The story of Chuckie and Barbie has been a hit, so here’s Part III. Have a wonderful Sunday.
LIFE WITHOUT CHUCKIE
Part III – Second Grade and Second Best
2012 Copyright Barbara Celeste McCloskey
Second grade turned out to be a better year for Barbie, but Chuckie struggled with reading and stayed after school every afternoon for extra help. Walking home alone was strange for Barbie because she had become accustomed to sharing what happened during the day with Chuckie, and even though she knew she’d surely go to hell, Barbie still wished she had been born a “public” and could go to school with Chuckie.
One Saturday in November, Barbie went to call for Chuckie. His mother answered the door. “Well, hello stranger.” His mother said. “Come in out of the cold. Chuckie’s watching cartoons and eating his breakfast in front of the TV.”
“Thanks, Lois.” Chuckie’s mom was the only grown-up Barbie called by her first name. She ripped off her jacket and hat, hung it on one of the hooks on the wall and then went into the living room. She found Chuckie laying on his stomach staring at the television. “Hey, Chuckie, you gonna lay around all day watching Bugs Bunny?” She teased. “Let’s go outside and build a snowman.”
“Nah.” Chuckie said ignoring her.
“What’s got you so grumpy?” Barbie said.
“You’d be grumpy too if you were dumb and had to stay after school every day.” He didn’t look at her.
“Aw, come on Chuckie. Knock it off. You’re not dumb. It’s Saturday. Let’s go outside and build a snowman.”
“I don’t want to.” He whined. “It’s cold and icky outside, and I just want to watch Bugs and Daffy.” He looked at her briefly and then turned his attention back to the television.
Chuckie always wanted to play outside. This wasn’t like him. “You want to talk about what’s wrong?”
“No.” He said flatly.
“OK.” Barbie lay down on her stomach beside her friend. Several minutes of silence went by before Chuckie said, “Why is reading so hard for me?”
Barbie was surprised by his question. “So that’s it. Chuckie, be serious. Reading is hard for a lotta kids. My cousin Jimmy has trouble with reading, too. And you know what? Mrs. Pink got so mad at him, she shut him in a locker!”
Chuckie turned and looked at Barbie with shock on his face. “Really?”
“Yeah. Just because he read the wrong word out loud. I think she hates Jimmy. I really wanted to sock Mrs. Pink, but then I would have ended up in the locker with Jimmy.”
Chuckie pondered what Barbie told him. “At least my teacher isn’t mean to me. She just makes me do the same thing over and over again.” Chuckie said.
“That’s what teachers do, Chuckie. I have to do it for my spelling words.” Barbie said with seven-year-old wisdom.
“I guess I should feel lucky my teacher likes me.” Chuckie said. “At least she doesn’t put me in a locker.”
“Yeah. So cheer up! I hate it when you’re sad.” Barbie said and she paused before she added, “And don’t forget, you have me, too. We can practice reading together.”
“Nah. When we’re together the last thing I want to do is school work.”
Barbie kept trying. “I’m not talking about school books, silly. I’m talking about library books. There are gillions of fun books out there. I found some at the Bookmobile the other day. Wanna see?” Barbie said with a grin.
“Maybe later.” Chuckie paused. “What kind of fun books?
“Look.” Barbie pulled out two books from a paper sack.
“You should have seen that bus, Chuckie! I don’t think they could have jammed one more book in that book there! Here, I got this one for you.” She handed him a book with a cover which pictured a frontiersman on the cover.
Chuckie perked up. “This is cool!”
“Yeah, that guy’s got a hat like yours and everything!” She pointed to the coonskin cap on the cover.
Chuckie sat up. “It’s good old Daniel Boone, Barbie. Gee, thanks.” He took the book from her and started looking at the pictures of his hero.
“No problem. All we have to do is bring it back when the book bus comes again.”
Barbie smiled at his interest. “Should we read yours first?”
Chuckie was shy about reading in front of her. “Let’s do yours. Why’d you get one on trains?”
“You know I love trains, silly. Every time I hear the whistle blow on the big trains, I wonder what kind of stuff is in the cars and where its going. Wouldn’t it be great to just jump on a train and end up some place completely different from here?”
“I never thought about it.” Chuckie said.
“I have. A lot. That’s why I want Santa to bring me a train.” Barbie smiled.
“Again?” Chuckie said. “I can’t believe you’re wasting another Christmas wish on a train.”
“But I really want one, Chuckie. I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
Chuckie shut the book and stared at her like she was stupid. “You haven’t gotten a train, Barbie, because you’re a girl and girls don’t get trains.”
Barbie crossed her arms over her chest. “Sometimes you’re really mean, Chuckie.” Barbie said with tears in her brown eyes.
Chuckie said in a soft voice. “I didn’t mean anything bad. It’s just the way it is. Did you ever see a lady engineer? Think about it.” He gently socked her on the shoulder. “Oh, come on, Barbie. We learned about this way back in Kindergarten – boys do certain stuff and girls do other stuff. Trains are definitely for boys.” He spoke with authority.
Barbie defended herself. “I don’t think Santa will see it that way. I wrote him a letter and told him I had been good all year, and the only thing I want is a Lionel train.” Her eyes widened. “I saw it on television. The engine blows smoke and everything!”
“If you wrote a letter all by yourself, then I’m sure Santa will bring you one.” Chuckie said in a soft voice, knowing he just lied to his best friend.
The night before Christmas, Barbie carefully placed the Christmas presents she had made for her parents in Brownie Scouts beneath the beautiful fresh pine Christmas tree she and her father had picked out together at the tree lot. She felt happy as she looked at the bright red wrapping paper and white bow that she tied with love. Now she understood why Santa was so jolly all of the time. After all, giving was his job.
Barbie kissed her parents good night and padded off to bed in her warm Dr. Denton pajamas. As she lay under Grandma Ella’s quilt she prayed. “Dear Lord, thank you for Christmas. It’s a beautiful time of the year. Please keep Santa safe on his long journey. And if it’s not too much to ask, please let him bring me a Lionel train.” She squeezed her eyes tight and willed herself to sleep.
The house was dark when her little brother John Robert crept in her room at two o’clock. “Barbie, wake up!” He whispered.
“What are you doing up so early?” She said in a groggy voice.
“Barbie, Santa came. There’s LOTS of presents out there.” John Robert said in his squeaky four-year-old voice.
“Shhhh—if we get up too early, Mom will spank us. Remember last year? Crawl in.” Barbie pulled the covers and her little brother snuggled beside her.
John Robert protested, “But Santa was here!”
“I know. But we’d better wait a little while before we wake up Mom and Daddy.”
“There’s a great big box out there.” He said in a whisper.
“Whose it for?” Barbie held her breath hoping that her name was on the box.
“I don’t know. I can’t read.”
The children waited for what seemed an eternity before John Robert jumped out of bed and ran down the hallway to his parent’s room. He yelled, “Mommy—Santa’s been here! Wake up!”
Barbie thought. Always send the little brother to do the dirty work.
Her mother dragged herself out of bed and went to the living room with John Robert. Barbie followed. Her mother turned on the Christmas lights as John Robert jumped around. When she sorted the presents, the big package wrapped in bright green paper was placed in front of John Robert. Barbie’s present was the size of a shirt box, and she knew before she even opened it that Santa didn’t bring her a train.
Barbie tried to hide her tears as she tore open her gift, which was a brand new Brownie uniform, along with a brown beanie cap and a new shiny brownie pin.
John Robert’s present was a train. Barbie watched in horror as he lifted the bright shiny Lionel with the engine that blew real smoke high in the air. He also got a cattle car, a tanker car and a little red caboose and an engineer’s hat to wear when he ran the train. Her father talked about how they would build a table in the basement and set up the train there.
Barbie ran to her room and threw herself on the bed. She figured Santa must really hate girls.
Christmas afternoon, Chuckie came over to exchange presents. Barbie had saved her allowance for weeks to buy him a red bandana he wanted for his cowboy outfit. He gave her a pretty red ornament that had a picture of a train on it. On the back of the ornament he painted, “From Chuckie, 1958. ” When she saw it, she cried. “Oh, Chuckie. It’s beautiful!” She looked at her friend with a lump in her throat. “You knew all along that Santa wouldn’t get me a train, didn’t you?”
“Yeah.” He said softly.
“It’s not fair!” By now the tears streamed down her face. “Why do I have to be a dumb ol’ girl any how?”
“Hey, cut it out! I think you’re a pretty girl and a great pal. Heck, you can do anything! You swim better than me; you play baseball better than me; you read better than me.” He put his hand on your shoulder and looked at her with a serious face. “And you’re my best friend.”
She brushed her tears from her face.
Chuckie felt so bad for her. “I don’t have a train, but do you want to play cowboys and Indians? You can wear my new cowboy hat and holster with my six-shooter. It fires real caps and everything.!”
“At least Santa got your present right.” She said and smiled knowing she had the best friend in the world. “You’d really let me?”
“Sure. You can be just like Anne Oakley!” At that moment, Chuckie was happy he could put a smile back on his best friend’s face, even if she was a girl.