The First Original Writing Competition
Primary School Group
Platinum Award

Written by 
Zhang Yifei, West Shilin Primary School, Shaanxi Province, China 
Date: Oct, 2016

Class … review … test; test … review … class. My daily life revolves around these three activities. Pretty boring, right? Not really. I also have time that is all my own in the precious intervals that lie between my academic endeavors.

I am crazy fond of dogs and share an unapologetically natural affinity with them. I’ve raised ‘Meatball’ since he was a puppy. Of course, he’s a bit rotund and delightfully roly-poly – a real cutesy! I spent just about all of my time outside of class with him. He is my refuge … my bosom pal. Since he joined our family two years ago, life with Meatball has been what I have come to call ‘ladles full of three-flavor soup’, intertwined with indelibly delicious memories ranging from sweet, to sour, and to spicy.


Meatball is a stray dog. Our first meeting was a sour experience indeed – like a ladleful of heartrendingly sour soup.

Leaving the house one morning, I came upon a sickly thin puppy just several steps away from our front door. He followed behind me for a few blocks. At the time, I gave no particular attention to the mangy runt. Returning home that afternoon, that same homeless puppy followed me back home to our front door. Despite my general deep affection for canines, I really hoped this puppy wouldn’t hang around. My father was a stickler for cleanliness and wanted nothing to do with dogs, cats and the like. I knew that if I brought this one inside, I’d be calling down a heap of trouble on my head. I thus felt that I had no choice but to pretend not to notice this persistent puppy. I turned around, ducked through alleyways and across streets and only returned home after having given it the slip.

That night, a thunderstorm unleashed a downpour over the area. Looking out into the pitch black, I could hear only the pounding of heavy raindrops. Several small trees had toppled in the wind, while regular bolts of lightning, appearing like the sharpened fangs of some sky-bound beast, made me shrink instinctively in fear.

My mind suddenly turned to that poor dog that I’d seen earlier that day. I felt the urge to go out and see if I could find how it was doing. Not surprisingly, it was curled up against one of the walls of our house, shivering and panting anxiously. I remember its pitiful whines as clearly as if it was yesterday. I’m not sure what came over me then, but the experience played heavily on my heartstrings. Tears welled in my eyes. I cast caution to the wind and, braving the downpour, scooped the dog up and brought him inside. Fully aware of the fierce grilling I would be getting from Dad the next day, I nevertheless felt a warm glow welling in my heart.


‘Meatball’ and I were inseparable in our unexceptional yet brilliantly happy life together. These days provided ladles brimming with sweet soup … a honeyed feeling that seemed to brighten everything.

We did everything together, … slept, ate, watched television. He went with me as I walked to school and he greeted me without fail after class let out. When I carelessly left my red scarf at home, Meatball went and brought it to me -- so passionately that it was full of his saliva. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry …


Meatball and I enjoyed countless adventures together. We’ve conspired in hiding all of the family’s slippers away, stolen into the kitchen for an illicit snack, and so much more. It was always something sneaky and never anything good. Like the time that we upturned that pile of wheat straw … That really turned into a ladleful of spicy-hot soup … spicy enough to turn my whole face a bright shade of crimson red.

That afternoon, Meatball and I were walking along the road. Maybe it was his nature, but when we passed a pile of wheat straw, Meatball ran over to it and began leaping and jumping all over it with wild abandon. Seeing how happy he was, I couldn’t help but join in the fun. We rolled around together in the straw, turned somersaults and played hide and seek. A cool breeze blew over the scene, as comfortably as the feathery wheat stalks felt beneath our feet.

Only then did I return to some sense of what we’d done. The once-neat pile was scattered all around. It was a disaster. It took little imagination to understand that we soon be facing a world of trouble.

That evening, as I was getting ready for bed, I heard someone shout loudly and burst through our front door. Peering through the crack of my door, I could see it wouldn’t end well for me. It was Uncle Liu, the owner of that pile of wheat straw. I heard him talking with my father … “Hey! That daughter of yours and her fur ball of a dog made a huge mess of my wheat pile this afternoon! What do you plan to do about it?” My father, a self-made and just man, knew that he would have to make things right. He gave a friendly, sympathetic smile and said, “Brother Liu, I am so, so sorry about this! I’ll see that your straw is put back in place tomorrow!” Only then did I see Uncle Liu’s anger begin to abate.

Although Dad didn’t overly accuse me for my recklessness that day, my face still lit up a bright, fiery red. I wished in the moment that I could hide myself away in some deep, dark crack in the earth. I tossed and turned in bed. I didn’t get a wink of sleep all night.

A silly girl and her stupid dog face the unknown, together. Through all of it, I finally came to the realization that happiness is actually quite simple. The everyday, humdrum events that unfold when one is not in school can actually be the true ‘spice’ of life … the stuff of which flavorful memories are made.

Reviewer Comments

1. The sour, sweet, and spicy flavors in the author’s ‘3-flavor soup’ echo the author’s experience with her rescuestray dog Meatball. The metaphor is intriguing and compelling. 

2. The author describes her first encounter with Meatball as a ladleful of heartrendingly sour soup. After studiously avoiding and shaking off a puppy that she encounters in the street, it is only during a thunderstorm, when she finds the puppy curled up against a wall, shivering and whining in the cold, that she decides to save it from misery and bring it into the house. This vividly written narrative draws the reader into the story. 

3. Daily life with ‘Meatball’ is both unexceptional and joyful, which the author likens to a ladleful of sweet soup. The flavors turn mouth-burningly spicy when she and Meatball upturn a pile of wheat straw, which leads to the owner having a heated talk with her father. This ‘three-flavor soup’ defines the flavors of the author’s extracurricular life and opens her eyes to the true nature of happiness. This essay is well structured, with good use of words and a clean, flowing narrative. 

The author’s equating her experience raising a dog to the three different flavors in a bowl of soup provides a lively and highly realistic vehicle for her narrative, which richly captures the interactions and emotional ties between humans and animals.