Authors: Patricia MacLachlan
“Aunt Evelyn,” said Emma, “I have something bad to tell you.”
“What's that?” asked Aunt Evelyn.
“Your baby will eat those spangles.” Emma pointed to the baby booties.
“Oh dear,” said Aunt Evelyn. “I suppose you are right. I don't know very much about babies.”
Emma felt sorry for Aunt Evelyn.
“Don't worry, Aunt Evelyn, I was a baby about seven years ago. And my mother told me what I was like.”
Aunt Evelyn put her arm around Emma. “You'd better tell me all about it,” she said.
“First of all,” Emma began, “babies don't pay attention to rules. They will eat spangles on booties, and wet and spit up milk and cry and wake up and sleep whenever they want to.”
Aunt Evelyn sighed. “That's true, isn't it?”
Emma nodded. She looked at the purple spangled booties.
“Aunt Evelyn, I have something more bad to tell you.”
“Now what?” asked Aunt Evelyn.
“Those purple booties are much, too big for your baby,” said Emma. “But I have some in my room that I saved from when I was a baby. They are not purple. I could give them to you.”
Aunt Evelyn smiled at Emma. “Only if you want to, Emma.”
Emma went into her room and found the booties. They were pink and blue. And they were very small. Aunt Evelyn loved them.
“Emma,” she said, “I have noticed something. I think the purple spangled booties will fit you.”
“I knew that,” said Emma.
Aunt Evelyn laughed. “Oh, Emma. I like you.”
“Ditto,” said Emma.
After a while Uncle Elliot and Zachary came back from running. Zachary was carrying Wayne's leash. Uncle Elliot was carrying Wayne. He put Wayne down and Wayne found his favorite sun spot on the floor and lay down. Uncle Elliot lay down on the couch.
“That was fun,” said Zachary.
“No, it was not fun,” said Uncle Elliot. “That dog wouldn't run.”
“I know,” said Emma. “Wayne has his own rules and they are not about exercising. They are about sitting, lying down, sleeping, and eating.”
“Just like babies,” said Aunt Evelyn.
“Could I exercise with you tonight, Uncle Elliot?” asked Zach.
Uncle Elliot moaned. “I don't know, Zach. I'm so tired that I may have to break my rule about exercising twice a day.”
“That's all right, dear,” said Aunt Evelyn. “Rules can be changed.”
a wonderful rule,” said Uncle Elliot with lots of feeling.
“I think so, too,” said Aunt Evelyn.
“Ditto,” said Emma.
Emma set the table for dinner.
“We have no lowercase spoons,” she said. “Only capitals.”
“Capitals are fine,” said Aunt Evelyn, smiling.
Zachary came to the table wearing his favorite false nose and glasses. Uncle Elliot came wearing his own nose and his own glasses. Emma came with dirty hands.
“Wash the backs of your hands, too,” said Aunt Evelyn.
“But I don't eat with the backs,” Emma protested.
“You don't eat off the backs of the plates, either,” said Uncle Elliot. “But we wash them.”
Emma washed her hands.
“What are we having for dinner?” asked Zachary.
“Lots of healthy things,” said Aunt Evelyn happily.
Emma frowned. She saw meat loaf, potatoes, and salad, and something green in a bowl. It was not eggplant cooked in tomatoes. It was something else bad.
“What is that?” asked Emma.
“That is broccoli,” said Uncle Elliot.
“May I have cold cereal?” asked Emma.
“No you may not,” said Aunt Evelyn. She served dinner.
“Don't let the potatoes and gravy touch the salad!” cried Emma.
“It doesn't make any difference,” said Zachary. “They all mix together in your stomach anyway.”
“Don't talk about stomachs at the table,” said Emma, squeezing up her face and fluttering her hand. She tipped over her glass of milk. It made a river across the table and into Zachary's lap. He jumped up.
“I can't eat here,” he said. He took his plate and chair and sat in the corner facing the wall. Emma and Uncle Elliot cleaned up the table. Wayne lapped some of the milk up off the floor and lay down waiting for more.
“Now,” said Uncle Elliot, “let's all eat up!”
“Where does broccoli come from?” asked Emma.
“It's a plant,” said Aunt Evelyn. “Try some.”
“I can't,” said Emma.
“Of course you can,” said Uncle Elliot. “I can eat anything. You can eat anything.”
“You should have eaten it first,” said Zachary to the wall. “Before it got tired out.”
Emma touched her broccoli.
“It's too late,” she said. “I can't eat it.”
“And why not?” asked Uncle Elliot sternly.
“Because the broccoli is moving on my plate,” said Emma.
Aunt Evelyn laughed. Zachary laughed. Uncle Elliot did not laugh.
“That's silly,” he said. “Your broccoli is not alive. So it could not move.”
“It was alive once,” said Emma. “It grew somewhereâAunt Evelyn said so. And it was alive.”
“Well, it's not alive now, Emma,” said Uncle Elliot. “So it can't move.”
“Then I can't eat it now,” said Emma.
“Why?” asked Uncle Elliot.
“Because it is dead,” said Emma. “I cannot eat a dead broccoli.”
Zachary laughed very loudly and for a long time.
“Zachary,” said Aunt Evelyn, “you're not helping. And don't tip back in your chair.”
“Why?” asked Zachary.
“Because you'll fall over backward and hurt yourself,” said Aunt Evelyn.
“And you'll break the chair,” added Uncle Elliot. He looked at Emma. “Broccoli is good for you,” he said. “Don't you want to be healthy?”
“No,” said Emma.
“Or have strong bones and shiny teeth?” asked Uncle Elliot.
“I can't see my bones,” said Emma. “And I don't have to smile.”
“That's funny,” said Zachary.
Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Elliot looked at each other and sighed. They picked up their empty plates and went into the kitchen. Zachary sighed, too. He went over to Emma's chair.
“Don't you want cherry glimmer ice cream for dessert?” he asked.
Emma looked up, surprised. “Is that what Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Elliot are having for dessert?”
Zachary nodded. Emma and Zach's parents never bought cherry glimmer ice cream for dessert. Emma's father said it tasted as if it were made from unreal cherries. They always served fruit, or told Emma and Zach that they must be much too full for dessert.
“Yes,” said Emma. “I want cherry glimmer ice cream for dessert.”
“Then eat your broccoli,” Zach said. “Besides”âhe leaned over to whisper in her earâ“everything moves if you look at it long enough.”
Emma looked up at Zachary. Then she looked at her broccoli. “You're a good brother, Zach,” she said.
Zachary was right. The broccoli moved off Emma's plate. She cut it up into twenty-two tiny pieces and swallowed them like vitamins just in case she wanted strong bones and shiny teeth.
The cherry glimmer ice cream moved off her plate even faster.
Aunt Evelyn looked out the window.
“There is a person with fuzzy hair coming up the walk,” she announced.
“That's Miranda!” exclaimed Zachary. “My girl friend.”
Emma followed Zachary to the front door.
“Why is she here?” asked Emma.
“She likes me,” said Zachary.
“That doesn't mean she has to come to the house,” said Emma.
Miranda's hair was even more fuzzy in the house, as if she had shaken hands with the light sockets. Emma saw that she had a ring on every single finger, and she was wearing high-heeled shoes that were too big for her.
Zachary introduced Miranda to Uncle Elliot and Aunt Evelyn. Uncle Elliot was reading the Sunday newspaper beginning with the first page right through to the last. In order. Emma didn't know anyone who read the Sunday paper that way. Emma's mother and father had peppy discussions over who would get which section first. Once Emma's mother hid the section she wanted under the couch.
Aunt Evelyn was knitting something very large and gray. Perhaps for a whale. Emma hoped it was for Uncle Elliot and not for the new baby.
“Hi, Emma,” said Miranda.
“Are those your mother's shoes?” asked Emma.
“Yes,” said Miranda. She sat down and crossed her legs, and one shoe fell off.
Emma peered at Miranda.
“Was your hair like that when you were born?” she asked.
“No,” said Miranda. “I did it myself. I could do it to your hair, too, if you want.”
“Never,” said Emma.
“Would you like to listen to my Morris Fibley record?” Zachary asked Miranda.
“Sure,” said Miranda. “I came over because I was bored. It's my mother and father's wedding anniversary and they've gone out to hold hands and eat steak with whipped potatoes by candlelight.”
“In the middle of the day?” asked Emma.
Miranda shrugged her shoulders. “It's romantic, they said. It goes with love and marriage. Also they couldn't get a sitter for me tonight.”
Emma knew Miranda's parents. Miranda's mother was very short, nearly a midget, and she wore wigs. Miranda's father smiled all the time, even if there was nothing to smile about. Maybe his wife's wigs made him happy.
Zachary and Miranda went off to listen to his Morris Fibley record, and Emma sat down on the arm of Aunt Evelyn's chair and thought about love and marriage and Miranda. She wondered if Zachary would marry fuzzy Miranda and have lots of children whose hair stood up. They could, she supposed, wear hats, or wigs like Miranda's mother. Miranda and Zachary were listening to the music, probably holding hands by now, getting closer to love and marriage.
It was quiet in the living room. The only sounds were the clicking of Aunt Evelyn's knitting needles and the rustle of Uncle Elliot's newspaper. Emma got tired of worrying quietly.
“He'll probably show her all his bottle caps!” Emma said very loudly, making Uncle Elliot jump. “And his dirt collection. I'm the only one who's smelled every jar of his dirt collection. And he'll probably give her his Morris Fibley sweat shirt with the streak of lightning on it. The one he promised to give me when it's too small for him!”
“Don't you like Miranda?” asked Uncle Elliot, looking around his newspaper.
Emma thought a moment.
“Only by herself,” she said.
“What does that mean?” asked Uncle Elliot.
Aunt Evelyn put down her whale knitting.
“It means,” she said, “that Emma is a younger sister. Like me. I have two older brothers, Emma.”
Uncle Elliot went back behind his newspaper.
“Did your brothers get married?” asked Emma.
“Yes,” said Aunt Evelyn. “One even gave me his pet snake when he left.”
“Do you still have it?” asked Emma, interested.
“No,” said Uncle Elliot very softly behind the newspaper.
“Emma, they had lots of girl friends. I was jealous. Just the way they were jealous of some of my boyfriends. But they got married and we're still friends,” said Aunt Evelyn. “Brothers and sisters are always brothers and sisters. And that has nothing to do with love and marriage. You'll see.”
“Not me,” said Emma, who couldn't think of one boy to love and marry and make Zachary jealous about. “I don't think I'll get married. I think I'd rather live by myself and raise seals in the bathtub.”
“You may feel differently later,” said Aunt Evelyn. “I did. I felt fluttery. Bubbly.”
“Like heartburn?” asked Emma, making Uncle Elliot laugh.
“No,” said Aunt Evelyn. “Romantic fluttery and bubbly. Uncle Elliot made me feel that way.”
Emma moved over to the couch and looked at Uncle Elliot. He did not look romantic to her. He looked embarrassed.
“Do you know what your Uncle Elliot did before we got married?” asked Aunt Evelyn with a smile.
“Evelyn,” said Uncle Elliot.
“What?” asked Emma. “What did he do?”
“He hired a skywriter to write I LOVE YOU EVELYN up in the sky. The pilot wrote I LOVE YOU EVEN by mistake. But it was romantic. It made me feel fluttery and bubbly.”
“You did that?” Emma asked Uncle Elliot. She moved over closer to him and stared at him behind the newspaper.
“Then,” Aunt Evelyn went on, “on our first anniversary â¦”
“Ev!” Uncle Elliot grinned and turned red.
“What?” asked Emma, smiling.
“He wrote a poem,” said Aunt Evelyn, “and put it on a big sign in the front yard for everyone to see. I still remember it. To this very day. The poem was very romantic.”
“What did it say?” asked Emma. She could hardly believe that her Uncle Elliot, who read the newspaper from the first page to the last in order, who cared mostly about exercising and rules, could also compose a romantic poem.
Aunt Evelyn cleared her throat and sat up straight. She recited:
I love you Evelyn
I love you lots
When we're apart
Life truly rots
There was a silence.
“That's beautiful,” said Emma softly.
“You think so?” asked Uncle Elliot, pleased. “Do you
“Yes,” said Emma. “It is truly beautiful,” she added, because Emma thought the word “truly” in Uncle Elliot's poem was the most beautiful thing of all.
Aunt Evelyn beamed. “Love and marriage,” she said. “It all goes with love and marriage.”
When Aunt Evelyn went into the kitchen, Emma stared at Uncle Elliot some more. She tugged at his sleeve.