The Job

May 2, 2008
By Geneva Mollins, North Brookfield, MA

In the middle of a very big room in a very big armchair on the lap of a very tiny girl with a very large pair of spectacles on her nose and a very large book propped up on the arm of the very large chair was an enormous bowl, which seemed to be filled to the brim with blackberries. The girl had mousey brown hair and a pointy nose, and tiny little ears which just barely supported her large, thick-rimmed glasses. As she read from the book, which had to have been half the size of her at least, with her thin, white-stockinged legs stretched neatly in front of her, she scooped from the bowl with a tiny spoon clasped firmly in her tiny hands. The bowl, on closer inspection, could be found to contain a massive snow pile of vanilla ice cream (beneath the mountain of blackberries). And though she ate at the rate at which a prehistoric snail’s grandmother would painfully waddle along, shoveling tiny shovelfuls of black-capped snow from her enormous bowl to her tiny mouth with her tiny spoon in her tiny hands, the ice cream still did not seem to melt. Her eyes darted only between the book and the bowl, clearly wishing to remain focused only on the two things she was enjoying the most at the moment.

This she could have continued to do without interruption until she either finished the book or ran out of blackberries and ice cream, whichever came first, had not someone—someone very oblivious to the focus and concentration which it takes to eat an enormous bowl of ice cream with blackberries and to read an enormous book (and to cleverly balance the two) at the same time, especially when you are so very small—pulled into the driveway of the house at that moment.

In the back of her mind she heard the car door slam, and faintly heard the crunch of black dress shoes on the gravel as the oblivious person walked up the very long driveway to the very big house and the little tiny girl with her ice cream and her book in the nearly empty room. In the back of her mind she heard him trudge up the steps of the front porch with its ancient, rusty swing swinging and creaking in the chilly fall breeze. She barely, just barely, heard his feet cross the leaf-carpeted porch and ill-temperedly ring the ancient doorbell with its bell long rusted from lack of use, and heard him stomp his feet in the cold as he waited.

Again, louder this time, came the ring of the doorbell. The tiny girl looked up from her book, her face expressionless. With great effort she closed her mammoth book, clasped it with one hand on either side, bent carefully over the bowl and set it on the floor. She then put the bowl on top (first checking to be sure the bottom of the bowl was dry) and, using both hands, hoisted her tiny body out of the giant armchair, leaped in an arc over the bowl and the book and landed with a whump on the floor. Crossing the complaining floorboards, she stood on tiptoe, turned the door handle, and opened the door.

The man looked in, surprised eyes peering in confusion our from under the brim of his hat at the air three feet above her head. The girl cleared her throat, and he looked down. “Oh,” he said at first; then, “is your father home?”

She stepped back wordlessly from the door and pointed up the long, spiral wooden staircase behind her. “Um, thank you,” he said, tipping his black hat and marching in and on up the stairs. Bracing her back against the inner face of the door, she pushed with all her might against the harsh autumn wind, tiny shoes scuffing on the floor. Finally she closed it with a sharp snap and a thud (not a particularly loud one, given her size) as she landed against it, straightened her spectacles, and clambered back into the overstuffed armchair with most of its overstuffing gone to return happily to her book and her still unmelted ice cream with blackberries.

A short time later a second man arrived, much like the first. Except that she could tell from the way he shut his car door, and the sound of his footsteps on the driveway, and his silhouette through the dusty lace curtains on the room’s only window (which was at the left of the door) that he was cheerier. He rang the doorbell only once, and waited patiently, without any stomping or bellowing, until she had once more extracted herself from the depths of her book and the tiny chunk of winter in her bowl and her large armchair and made her way once more to the door, standing on the tips of her toes and turning the handle with a chink.

“Hello,” said the man, smiling under his hat as she opened the door.

“Hello,” she said back.

“Is your father in?”

She pointed, “Right up the stairs and to your left.”

He spotted the bowl. “Ice cream?” he asked, eyeing her as if he expected treachery.

“But of course,” she said, silently wondering what on earth else someone would eat that would even slightly resemble the heavenly qualities of ice cream.

“Good thing,” said the man with a wink, “I was worried for a second.” He bowed slightly and said with a much friendlier tip of his much cheerier hat than the first one, “Thank you, ma’am,” and he too wound his way up the stairs.

When the tiny girl was once more absorbed in her enormous book and her mountain still solid ice cream, a man neatly dressed in a business suit, his jet-black hair finely oiled and slicked back, came trundling down the stairs. He walked over until he was just to the left of the armchair, and asked, while carefully watching the girl, “What do you think, babe? Is the second one the man for the job?”

Without looking up from her book or her ice cream and while munching a blackberry, the little girl replied, “The second one. Definitely.”

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