.

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Hover This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 30, 2011 at 6:51 am
Wow! Very good! ;)
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