THE MORAL INDIVIDUAL

Yuwon

Jasmine did ride her bike to school the next day but did not get to talk to Lester and Eddy until they were walking home that afternoon.

"I hate school," Jasmine said.

"It's not worth hating," Lester said. "Just try to get through it without getting into trouble and don't let it change you."

"What do you mean, 'change you?'" Jasmine asked.

"My mother says to learn geography, arithmetic, science, and language because you'll need them, but only learn enough about the so-called social studies to pass the tests, then forget it."

"Your mother really says that?" Jasmine said amazed. "But the social studies are supposed to help you, 'become an adult,'" she said with a sneer.

"That's what my mother means by, 'change you' Jasmine. Do you know any really happy adults?" Lester asked.

Jasmine didn't say anything for some time, then said, "the only really happy adult I know is old Mr. Grandon and your mother."

Then she turned to Eddy who had been walking with them all this time without saying anything. "What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing. I've just been listening to you," Eddy said weakly.

"What do you think of the new girl in our class ... ah ... what's her name? Something Lem, isn't it?"

"Yuwon Lem," Eddy said. "She seems very bright," Eddy said.

"She's very pretty too, isn't she?" Jasmine said coyly.

"Yes, I suppose she is".

"Suppose she is?" Lester exclaimed. "She's beautiful. That gorgeous thick black hair and huge brown eyes," Lester gushed.

"Why Lester, are you already in love with her?" Jasmine teased.

"No!" Lester said, then added after a pause, "not her?" Then after another pause added, "but I think Eddy is."

"Is that right, Eddy?" Jasmine asked.

"Eddy was suddenly serious. "I don't know. There is something about her."

Now that would not usually have meant much since Eddy was in love with just about every girl he met, but there was something in the way he said it Jasmine noticed.

"The Lems live almost next door to me," Jasmine said. "Why don't you invite her to walk home with us tomorrow."



At school the next day, Eddy found Yuwon with two other girls he knew. He greeted them then turned to Yuwon.

"Hi Yuwon. I'm Eddy Blake. I just wanted to welcome you to our class."

Yuwon smiled and extended her hand, which Eddy eagerly shook. "Thank you, Eddy," she said. "Everyone has been so friendly here."

"I know we've just met, Yuwon, but perhaps you know Jasmine Jackson. She, Lester Moore and I usually walk home from school together, and since you're a neighbor to Jasmine, I thought you might like to walk home with us."

"Oh, that would be fun," Yuwon, said. "Can we start today?"

"Oh yes," Eddy said, suddenly realizing he probably sounded a little over enthusiastic. "We'll just wait for you," he added.



When Eddy got to the school entrance that afternoon, Jasmine, Yuwon, and Lester were already waiting for him.

"Hi Eddy," Yuwon said, smiling.

"I need to get going," Lester said. "Chores to do."

So they got going.

"How do you like school," Jasmine asked Yuwon.

"Not very much," Yuwon said, then added, "Everyone, like you, is very nice, but I don't like much else. I like math very much, but everything else seems pointless to me."

"It is pointless," Jasmine said. "We were just talking about that the other day. I said all the social stuff was to help us become adults and Lester asked me if I knew any adults who were really happy, and I said I only knew two.

"I know two," Yuwon said, "at least I did. My Uncle Harry and Aunt ToyLin were the happiest people I ever knew. Everyone said they never grew up but they had the most successful store in Lechakotet. My uncle died last year. He was sick for a long time, but no one knew it, even when he began to look sick. He made everybody laugh even on the day he died."

"Oh, your poor aunt," Jasmine said.

"My aunt's still happy, but quieter. She lives with us, but then everybody lives with us," she laughed. "Most of my family still regard her as some kind of freak and actually she doesn't care much for them either, but I spend a lot of time with her listening to her stories of the adventures she and my uncle had."

"Sounds like Mr. Grandon," Jasmine said.

"Who's Mr. Grandon?" Yuwon asked.

"That's his house right there," Lester said pointing at the house they were just passing.

"Oh, yes," Yuwon said. "One of our neighbors told my family he's a mean old man."

"He is!" Eddy said. "That's why we like him. He's only mean to stupid adults and silly children," Eddy said.



Yuwon walked to and from school with Lester, Jasmine, and Eddy every day after that. Jasmine would ride her bike sometimes but would ride slowly beside the others to be part of whatever the conversation was.

They talked about school, and Eddy and Jasmine told the others more about Mr. Grandon, and Yuwon told them some more about her aunt. They even told Yuwon about their adventure in the Shealist temple.

"Well I wouldn't have been afraid of that," Yuwon said. "Most of my family are Sheals and I've been in Shealist temples many times, and they're very depressing. I despise them, but I'm not afraid of them."

One day Jasmine was riding her bike when, just before they got to Lester's house, Jasmine suddenly stopped, and everybody else stopped to see what the matter was.

"My stupid chain came off," Jasmine said.

"Yes, it is a stupid chain," Lester exaggerated. "C'mon, let's see if I can find a smart one to put on," he said lifting Jasmine's bike which he began to role toward the barn workshop.

"See you guys later," Jasmine said, then followed Lester to the shop.

Yuwon and Eddy continued.

"How would you like to meet Mr. Grandon?" Eddy asked Yuwon.

"I'd love to meet him," Yuwon said. "Do you think he'll want to meet me?"

"I know he will, Yuwon."

When they arrived at Yuwon's house, Eddy said he'd come to get her after dinner and take her to meet the old man.



When Yuwon came to the door she was wearing black slacks and a brilliant red and blue blouse.

"You didn't have to dress up for Mr. Grandon," Eddy said.

Yuwon smiled. "I'm not dressed up," she said. "Besides, it's not for him."

"C'mon, then," Eddy said.

When they were on Mr. Grandon's porch, Eddy rang the doorbell. When the door opened, Mr. Grandon ignored Eddy, smiled and spoke to Yuwon, "And who might you be young lady?"

"Hello, Mr. Grandon," Eddy said. "This is Yuwon Lem. She's my friend from school. We'd like to visit with you if we could."

"You certainly can," Mr. Grandon said. "Do you want to visit out here, or would you like to come in?"

"Eddy and Jasmine have told me how charming your house is, Mr. Grandon. I think we'd like to come in," Yuwon said.

"Charming? I think that means strange and eccentric, but it's a nice way to put it. Please come in."

"So you know Jasmine Jackson," Mr. Grandon said.

"Yes, we go to school together, Jasmine, Eddy, Lester Moore, and I."

"Good," Mr. Grandon said. "Not that you go to school, that's too bad," he added.

"Then what's good," Yuwon asked a little bewildered.

"That you said, 'I,' and not, 'me'." he explained.

"Oh," is all Yuwon could think of to say.

"She looked at Eddy who shrugged his shoulders and winked.

"I don't know Lester," Mr. Grandon said, "but I knew his father, Stuart Moore, when he was alive. His father was one of the few adults I could stand in this city. What's Lester like?"

"I think he's a lot like his father," Eddy said.

"Hm," is all Mr. Grandon said.

"And where are you from?" he asked Yuwon.

"Just the other side of Plembertone, actually. We just moved here from there, but most of my family are originally from Lechakotet," Yuwon said.

"Lechakotet!" Mr. Grandon exclaimed. "I spent a few years there. I had a very good friend, Harry Fogel, in Lechakotet. Married a lovely Lechakotet girl. ToyLin, I think her name was. What good times we used to have." Mr. Grandon had a kind of far-away look when he said it.

Yuwon was listening with her mouth and eyes wide open.

"ToyLin is my aunt," Yuwon said. "My uncle Harry died last year."

"Harry was your uncle?" Mr. Grandon asked.

"Yes, my aunt ToyLin is here now, living with my family," Yuwon said.

"How is your aunt," Mr. Grandon asked.

"She's very happy, but I know there is something wrong. She says there is no 'rootaba,' whatever that is. I sometimes think she's in pain, but she just smiles when I ask her. 'There's no pain when you're here, Yuwon' she says."

There was a sudden change in Mr. Grandon.

"I'm very sorry, I'm afraid we'll have to cut our visit short. I just remembered something I have to do. I hope you won't mind. We'll get together very soon. So glad to have met you Yuwon."

He said all this while standing and ushering Eddy and Yuwon out the door.

"Good night," he said as they left.

"What was that all about?" Yuwon asked as they descended the porch steps.

"I have no idea," Eddy said.

"Did I say something to offend him?" Yuwon asked.

"No. If you had he would have said so. He's very blunt," Eddy explained.

"I almost cannot believe he knew my uncle and aunt," Jasmine said. "Isn't that amazing?"

"It would be if it were anyone else. You will be surprised when you know all the people he has known and all the things he has done," Eddy said.

"I do hope we get to have another visit... and a longer one," Jasmine said.

"Oh, we will. Mr. Grandon always keeps his word."

Yuwon's house was only a little ways from Mr. Grandon's, and they were walking very slowly, and very close together. Yuwon's hand kept brushing against Eddy's. Eddy suddenly stopped walking and took her hand in his. "Do you mind," he asked. "No, she smiled." Then they were at her door. They stood saying nothing for a moment.

Eddy turned to face her, and took both her hands in his. "I'll see you in the morning?"

"Of course," she said.

Then he leaned forward and kissed her. "Goodnight, Yuwon."

"Goodnight, Eddy. Thank you for taking me to meet Mr. Grandon." Then she kissed him and went in.



On their way to school the next morning (that's Lester, Jasmine, Eddy, and Yuwon) Eddy and Yuwon described their visit with Mr. Grandon.

"You went to see Mr. Grandon without me?" Jasmine protested.

"We would have invited you, but you were busy, remember?" Eddy said.

"I had to have my chain fixed, didn't I?" she said.

"Of course!" Eddy said. "How long did it take?"

"Not long, but I was there until after supper," Jasmine said defiantly. "Lester had all this lumber to move, and I stayed to help him."

"She was a big help too," Lester confirmed, grinning.

"What did you think of Mr. Grandon?" Jasmine asked Yuwon, changing the subject.

"I like him, I think. It wasn't a very long visit," Yuwon said. "He's not like any other adult I know except my aunt and he seemed very interested in her. He actually knew my uncle and aunt. In fact, it was right after I mentioned her he shooed us out. I hope we get see him again soon."

And they would, sooner than any of them expected.

***