(By: Lauren Dittmer)
"Can't you do anything by yourself!?" Papa yelled at me a little louder than usual and it made my tail shiver. Months ago, I noticed he would only rant when I wasn't within earshot, but recently, he wanted for me to hear his disappointment, I suppose.
"Is there nothing I can do to fix you from being this way?" I didn't know what he meant by 'this way'. Did he mean the way I am? Should I really be someone I am not to please him?
"I mean, seriously! You only just now learned how to read? Every other kid your age has read for more than a year by now! So it's no wonder your teacher stole my time away to lecture me on how to raise a decent son on my own."
The day after his harsh speeches, he came in my room and told me something unexpected.
"You know what, Zore? My boss called me. You know what she said? She said she heard about my amazing cooking. She, and her daughter (who, by the way, I heard was the most behaved and talented pretty little girl), want to come over for lunch tomorrow. They said that they wanted to meet us (the daughter, you know, is around your age, so you will get along). The daughter, I was warned, is a tiny bit frail, though, and can't do most things that kids her age can do… anyways, you better be on your best and make them feel welcomed, 'n 'k?"
The day came. The house was spotless. I was dressed well, I thought. I wore my favorite orange striped sweater and my blue jeans. Gym shoes, a nicely combed tail, and spick-and-span ears all proved that I was ready for anything. My papa wanted me to sport a hat, but hats don't fit well over my big ol' ears. So, without him knowing, I tossed it under the couch in the living room.
The doorbell rang and I beat papa to the door. Taking a professional breath, I gently opened the door to reveal our two visitors.
The first and only thing that caught my eye was my papa's boss' daughter. She had a scarf, tap-shoes, and a short haircut. Reaching way up high, her bunny-like ears were as white as her dress. I then remembered my papa tellin' me that her name was Sallamantha.
Papa went to shake boss' hands, and I thought I'd follow his always-excellent example. Yet, when I extended my hand to Sallamantha, she quickly swatted my hand away and punched me right in the gut, which terribly hurt. My papa's attention jerked from me, to Sallamantha, to her mama. Thus, she explained, "Sallamantha has a handshake of her own." Well, THAT explained it, alright.
Instead of a handshake or talking back (which papa said I was NEVER to do to a lady), I shook off the lingering dizzy effect, and shouted, "Welcome to our house!"
That was the first time I heard Sallamantha speak. "Raaaw, do not be so noisy," she quipped unceremoniously. "I cannot stand for unnecessary volume."
I learned my lesson. Her razory voice not so pleasing when angered. I hoped her normal voice didn't sound the same way.
Sallamantha continued, "Why a green welcome mat? I do not favor green." Her face seemed as though she had just smelled cheese two years after its expiration date.
As we ushered the two in our home, the boss whispered to my papa. If she was trying to make it so I couldn't hear, she didn't do a great job. She said, "Please switch off the air conditioning. I realize it's not on quite dramatically, but I'm afraid Sallamantha cannot breathe normally at times where artificial temperatures are in equal living quarters as she."
Before papa left to do as he was told, he beckoned me to go outside and play with her. Again, however, the boss halted papa by sayin', "Sallamantha cannot attend any outdoor activities. Her frail health demands it, I'm afraid." We told her we understood.
Curious about her health, I interjected, "Can Sallamantha eat cupcakes?"
"Yes, but not presently. Another two hours following the current one and she may. Now, she would faint. Frosting, you understand..."
My ear drooped as I sighed. I was looking forward to her eating them right away, as they were still warm. But, who was I to argue?
After I was done thinking, I realized that Sallamantha was pulling my crestfallen ear. "Do not droop! It is not symmetrical! Not symmetrical, not right!" With that, she bounded back to her mama. Stinging, my ear fearfuly went back to its up-right position.
Papa gestured the company to the living room.
"No," Sallamantha cut-in "I got to eat! Lunch!"
"Now? But it's only ten-"
In the kitchen, while papa was busy preparing the sandwiches, it was my job to make boss and Sallamantha feel at home. I started, "So, Sallamantha…"
Her sharp, glowing eyes darted in my direction.
"Are you off of school today because of a holiday? I am."
"Gah! School is for twisted children. I did not consider you to be twisted. I am sorry to be wrong."
I never got a reply like that before. It took me a few seconds to recover. Luckily, my papa interjected, "Is white bread alright, Sallamantha?"
Sallamantha hissed like a cobra giving its final warning, "No! WHEAT bread! I eat wheat, not white!"
"Oookay, wheat bread it is." Papa started to seem as ill-at-ease as I was.
Not allowing us a chance to take in fresh air, Sallamantha shouted again, "And no crust, either! Cut it all off!"
Papa only nodded as he started chopping off the good stuff. I remained quiet, and papa did, too.
Sallamantha peered around the room like a determined health inspector. Not surprisingly, she discovered something wrong. Hopping off her chair, she scurried to the counter where a picture framed me and my friends at the park. She pointed at it with harsh disdain and a hint of fear. "Scary! Spooky! Why are brown locks in sight?" I didn't understand what she meant, until I peeked closer. My best friend's hair was brown, and, apparently, that wasn't a good thing.
I slipped off my chair and placed the photo face-down. "Good?"
She blinked at me. For a minute, it seemed as though she didn't understand the language I spoke. I repeated, patting the downward frame, "Isn't this okay?"
It was then that I noticed Sallamantha's mama. She addressed me and said, "Sallamantha cannot comprehend words containing er… three-add-one amount of letters."
I did the math with my pudgy fingers… "You mean, four? I can't talk to her with four lettered words?"
"You are correct."
I was stupefied. Could Sallamantha be for real?
We began to eat. Rather, me, papa, and boss did. Sallamantha sat still.
"What's wrong, Sallamantha?" Papa asked, knowing something indeed was wrong.
"Sit there, instead. It would be better."
Papa relocated by me, for her sake. At that moment, I was reminded that it had been a long time since my papa sat next to me for a meal. It made me kinda happy inside. Happy, amidst all the confusion and building tension that was Sallamantha.
Sallamantha was muttering things to herself that I chose to listen to. "Knife doesn't match plate. Knife too sharp. Pepper too big."
During the whole visit, boss didn't do or say much. She only assisted Sallamantha with every little detail, like wiping her mouth dry and clean after every single bite, and straightening the tablecloth and such.
At last, there was a silver lining and Sallamantha smiled and said, "Yummy lunch!" She had never smiled before then. It was very refreshing, but it also didn't last.
"Bathroom!" Sallamantha blurted. "Where is the bathroom? There? Seven steps to the bathroom? Ridiculous! Odd numbers are bad. Why not eight?"
Nevertheless, Sallamantha got up, walked to the bathroom, and as soon as we thought she was gone for a moment, she stopped. "Not girl's bathroom? Where is the girl's bathroom?"
Papa sighed aloud, "We own one bathroom, Sallamantha. It can be the girl's bathroom, if you want—need—must—prefer it to be." Papa stumbled over his words, taking care to not say anything with four letters.
When the door shut behind Sallamantha, we both were greatly relieved. Boss noticed that, and said, "It's always been this way. The only thing we can do is to accept her quirks and obey her demands. I suggest you do the same." That was the first time I heard boss say four-lettered words.
Briskly, Sallamantha returned to her seat. Papa was about to offer her more juice when she cut him off. "No speaking! I do not enjoy being spoken to. Let me eat."
That was it. I couldn't take it. Something had to be done. I puffed out my chest, cocked my one, still-tingling ear down, and I yelled, "Don't be mean to papa!"
Sallamantha was clearly shocked. Yelling, four-lettered words, and unevenness all were in front of her. It was a sign of rebellion, and she would have no part of it.
"Mother!" Cried Sallamantha. "Our company is terrible! We depart to our house now. Now!" As she was saying this, she was heading for the door. All boss did was follow her out.
Sallamantha left our home and a lesson behind for papa. That's all he would say about it when I asked him what he meant.
Days later, when papa was researching recipes on the computer in the study, I bounded up the stairs, tail swishing energetically behind me. Joyfully, I scampered in my room. I discovered a letter on the side-table. It read:
You are a wonderful person. I am sorry for all the times I was rude to you. I hope you will come to like being with me. I know if I were you, it would take me quite some time. Reflecting back to the older days when mama was still around, I recall our happier days. I don't know what happened to that trusting relationship we shared. I'm relieved Sallamantha left, and I PROMISE I will never invite her again, but I'm also glad of the lesson she taught me. Thanks for being my son,