Beezus and Ramona
Beezus and Her Imagination
Beezus and Ramona both looked forward to Friday afternoons after school -- Beezus because she attended the art class in the recreation center in Glenwood Park, Ramona because she was allowed to go to the park with Beezus and play in the sand pile until the class was over. This friday while Beezus held Ramona by the hand and waited for the traffic light to change from red to green, she thought how wonderful it would be to have an imagination like Ramona's.
"Oh, you know Ramona. Her imagination runs away with her." Mother said, when Ramona made up a story about seeing a fire engine crash into a garbage truck.
"That child has an imagination a mile long," the Quimbys' grown-up friends remarked when Ramona sat in the middle of the living-room floor in a plastic wading pool she had dragged up from the basement and pretended she was in a boat in the middle of a lake.
"Did you ever see so much imagination in such a little girl?" the neighbors asked one another when Ramona hopped around the yard pretending she was the Easter bunny.
One spring day Ramona had got lost, because she started out to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The rainbow had appeared to end in the park until she reached the park, but then it looked as if it ended behind the Supermarket. When the police brought Ramona home, Father said, "Sometimes I think Ramona has too much imagination."
Nobody, reflected Beezus, ever says anything about my imagination. Nobody at all. And she wished, more than anything, that she had imagination. How pleased Miss Robbins, the art teacher, would be with her if she had an imagination like Ramona's!
Unfortunatly, Beezus was not very good at painting -- at least not the way Miss Robbins wanted boys and girls to paint. She wanted them to use their imagination and to feel free. Beezus still squirmed with embarrassment when she thought of her first painting, a picture of a dog with bowwow coming out of his mouth. in a balloow. Miss Robbins pointed out that only in the funny papers did dogs have bowwow coming out of their mouths in balloons. Bowwow in a balloon was not art. When Miss Robbins did think one of Beezus' paintings was good enough to put up on the wall, she always tacked it way down at the end, never in the center. Beezus wished she could have a painting in the center of the wall.
"Hurry up, Ramona, " Beezus coaxed. Then she noticed that her sister was dragging a string along behind her. "Oh, Ramona," she protested, "why did you have to bring Ralph with you?" Ralph was an imaginary green lizard Ramona liked to pretend she was leading by a string.
"I love Ralph," said Ramona firmly, "and Ralph likes to go to the park."
Beezus knew it was easier to pretend along with Ramona than to try and make her stop. Anyway, it was better to have her pretend to lead a lizard than to pretend to be a lizard herself. "Can't you carry him?" she suggested.
"No," said Ramona. "He's slimy."
When the girls came to the shopping district, Ramona had to stop at the drugstore scales and pretend to weigh herself while Beezus held Ralph's string. "I weigh fifty-elevin pounds," she announced, while Beezus smiled at Ramona's idea of her weight. It just goes to show how much imagination Ramona has, she thought.
At the radio-and-phonograph store Ramona insisted on petting His Master's Voice, the black-and-white plaster dog, bigger than Ramona, that always sat with one ear cocked in front of the door. Beezus thought admiringly about the amount of imagination it took to pretend that a scarree and chipped plaster dog was real. If only she had an imagination like Ramona's, maybe Miss Robbins would say her paintings were free and imatinative and would tack them on the middle of the wall.
When they reached the park, Beezus left Ramona and Ralph at the sand pile and, feeling more and more discouraged at her own lack of imagination, hurried to the recreation center. The class had already poured paints into their muffin tins and were painting on paper thumbtacked to drawing boards. The room hummed with activity. Miss Robbins, wearing a gay paint-smeared smock, flew from one artist to another, prising, correcting, suggesting.
Beezus waited until Miss Robbins finished explaining to a boy that he should not outline a mouth with black paint. Her mouth wasn't outlined in black, was it? Then Beezus said, "I'm sorry I'm late, Miss Robbins." She stared in fascination at Miss Robbins' earrings. They came almost to her shoulders and were made of silver wire twisted and bent into interesting shapes -- not the shape of anything in particular, just interesting shapes.
"That's alright." Miss Robbins, her earrings swinging, smiled at Beezus. "Get your paints and paper. Today everyone is painting an imaginary animal."
"An imaginary animal?" Beezus repeated blankly. How could she possibly think of an imaginary animal? As Beezus poured paints into her muffin tin and tacked a sheet of paper to her drawing board, she tried to think of an imaginary animal, but all the animals that she could think of -- cats and dogs, cows and horses, lions and giraffes -- were discouragingly real.
Reluctantly Beezus took the only vacant seat, which was beside a boy named Wayne who came to the class only because his mother made him. Once Beezus had hung her sweater on the back of a chair, and Wayne had printed "Post No Bills" on it in chalk. Beezus had worn it all the way home before she discovered it. Since then she did not care to sit beside Wayne. Today she noticed he had parked a grape-flavored lollipop on a paper towel beside his muffin tin or paints.
"Hi, Beez," he greeted her. "No fair licking my sucker."
"I don't want your old sucker," answered Beezus. "And don't call me Beez."
"O.K. Beez," said Wayne.
At that moment the door opened and Ramona walked into the room. She was still dragging the string behind her and she looked angry.
"Why, hello," said Miss Robbins pleasantly.
"Oh, Ramona, you're supposed to be playing in the sand pile," said Beezus, going over to her.
"No," said Ramona flatly. "Howie threw sand on Ralph." Her dark eyes were busy taking in the paints, the brushes, the drawing boards. "I'm going to paint," she announced.
"Mother said you were supposed to play in the sand pile," protested Beezus. "You're too little for this class."
"You say that about everything," complained Ramona. Then she turned to Miss Robbins. "Don't step on Ralph," she said.
"Ralph is a make-belive green lizard she pretends she leads around on a string." Beezus was embarrassed at having to explain such a silly thing.
Miss Robbins laughed. "Well, here is a little girl with lots of imagination. How would you like to paint a picture of Ralph for us, Ramona?"
Beezus could not help feeling annoyed. Miss Robbins was letting Ramona stay in the clas -- the one place where she was never allowed to tag along! Miss Robbins would probably like her painting, because it would be so full of imagination. Ramona's pictures, in fact, were so full of imagination that it took even more imagination to tell what they were.
Ramona beamed at Miss Robbins, who found a drawing board for her stool, which she placed between Beezus and Wayne. She lifted Ramona onto the stool. "There. Now you can share your sister's paints," she said.
Ramona looked impressed at being allowed to paint with such big boys and girls. She sat quietly on her stool, watching everything around her.
Maybe she'll behave herself ater all, thought Beezus as she dipped her brush into blue paint, and now I don't have to sit next to Wayne. Since Beezus still had not thought of an imaginary animal, she decided to start with the sky.
"Do the sky first," Beezus whispered to Ramona, who looked as if she did not know how to begin. Then Beezus faced her own work, determined to be free and imaginative. To be free on a piece of paper was not as easy as it sounded, she thought. Miss Robbins always said to start with the big areas of a picture and paint them bravely and boldly, so Beezus spread the sky on her paper with brave, bold strokes. Back and forth across the paper she swept her brush. Brave and bold and free -- that was the way to do it.
Her sky turned out to be too wet, so while it dried a little, Beezus looked at what the other boys and girls were doing. Celia, who sat on her left, had already filled in a brave, bold background of pink, which she had sprinkled with big purple dots. Now she was painting a long gray line that wound all over her paper, in and out around the dots.
"What's that supposed to be?" whispered Beezus.
"I'm not sure yet," answered Celia.
Beezus felt better, because Celia was the kind of girl who usually knew exactly what she was doing and whose pictures were often tacked in the center of the wall. The boy on the other side of Celia, who always wanted to paint airplanes, was painting what looked like a giraffe made of pieces of machinery, and another boy was painting a thing that had two heads.
Beezus looked across Ramona to Wayne. He had not bothered with a sky at all. he had painted a hen. Beezus knew it was a hen, because he had printed in big letters, "This is a real hen," with an arrow pointing to it. Wayne always tried to do just the opposit of what Miss Robbins wanted.
"Hey, quit peeking," said Wayne in a loud voice.
"I'm not peeking," said Beezus, hastily trying to look as if she had been interested in Ramona's paper all the time.
Ramona had dipped her brush into blue paint and had painted a stripe across the top of her paper. "That's the sky," she said happily.
"But that's not the way a sky is." Beezus was trying to be helpful. She felt better, because Ramona had not plunged in and painted a picture full of imagination. "Skies should come farther down on the paper."
"The sky is up," said Ramona firmly.
Beezus decided she couldn't waste time explaining about skies, not when she still hadn't thought of an imaginary animal. Maybe she could take a real animal and sort of change it around. Let's see, she thought, I could take a horse and put feathers on it. No, all those feathers would be too hard to paint. Wings? That was it! A horse with wings was an imaginary animal -- a real imaginary animal -- because Mother had once read aloud a story about Pegasus, the winged horse, out of a library book. In the story Pegasus had been white, which was a real horse color. Beezus decided to be extra-imaginative. She would make her horse green -- a green horse against a blue sky. Miss Robbins ought to like that. Beezus did not think blue and green looked very pretty together, but Miss Robbins often liked colors that Beezus thought did not really go together.
Beezus dipped her brush into green paint and outlined a wing against the sky. Next she outlined the body of the horse and a long tail that hung down. It was a magnificent horse. At least, Beezus hoped it would look magnificent when she was finished it. Anyway, it was big, because Miss Robbins liked her artists to cover the whole paper. Quickly and neatly Beezus filled in the outline of the horse, because Miss Robbins, who was looking at Celia's picture, would look at hers next. Somehow the horse was not exactly what Beezus had in her mind's eye, but even so, compared to whatever Celia was painting, a green horse with wings was really a very good imaginary animal. And except for a couple of soggy places in the sky, her work was much neater than Celia's. Beezus waited for Miss Robbins to point this out.
Instead, Miss Robbins said, "Celia, your picture is work to be proud of. It is a difficult thing to get to be as free as this."
Then Miss Robbins moved on to Beezus, her long earrings swinging forward as she leaned over the drawing board. Beezus waited anxiously. Maybe her picture wasn't so good, after all. If Miss Robbins liked a gray line winding around a lot of purple dots, maybe she wouldn't like a flying horse. Maybe she liked things with no special shape, like those earrings.
"You have a good sky even if it is a little wet," said Miss Robbins.
Beezus was dissapointed. Anybody could have a good sky.
Miss Robbins continued to study the picture. "Try to think how a horse would look if it were really flying."
Beezus tried to think.
"What about the tail?" asked Miss Robbins. "Wouldn't the tail fly out behind instead of hanging down?"
"Especially if the wind blew real hard," said Wayne.
"Can't you make the horse look rounder?" asked Miss Robbins. "Think how a horse looks with the sun shining on him. Part of him would be in shadow."
"Not that horse," said Wayne. "She just copied it off a Mobilgas billboard, only she made it green instead of red."
"I did not!" said Beezus indignantly. Then she stared at her painting again. Now that Wayne pointed it out, she could see her horse did look like the one on the Mobilgas billboard at the service station where her father bought gasoline. He was a flat cardboard horse, not a magnificent horse at all. Her horse wasn't even as good as the horse on the billboard, because instead of a flying tail he had a tail that hung down like . . . well, like a mop.
"All right, Wayne," said Miss Robbins. "Im sure Beezus did not mean to copy anything from a billboard."
"No, I didn't," said Beezus mournfully. "I was only trying to change a real animal around to make it imaginary, but I just don't have imagination, is all."
"Why, Beezus, of course you have imagination!" Miss Robbins sounded shocked at the idea of anyone's not having imagination.
"My little sister has lots of imagination," said Beezus. "Everybody says so."
Miss Robbins smiled reassuringly. "That doesn't mean that you don't have any. I think your trouble is that you work too hard. You don't have to be so neat. Why don't you start another painting and just try to have a good time with your paints?"
Beezus looked uncertain. It was a nice change to have a grownup tell her she didn't have to be neat, but she didn't understand how she could paint a good picture unless she worked at it. If only she had some imagination, like Ramona -- but no, Miss Robbins said everybody had imagination. Well, if she had imagination, where was it? Why wasn't it helping her with her imaginary animal? All she could think of was that cardboard horse on a billboard.
Beezus glanced at Ramona, who had been surprisingly quiet for a long time, to see how she was coming along with her picture of Ralph. Except for the stripe of sky at the top, Ramona's paper was blank. Now she dipped her brush in yellow paint, divided the hairs of the brush into three tufts, and pressed them on the paper, leaving a mark like the track of a bird.
"That's not the way to use a paint brush," said Beezus. "Besides, you're getting paint on your fingers."
"Look -- Ralph's feet marks," exclaimed Ramona, paying no attention to Beezus.
"You mean footprints," corrected Beezus. "Now go on and paint the rest of Ralph."
"Feet marks," said Ramona stubbornly, making more footprints across the paper. "And I can't paint him, because he's just pretend."
Oh, well, thought Beezus, maybe making footprints isn't good for the brush, but it keeps her quiet. She dabbed her own brush in green paint and tried to stir up her imagination. she felt a little encouraged because Ramona was having trouble too.
"Hey!" inturrupted Wayne in a loud voice. "She's licking my sucker!"
"Ramona!" Beezus was horrified to see Ramona, no longer interested in footprints, calmly sucking Wayne's grape-flavored lollipop. "Ramona, put that down this instant! You're not supposed to lick other people's suckers."
"You give me that!" Wayne made a grab for his lollipop.
"No!" screamed Ramona, trying to hold it out of his reach. "I want it!"
"Ramona, give it to him," ordered Beezus. "It's all germy."
"You mean she's getting germs on it," said Wayne. "Give it to me!"
The rest of the class stopped painting to watch. Wayne made another grabe for his lollipop. This time he grabbed Ramona by the wrist.
"Let go of her!" said Beezus angrily.
Ramona howled as Wayne tried to pry her fingers loose from the lollipop stick. He knocked against the muffin tin, which flipped into the air spattering paint over the table, the drawing boards, and the floor. Ramona was splashed with red and yellow paint. Blue and green ran down Wayne's jeans onto his sneakers. A pool of brown paint dripped off the table onto the floor.
"Now see what you did," said Wayne, after he had pried his sucker out of Ramona's fist.
"See what you did," contradicted Beezus. "Picking on my little sister like that!" She picked up the paper towel the sucker had been resting on and began to wipe the spatters off Ramona, who continued to howl.
"Boys and girls!" Miss Robbins raised her voice. "Let's be quiet. When the room is quiet I know you are thinking. Lots of people don't know you have to think while you paint." Then she turned to Wayne. "All right, Wayne, you may get a damp cloth and wipe up the paint."
"I'm sorry, Miss Robbins," said Beezus.
"I want the sucker!" screamed Ramona.
Suddenly Beezus decided she had had enough. This art class was one place where Ramona was not supposed to be. She was supposed to play in the sand pile. Mother had said so. She was not supposed to upset the class and spoil everything with one of her tantrums. Beezus made up her mind she was going to do something about it and right now, too, though she didn't know what.
"Ramona, stop that this instant," Beezus ordered. "Go out and play in the sand pile, where you belong, or I'll . . . I'll . . ." Frantically Beezus tried to think of what she could do. Then she had an inspiration. "Or I'll tickle you!" she finished. I guess I do have some imagination, after all, she thought triumphantly.
Instantly Ramona stopped crying. She hugged herself and stared at Beezus. "Don't tickle, Beezus," she begged. "Please don't tickle."
"Then go out and play in the sand pile, like Mother says you're supposed to," said Beezus.
"Don't tickle," shrieked Ramona, as she scrambled down from her stool and ran out the door.
Well! thought Beezus. It worked! it really worked!
Feeling suddenly lighthearted, she tacked a fresh sheet of paper to her drawing board and sat staring at it. Maybe Ramona didn't have so much imagination after all, if she couldn't draw a picture of an imaginary green lizard. Well, if Ramona couldn't paint a picture of Ralph, she could. Ramona was not the only one in the family with imagination. So there!
Beezus seized her brush and painted in another sky with bold, free strokes. then she dipped her brush into green paint and started to outline a lizard on her paper. Let's see, what did a lizard look like? She could not remember. It didn't matter much, anyway -- not for an imaginary animal. She had startedthe lizard with such brave, bold strokes that it took up most of the paper and looked more like a dragon.
Beezua promptly decided the animal was a dragon. Dragons breathed fire, but she did not have any orange paint, and she was so late in starting this picture that she didn't want to take time to mix any. She dipped her brush into pink paint instead and made flames come out of the dragon's mouth. Only they didn't look like flames. They looked more like thespun-sugar cande Beezus had once eaten at the circus. And a dragon breathing clouds of pink candy was more fun than an ordinary flame-breathing dragon.
Forgetting everyone around her, Beezus made the pink clouds biger and fluffier. Dragons had pointed things down their backs, so Beezus made a row of spines down the back. They did not look quite right -- more like slanting sticks than spines. Lollipop sticks, of course!
At that Beezus laughed to herself. Naturally a dragon that breathed pink spun sugar would have lollipops down its back. Eagerly she dipped her brush into the red paint and put a strawberry lollipop on one of the sticks. She painted a different flavor on each stick, finishing with a grape-flavored lollipop like the one Wayne and Ramona had shared.
Then she held her drawing board at arm's length. She was pleased with her dragon. It was funny and colorful and really imaginary. Beezus wondered what she could do next. Then she remembered that Miss Robbins often said it was important for an artist to know when to stop painting. Maybe she'd spoil her picture if she added anything. No, just one more touch. She dipped her brush in yellow paint and gave the dragon an eye -- a lemon-drop eye. There! Her imaginary animal was finished!
By that time it was four-thirty and most of the boys and girls had put away their drawing boards and washed their muffin tins. Several mothers who had come for their children were wandering around the room looking at the paintings.
"Those who have finished, wash your hands clean," said Miss Robbins. "And I mean clean." Then she came across the room to Beezus. "Why, Beezus!" she exclaimed. "This is a picture to be proud of!"
"I didn't know whether a dragon should have lollipops down his back or not, but they were fun to paint," said Beezus.
"Of course he can have lollipops down his back. It's a splended idea. After all, no one has ever seen a dragon, so no one knows how one should look." Miss Robbins turned to several of the mothers and said, with admiration in her voice, "Here's a girl with real imagination."
Beezus smiled modestly at her toes while the mothers admired her picture.
"We'll tack this in the very center of the wall for next week's classes to see," said MissRobbins.
"It was fun to paint," confided Beezus, her face flushed with pleasure.
"Of course it was," said Miss Robbins, as she carefully placed the picture in the center of the wall. "Didn't I tell you you worked too hard at painting before?"
Beezus nodded. That was the wonderful thing about it, she thought, as she scrubbed out her muffin tins. Her dragon had been fun, while her flying horse had been work. And she had imagination. Maybe not as much as Ramona, but real imagination just the same. "Here's a girl with real imagination," Miss Robbins had said.
A girl with real imagination, a girl with real imagination, Beezus thought as she left the building and ran across the park to the sand pile. "Come on, Ramona, it's time to go home," she called to her little sister, who was happily sprinkling sand on a sleeping dog. "And let's not forget Ralph!" Good old Ralph!
If you notice any typos or spelling mistakes, or any errors at all, please e-mail me and let me know. I can't spot everything, and your help would be very much appreaciated. Thank you!
All characters and stories are copyright © 1955 by Beverly Cleary.