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Authors: Constance C. Greene

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“We only use candy mints for chips. Mostly she wins and she gets to eat all the pink ones.”

“That's good,” his mother said. “It'll keep our dentist's bills down.”

Louis knocked on Mrs. Beeble's door. She answered almost immediately.

“I've missed you,” she said. Louis was glad to see she had his ring on her little finger. “Come on in and we'll play a hand or two.”

“I came to tell you what happened,” Louis said, handing her the onion and the jam.

She looked at his bruised chin. “You fell down the stairs or something?”

“No,” Louis said, “I played football with the sixth graders and I made a touchdown,” Louis said. “That never happened before. They said I was gutsy.”

Mrs. Beeble shuffled the cards.

“I shouldn't be surprised,” she said.

“And Jim called me Ears and I didn't even care. He said it like he was calling me a nice name. He said it like it didn't matter how big my ears were. He said it like he liked me.”

“How could he help it?” Mrs. Beeble dealt a hand. “I told you a man with good-sized ears is a man with character. You've got character, Louis. That's extremely important and extremely rare.”

Louis dipped down inside his shirt front and brought up his charm. “I think this really is a good luck charm, like you said. It brought me good luck. It and the bar bells. I lift them every morning and every night. My muscles don't look any bigger,” he pulled up his sleeve for her to see, “but they
feel
bigger.”

“That's what counts,” Mrs. Beeble said, inspecting his arm.

Louis picked up his cards and arranged them in a nice little fan. “I bid one white,” he said.

“I'll raise you two,” she said, leaning toward him.

Louis held his cards against his chest.

“I'm just getting comfortable,” she said. “I'm not peeking.”

“I didn't say you were,” he said.

Louis won the next two hands. Mrs. Beeble got up and turned around three times. “That's to change my luck,” she said. “How about taking your charm off and giving me a chance?”

“I don't know,” Louis said slowly, “I don't really think I want to.”

“I was only kidding.” She won the next two hands. “See?” she chortled. “Three turns in the direction of the west wind does it every time.”

“I think you make some of those things up,” Louis said.

“Sometimes I do but not always.”

“Did you have a nice time when your niece and her husband came over?” Louis asked politely.

“They ate me out of house and home,” Mrs. Beeble announced with satisfaction. “If my niece opens a can of soup, she thinks she's Betty Crocker. And does he ever like to eat! My lands! They took after my steak and kidney pie and didn't speak a word until the dish was empty. It did my heart good to see them. They want me to come and live with them,” she said.

“All the time, you mean?” Louis said.

“All the time,” she answered. “But I know what'd happen. I'd be chief cook and bottle washer and that I don't aim to be. Mr. Beeble never lifted a hand around the house but he was a hardworking man and entitled to his creature comforts. But my waiting-on days are over. I like living here by myself, doing what I want to do when I want to do it. I told 'em no in the nicest possible way. They say I'm too old to be living alone and to that I say ‘Phooey!'”

“You know what?” Louis said, “I think you're gutsy too, Mrs. Beeble.”

“Well, thank you, Louis,” she said. “It's a good way to be.”

When Louis left Mrs. Beeble's, he headed for the old man's house. He wanted to tell him about his touchdown.

He knocked on the front door. There was no answer. He went around back and when there was no answer there, he pressed his nose against the glass. He pulled back fast. A large white thing lay on the floor. For one horrible moment Louis thought it might be Agnes stretched out, her eyes on the ceiling. Then he realized it was a table or a couch, covered with a cloth to keep the dust out. He ran around to the front and looked in the window. Suppose Agnes was hiding inside, looking out the window right smack in his face? Louis shuddered at the idea.

“If you're looking for them, they're gone,” a woman leaned over the fence and told him. “Pulled out yesterday in a U-Haul-It.”

“Where'd they go?” Louis said.

“Who knows?” the woman shrugged. “Maybe Florida, maybe California. Some place warm, I shouldn't wonder. She was always complaining about her arthritis. If anyone asked me, I'd tell 'em I thought the bill collectors were after 'em.” She sniffed and pulled her sweater close. “A man would come calling every so often. Looked like a bill collector to me.”

“What's a bill collector look like?” Louis asked.

“How would I know?” the woman said angrily and went inside her house, slamming the door.

14

“I have this neat idea,” Matthew said. “You guys come over on Saturday and we'll try it out. It's really cool but I need help.”

“What is it?” Louis said.

“My mother said she wants me out of the way all day Saturday,” John said. “She's cleaning closets and waxing floors and all like that.” He slipped a thick slice of cucumber doused in mayonnaise out from between two slices of bread and ate it. “I expect I could be at your house by seven or eight if I can get my father to bring me,” he said.

“That's too early,” Matthew said.

“You want to trade?” Louis said.

“What for what?”

“I've got cheese and relish.”

“No,” Matthew said firmly, “I've got cream cheese and walnut. I'm sorry, Louis, but I don't want to trade today.”

“I don't know how you eat that junk,” Louis said.

“I don't know how you eat the junk you eat,” Matthew replied.

“Hey Dumbo, how's old Elephant Ears today?” It was skinny Ernie, sliding his way down the bench to sit opposite them. “I think your ears got bigger since I saw you last.” He poked his friend with the tiny eyes.

“I think so too,” the friend said.

“Anyway,” Matthew went on as if he hadn't heard them, “you take a Havaheart and tie it to a tree or something so it won't float away, then you drop it in the river after you load it up with bait. Then, presto, a trout or pickerel swims inside and you've got him.”

“You think it'd work?” Louis asked.

“It's worth a try,” Matthew said.

“You're some sweet kid, Sugar Bowl,” Ernie said, unwrapping a marshmallow fluff sandwich. “How'd you get so sweet?”

Louis flexed his muscles. Maybe now was the time. One good punch right in the middle of Ernie's mouth. He'd really spray that marshmallow fluff around.

“Hey Ears!” It was Jim. “I'm looking for you. We need you, kid. A couple of guys are out sick and Steve said ‘Go see if you can find that kid who made the run the day before yesterday. The little kid with the big ears.' So get a move on. You can finish your lunch on the way.”

Louis got up, shoving the rest of his sandwich in his mouth. He looked at skinny Ernie who was sitting with his mouth wide open, the marshmallow fluff sort of drooling out. His friend with the tiny eyes was turning his head from left to right, like he didn't know whose side to be on.

Louis put on his helmet.

“I'm coming,” he said.

“The big guys want me to play football with them,” he said to John and Matthew. “I'll see you.”

Then he turned to Ernie and his friend.

“So long, skinny Ernie and Pig Eyes. Don't take any wooden nickels.”

Skinny Ernie closed his mouth and gulped.

“So long, Louis,” he said.

About the Author

Constance C. Greene is the author of over twenty highly successful young adult novels, including the ALA Notable Book
A Girl Called Al, Al(exandra) the Great, Getting Nowhere
, and
Beat the Turtle Drum
, which is an ALA Notable Book, an IRA-CBC Children's Choice, and the basis for the Emmy Award–winning after-school special
Very Good Friends
. Greene lives in Milford, Connecticut.

All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this ebook or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 1974 by Constance C. Greene

Cover design by Connie Gabbert

ISBN: 978-1-5040-0438-1

This edition published in 2015 by Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.

345 Hudson Street

New York, NY 10014

www.openroadmedia.com

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