Strider

Strider by Beverly Cleary Read Free Book Online

Book: Strider by Beverly Cleary Read Free Book Online
Authors: Beverly Cleary
and carved it with a flourish. The grandmother was there, knitting a wild red, purple, and orange sweater out of fluffy yarn, which Mom admired and Barry says will sell for several hundred dollars. The little girls were all flapping around in the monarch butterfly costumes they wore in P.G.’s annual butterfly parade in October. We had all the things that go with turkey, and two kinds of pie. Everyone laughed a lot. Mom laughed, too, and admired the spaghetti wall. It was good to hear her laugh.
    After that dinner, our cottage seemed small and cold. I fed Strider the scraps Mrs. Brinkerhoff had sent him and wondered where Dad ate his Thanksgiving dinner.
    I wish Mom would laugh more often.

December 17
    Running with Strider is cold, damp work. I overheard one of the gas station attendants next door say, “Doesn’t that kid ever walk?” He ought to try substituting for a herd of cattle to exercise a Queensland heeler.
    Old Wounded-hair now gives me A’s on my compositions and says my attitude has improved. Ha-ha. That’s what she thinks. I hand in the most boring papers I can think of, but I am careful to make them correct. Writing “My Summer at Camp” was especially interesting to write because I have never gone to camp. My topic sentence was “I made many friends at camp.” Boring!
    I worry about Dad, I worry about Mom, I worry about me. Wiping up Strider’s muddy paw prints so Mrs. Smerling won’t see them is an ongoing job.

December 25
    Christmas! Friday Barry left for Los Smogland with his two real sisters to spend vacation with Real Mom. I now have Strider all to myself for ten days.
    This morning Dad turned up in his old pickup truck to bring me a quilted jacket for Christmas. He gave me quilted jackets the last two Christmases, but he forgets. Or maybe he doesn’t know what else to get. I gave him a warm shirt to wear under his uniform to keep him warm when he has to go out in the cold to check oil and wash windshields.
    Because Mom had Thanksgiving off, she had to work today. She cooked us a nice midday dinner with roast chicken, so she invited Dad to stay. Nobody objected when I slipped a bite to Strider. Dad left right after we ate becausehe had to work, too. He was pretty quiet the whole time.
    â€œBuck up, Leigh.” Mom kissed me as she left for work. I washed the dishes to keep hordes of beady-eyed, antennae-waving cockroaches from invading.
    Today is not exactly a Joyeux Noël, as they say on Christmas cards. The good part is I am free of old Wounded-hair for the holidays, and I have Strider all to myself.

January 6
    The day before Christmas vacation ended, serious rain came pounding down. Our cottage didn’t leak, but the windows steamed, and mildew drew a map on the bathroom wall. One morning I woke up feeling awful and said, “Mom, I have a sore throat and I think I have a temperature.”
    Mom laid her hand on my forehead and said, “Everybody has a temperature. You have a fever .” That’s what working in the hospital has done to her—made her sound like my English teacher. Being Mom, she began to worry full-time and said she’d better phone the hospital and say she couldn’t work that day.
    â€œMom,” I croaked. “I’m not dying. I’m old enough to stay alone. I’m not a baby, and I have Strider to keep me company.”
    Because the hospital was shorthanded, Mom finally agreed to let me stay alone if I promised to stay in bed, drink lots of fluids, etc., etc. She made me a bed on the living room couch because my room is unheated, took Strider jogging in the rain, and dried him on an old towel so the shack wouldn’t smell too doggy; and before she left, she set water, juice, books, and a thermos of hot soup on a chair by the couch.
    The rest of the day stretched ahead like a long, dark tunnel. I didn’t even feel up to watching TV. Strider and I dozed until he began to act restless.

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