'The Old Man & His Door'

Story Time

June 02, 1999|By Gary Soto

Editor's note: Misunderstanding his wife's instructions, an old man sets out for a party with a door on his back.

This is the story of an old man in a little village who was good at working in the garden, but terrible at listening to his wife.

On Saturday, while he was giving their dog, Coco, a bath on the porch, his wife came out of the house dressed in her best clothes. She was off to her comadre's for a barbecue.

"I don't want you to be late, viejo," she warned.

"I won't," he promised. "Just let me finish here."

But right then Coco jumped from the tub and ran away, with a mountain of suds on his back.

"I want you to bring el puerco," the wife screamed each time he came around the house. "Did you hear me? El puerco. Don't forget to bring the pig!"

The wife left, dizzy from watching. She closed the gate behind her and set off up the road.

The old man started Coco on another bath. When he finished he scratched his head and said to himself, "Pues, I don't know why my wife wants me to bring a puerta."

But he didn't dare argue. He shrugged and unscrewed the front door. Then he heaved it onto his shoulders and headed up the street.

The road was empty and the blue sky as wide as a hat.

Then, as he passed under a tree, the door bumped a beehive hanging from a vine.

All around him buzzed a swarm of angry bees.

"Ay, ay, ay," he shouted, and ran until his legs grew tired. "These bees are too fast!" Panting, he lay down with the door on top of him, until the bees buzzed past. Then, slowly, he opened the peephole and saw only a square patch of sky.

"That was close!" he said, and rose to his feet. The old man looked at the beehive and imagined the honey inside. No point in wasting it, he thought. So he drained the honey into his hat, balanced it on the door, and continued on his way.

Soon a ragged goose dropped from the sky and landed on the door, now heavier by the weight of a few scruffy feathers.

"Por favor, rest on my door," the old man offered. "Ride as long as you want."

The ragged goose honked gratefully. She rode for a mile, and when the old man stopped to rest, the goose flapped her wings and flew away. The old man wiped his brow and looked back at the door.

"What's this?" he asked, light in his eyes. He felt the weight of a big egg on his palm.

"Ay, dios," he said beaming. "I'm a lucky man!"

Now he hurried back to the road, because he knew he was late to the barbecue. His wife would be angry.

But he stopped after only a few minutes, when he saw a young man trying to load furniture into a wagon.

"Here, let's use this," the old man said, patting the door. He propped it against the wagon so they could use it as a ramp. Then they loaded chairs and tables, and a large piano that tinkled as they pushed.

"Muchisimas gracias," the young man said.

"De nada. You're welcome," the old man replied. "I never knew a door had so many uses."

Together they placed the door on the old man's shoulders. The young man balanced two watermelons on either side. "These are from my garden," he said.

The old man hurried along with his gifts and finally arrived at the comadre's house.

"I'm here!" he announced. The door slid from his shoulders.

"Ay, dios!" cried his wife. "What are you doing with the door?"

"Pues, you told me to bring it," he said, wiping his brow. "It was hard work."

"I said to bring el puerco, not la puerta!" She wheeled around to her comadre. "He never listens to me. I ask him to bring the pig, and he brings the door!"

The old man had to laugh. He took the egg from his pocket and said, "But look what else I brought."

They boiled the egg, sliced the watermelons, made a table of the door, and placed the honey hat in the center.

La puerta. El puerco. There's no difference to el viejo!

From THE OLD MAN AND HIS DOOR by Gary Soto. Text copyright (c) 1996 by Gary Soto. Illustrations copyright (c) 1996 by by Joe Cepeda. Reprinted by permission of G.P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers.

Pub Date: 06/02/99

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