LISTEN LIVE: Loading...



The Wrong Day | Ep. 193

(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

Think about a time you shared with someone.

Maybe you shared with a friend, by giving them half your sandwich or letting them borrow a book. Maybe you shared with a stranger, by donating clothing, food, or toys.

We’re about to meet a character who’s all about teaching others to share. Because she knows that giving can be its own gift!

Our story is called “The Wrong Day.” It’s inspired by tales from the East Asian island nation of Japan.

Voices in this episode include Helen Barrington, Erika Rose, Nick Sholly, Liza Lapira and Telly Leung.

Liza Lapira stars in The Equalizer on CBS and the recent holiday film Must Love Christmas. Telly Leung is currently starring opposite George Takei in the United Kingdom premiere of the Broadway musical Allegiance. He’ll next be seen in Season 3 of Warrior on HBO Max.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Nora Saks. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

Coloring Page

(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes, click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.

Things To Think About After Listening

What’s one open-hearted act you can do this week?

Maybe you can make a get-well card for a friend who’s been feeling under the weather, or help a grown-up with a chore. Perhaps you can make a bird feeder for your feathered friends outside, or clean out your closet and donate the clothing you no longer wear.

Think about your open-hearted act, then go and do it. When you’re done, think of a new act you can do next week. If you’re feeling ambitious you can do something kind every day of the week: Sunday through Saturday!

Musical Spotlight: Shamisen

Eric Shimelonis plays the shamisen: a Japanese lute derived from the sanxian – a Chinese stringed instrument with a snakeskin-covered drum-like body – which was introduced to Japan during the sixteenth century. (Courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)
Eric Shimelonis plays the shamisen: a Japanese lute derived from the sanxian – a Chinese stringed instrument with a snakeskin-covered drum-like body – which was introduced to Japan during the sixteenth century. (Courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)

The long-necked fretless Japanese lute known as the shamisen has a drum-like, rounded square body and a curved-back pegbox with side pegs. The shamisen also has three twisted-silk strings; in fact, the Japanese word shamisen translates to the English phrase “three strings.”

Many musicians compare the sound of the shamisen to that of the American banjo, since the shamisen’s catskin-covered body similarly amplifies the sound of the strings (note: nowadays, the material used to cover the body is synthetic). Traditionally, the shamisen has accompanied Japanese narrative songs, Bunraku (puppet theater), Kabuki (drama), and koto chamber music. But nowadays you can hear the shamisen in everything from rock music to jazz and bluegrass.


NARRATOR: Many moons ago, in a far-off land, a brand new queen came to power. When she first took the throne, the queen looked around her royal domain and noticed that many of her people had very much… but even more of her people had very little. There was a stark contrast between those with plenty of food on the table, and those whose cupboards were bare.

So the kind-hearted queen issued a royal proclamation.

QUEEN: I hereby decree that on the first day of each month, I shall collect donations of food for those who are struggling to get by! I shall dispatch my messengers across the land… and to those of you who are more fortunate, I ask you to look into your hearts and share what you can with those who are less fortunate! If we work together, we can narrow the distance between the haves and the have-nots!

NARRATOR: When the queen’s subjects heard the news, most of them were more than happy to give what they could.

VILLAGER 1: I’ll donate two bushels of fruit from my farm!

VILLAGER 2: I’ll donate three crates of fish from my traps!

VILLAGER 3: I’ll pitch in four loaves of bread from my bakery!

NARRATOR: But there was one person who was anything but happy: a successful rice merchant who lived and worked in a charming town by the sea.

MERCHANT: Uch! Who does this queen think she is? Asking us hard-working folks to donate our hard-earned food? I’ve put plenty of blood, sweat, and tears into my business, and this silly monarch expects me to give things away for free?!?

NARRATOR: The merchant knew that when the queen’s messenger came to town and spotted his thriving shop and fancy clothing, he could never get away with donating nothing.

MERCHANT: Therefore, I must find a way to give as little as possible… and make sure the queen’s messenger never walks through my door again. But how? I must think!

NARRATOR: So the merchant began to think.

MERCHANT: (as if having a sudden idea) What if –?!? No.

NARRATOR: …and think

MERCHANT: (as if having another idea) How about –? No.

NARRATOR: …and think.

MERCHANT: I know! I’ll – No.

NARRATOR: …Until finally…


NARRATOR: …he came up with a plan. A plan which he put into action a few days later, when he heard one of the royal wagons pull up outside his shop…

[SOT: wagon wheels, horse]

NARRATOR: …and saw one of the royal messengers come walking through his door.

[SOT: door opens, bell jingles]

MERCHANT: Oh, hello! May I help you?

MESSENGER: I believe you can! I am here on behalf of Her Royal Majesty the Queen! Her Royal Highness is asking those who are able to donate as much food as they can to those in need. Are you the owner of this business?

MERCHANT: Yes! Yes, I am!

MESSENGER: Very well. Then it’s my duty to ask you what you can donate today.

MERCHANT: “What I can donate today”...?!?

NARRATOR: The merchant scratched his chin.

MERCHANT: You ask what I can donate today! Well, it just so happens that I can donate one bag of rice.

NARRATOR: The messenger glanced around and noticed the shop’s polished floors, its freshly-painted walls, and its elegant light fixtures hanging from the ceiling. Then she gazed at the merchant, and noticed his expensive suit, his gleaming pocket watch, and his shiny shoes.

MESSENGER: I appreciate the offer of one bag of rice, sir… But with all due respect, the queen is asking everyone to donate their fair share! You seem to be running a very successful business here. Surely you could afford to give more than just one bag. I’d say you could afford to donate triple that!

MERCHANT: You mean, three bags of rice?!?

NARRATOR: The merchant put his hands on his hips.

MERCHANT: Three bags of rice is out of the question! I assure you, Messenger, one bag of rice is all I can give today! You see… a business like mine is very unpredictable. 

MESSENGER: Unpredictable…?

MERCHANT: Yes! Full of ups and downs! It all depends on the day! And you, good messenger, have arrived on the wrong day!

MESSENGER: The “wrong day”...?


MESSENGER: You mean “wrong”...?

MERCHANT: Wrong is right!

MESSENGER: Uh-huh… So… on the wrong day, you’re saying that all you can donate is one bag of rice?

MERCHANT: Precisely!

MESSENGER: What if I were to show up on the “right” day?

MERCHANT: If you were to show up on the right day, I could donate as much rice as you ask! That’s the changing nature of my business!


NARRATOR: The messenger thought for a moment.

MESSENGER: …But how will I know when it’s the “right” day?

NARRATOR: The merchant felt his heart jump. This was the moment he’d been waiting for!

MERCHANT: Well… since you ask… it just so happens I’ve been keeping track of all my right days and all my wrong days. And all my wrong days are as follows. (beat) Actually, do you have a pencil on you? You might wish to write this down.

NARRATOR: The messenger reached into her bag and took out a pencil and paper.

MERCHANT: Okay! So my wrong days are… Sunday…




MERCHANT: Tuesday…


MERCHANT: Wednesday…

MESSENGER: Wednesday…

MERCHANT: Thursday…

MESSENGER: Thursday…



MERCHANT: … and Saturday!

MESSENGER: …and Saturday!

MERCHANT: On those days I can only give you one bag of rice!

NARRATOR: The messenger peered down at her notes.

MESSENGER: Okay, so if I got this right, then –

MERCHANT: You mean wrong!

MESSENGER: If I got the wrong days right, then they are as follows. “Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.”

MERCHANT: Right! I mean, wrong! I mean, you got the wrong days right!

MESSENGER: Okay. But those are all seven days of the week! If all seven days of the week are the “wrong days,” then which day could possibly be left?

MERCHANT: You mean “possibly be right”!!!

MESSENGER: Uch! You know what I mean! With all seven days being “wrong” days, what day does that leave?

MERCHANT: Well! Isn’t it obvious? It leaves the day on which I’ll give you all you ask for!

NARRATOR: The merchant threw back his head and let out a laugh. He felt like a very clever guy.

But here’s the thing.

The messenger… was a very clever gal. And she was determined to prove just how clever she was – and show the wily merchant that two could play at this game!

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: What do you think: will the royal messenger outsmart the miserly merchant? Or will it be the other way around?

We’ll find out what happens, after a quick break.

[theme music out]


[theme music in]

NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “The Wrong Day.”

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: Before the break, a generous queen decreed that once a month, her wealthier subjects must donate as much food as they could to the poor.

But a certain rice merchant in a charming town by the sea wanted to donate far less. So he told the queen’s messenger that she arrived on the “wrong” day, so all he could donate was one bag of rice. The “wrong” days, he explained, were Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. All seven days of the week!

The messenger knew the merchant was playing a trick on her. So the clever woman decided she would play a trick right back.

MESSENGER: Good merchant. I appreciate you explaining your situation. And I’ll tell you what. Since this month I arrived on the “wrong” day, I will go ahead and collect your one bag of rice. But I will return next month. And we’ll see how things pan out.

NARRATOR: When the messenger returned to the palace, she got to work gathering a rather curious set of items.

First, she found a long piece of rope. Then a dozen pads of writing paper. A dozen bags of flour. A dozen buckets of water. And one big tub.

The next month, when it was time to go out and collect the next round of food donations, the messenger loaded her items into her wagon, harnessed up her horses, and set out across the country… heading straight for the charming town by the sea.

She arrived in the middle of the night, when everyone was asleep. She parked her wagon in the town square, directly in front of the merchant’s shop. And in the light of the moon she unloaded her items and got to work.

First, she filled the big tub with the dozen bags of flour.

MESSENGER: Okay… in you go!

NARRATOR: Next, she poured in the dozen buckets of water…

MESSENGER: I mustn’t waste a drop!

NARRATOR: …then she used a big spoon to mix all the flour and water together.

MESSENGER: Ooo! The flour and water are combining to form a sticky paste! Perfect!

NARRATOR: The messenger set the paste aside, then ripped out the paper from all one-dozen writing pads.

MESSENGER: There we go!

NARRATOR: Next, she used her paste to glue the sheets of paper together, side by side by side.

MESSENGER: I’ll stick this sheet to this sheet… and this sheet to this sheet… and this sheet to this sheet…

NARRATOR: By the time she was done, the messenger had one gigantic piece of paper – so gigantic, it took up the entire town square!

MESSENGER: Ha ha! This is great!

NARRATOR: Now that the messenger had her enormous piece of paper, she gathered its four corners and tied them together with the rope. So in the end, the whole thing looked like a colossal paper bag.

It was morning by now, and the town square was filling up with people. When they caught sight of the gargantuan paper bag they were bewildered! But the most bewildered person of all…

MERCHANT: What in the world…!???

NARRATOR: … was the rice merchant.

MERCHANT: What is this giant paper bag doing here? It’s blocking the front of my shop! No customers will be able to come in! Who’s responsible for this monstrosity?

NARRATOR: The royal messenger stepped forward.

MESSENGER: I am responsible, sir. I’ve come to collect this month’s donation. Of food. For the less fortunate.

NARRATOR: The merchant rolled his eyes.

MERCHANT: Ah yes. I remember you. You’ve come to take hard-earned food from hard-working people like me so you can give it to all of those lazy freeloaders out there. But what’s with the bag?

MESSENGER: Well, good merchant. I’ve spent the past month thinking over your generous offer.

MERCHANT: “My generous offer”?!?

NARRATOR: The merchant furrowed his brow.

MERCHANT: What “generous offer”?

MESSENGER: Oh, you know… Your generous offer to give me all the rice I asked for if I came on any day except for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday.

MERCHANT: Ah yes… that offer. But today is Tuesday!

MESSENGER: Exactly! It’s the “wrong” day! But I’ve decided I’m not going to wait for “the right day.” I will take the one bag of rice you promised if I came on the wrong day. And this

NARRATOR: She gestured toward her massive paper creation.

MESSENGER:This is the bag!!!!

NARRATOR: The merchant’s face fell.

MERCHANT: But – when I said “one bag,” I didn’t mean a bag this big!

MESSENGER: It doesn’t matter what you meant! This is a bag, is it not? It has sides, and a bottom, and a top, and now all we have to do is fill it up with rice and we’re good to go!

NARRATOR: The merchant began to tremble and sweat.

MERCHANT: But if you fill this bag up with rice, my business will be sunk! It will ruin me!

MESSENGER: One bag of rice will “ruin” you?

MERCHANT: A bag this big will!

MESSENGER: Well then…

NARRATOR: The messenger paused, as if thinking.

MESSENGER: Perhaps we can come to a compromise. How about if today you donate three bags of rice – the amount I originally set as your fair share. Then next month, I’ll come back for the rest that this big bag will hold!

NARRATOR: The merchant began to tremble and sweat even more.

MERCHANT: But – that’s more rice than I sell in a year! Or a decade! There’s no way I could –! I mean I couldn’t possibly – ! UGH!!!

NARRATOR: The messenger reached out and laid a gentle hand on the flustered merchant’s shoulder.

MESSENGER: Okay, okay. New compromise. This month, and every month, you donate your three bags. And as for the rest that this big bag will hold, you can deliver it to the palace any day you wish.

MERCHANT: Any day I wish…?!??

MESSENGER: Well, any day except Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. Do we have a deal?

NARRATOR: The merchant bowed his head. He knew he had been bested at his own game.

MERCHANT: Yes, Messenger. We have a deal.

NARRATOR: After that, the rice merchant became a different person, never missing a chance to give to those in need. With help from the clever messenger, he learned to be less tight-fisted, and more open-hearted, every day of the week.

Rebecca Sheir Twitter Host, Circle Round
Rebecca Sheir is the host "Circle Round," WBUR's kids storytelling podcast.



Listen Live