Loser by Jerry Spinelli

Book: Loser by Jerry Spinelli Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jerry Spinelli
sandwich.” She repeats his words so carefully he wonders if she knows what a sandwich is. He has never been this close to a very, very old person before. He wonders how much there is that such a person does not know. “A sandwich…a sandwich…” she repeats as she continues her frozen gallop across the kitchen. The back legs of the walker land first with a rubbery thud, then the front legs, then the catch-up shushing of her own slippers on the linoleum. Thud thud shush shush. “A sandwich…”
    He plops into a chair. He is almost woozy from slowness.
    She stops at a metal cabinet. “How about peanut butter and jelly?” she says. “Do children still like peanut butter and jelly?”
    He has long since outgrown peanut butter and jelly. What he really wants is a pepper and egg sandwich, like his mother makes, with spicybrown mustard. But he guesses this is out of the question. “Sure,” he says.
    She fusses in the cabinet, fusses in the refrigerator. She finds the peanut butter. “Can’t find the jelly,” she says. “Today we’ll have pretend jelly. How would you like that?”
    He’s ready to agree to anything. “Okay,” he says.
    She is so slow, so deliberate in every movement that he sees things he has never seen before. He had not known there were so many steps to the spreading of peanut butter on a slice of bread. Is this how things appear to the Waiting Man, a world in slow motion?
    After what seems like hours she heads for the table, pushing the walker with one hand, holding a plated sandwich in the other. When she lays the plate on the table and heads back for the second sandwich, he jumps up. “I’ll get it!”
    She transfers herself from the walker to a chair, and at long last they set to eating.
    â€œI’m pretending my jelly is gooseberry,” she says. She is the color of white mice: pink scalp showing through white hair, pink eyelids. Her eyesare watery, but she is not crying. “We used to have gooseberries on our farm. What’s yours?”
    â€œGrape,” he says.
    â€œJelly or jam?” she says.
    He is stumped. “Jelly, I guess.”
    â€œJam is easier to spread.”
    â€œOkay, jam.”
    â€œAre you sure? I always thought jelly had more taste.”
    Not that it makes any difference. He really does try to pretend, but all he tastes is peanut butter and bread.
    He’s glad they’re in the kitchen. It’s not as dark as the rest of the house. The sandwich halves are in the shape of triangles. He likes it that way. It seems special. Before he knows it his sandwich is gone. The old lady has barely begun. She eats as slowly as she walks.
    She looks at him. She puts down her sandwich and with a grimace reaches for the walker. “I’ll make you another.”
    â€œNo,” he says. He puts his hand on her wrist.Her skin feels like newspaper. “I’ll do it.”
    He gets up and makes himself another. “Don’t forget the jelly,” she calls over her shoulder. He spreads pretend jelly. He slices the sandwich catty-corner, into triangles.
    He tries to eat this one more slowly. They do not speak. He wonders about something to drink, but he’s afraid to ask.
    â€œDo you know the Waiting Man?” he says.
    She tilts her head and sniffs, as if trying to catch the full scent of the question. “Waiting Man?”
    â€œThe man at the window, down the street? Nine twenty-four Willow.”
    She puts down her sandwich, the better to think. She shakes her head. “I don’t know any waiting man.”
    â€œHe’s been waiting for a long time,” he says. “A long time.”
    He hopes she asks him how long.
    She looks at him. Her eyes are gleaming, but he is sure she is not crying. “How long?”
    Suddenly he realizes the number is not handy. His father had originally said “thirty-two

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