and eyes made Oâs of surprise.
âWell, I never,â she said. I stood there and she stood there, neither of us giving any ground. Finally, with a litle shrug, she stood aside in a somewhat grudging way and I skinned past her. Their kitchen was like ours, only neater. There werenât dirty dishes hanging around, and the floor was shiny. The lady shook my hand without taking off her bright-pink rubber gloves. A couple of bright-pink rollers wobbled on her forehead, and I couldnât help noticing her toes. They were long toes, so long they hung over the ends of her sandals. Her toenails were painted the same bright pink as the other stuff.
The boy was nowhere in sight. Once I heard someone burp loudly out in the hall. The lady put her hand to her mouth daintily, but it wasnât her whoâd burped. It was him. Iâd bet on it.
âWeâre the Rowes,â she said. âWhatâs your name?â
âMy name is Grace Schmitt,â I told her. âMy fatherâs name is Frank. My motherâs name is Mrs. Schmitt.â I didnât want to tell her my motherâs name was Grace too. It embarrassed me, to tell the truth.
âIâm in the third grade. Perhaps youâd like to come over to our house and play cards some night.â
I figured somebody had to make the first move.
The lady bustled about without answering me, scrubbing away at the counter with a damp sponge, frowning as she wiped off the woodwork and the front of the refrigerator.
âYou keep a very clean kitchen,â I said, wanting her to know I noticed. âYour husband must be very proud of you.â
The lady turned and said, âWe are not a card-playing family. We have our church work, you see. As well as our crafts and community work. Our days are filled. Iâm afraid not. Would you like a saltine?â
âSure,â said I, trying to sort it all out. Iâd never had a saltine, but I figured if I had one it would give me time to think of something to lure the Rowes over to our house so my parents would have some friends.
The lady passed an open box of saltines in front of my face and I took one. I saw a shadowy form wearing sneakers out in the hall, so I said, âDoesnât he want one too?â
The lady let out a tinkly little laugh. âOh, we never eat between meals. What does your father do, little girl?â
âMy nameâs Grace,â I said again, thinking she must not have heard me the first time. âHe does lots of things. Heâs a croupier in Atlantic City, for one. Once he saw a man lose ten thousand dollars on one roll of the dice.â I loved to tell that story. It always got a reaction. Today was no exception. I watched the ladyâs eyebrows rise until they almost collided with the rollers bobbing on her forehead. âRight at the moment,â I went on, âmy fatherâs helping out at the body shop downtown. Heâs a very good body man,â I said proudly. âOne of the best.â
At that moment, the boy came bounding into the room before I had a chance to tell about my mother waxing unwanted hair off people.
âAre you a Republican?â he shouted. From the way he was frowning and the way his fists were clenched, I knew he was looking for a fight.
âSure,â I said, not knowing what a Republican was, but as I was on a friend-finding mission I might as well give him answers he obviously wanted.
âItâs a good thing,â he said in an ominous way. âDo you get Aâs on your report card?â he shot at me.
I was willing to go just so far with the truth. I did have standards, after all.
âNo,â I said, feeling virtuous. âSometimes I get Bâs.â
âMommy, tell her,â the boy commanded.
The lady reached out one of her rubber gloves and smoothed the boyâs hair. âBobby never gets less than an A,â she said with a trembly mouth. âHeâs our