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was completely covered with cracks, showing plainly that he had been mended in many places.

He gave me a surly look, which seemed highly incongruous with his big red nose and brightly painted smile. Then he puffed out his cheeks and stood on his head! “Don’t mind him,” the Princess said to me. “He’s cracked in the head, and that makes him churlish.” With her index finger she made little circles in the air next to her ear. As the clown walked off, he barked a string of profanities that hung in the air awhile, then evaporated.

“Oh, I don’t mind him,” I said, ignoring the Princess’s droll wit and the clown’s Parthian volley of expletives. I realized the choleric little creature was in his dotage and didn’t know any better. “But you’re such a pretty little knickknack,” I continued, “that I’d like to carry you home and stand you on my mantelpiece—if you’d deign to permit it.”

“I’m afraid I can’t accede to your request,” answered the china Princess. “You see, here in our country we can talk and move about as we wish. But whenever any of us is taken away, our joints ossify, and we can only stand straight and look pretty. That would make me very unhappy. You know, many expatriate china people are standing miserably on mantelpieces right now, pining for their homeland, but with no hope of repatriation.”

She was so tiny, I could have taken her in spite of her unwillingness and she would have been forced to capitulate—but, of course, my innate sense of right and wrong and my inviolable conscience force me to temper all my decisions with compassion. So let’s just say we made a bilateral agreement to part.

I walked very carefully through the rest of the china country. All the little people and animals scampered out of my way, fearing, understandably, that I might knock them over and break them.

After an hour or so I reached the other side of the country and came to another wall, in front of which stood a row of about six simple, utilitarian buildings. In climbing the wall I accidentally upset the penultimate little edifice—a china church—with my foot and smashed it to pieces. Three winged angels—really just an artist’s stained-glass portrayal of them as corporeal beings—actually flew a few feet into the air before shattering loudly among the detritus below! With one stroke I may have transformed the cleric and all his parishioners into infidels! It was unfortunate, and I wished there was something I could have done to redeem myself for the damage I caused, but I think I was lucky in not doing these frangible people more harm than breaking a cow’s leg and a church.

That’s all for now, Mom. I hope all is well with you. I love and miss you very much.

Love, Sonny

Marveling at how strange it all was, but touched by the filial devotion evident in the final paragraph, Dorothy carefully put the letter back exactly as she had found it

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