Ramona The Brave
Trouble in the Park
Ramona Quimby, brave and fearless, was half running, half skipping to keep up with her big sister Beatrice on their way home from the park. She had never seen her sister's cheeks so flushed with anger as they were this August afternoon. Ramona was sticky from heat and grubby from landing in the sawdust at the foot of the slides, but she was proud of herself. When Mrs. Quimby had sent the girls to the park for an hour, because she had an errand to do -- an important errand, she hinted -- she told Beezus, as Beatrice was called, to look after Ramona.
And what had happened? For the first time in her six years Ramona had looked after Beezus, who was suposed to be the responsible one. Bossy was a better word, Ramona sometimes thought. But not today. Ramona had stepped forward and defended her sister for a change.
"Beezus," said Ramona, panting, "slow down."
Beezus, clutching her library book in her sweaty hand, paid no attention. The clang of rings, the steady pop of tennis balls against asphalt, and the shouts of children grew fainter as the girls approached their house on Klickitat Street.
Ramona hoped their mother would be home from her errand, whatever it was. She couldn't wait to tell her what had happened, and how she had defended her big sister. Her mother would be so proud, and so would her father when he came home from work and heard the story. "Good for you, Ramona," he would say. "That's the old fight!" Brave little Ramona.
Fortunatly, the car was in the garage and Mrs. Quimby was in the living room when the girls burst into the house. "Why, Beezus," said their mother, when she saw the flushed and sweaty faces of her daughters, one angry and one triumphant.
Beezus blinked to hold back the tears in her eyes.
"Ramona, what happened to Beezus?" Mrs. Quimby was alarmed.
"Don't ever call me Beezus again!" Beezus's voice was feirce.
Mrs. Quimby looked at Ramona for the explanation, and Ramona was eager to give it. Usually Beezus was the one who explained what had happened to Ramona, how she had dropped her ice-cream cone on the sidewalk and cried when Beezus would not let her pick it up, or how she tried, in spite of the rules, to go down a slide headfirst and had landed on her face in the sawdust. Now Ramona was going to have a turn. She took a deep breath and prepared to tell her tale. "Well, when we went down to the park, I slid on the slides awhile and Beezus sat on the bench reading her library book. Then I saw an empty swing. A big swing, not a baby swing over the wading pool, and I thought since I'm going to be in the first grade next month I should swing on the big swings. Shouldn't I, Mama?"
"Yes, of course." Mrs. Quimby was impatient. "Please, go on with the story. What happened to Beezus?"
"Well, I climbed up in the swing," Ramona continued, "only my feet wouldn't touch the ground because there was this big hollow under the swing." Ramona recalled how she had longed to swing until the chains went slack in her hands and her toes pointed to the tops of the fir trees, but she sensed she had better hurry up with her story or her mother would ask Beezus to tell it. Ramona never liked to lose an audience. "And I said, `Beezus, push me,' and some big boys, big bad boys, heard me and one of them said --" Ramona, eager to be the one to tell the story but reluctant to repeat the words, hesitated.
"Said what?" Mrs. Quimby was baffled. "Said what, Ramona? Beezus, what did he say?"
Beezus wiped the back of her wrist across her eyes and tried. "He said, `J-j-j --' "
Eagerness to beat her sister at telling what had happened overcame Ramona's reluctance. "He said `Jesus, Beezus!' " Ramona looked up at her mother, waiting for her to be shocked. Instead she merely looked surprised and -- could it be? --amused.
"And that is why I never, never, never want to be called Beezus again!" said Beezus.
"And all the other boys began to say it, too," said Ramona, warming to her story now that she was past the bad part. "Oh, Mama, it was just awful. It was terrible. All those big awful boys! They kept saying, `Jesus, Beezus' and `Beezus, Jesus.' I jumped out of the swing, and I told them --"
Here Beezus interrrupted. Anger once more replaced tears. "And then Ramona had to get into the at. Do you know what she did? She jumped out of the swing and preached a sermon! Nobody wants a little sister tagging around preaching sermons to a bunch of boys! And they weren't that big either. They were just trying to act big."
Ramona was stunned by this view of her behavior. How unfair of Beezus when she had been so brave. And the boys had seemed big to her.
Ms. Quimby spoke to Beezus as if Ramona were not present. "A sermon! You must be joking."
Ramona tried again. "Mama, I --"
Beezus was not going to give her little ister a chance to speak. "No, I'm not joking. And then Ramona stuck her thumbs in her ears, waggled her fingers, and stuck out her tongue. I just about died, I was so embarrassed."
Ramona was suddenly subdued. She had thought Beezus was angry at the boys, but now it turned out she was angry with her little sister, too. Maybe angrier. Ramona was used to being considered a little pest, and she knew she sometimes was a pest, but this was something different. She felt as if she were standing aside looking at herself. She saw a stranger, a funny little six-year-old girl with straight brown hair, wearing grubby shorts and an old T-shirt, inherited from Beezus, which had Camp Namanu printedacross the front. A silly little girl embrrassing her sister so much that Beezus was ashamed of her. And she had been proud of herself because she thought she was being brave. Now it turned out that she was not brave. She was silly and embrrassing. Ramona's confidence in herself was badly shaken. She tried again. "Mama, I --"
Mrs. Quimby felt her older daughter deserved all her attention. "Were they boys you know?" she asked.
"Sort of," said Beezus with a sniff. "They go to out school, and now when school starts all the boys in the sixth grade will be saying it. Sixth grade boys are awful."
"They will have forgotten by then." Mrs. Quimby tried to be reassuring. Beezus sniffed again.
"Mama, I think we should stop calling her Beezus." Even thought her feelings were hurt, and her confidence shaken, Ramona had a reason of her own for trying to help Beezus. Whenever someone asked Beezus where she got such an unusual nickname, Beezus always answered that it came from Ramona. When she was little she couldn't say Beatrice. Now that Ramona was about to enter first grade, she did not like people to remember there was a time when she could not pronounce her sister's name.
"Just because I have an Aunt Beatrice, I don't see why I have to be named Beatrice, too," said Beezus. "Nobody else has a name like Beatrice."
"You wouldn't want a name like everyone else's," Mrs. Quimby pointed out.
"I know," agreed Beezus, "But Beatrice."
"Yuck," said Ramona, trying to be helpful, but her mother frowned at her. "How about Trissy?" she suggested hastily.
Beezus was rude. "Don't be dumb. Then they would call me Sissy Trissy or something. Boys in the sixth grade think up awful names."
"Nobody ever calls me anything but Ramona Kimona." Ramona could not help thinking that an awful nickname might be interesting to have. "Why not just Beatrice? Nobody can think up a bad nickname for Beatrice."
"Yes, I guess you're right," agreed Beezus. "I'll have to be plain old Beatrice with her plain old brown hair."
"I think Beatrice is fancy," said Ramona, who also had plain old brown hair but did not take it so hard. Agreeing with Beezus -- Beatrice --gave Ramona a cozy feeling, as if something unusualy pleasant had taken place. Beezus honored Ramona with a watery smile, forgiving her, at least for the moment, for preaching a sermon.
Ramona felt secure and happy. Agreeing was so pleasent she wished she and her sister could agree more often. Unfortunatly, there were many things to disagree about -- whose turn it was to feed Pickey-picky, the old yellow cat, who should change the paper under Pickey-pickey's dish, whose washcloth had been left sopping in the bathtub because someone had not wrung it out, and whose dirty underwear had been left in whose half of the room. Ramona always said Beezus -- Beatrice -- was bossy, because she was older. Beatrice said Ramona always got her own way because she was the baby and because she always made a fuss. For the moment all this was forgotten.
Mrs. Quimby smiled to see her girls at peace with one another. "Don't you worry, Beatrice. If the bosy tease you, just hold your head high and ignore them. When they see they can't tease you, they will stop."
The two sisters exchanged a look of complete understanding. They both knew this was the sort of advice easy for adults to give but difficult for children to follow. If the boys remembered, Beezus might have to listen to "Jesus, Beezus" for months before they gave up.
"By the way, Ramona," said Mrs. Quimby, as Beatrice went off to the bathroom to splash cold water on her face, "what did you say to the boys in the park?"
Ramona, who flopped back on the couch, sat up straight. "I told them they were not suposed to take the name of the Lord in vain," she said in her most proper Sunday School voice. "That's what my Sunday School teacher said."
"Oh, I see," said Mrs. Quimby. "And what did they say to that?"
Ramona was chagrined because she knew her mother was amused, and Ramona did not like anyone to be amused when she was serious. "Wasn't I right? That's what I learned in Sunday School." She was filled with uncertainty by her mother's amusement, as well as her sister's anger over the incident.
"Of course, you were right, dear, although I don't suppose a bunch of boys would pay much attention." Mrs. Quimby's lips were not smiling, but amusement lingered in her eyes. "How did the boys answer?"
Ramona's confidence wilted compleatly. She was seeing that little girl in the park who was not the heroine she thought she was after all. "They laughed," Ramona admitted in a small voice, feeling sorry for herself. Poor little Ramona, laughed at and picked on. Nobody understood how she felt. Nobody understood what it was like to be six years old and the littlest one in the family unless you counted old Pickey-picky, and even he was ten years old.
Mrs. Quimby gave Ramona a big hug. "Well, it's all over now," she said. "Run along and play, but please don't play Brick Factory this afternoon."
"Don't worry, Mother. I don't have any bricks left."
Ramona felt that her mother should be able to see that running along and playing was impossible on a hot summer afternoon when everyone Ramona's age had gone to the beach or the mountains or to visit a grandmother. The two weeks the Quimbys had spent in a borrowed mountain cabin in July now seemed a long time away. Who was she suposed to play with?
Summer was boring. Long and boring. No bricks left for the game of Brick Factory, which she and her friend Howie had invented, nobody to play with, and Beezus with her nose in a book all day.
Not having any place to run along to, Ramona sat looking at her mother, thinking that her fresh haircut and touch of eye shadow made her look unusually nice this afternoon. She wondered if her mother would tell her father about the incident in the park and if they would have a good laugh over it when they thought Ramona could not hear. She hoped not. She did not want her father to laugh at her.
Seeing her mother looking so nice made Ramona recall the reason for the trip to the park. "What was your errand that you didn't want to drag us alone on?" she asked.
Mrs. Quimby smiled a different smile, exasperating and mysterious. "Sh-h-h," she said, her finger on her lips. "It's a secret, and wild horses couldn't drag it out of me."
Ramona found secrets hard to bear. "Tell me, Mama! Mama, please tell me." She threw her arms around her mother, who had a good smell of clean clothes and perfumed soap. "Please, please please!" Learning a big juicy secret would help make up for Ramona's unhappy afternoon.
Mrs. Quimby shook her head.
"Pretty please with a lump of sugar on it?" Ramona felt she could not bear not knowing this very minute.
If I told you, it wouldn't be a secret anymore," said Mrs. Quimby.
That, Ramona felt, was just about the most exhasperating sentence ever spoken by a grown-up.
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 appreaciated. Thank you!
All characters and stories are copyright © 1975 by Beverly Cleary.