Po the panda was in the middle of a familiar dream when he rolled over on his big round belly, fell out of bed, and crashed to the floor.
His eyes flew open. "Ouch . . . ," he murmured, rubbing his side. "That hurt!"
Po had been dreaming that he was a famous kung fu warrior, fighting dangerous assassins and protecting his village from harm. It was his favorite dream.
He tried to use one of those kung fu moves to kick himself to his feet, but his belly got in the way and he rolled back, still flat on his back.
"Po!" cried his father from downstairs. "What are you doing up there?"
"Nothing, Dad!" Po answered. He climbed to his feet, immediately jumping into another kung fu stance.
"Monkey! Mantis! Crane!" he said, calling out the names of the Furious Five, the most famous kung fu masters in all of China. "Tigress! Viper!"
"Po!" his father shouted one more time. "Let's go! You'll be late for work!"
"Okay!" Po called back. Still pretending to be a kung fu master, he grabbed a ninja star from the floor and threw it at the wall with furious might. But instead of piercing the wall with brute force, the star bounced right off. He chucked another star even harder . . . and the same thing happened. His prowess in his dream was not carrying through to his real life.
Finally, Po headed downstairs, struggling to fit through the narrow steps that led to the kitchen of his family's noodle shop.
"Morning," Po greeted his father. The panda didn't really look like his dad. For one thing, Po didn't have feathers, and for another, his dad was a goose!
"Let's go!" his father scolded. "The cabbage needs to be chopped; the carrots need to be peeled; and table three is waiting for their order—Secret Ingredient Soup."
"Sorry, Dad," Po mumbled.
Po's father sighed. "Sorry' doesn't make the noodles, son," he said. "What were you doing up there, anyway? There was so much noise."
"Oh, nothing," Po answered. "I was having this crazy dream . . ."
"You were?" His father looked up from the vegetables he was chopping. "What were you dreaming about?" he asked.
"What was I dreaming about?" Po echoed. "Uh . . ." He stalled, not wanting to tell his father the truth. "Uh, I was dreaming about noodles," he blurted out finally. "That's it, noodles!"
"Noodles?" Po's father repeated skeptically. "You were really dreaming about noodles, son?"
"Uh, yeah," Po answered, trying to sound casual. "What else would I be dreaming about?" He handed a noodle bowl to a customer.
"Oh, happy day!" Po's father exclaimed. "My son is finally having the noodle dream!" He threw an arm around Po, slipping an apron onto him. "You don't know how long I have been waiting for this moment. It's a sign!"
"Whoa, Dad," Po said uneasily. "A sign of what?"
His father beamed. "A sign that you are almost ready to be entrusted with the secret ingredient of my Secret Ingredient Soup! And then you will fulfill your destiny and take over the restaurant, just as I took it over from my father, who took it over from his father, who won it from a friend in a game of mahjong." Here we go again, Po thought.
"It was just one dream, Dad," he cautioned his father.
"No, it was the dream," Po's father said excitedly. "We are noodle folk, Po. Broth runs through our veins!"
"But, Dad," Po started to ask. "Didn't you ever want to . . . I don't know . . ." He tried to find the right way to ask the question that was on his mind. "Didn't you ever want to do something else with your life? Do something besides make noodles?"
"Po, we all have our place in this world," his father answered firmly. "Mine is here, and yours—"
"I know," Po finished the thought for him, "is here, too."
"Actually," Po's dad said, "it's at table three. They're still waiting for their soup!"
And with that, Po's father handed him the order.
"Excuse me. Pardon me," Po murmured, as he tried to maneuver his large body across the restaurant, which was much too small and crowded to fit a giant panda. "A thousand pardons . . ."