MINNIE SYBILLA

PURZOO

by Rebecca

Bartholomew

Copyright@1998 by Rebecca Bartholomew

All rights reserved. May be copied for classroom use.

 It started one morning without any warning. Later Minnie tried and tried to remember something different about that morning that might explain it. But she couldnít think of a thing. The day had been as normal as toothpaste.

She had awakened at six oíclock. After feeding Russia, her blue cat, Minnie had eaten a bowl of granola, brushed her teeth, and made her bed. At precisely 7:35 she had caught the bus downtown.

Work at the shop had been ordinary. Minnieís job was engraving names in gold letters on books. She engraved letters all morning, ate her lunch of cashew nuts and avocado juice, and engraved letters all afternoon. Then she came home.

It was that night she first noticed it. She fluffed up the pillow and warmed the sheets with the steam iron, all the while in her mind scolding a scraggly-haired, nervy boy who had snatched the last seat on the bus as she rode home.

She was sliding under the covers when she heard a pop! Just one teeny pop! With the pop, she felt a faint tickle, as if she had been poked with a tiny needle. The tickle seemed to come from the middle knuckle of the fourth finger of her right hand. Minnie looked. There she saw a wart had grown right in the center of the knuckle!

Minnie stared at her knuckle. She stared and stared.

"Well," she said at last, "if my name isnít Minnie Sybilla Purzoo!"

Because the wart, you see, besides having arrived in an extraordinary way, was an extraordinary wart. It was not round and pink, although it did have a texture like toad skin. Actually, it was two skinny warts that crossed each other. At the point where they crossed was a tiny purple dot. This was what Minnie saw on the knuckle of her fourth right finger:

"Well," said Minnie again, "if Iím not a fifth generation Purzoo!"

She did not waste any more time staring at it. She ran to the wash basin and scrubbed it with soap. When that didnít help, she grabbed a jug from the cupboard and poured peroxide over the wart. The purple did not fade in the least.

So Minnie put a Band-aid on it and went to bed.

 

At exactly two minutes before six on the second morning, Minnie opened

one eye. The Russian blue peered at her from the foot of the bed.

"Good morning, Russia," Minnie said as she did every morning. Then she remembered. Slowly she sat up. She unwrapped the Band-aid from her finger. The wart was still there.

"Oh, dear," said Minnie. Russia blinked.

Minnie got out of bed, went to the refrigerator, and poured a cup of skim milk for Russia. Instead of pouring granola into a bowl for herself, she poured another cup of milk and drank it down in one gulp. Russia blinked twice.

"I need something to steady my nerves," explained Minnie.

That day Minnie arrived at the shop a half-minute early. But once she sat down to the engraving machine, her shakiness went away. That is, until Mr. Pundergast brought her a box of books to engrave.

Mr. Pundergast did not set well with Minnie before lunchtime. Mostly it was his jokes. Once, when Minnie had first started working at the shop many years before, she had worn her Sunday skirt to work.

"Ah!" Mr. Pundergast had said. "I see youíre wearing your 'Minnie' skirt." Minnie had worn pants ever since.

"Ah, Minnie!" said Mr. Pundergast this morning, "how are you?" He was a big, round man with a small shiny head. He wore a dark brown suit with a black polka-dotted bow tie.

"Iím fine," said Minnie with a only touch of snappishness. "Well, Iím pretty fine."

 

"Oh?" said Mr. Pundergast, immediately concerned. He was assistant manager in charge of worrying. "Youíre not getting the flu, I hope?"

"No, no," Minnie assured him. She didnít really want to tell him about her wart, but she had to tell somebody. "Itís just that ó I got this last night." She held up her right hand.

"A wart? Overnight?" asked Mr. Pundergast.

"In one instant," Minnie said meaningfully.

"Hmmm," said Mr. Pundergast studiously. "Not a very big wart. A Minnie-wart, so to speak."

Minnie scowled deeply.

"Did you put something on it?" asked Mr. Pundergast.

"Soap. And peroxide. And a Band-aid."

"Hmmm," said Mr. Pundergast again, scratching his shiny head. "Have you got any soda in the house?"

"Yes," said Minnie suspiciously.

"Good! Try some soda. That should help."

"Okay," said Minnie reluctantly. "Iíll try it."

"Yup," said Mr. Pundergast as he walked away. "If being ill annoys you, Minnieís soda should help."

Minnie sputtered, very annoyed. Her sputter blew a thin gold engraving sheet across her work table and onto the floor. She retrieved it, but the sheet was soiled.

"Drat!" was all Minnie said. But she was thinking, "That puddlehead Pundergast!" And as she thought this, she felt the tiniest sting. With it, she heard a tiny pop!

"Oh, dear!" Minnie wailed. She looked at her right hand but saw only the original wart. She looked at her left hand and found nothing. She felt her forehead. There, just above the left eyebrow, was a new wart. In its center was a purple dot.

After that, Minnie could hardly work. By lunchtime the box of books was still nearly full. But after a drink of avocado juice, she felt better. After all, she considered, two warts werenít the end of the world. And, for all she knew, the soda might help.

 In all the years Russia had lived with her, Minnie had risen at six oíclock every morning. But at ten minutes past six on the third day, Minnie was still in bed.

Russia paced up and down the bedspread. He stopped and peered into Minnieís face. At last he licked Minnieís eyelid.

"Phwmmpt," moaned Minnie. She yawned and stretched and finally sat up. "I didnít sleep a wink. I dreamed of warts and purple polka dots."

A look of hope entered her eyes. She put a hand to her forehead. The soda had not helped.

"Oaaaaahhhhhmmmm!" Minnieís moan turned into an outright groan. "Whatever shall I do? It may be a virus, or ... or..." Minnie groaned again.

Russia listened to this for no more than a minute before marching disgustedly to the edge of the bed and out of the room.

"Some friend you are!" Minnie called after him. But she moaned just once more before getting up and dressing. She was late, so she grabbed a piece of toast and hurried out the door.

Outside, three inches of sparkling snow had fallen. Walking to the bus stop, Minnie came to a place where the snow lay unshovelled in front of Mr. Hadnotís house. Under the lovely new snow was buried an inch of old, trampelled snow Mr. Hadnot had also not shovelled. Minnie stepped carefully onto Mr. Hadnotís sidewalk, but as she stepped, one heel skidded and down she fell ó plop! As she sat there, her anterior smarting, she saw a thin, red face peek through the curtains of Mr. Hadnotís house.

"You ó you ó hagglepuss!" Minnie blurted. She expected Mr. Hadnot to come running out the door to help her. When he didnít come right away, she added, "Ooh! That man!" Finally Mr. Hadnot came scurrying out the

door with his coat in one hand and his fuzzy hat in the other.

"Iím sorry! Iím sorry!" squeaked Mr. Hadnot, who hadnít a very big voice. "I had to take care of my wife, who is sick in bed, so I didnít get the sidewalk shovelled. Let me help you! Let me help you!"

He tried to pull Minnie up by the shoulder but lost his grip and they both fell in a heap on the sidewalk.

"Let go of me!" Minnie cried, pushing him away. "Iíll get myself up!" She did and as she brushed off her coat, in her mind she called him hagglepuss again. Instantly she felt a faint sting and heard a fainter pop!

"Ohhhhhó" wailed Minnie, wishing earnestly that Mr. Hadnot was not there to see this. The sting came from the vicinity of her chin. She reached an anxious hand to her face. Sure enough, there was a third wart! Minnie grimaced.

"Iím sorry! Iím sorry!" said Mr. Hadnot again.

"Oh, itís not you," Minnie said grudgingly. "Itís just another old wart."

"A wart?" squeaked Mr. Hadnot. "Once my mother had a wart. She rubbed it and talked to it Ďtil it went away."

"Really?" said Minnie coldly but with some interest. "What did she tell it?"

"I ó I canít remember," said Mr. Hadnot sadly. Minnie had lived next door to him for twenty years and never noticed how sad he looked.

"It probably wouldnít work on my warts anyhow," she said to him more kindly. Wrapping her scarf tightly around her chin, she marched stoically to the bus stop.

During her morning break, Minnie telephoned Dr. Bigabill.

"Have you been playing with toads?" asked Dr. Bigabill. "Ho, ho, ho!"

Minnie was not amused.

Dr. Bigabill turned serious. "Now, donít worry too much about it. Itís not likely cancer. Probably just a virus," he assured her. Sterilize your dishes, and Iíll prescribe a cream to rub on your warts. And quarantine the cat."

"Russia?" said Minnie. "Quarantine Russia?"

"Thatís what I said," Dr. Bigabill explained. "Maybe Russiaís been playing with toads."

During her lunch hour, Minnie obtained the cream from the pharmacy. When she got home from work, she sterilized all her dishes. But she was reluctant to lock up Russia.

By evening, the cream had not shrunk her warts one hair. Minnie sank to the couch in despair.

"What does it all mean?" she said wearily to Russia.

Russia pattered over to her and jumped into her lap to be scratched.

Minnie gently set him on the floor. "I just donít feel like it now," she told him.

Russia looked very displeased. Mincing his steps, he retreated to the window sill. He looked at Minnie, offended, then turned to glare at a sparrow that had landed in the bush just outside the window.

"Mrowph!" Russia said menacingly to the sparrow.

"Quiet, please," Minnie warned.

But Russia had spied a dachshund ambling down the sidewalk. "Pfitzz!" said Russia meanly to the dachshund.

Minnie took Russia from the window sill, carried him to the sun room, set him firmly on the floor.

"When you can be civil, you may come out," she told him, closing the door.

Minnie went to bed, but she couldnít sleep for the protests issuing from the sun room. After an hour, she sighed. She put on her robe, crept softly to the sun room, and listened through the door. The complaining had ceased. Minnie went back to bed.

 

At four a.m. on the fourth day, Minnie was awakened by different sounds. One was a series of pitiful "Meowrrrrrrrs" that came from outside her window. The other was the blurbing of the telephone. Minnie hurried to the phone.

"Shut that cat up," shouted her neighbor, Mrs. Smallbody, "before I call the cat-catcher." "Iím sorry, but itís not my cat," murmured Minnie.

And she was sorry. Also peeved and sleepy. So she said "Itís not my cat" but she meant, "Your heart is as small as your body." As she thought this, she heard a small pop! Minnie reached for her nose. It had a wart!

Minnie put down the phone. She ran to the mirror.

"Ohhhhhh!" she wailed. For the wart sat on the very tip just where her nose tilted upward, and in its center was a bright purple dot.

Minnie ignored Mrs. Smallbody , who continued to shout from the other end of the telephone line. She frantically rubbed cream on her new wart. She should have known it would not work immediately, if at all. But when the cream did nothing, she started to cry. By the time she finished crying, Mrs. Smallbody had hung up.

 On the fifth day, which was a Saturday, Minnie awoke at six oíclock as usual and took some milk into the sun room. That afternoon, dressed in her black satin suit for courage, she went to a picture show, hoping to escape her troubles. Who should she meet but Mrs. Cudbit seated in the row behind her.

When the monster appeared on the screen, a girl in the row ahead of Minnie whispered, "Ooooh!" Behind her, Mrs. Cudbit chewed loudly on some bubble gum.

When the monster reappeared, a boy on the front row said softly, "Yike!" and Mrs. Cudbit chomped louder on her gum.

When the monster rolled his bloodshot eyes at the sleeping maiden, two men turned to glare at Mrs. Cudbit, who went right on chomping.

Minnie wanted to glare, too, but the thought of warts stopped her.

She looked straight ahead at the screen.

From the loudspeaker came the tremble of speeding hooves. On the screen twenty black steeds galloped into view, led by the hero. The monster backed away from the maiden, roared one last agonizing roar, and ran off into the forest pursued by nineteen horses and their riders.

"Hooray!" shouted the boy on the front row. Delighted, Mrs. Cudbit chomped noisily.

When the theatre lights came on, Minnie stood to put on her coat. Mrs. Cudbit tapped her on the shoulder.

"I hope I didnít bother you," she said with a chewy smile.

"Oh, no, chewing gum doesnít bother me," Minnie muttered into her scarf. As she did, much to her surprise, she heard the tiniest of pops! "Oh, no!" she said again. Mrs. Cudbit looked at her strangely. Minnie buried her face in her coat collar and hurried out of the theater.

When she arrived home, she looked in the mirror. She couldnít find a new wart. She looked and looked and at last she found not a wart but a small red spot on her elbow. It had the faintest purple dot in the center.

Minnie was puzzled. But a red spot was better than a wart. Maybe the quarantine was helping. She slipped a dish of water into the sun room and went to bed.

 

The next day was Sunday, but it didnít count because Minnie stayed in bed all day. So the sixth day fell on Monday. She went to work, covering her nose with her scarf. Mid-morning, Mr. Pundergast came into the workroom with an armful of books.

"Good morning," said Mr. Pundergast cheerily.

"Good morning," Minnie murmured, keeping her face turned away from him.

"I wonít ask how your holiday was," said Mr. Pundergast, "because the holly days were in December."

"Heh," laughed Minnie grimly.

"So Iíll ask you how your day off was ó was it your off day?"

Minnie turned to Mr. Pundergast and looked him up and down. She looked at his pale, shiny, little head, his black polka-dotted tie, and his round belly beneath the brown suit.

"Mr. Pundergast," she said, "I like you. But I find your puns ghastly."

Mr. Pundergast stared at her. Then he started to laugh. As he laughed, his bow tie jerked up and down as if it would pop off. He laughed so hard he almost bounced against a wall. At last he turned serious.

"Minnie," he said, "I like you, too. Tell you what Iíll do ó no more puns for you ó Miss Minnie Purzoo." And he left, laughing again.

Minnie sighed. It was then she realized she had not gotten another wart.

When she arrived home that evening, Minnie let Russia outside through the sun room door. In a few minutes the telephone rang.

"Your catís on my porch again," whined her neighbor, Mrs. Smallbody. "You know how I hate cats on my porch."

"Iím sorry," said Minnie, still thinking of warts. "I think itís the catnip in your window box."

"Hmph!" retorted Mrs. Smallbody. "Not only do I not like your cat, but I donít like you. What do you say to that?"

Minnie paused. She took a breath. "Mrs. Smallbody," she said, "I am sorry you donít like me, because I like you. I especially like you when you are being kind."

There was a silence. "Well," said Mrs. Smallbody more kindly, "please try to keep your cat off my porch." She hung up quietly. Minnie called Russia into the house and locked him in the sun room again.

But as she set the table for dinner, Minnie was thinking. When she went to bed, she was still thinking. Propped against her pillow, she thought and thought. When sheíd finished, she let Russia out of the sun room for good.

 

On the seventh day, Minnie awoke and reached by habit for her nose. It was smooth. She felt her cheek and forehead. They were smooth, too. She looked at the knuckle on her right hand. The wart was gone. Even the red spot on her elbow had disappeared.

She jumped out of bed and looked in the mirror.

"Russia!" she said. "Look at me!" Russia looked. "What do you think made my warts go away?"

Russia blinked wisely but said nothing.

"The cream," said Minnie. "It must have been the cream."

She called Dr. Bigabill, who assured her it was the cream although it usually took ten days before it helped.

Minnie was so happy the warts were gone she agreed it must be the cream. But not long after talking to Dr. Bigabill, she threw away the cream.

After that, whenever she thought she might lose her temper at somebody, Minnie pictured warts. This helped her through so many tense situations she began to feel they had been a blessing.  

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