Authors: Patricia MacLachlan
This is Emily's book
The morning sun came through the window curtains and made lace designs on Emma's bed. She got up and went to her parents' bedroom.
“It's morning,” she called through the door. “It's time for divided grapefruit with a cherry in the middle.”
There was no answer.
Emma opened the door and looked in. She had forgotten. Her mother and father were away for five days. Her father was an eyeball doctor, though he called it something else. He and her mother had gone to an eyeball meeting. Her aunt and uncle were sleeping in her parents' bed. Uncle Elliot with his face in the pillow and Aunt Evelyn with her mouth open.
Emma walked over to the bed and stood there. It wasn't fair, Emma thought, for her parents to go away and leave her with an aunt and uncle she hardly knew. Maybe they didn't know any children. What if they didn't
children? They probably didn't know anything at all about night lights and bad dreams and telling two whole stories before bedtime and no eggplant cooked in tomatoes. Emma leaned over to examine Uncle Elliot. He looked just like her father except that his hair wasn't disappearing like her father's. He was making funny noises into his pillow.
Plah, oosh, plah, oosh
Emma went around the bed to study Aunt Evelyn. She had lots of curly hair and pierced ears: one earring in one ear and two in the other. Emma frowned. That wasn't even.
“It's time for breakfast,” said Emma.
Aunt Evelyn closed her mouth and opened her eyes.
“Later,” she said.
“I'm hungry now,” said Emma.
Aunt Evelyn didn't answer. She was asleep.
Emma went over to Uncle Elliot.
“Good morning,” she said cheerfully.
Uncle Elliot made one big
ing sound into his pillow.
“I'm hungry,” said Emma.
tired,” said Uncle Elliot.
Emma frowned again.
“Would you give me seven kisses in a row?” she asked. “Papa always gives me seven kisses in a row in the morning.”
Uncle Elliot said nothing. He was asleep.
Plah, oosh, plah, oosh.
Emma went to the kitchen for something to eat. The cereal boxes were empty. Her big brother, Zachary, had eaten breakfast. Emma made three peanut butter and toast sandwiches. The peanut butter melted on the toast and ran down her chin.
She knocked on Zachary's door. He had his earphones on.
“It's morning,” said Emma. “Uncle Elliot is
ing and Aunt Evelyn's ears aren't even. They're asleep. And I want divided grapefruit with a cherry in the middle.”
“I hate grapefruit,” said Zachary. “I don't even like to touch it.”
“May I come in?” asked Emma.
Zachary shook his head.
“I'm writing a note to my girl friend, Miranda,” he said. “And listening to my Morris Fibley record. It's private. Come back later.”
Emma went downstairs and whispered awhile to her dog, Wayne. He turned over so Emma could scratch his stomach, but soon he fell asleep and twitched his legs, chasing a dream. He was not good company.
Emma ate four more pieces of toast and two apples and wished she had a parrot. She had read that parrots could talk and laugh. And that's what Emma wanted to do. Talk and laugh. Since she didn't have a parrot, she decided to run away. Just so everyone would know, she wrote a note:
Dear Aunt Evelyn, Dear Uncle Elliot (and Zachary, too)
When you wake up I will not be here. You did not make me devided greatfruit with a cherry. You did not give me seven kisses in a row. Papa always gives me seven kisses in a row. You did not let me listen to your Moris Fibly record. He sings flat anyway
Emma found an old letter written to her father so she would know how to end the note. She wrote:
Fond regards to the family
,Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Emma packed a paper bag with five apples and one pear, some writing paper so she could write letters, and a grape Popsicle. If she had had a parrot she would have taken him, too. She walked down the street, past a brown dog who was watching a crack in the sidewalk, past the grocery store, past the post office, until she came to Mrs. Groundwine's house. Emma always went to Mrs. Groundwine's house when she ran away.
Mrs. Groundwine was in her yard hanging sheets on the clothesline. She waved at Emma.
“Where are you headed, Emmy?” she called. Mrs. Groundwine was the only person in the world who called Emma Emmy.
“Running away,” called Emma.
“Nice day for it,” said Mrs. Groundwine. “But you got a little drip from your bag there.”
“It must be my Popsicle,” said Emma.
“Come in for a bit,” invited Mrs. Groundwine. “I've got some biscuits just out of the oven.”
“You don't have any divided grapefruits, do you?” asked Emma.
“No,” said Mrs. Groundwine, “but I've got an orange, and you can see Molly's new kittens.”
“How many kittens?” asked Emma as they walked inside.
“Seven,” said Mrs. Groundwine proudly.
Seven made Emma think about seven kisses in a row.
Mrs. Groundwine's house was full of cats. They sat on the counters, the tables, the chairs, and Mrs. Groundwine.
“Do the cats like parrots?” asked Emma.
“No,” said Mrs. Groundwine.
“Then it is good I don't have a parrot,” said Emma.
She ate a warm biscuit and told Mrs. Groundwine that nobody loved her.
“My parents are away and my aunt and uncle are only practicing being parents. But they are asleep. And Zachary is too busy.”
“Ah,” said Mrs. Groundwine, nodding her head. “That's like my cats. Rosie there hasn't spoken to me in weeks. Minna only comes when she feels like it. And Molly is much too busy with her kittens now to give me any time. Sometimes they are busy being cats.”
Emma thought about her parents, who were busy being away, and Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Elliot, who were busy being sleepy. And Zachary, who was busy being busy. Emma ate one more biscuit. It was too late for her Popsicle.
There was a knock at the door. Outside, Zachary stood on the porch with Emma's note in his hand.
“You spelled divided wrong,” he said. “And grapefruit and Morris Fibley.”
Emma and Zachary said good-bye to Mrs. Groundwine and the cats, who did not speak to them. Zach took Emma's hand and they walked back up the street again, past the post office, past the grocery store, and past the brown dog, who was now watching a hole by the side of the crack in the sidewalk.
“You should have told me you were lonely,” said Zachary.
“I wasn't sure,” said Emma, who liked holding hands with Zachary. “Are Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Elliot up yet?”
“No,” said Zachary. “Do you want to hear my Morris Fibley record?”
Emma shook her head.
“I'm sleepy,” she said, yawning.
“Do you want me to make you divided grapefruit with a cherry in the middle?”
“No,” said Emma. “You hate grapefruit, Zach. And you don't like to touch it.”
“That's true,” agreed Zachary. He followed Emma into her bedroom and watched her get back into bed.
“There's only kisses left, I guess.” He leaned over and gave Emma seven kisses in a row.
Emma smiled. “That's seven from you, seven from Uncle Elliot, and seven from Aunt Evelyn when they wake up,” she said. “How many is that, Zach?”
“Twenty-one,” said Zachary. He thought a bit. Then he gave Emma one more kiss. He knew most times she liked things even.
Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Elliot came with lots of rules. Rules about eating: how much and what to. Rules about sleeping: what time and how to. They had rules about cleaning and messing up, playing and resting, how to dress and when to.
In the morning Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Elliot exercised. Emma and Zach's parents did not exercise. They ran about a lot, but they did not call it exercising.
“Exercising twice a day is one of my rules,” explained Uncle Elliot. “Once in the morning, once at night.” He wore a torn sweat shirt and matching torn pants as he ran in place in front of the television. He made the same kinds of
ing sounds that he made when he slept. Aunt Evelyn did not make
ing sounds. She made no sounds at all as she bent her legs and arms in odd ways. First Aunt Evelyn twisted herself into the shape of a swan. Then a large U. Then a pretzel.
“Do you like what you're doing?” asked Emma.
“I love it!” exclaimed Aunt Evelyn. “It makes me feel like a bird. Free. Soaring! You should try it.”
Emma did try it. But it didn't make her feel much like a bird. It hurt.
“Does Uncle Elliot like to exercise, too?” asked Zachary.
“NO!” shouted Uncle Elliot,
ing in front of the morning news. “But it's one of my rules, exercising is.”
“I'll run with you,” said Zachary. “We could run around the block.”
“The block! That's a good idea,” said Uncle Elliot. “We'll take the dog, too. Dogs love to run.”
“Not Wayne,” said Emma. “Wayne only likes to sit. Or lie down.”
“Nonsense,” said Uncle Elliot. He snapped the leash on Wayne's collar. Wayne lay down. “Come, Wayne! Up, Wayne! Run, Wayne!” urged Uncle Elliot. He pulled while Zachary pushed Wayne from behind. When they left, Emma and Aunt Evelyn smiled at each other.
“What would you like to do now?” asked Aunt Evelyn. “Maybe you have homework to do.”
“It's only Saturday morning,” said Emma. “I always do my homework late Sunday night.”
Aunt Evelyn frowned. “Late Sunday night? When I was your age we had a rule to get our homework done early.”
“You have lots of rules,” said Emma. “We only have three rules. That's enough.”
“Only three?” asked Aunt Evelyn. “What are they?”
Emma leaned her chin in her hand. “Number one: Be kind. Number two: No kicking or biting. Number three: Any rule can be changed.”
Aunt Evelyn smiled. “You're right. Maybe that is just about enough rules.”
Aunt Evelyn took some knitting out of a large bag. The knitting was bright purple with shiny silver spangles on it. Emma thought it was very jazzy.
“What are you knitting?” she asked.
“Baby booties,” said Aunt Evelyn. “For the baby.”
“Our baby, your Uncle Elliot's and mine,” said Aunt Evelyn. “It's kind of a secret.”
“Does Uncle Elliot know?” asked Emma.
“Yes,” said Aunt Evelyn. “Uncle Elliot knows. And you, and your mother and father. That's about all.”
Emma thought about the new baby. She pictured it looking like Aunt Evelyn, short curly black hair, three earrings, purple spangled booties. It would be, Emma knew, a very jazzy baby. And it would have lots and lots of rules. Emma watched as Aunt Evelyn took one finished spangled bootie out of her knitting bag. The bootie was extremely large, almost large enough for Emma. Emma looked at the silver spangles. She thought a moment.
“Aunt Evelyn, I'm very glad about your baby.”
“Ditto,” said Aunt Evelyn.
“What does ditto mean?” asked Emma.
“It means âme too,'” said Aunt Evelyn.