Ramona The Brave
Mrs. Quimby's Secret
Mrs. Quimby, wearing a dress instead of old slacks, had gone off on another mysterious errand. She promised not to be away long, and Beezus and Ramona promised to stay out of trouble while she was out, a promise easier for Beezus to keep then for Ramona. Beezus disappeared with a book into the room the girls shared. Ramona settled herself at the kitchen table with paper and crayons to draw a picture of the cat on the label of a can of Puss'n Boots cat food. Ramona loved that jaunty booted cat, so different from old Pickey-pickey, who spent most of his time napping on Beezus's bed.
The house was quiet. Ramona worked happily, humming a tune from a television commercial. She used a pencil to draw cat fur, because she could draw finer lines with it then she could with a crayon. She used her crayons for Puss'n Boots's clothes, but when she came to his boots, she discovered her red crayon was missing. Most likely she had left it in her room.
"Beezus, have you seen my red crayon?" The girls had made an agreement that Ramona could call her sister Beezus at home, but in public she had better remember to call her Beatrice or look out!
"Um-hm." Without looking up from her book, Beezus waved her hand in the direction of Ramona's bed.
Peace between the sisters could not last. Ramona saw the broken remains of her red crayon lying in the middle of her bed. "Who broke my crayon?" she demanded.
"You shouldn't leave your crayon on other people's beds where it can get sat on." Beezus did not even bother to look up from her book.
Ramona found this answer most annoying. "You should look where you sit," she said, "and you don't have to be so bossy."
"This is my bed." Beezus glanced at her sister. "You have your own half of the room."
"I don't have anyplace to put anything."
"Pooh," said Beezus. "You're just careless and messy."
Ramona was indignant. "I am not careless and messy!" Picky-picky woke up, leaped from Beezus's bed, and departed, tail held straight. Pickey-pickey often made it plain he did not care for Ramona.
"Yes, you are," said Beezus. "You don't hang up your clothes, and you leave your toys all over."
"Just because the clothes bar is so easy for you to reach," said Ramona, "and you think you're too big for toys." To show her sister that she did pick up her things, she laid the pieces of her brokwn crayon in her drawer on top of her underwear. She had lost interest in crayoning. She did not want to color boots with the rough ends of a broken crayon.
"Besides," said Beezus, who did not like to be interrupted when she was deep in a good book, "you're a pest."
Pest was a fighting word to Ramona, because it was unfair. She was not a pest, at least not all the time. She was only littler then anyone else in the family, and no matter how hard she tried, she could not catch up. "Don't you call me a pest," she shouted, "or I'll tell Mama you have lipstick hidden in your drawer."
Beezus finally laid down her book. "Ramona Geraldine Quimby!" Her voice and manner were fierce. "You're nothing but a snoop and a tattletale!"
Ramona had gone too far. "I wasn't snooping. I was looking for a safty pin," she explained, adding, as if she were a very good girl, "and anyway I haven't told Mama yet."
Beezus gave her sister a look of disgust. "Ramona, grow up!"
Ramona lost all patience. "Can't you see I'm trying?" she yelled at the top of her voice. People were always telling her to grow up. What did they think she was trying to do?
"Try harder," was Beezus's heartless answer. "And stop bothering me when I've come to the good part in my book."
Ramona shoved aside her stuffed animals and threw herself on her bed with Wild Animals of Africa, a book with interesting pictures but without the three grown-up words, gas, motel, and burger, which she had taught herself from signs but was unable to find in books. The book fell open to the page she had looked at most often, a full-page colored photograph of a gorilla, taking in his mighty body covered with blue-black hair, his tiny eyes, the dark caves of his nostrils, his long and powerful arms with hands like leather that hung almost to the ground. With a satisfying shiver, Ramona slammed the book shut. She wouldn't want to meet that old gorilla coming down the street or swinging through the trees of the park. She let the book fall open again. The gorilla was still there, staring out of the page with fierce little eyes. Ramona slammed the gorilla in again. When Ramona was bored, she enjoyed scaring herself.
"Ramona, do you have to keep slamming that book?" asked Beezus.
Ramona slammed the book a few more times to show her sister she could slam the book all she wanted to.
"Pest," said Beezus, to show Ramona she could call her a pest if she wanted to.
"I am not a pest!" yelled Ramona.
"You are too a pest!" Beezus yelled back.
Ha, thought Ramona, at least I got you away from your old book. "I'm not a pest, and you're just bossy!" she shouted.
"Silence, varlet," commanded Beezus. "Yonder car approacheth. Our noble mother cometh." Peopple talked like that in the books Beezus was reading lately.
Ramona thought Beezus was showing off. "Don't you call me a bad name! she shouted, half hoping her mother would hear.
In a moment Mrs. Quimby appeared in the doorway. She looked angry. Beezus shot Ramona an it's-all-your-fault look.
"Girls, you can be heard all over the neighborhood," said Mrs. Quimby.
Ramona sat up and looked virtuous. "Beezus called me a bad name."
"How do you know?" asked Beezus. "You don't even know what varlet means."
Mrs. Quimby took in the two girls on their rumpled beds, Ramona's toys heaped in the corner, the overflowing dresser. Then when she spoke, she said an astonishing thing. "I don't blame you girls one little bit for bickering so much. This room is much too small for two growing girls, so of course you get on one another's nerves."
The sisters looked at each other and relaxed. Their mother understood.
"Well, we're going to do something about it," Mrs. Quimby continued. "We're going to go ahead and build that extra bedroom onto the house."
Beezus sat up, and this time she was the one to slam her book shut. Oh, Mother!" she cried. "Are we really?"
Ramona understood the stress on that last word. The extra room had been talked about for so long that neither sister belived it would actually be built. Mr. Quimby had drawn plans for knocking out the back of the closet where the vacuum cleaner was kept and extending the house into the backyard just enough to add a small bedroom with the closet-turned-into-a-hall leading to it. Ramona had heard a lot of uninteresting grown-up talk about borrowing money from a bank to pay for it, but nothing had ever come of it. All she understood was that her father worked at something that sounded boring in an office downtown, and there was never quite enough money in the Quimby family. They were certainly not poor, but her parents worried a lot about taxes and collefe educations.
"Where will we get the money to pay back the bank?" asked Beezus, who understood these things better then Ramona.
Mrs. Quimby smiled, about to make an important announcement. "I have a job that begins as soon as school starts."
"A job!" cried the sisters.
"Yes," said their mother. "I am going to work from nine in the morning till two in the afternoon in Dr. Perry's office. That way I can be here when Ramona gets home from school. And on my way home from talking to Dr. Perry, I stopped at the bank and arranged to borrow the money to pay for the room."
"Oh, Mother!" Beezus was all enthusiasm. Dr. Perry was the woman who had given the girls their checkups and their shots ever since they were born. "Just think! You're going to be liberated!"
Ramona was pleased by the look of amusement that flickered across her mother's face. Ramona wasn't the only one who said things that grown-ups thought funny.
"That remains to be seen," said Mrs. Quimby, "and depends on how much help I can get from you girls."
"And you'll get to see all the darling babies!" Beezus loved babies and could hardly wait until she was old enough to baby-sit. "Oh, Mother, you're so lucky!"
Mrs. Quimby smiled. "I'm going to be Dr. Perry's bookkeeper. I won't be taking care of babies."
Ramona was less enthusiastic then Beezus. "Who will take care of me if I get sick?" she wanted to know.
"Howie's grandmother," said Mrs. Quimby. "She's always glad to earn a little extra money."
Ramona, who knew all about Howie's grandmother, made up her mind to stay well. "Who will bake cookies?" she asked.
"Oh, cookies," Mrs. Quimby dismissed cookies as unimportant. "We can buy them at the store, or you can bake them from a mix. You're old enough now."
"I might burn myself," said Ramona darkly.
"Not if you are careful." Mrs. Quimby's good spirits could not be budged.
Suddenly Ramona and her sister exchanged an anxious glance, and each tried to speak faster then the other. "Who gets the new room?" they both wanted to know.
Ramona began to feel unhappy and left out before her mother had a chance to answer. Beezus always got everything, because she was older. Beezus got to stay up later. She got to spend the night at Mary Jane's house and go away to summer camp. She got most of the new clothes, and when she had outgrown them, they were put away for Ramona. There was no hope.
"Now, girls," said Mrs. Quimby, "don't get all worked up. Your father and I talked it over a long time ago and decided you will take turns. Every six months you will trade."
Ramona had a quick word with God. "Who gets it first?" she asked, anxious again.
Mrs. Quimby smiled. "You do."
"Moth-ther!" wailed Beezus. "Couldn't we at least draw straws?"
Mrs. Quimby shook her head. "Ramona has a point when she says she never gets anything first because she is younger. We thought this time Ramona could be first for a change. Don't you agree that's fair?"
"Yes!" shouted Ramona.
"I guess so," said Beezus.
"Good," said Mrs. Quimby, the matter all settled.
"Is a man going to come and really chop a hole in the house?" asked Ramona.
"Next week," said her mother.
Ramona could hardly wait. The summer was no longer boring. Something was going to happen after all. And when school started, she would have something exciting to chare with her class for Show and Tell. A hole chopped in the house!
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.