Authors: Patricia MacLachlan
“What can I do?” asked Emma.
“Folding would be a good thing,” said Zachary. “My clothes are folded. That is why I have empty drawers.”
Zachary showed Emma how to fold very neatly. He folded her shirts in three parts and her pants in two parts, and he rolled her socks together like snowballs.
“Everything fits!” said Emma happily. “But what about my stuffed animals?”
“Hmm,” said Uncle Elliot. He thought. “How about hibernation?”
“Hibernation where?” asked Emma.
“Hibernation in Zachary's empty drawers,” said Uncle Elliot.
Emma smiled. “That's a good idea.”
Zachary thought it was a good idea, too, and they sorted the stuffed animals. There were seventy-three counting J.R., who was missing an ear. They carried twenty into Zachary's room and carefully put them into his two empty drawers.
“Uncle Elliot was a big help,” said Emma.
“We should do something nice for him,” said Zachary.
Emma thought. She thought about her stuffed animals. She could give him one, but they all had names.
“I could give him my Morris Fibley sweat shirt,” said Zachary. “But it's too small.” Zachary smiled. “There is one thing I know Uncle Elliot likes.”
“What?” asked Emma.
Zachary held up his bag of bottle caps.
“Uncle Elliot always wanted a bottle cap collection,” he said. “But I did promise to give it to you when I didn't need it anymore.”
“That's all right, Zach,” said Emma. “There is still your dirt collection. I have always loved your bottle caps. But I think Uncle Elliot loves them even more.”
Uncle Elliot did love the bottle cap collection. He put it in one of the drawers under his sausage roll clothes.
“This will be our secret,” he told Emma and Zach. “I'll surprise Evelyn when we get home.”
Later, Aunt Evelyn came into Emma's room to check.
“Wonderful!” she exclaimed. “You even got rid of some of your old stuffed animals.”
“There are twenty stuffed animals not in this room,” said Emma truthfully.
“And I gave my bottle cap collection away,” said Zachary.
“That's nice, Zachary,” said Aunt Evelyn. “It will make someone very happy.”
“Yes, it will,” said Zachary.
“Now that you've cleaned up, I will do something about your ears, Emma,” said Aunt Evelyn.
“You mean pierce them!” said Emma, delighted.
“Not quite,” said Aunt Evelyn. She took out a pen and drew small flowers right in the middle of Emma's earlobes. The flowers looked just like earrings.
Emma looked in the mirror. “They're beautiful, Aunt Evelyn.”
“I think they look a little dumb,” said Zachary, peering over her shoulder.
“Different strokes, Zach,” said Emma, looking at one ear, then the other. “Different strokes.”
There was a knock at Emma's door.
“Emma? Are you awake?” called Uncle Elliot.
There was no answer.
“It's morning,” said Uncle Elliot through the door. “Time for divided grapefruit with a cherry in the middle. And seven kisses.”
“I'm asleep,” called Emma. “Come back later.”
“She is not asleep,” said Zachary out in the hall.
Uncle Elliot opened the door. There was a big lump that was Emma in the middle of the bed.
“What's the matter, Emma?”
“How did you know I was awake?” asked Emma from under the blankets.
“I guessed,” said Uncle Elliot. “Don't you want to get up? It's our last day here before your parents come home. We'll do something special.”
Emma groaned. “I'm very sick,” she said. “My head is squishy, my ears are numb, my feet are prickly.”
“Probably she is not sick,” said Zachary.
Uncle Elliot sat down and reached under the blankets to feel Emma's head.
“You're not hot,” he said.
“Hotness is not part of my sickness,” said Emma. She poked her head out of the covers. “I did have spots. They are gone now.”
“Spots! Where were those spots?” asked Uncle Elliot.
“She never has spots,” whispered Zachary.
“On my feet and ears,” said Emma, glaring at Zachary.
“That sounds like calling the doctor,” said Uncle Elliot.
“No!” Emma sat up in bed. “The doctor does not like me. She has a cold heart-listener. She puts an ear looker in my ears and sticks that Popsicle stick down my throat. Also, she is on vacation.”
“I'll bet the doctor is not on vacation,” said Zachary.
“What's the trouble?” asked Aunt Evelyn.
“I'm catching,” said Emma. “And probably you and Uncle Elliot and Zachary and Wayne are, too. You had better call my parents and tell them not to come home for a week or three months.”
Aunt Evelyn thought for a moment. “Even if we asked them to, I don't think they would stay away, Emma.”
Uncle Elliot nodded. “They have not told you so yet,” he said, “but I am sure they've missed you.”
“Yes,” said Emma. “They always miss me when they go to an eyeball meeting. They bring me place mats and postcards of hotels and city parks.”
“Papa brings me new dirt for my dirt collection,” said Zachary. “And colored eyeball pictures. I use them for my dart board.”
“So there you see,” said Aunt Evelyn. “They love you and will want to come back even though you are very sick and catching.”
“I know she is not sick and catching,” announced Zachary.
“How about breakfast in bed?” said Uncle Elliot. “Divided grapefruit right here.”
“Our parents don't allow us to have breakfast in bed,” said Zachary. “Because of the crumbs.”
“Crumbs don't come with grapefruit,” said Emma, sitting up.
“We'll all have breakfast in bed,” said Uncle Elliot.
There were oranges and grapefruit and cereal and toast. There were lots of crumbs, too. But only for a little while, because Wayne came and cleaned them all up.
“I'm sorry you're not feeling better,” said Uncle Elliot. “Today you were going to give me more father lessons.”
“Emma doesn't have to give you father lessons if she doesn't feel well,” said Aunt Evelyn. “We'll go to classes once a week when we get home.”
“Once a week is not enough to learn how to be a father,” said Emma.
“I know a lot already,” said Uncle Elliot. “You have taught me about divided grapefruit and seven kisses in a row.”
“And how to wash and feed and diaper,” added Emma.
“How to diaper?” Aunt Evelyn said, surprised. “When did you learn about diapering?”
“Yesterday,” said Uncle Elliot. “We practiced on Emma's doll, Mavis. Emma put water on the diaper. It was very real.”
“There is more,” said Emma.
“More than washing and feeding and diapering and divided grapefruit and seven kisses?” asked Uncle Elliot.
Emma nodded. She went over to the closet and took out Mavis, who was bald with only one eye that worked. She wrapped Mavis in a blanket and handed her to Uncle Elliot.
“Lullabies,” she said.
Uncle Elliot put Mavis up on his shoulder and rubbed her back. Aunt Evelyn smiled.
“Lullabies,” said Emma, “so that the baby will not scream all night and have terrible dreams.”
“I don't know any lullabies,” said Uncle Elliot.
“Make one up,” said Emma.
Uncle Elliot thought. “How about,” he began,
Baby, baby, stop your screams
Â Â Go to sleep and dream sweet dreams
Zachary and Aunt Evelyn laughed.
“That's good, Uncle Elliot,” said Emma. “The baby will like that lullaby.”
“So am I now a father?” asked Uncle Elliot. “Do I pass?”
“Just one more thing,” said Emma.
“What is that?” asked Uncle Elliot, burping Mavis.
“Talking to the baby,” said Emma. “Most mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles do not talk right to babies. They talk baby talk to them. And that makes babies bored. They cry a lot and fall off beds to get attention. Talk to Mavis.”
“No baby talk?” asked Uncle Elliot.
Emma shook her head. “No itsies or do-dos,” she warned.
“Not even a goo?”
“No goos,” said Emma.
Uncle Elliot put Mavis on his knee and held both her arms. Her one eye rolled up and looked at him.
“Welcome, Mavis, old shoe,” he said. “You're not a half bad baby, actually. You only cry at night when I'm trying to sleep, you only spit up on my clean shirts, and you're only wet most of the time. You only rolled off the bed once. You eat everything but strained broccoli.”
Emma and Zachary laughed.
“Pretty soon,” said Uncle Elliot, “you will get to know your cousins, Emma and Zachary. You will learn all about bottle cap collections and night rumbles and strange spots that come and go. You will see them soon, because in my pocket I have two bus tickets for them to keep until you are born and they can come for a visit all by themselves to watch you burp and spit up. What do you say, old bald Mavis, do you think they will like that? And do you think I have passed yet?”
There was a silence. Uncle Elliot gave Mavis to Aunt Evelyn and took the two tickets out of his pocket. He handed one to Emma and one to Zachary.
Emma grinned at him.
“You know a whole lot about being a father, Uncle Elliot,” said Emma.
“And a whole lot about being an uncle,” added Zachary.
“He does now,” said Aunt Evelyn, patting bald Mavis. “But he didn't before we knew you. We hardly knew any children before we knew you.”
“I know,” said Emma. She looked up at Uncle Elliot. “You passed, Uncle Elliot.”
Uncle Elliot put one arm around Emma and one around Zachary.
“You did too,” he said.
About the Author
Photo by John MacLachlan
is the celebrated author of many timeless books for young readers, including
Sarah, Plain and Tall
, winner of the Newbery Medal. Her novels for young readers include
Arthur, For the Very First Time; The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt; Skylark; Caleb's Story; More Perfect Than the Moon; Grandfather's Dance; Word After Word After Word
. She is also the author of many much-loved picture books, including
Three Names; All the Places to Love; What You Know First; Painting the Wind; Bittle; Who Loves Me?; Once I Ate a Pie; I Didn't Do It; Before You Came; and Cat Talk
âseveral of which she cowrote with her daughter, Emily. She lives with her husband and two border terriers in Williamsburg, Massachusetts.
for exclusive information on your favorite HarperCollins authors and artists.