Henry's valiant efforts to get his own paper route are finally rewarded--with a little help from Ramona.
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September 01, 1990
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Excerpt from Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary
One Friday afternoon Henry Huggins sat on the front steps of his white house on Klickitat Street, with his dog Ribsy at his feet. He was busy trying to pick the cover off an old golf ball to see what was inside. It was not very interesting work, but it was keeping him busy until he could think of something better to do. What he really wanted, he decided, was to do something different; but how he wanted that something to be different, he did not know.
"Hi, Henry," a girl's voice called, as Henry picked away at the tough covering of the golf ball. It was Beatrice, or Beezus, as everyone called her. As usual, she was followed by her little sister Ramona, who was hopping and skipping along the sidewalk. When Ramona came to a tree, she stepped into its shadow and then jumped out suddenly.
`Hi, Beezus, Henry called hopefully. For a girl, Beezus was pretty good at thinking up interesting things to do. "What are you doing?" he asked, when the girls reached his house. He could see that Beezus had a ball of red yarn in her hands.
"Going to the store for Mother," answered Beezus, as her fingers worked at the yarn.
I mean what's that in your hands?" Henry asked.
"I'm knitting on a spool," Beezus explained.
"You take a spool and drive four nails in one end, and you take some yarn and a crochet hook -- like this. See?" Deftly she lifted loops of yarn over the nails in the spool to show Henry what she was doing.
"But what does it make?" Henry asked.
"A long piece of knitting." Beezus held up her work to show Henry a tail of knitted red yarn that came out of the hole in the center of the spool.
"But what's it good for?" Henry asked.
"I don't know," admitted Beezus, her fingers and the crochet hook flying. "But it's fun to do."
Ramona squeezed herself into the shadow of a telephone pole. Then she jumped out and looked quickly over her shoulder.
"What does she keep doing that for?" Henry asked curiously, as he picked off a large piece of the golf-ball cover. He was getting closer to the inside now.
"She's trying to get rid of her shadow," Beezus explained. I keep telling her she can't, but she keeps trying anyway. Mother read her that poem: 'I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me, and what can be the use of him is more than I can see.' She decided she didn't want a shadow tagging around after her." Beezus turned to her sister. "Come on, Ramona. Mother said not to dawdle."
"Oh, for Pete's sake," muttered Henry, as the girls left. Knitting a long red tail that wasn't good for anything, and trying to get rid of a shadow the dumb things girls did! They didn't make sense. Then he looked at the battered golf ball in his hands and the thought came to him that what be was doing didn't make much sense either. In disgust he tossed the golf ball onto the lawn.
Ribsy uncurled himself from the foot of the steps and got up to examine the golf ball. He picked it up in his teeth and trotted to the top of the driveway, where he dropped it and watched it roll down the slope to the sidewalk. just before it rolled on into the street, he raced down and caught the ball in his mouth. Then he trotted back up the driveway and dropped the ball again.
Henry watched Ribsy play with the golf ball, and he decided that this afternoon everyone -- even his dog -- was busy doing something that made no sense at all. What he wanted to do was something that made sense, something important. Something like . . . something . . . Well, he couldn't think exactly what, but something important.
"Hi, there, Henry!" A folded newspaper landed with a thump on the grass in front of Henry.
" Oh, hi, Scooter," answered Henry, glad of an excuse to talk to someone, even if it was Scooter McCarthy.
Scooter was in the seventh grade at Glenwood School, while Henry was only in the fifth. Naturally, Scooter felt pretty superior when Henry was around. Henry looked at Scooter sitting on his bicycle, with one foot against the curb and his canvas bag of Journals over his shoulders. He thought it must be fun to ride down the street tossing papers to the right and to the left, and getting paid for it.
"Say, Henry," said Scooter. "Mr. Capper -- he's in charge of all the Journal boys around here he's looking for somebody to take a route. You don't happen to know anybody around here who would like to deliver papers, do you?"
"Sure," answered Henry eagerly. "Me."' Talk about opportunity knocking! It was practically pounding on his door. A paper route was important, and Henry knew that delivering the Journal was exactly what he wanted to do. It made sense.
Scooter looked thoughtfully at Henry, who waited for him to scoff, the way he usually did at almost anything Henry said. But this time Scooter surprised Henry. He did not scoff. Instead, he said seriously, "No, I don't believe you could do it."