The Bobsledder’s Jacket

The Bobsledder’s Jacket

From Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul

The Bobsledder’s Jacket

For as long as he could remember, Jack had dreamed of being in the Olympics. For years he’d worked hard to become a good bobsledder, training and practicing, always getting better. Now he and his partners were in Sapporo, Japan, for the Winter Olympics—as the American bobsled team!

They were on their way to the opening parade. Athletes from all over the world were gathering to march into the Olympic stadium. Jack and his partners were laughing and joking, and their hearts were beating with joy. Everything was perfect—well, almost everything. The sleeve of Jack’s Olympic jacket had been torn. He loved the red, white and blue jacket, with “USA” on the front and the Olympic rings on the back, but earlier that day he’d torn it climbing a fence.

“Too bad about your jacket,” his friend Bill told him.

“Oh well,” Jack said. “I don’t think anyone will notice.”

“They’ll notice it,” said Bill. “Japanese people notice things like that. They’ll probably laugh at us.”

Jack didn’t answer. Bill’s father had been killed by Japanese soldiers in the island battles of World War II. Jack knew Bill felt uneasy about being in Japan.

Suddenly a little Japanese girl came up to Jack and pointed right at the tear in his sleeve. Jack smiled at her, not knowing what to do. So he said, “Uh . . . Ohayo . . . Good morning!” The little girl said ohayo back to him—and a lot more. She kept speaking words that he couldn’t understand and was pointing to his torn sleeve. Jack looked at his friends and shrugged. “I don’t know what she wants,” he said.

The little girl began to tug at his jacket. Her eyes were very bright and her straight black hair fell over the back of her winter coat.

“What are you doing?” Jack asked, but he knew she couldn’t understand him. Suddenly she started taking off her own coat. Then she looked up at him.

“She wants you to take off your jacket!” Bill said.

“Oh—I get it,” said Jack. “She wants to try it on. Sure, kid—here you go.” He slipped off the jacket and handed it to the girl. She took it and bowed. He bowed too. But when he raised his head again, she was running off with his jacket! “Hey!” he cried.

“The little thief!” Bill shouted. “She’s stealing it!” Jack ran a few steps after her, but in an instant she’d disappeared along the crowded street.

“I’m telling you, Jack—you can’t trust these people!” Bill said in a loud voice, his eyes blazing.

“Be quiet, Bill! Some of them may speak English!” one of the other bobsledders said. Bill said nothing, but his face was still red with anger. “So now what do I do?” Jack asked. “I need my jacket for the parade.”

“Don’t hold your breath, Jack,” another bobsledder said. “You’ll just have to go as you are.”

Twenty minutes later, they were standing with the other American athletes, waiting to start. Bill stood next to Jack. He could sense that Jack was worried. “It’s okay, buddy,” he said. “You’re with us—everyone can see that. I just wish I could get my hands on that kid.”

Suddenly Jack felt a tugging, this time on his shirt sleeve. He looked down. It was the Japanese girl. “You!” Jack burst out, and he put his hands on her shoulders so she couldn’t run off. But she only smiled at him. In her hands was his jacket. She held it up to him. Jack took it— and then he understood. The long rip in the sleeve was gone. It had been sewn so perfectly that he couldn’t even see the thread. He had to hold it up close to see the stitches. Bill was looking at the little girl with his mouth open. She smiled at him, and at Jack, and bowed again.

“Bill!” Jack said. “She didn’t steal it! She took it to be fixed!

“She must have run to her mother or someone—and they fixed it just like that!” said another bobsledder. “Holy cow, Jack—they didn’t want you to be embarrassed in the parade!”

The music began and the parade started. Along the streets of Sapporo, thousands of athletes marched together, proudly wearing the colors of their countries. Moving with the same rhythm and the same joy, each was determined to be the best that he or she could be.

There was an extra marcher in the parade on that proud day. A Japanese girl who spoke no English rode for a while on the shoulders of an American bobsledder named Jack—and then on the shoulders of another named Bill.

Tim Myers

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