“Herman,” Friend, June 1986, 17


    Herman lives next door to me. Sometimes he’s a pest, but most of the time we’re buddies. Right now he’s learning to ride a two-wheeler, and I’m helping him. He’s not very good yet, though.

    Tonight Herman’s going to sleep over at my house. He’s never done that before. All day he’s been asking, “Is it time yet?”

    “Not yet,” I say. “Not till suppertime.”

    Herman stands on his head by a tree, and his glasses fall off. “What’s your mother making for supper?”

    “Spinach soufflé.”

    Down come Herman’s feet. “Spinach what? I’m not coming!”

    “Only kidding,” I tell Herman while he sits up and puts his glasses back on. Quickly I stand on my head and put my feet against the tree. Upside down I say, “We’re having macaroni and cheese and hot dogs.”

    “OK!” He pushes his bike to the driveway and tries to get on. I hold it for him and give him a little push. The bike falls over. Herman gets up, rubbing his hands together, and says, “Ouch!”

    I take the bike and buzz down the driveway and up the sidewalk. On the way back I fold my arms and yell, “Look, Hermie, no hands!”

    After a while Herman goes into his house and comes out with a bowl of goldfish. “They’re coming over, too,” he says. “They’re used to being with me.”

    We take the fish up to my room and find a place for them on the bookshelf.

    Later Herman brings over the velvet snake he likes to sleep with. Any other kid would have a teddy bear, but not Herman. The snake is green and has a thin spot in the middle where Herman bends it around his neck. He takes the snake up to my room and hangs it on the back of a chair.

    Then he brings three books. One is about creatures from outer space, one is about farm animals, and the other is about spiders. I know I’ll have to read them to him before he goes to sleep.

    He also brings a jar with a caterpillar in it.

    My mother sees the jar. “Hermie,” she says, “wouldn’t your caterpillar be happier at home?”

    “No,” answers Herman, “he likes to be by the fish.”

    My mother raises her eyebrows and shrugs her shoulders. “Be sure that lid’s on tight,” she says to me.

    I move some of my stuff off the shelf to make room for the jar.

    Just before supper Herman comes over carrying his pajamas and toothbrush. His face is shiny from a good scrubbing, and his hair is still wet. He stands in the doorway and asks, “Please, Mrs. Ashton, can Moses come too?” Moses is Herman’s dog.

    My mother looks first at my father, then at me, then back at Herman. “Why not?” she says. “After supper, OK?”

    “Oh, boy!” says Herman. “Thanks, Mrs. Ashton.”

    Finally it’s time to go to bed. Moses is curled up by the bed. Herman says good night to him. Then he says good night to the fish and to the caterpillar. He climbs into bed with the snake around his neck. The first book he chooses is the space one.

    I start to read, but Herman doesn’t listen. He squirms. “I need my own pillow,” he explains. “I’ll be back in just a minute.” Herman’s pillow looks like a giant cheeseburger.

    While I wait for him, I finish reading the space book and pick up the spider one. There’s lots of stuff in there I don’t know. When Herman’s not back by the time I finish the farm animal book, I go to check on him.

    His mother is surprised to see me. She hadn’t heard Herman come in. We go up to his room, and there’s Hermie, sound asleep on his giant cheese-burger!

    “Maybe another time,” his mother says, covering Herman with a blanket.

    “Sure,” I say. I’m disappointed. Hermie’s a neat kid. Tomorrow I’ll really help him with his bike, and I won’t even show off.

    Illustrated by Julie F. Young