The New Kid In School
“Well, the poinsettia covered up the stain from the spaghetti sauce incident, but NOW I had to wear it! Can you imagine being a boy eight or nine years old, and being forced to wear a sweater with a great big flower on the front of it? It was humiliating! I was so embarrassed that I wanted to hide – but where can you hide when you’re wearing the amazing, fantastic, stupendously ugly Christmas sweater? I’ll tell you: Nowhere!
“I suddenly had a great idea! Since Beulie had crocheted the poinsettia onto the OUTSIDE of my sweater, I could just turn it inside-out and wear it! So I did that, and you know what? It was even more horrible on THAT side! It was like all the different colors on the sweater were trying to run away from each other, but they couldn’t because someone had sewed them together! So what could I do? I turned it right-side-out and put it on again. I experimented briefly with wearing it backwards, but I looked like a flower pot walking away from you, and everyone snickered when they saw it. Finally, I decided I would just face the shame head-on. Folks at school would get used to it, eventually. I put my sweater on the right way.
“There was a new girl in our class that day. She didn’t look up from the floor very much, and when she did, she didn’t seem very happy. And then she saw me -- and she smiled. Her eyes lit up, and her smile got bigger. I think she even laughed a little bit.
“I introduced myself to her, because that was the polite thing to do. She told me her name was Lucinda. Her family had just moved to our town.
“ ‘I really should thank you, Arnie,’ she said. ‘You just made my day! When I walked into school this morning, I was very nervous. I didn’t know anybody here. And I was worried what others would think when they saw that my clothes were a little shabby. And then I saw your sweater, and I thought, Maybe I don’t have it so bad after all! You really cheered me up!’
“Just then – well, before I can tell you what happened next, I have to tell you about my dog. He was a – well – he was a German shepherd/ poodle/ dachshund mix crossed with a genuine, all-American mutt! He was a mix of so many different kinds of dog, we called him Casserole! Casserole was my favorite dog ever! He could fetch, roll-over, play dead.
“But the thing he liked to do most of all was chew on things. We never had to worry about branches and sticks in our yard, so long as Casserole was around. He’d chew them up ’til there was nothing left. If we’d been thinking about it, we could have rented him out to other families to take care of the sticks in their yards, but we didn’t think about that. The problem with Casserole was, if he ran out of sticks and bones, he was just as likely to gnaw on the fence, or your toys, or even you, if he was bored enough.
“That morning when I met Lucinda, Casserole got out of our yard. It’s just barely possible that a certain young man, who shall remain nameless, had left the gate undone. And so, during recess, Casserole showed up at my school! He raced around the schoolyard, barking happily. Some of us threw snowballs at him, and he tried to bring them back, but they melted too soon. It was about that time that I was meeting Lucinda.
“Just then, Casserole saw something that looked delicious to him. He came racing up and grabbed Lucinda’s shoelace in his teeth. Before I could tell him to stop, Casserole had bitten the bow right off of her left shoe, and run away again! Have you ever tried to walk around with one shoe tied and the other one untied? Step-flap. Step-flap. Step-flap.
“Her left shoelace was now too short to tie a bow in, so all around the school she went: Step-flap. Step-flap. Step-flap. All over the schoolhouse. Step-flap. Step-flap. In the hallways. Step-flap. Step-flap. Walking up to the blackboard to do a math problem. Step-flap. Step-flap. Step-flap.
“She couldn’t walk home that way. She needed a new shoelace, or something she could use as laces. What could we use? What could we use?
“And then I figured out the solution to Lucinda’s problem. Do you know what it was? Do you remember how I told you that one of the sleeves of my sweater was about an inch longer than the other? Now do you know what I did? That’s right! I unraveled a bit of that sleeve – it was a red stripe – and tied a good knot in the blue yarn next to it. I dipped the ends of the red yarn in paste and twisted them into points. Once it was dry, Lucinda had a nice red shoelace, and I had sweater sleeves that were the same length!”
Click the Ugly Christmas Sweater link below for the previous parts.