“Ask Me Anything,” Friend, Feb. 1992, 15
If anyone asked Belinda where she was going to live when she grew up, she’d tell them on the moon. She’d explain how she was going to build her house in a big crater and watch the stars all night long. But nobody ever asked her, so she never told anyone.
And if anyone ever asked Belinda what her favorite food in the whole world was, she would tell them raspberries. But no one ever asked her that, either. Instead, they asked her where she got her red hair, or if she was a good girl—simple questions that they already knew the answers to.
No one ever asked her the kind of questions they asked her father, like which team would win the world series. And they didn’t ask her questions like they asked her mother. No, no one ever asked Belinda how to spell encyclopedia.
Belinda was tired of answering simple questions. She wanted people to know that she could guess which team would win the world series as well as anyone else. And maybe she couldn’t spell encyclopedia, but there were lots of other words she could spell.
When Saturday arrived, her mother told her that they were going to Aunt Martha’s for supper. Grandfather and Grandmother would be there, along with Mr. Nibb, a special guest. Mr. Nibb was her aunt’s neighbor. He was an older man who lived by himself. Belinda had never met him before.
When they arrived, Aunt Martha was in the kitchen, rolling out dough for the pie she was making. “What a big girl you’re getting to be,” she said to Belinda. “Are you eating your vegetables?”
“Yes, Aunt Martha,” Belinda answered politely.
Grandfather was standing by the sink. “Are you remembering to brush your teeth after each meal?” Grandfather used to be a dentist.
Just then Grandma came into the kitchen. After everyone said hello, she walked over to Belinda and pinched her cheek. “Are you being a good girl, Belinda?”
Before Belinda had a chance to answer, Mr. Nibb came into the kitchen. He was older than her grandparents, and he had white hair and wore glasses. He walked a little more slowly than Belinda’s grandparents did.
“Are you warm enough?” Grandmother asked as he took off his coat.
“Yes, thank you,” Mr. Nibb answered.
“Did you remember to take your medicine?” Grandfather asked.
“Yes,” Mr. Nibb answered.
Then Aunt Martha took Mr. Nibb into the living room. “Do you like the view?” she asked, once he was seated on the couch in front of the large bay window.
“Yes,” he answered.
Belinda went in and sat beside Mr. Nibb. “What does a young girl like you plan to be when you get older?” Mr. Nibb asked her.
“I want to be an astronaut,” Belinda told him. Mr. Nibb was the first person who had asked her that in a long time.
“Well, that is a fine profession,” Mr. Nibb told her. “I bet you like the stars then.”
Belinda nodded. “Do you?”
“Do I?” Mr. Nibb repeated. “Why, every clear night I sit on my back porch and look at the stars through my telescope!”
Belinda couldn’t believe her ears. “You have a telescope?”
“I sure do. If you want, I’ll let you look through it tonight.”
“Great! Why do you like the stars so much, Mr. Nibb?”
Mr. Nibb smiled. “When I was your age, I looked at the stars every night. I wondered what it was that made them so bright and shiny.”
Belinda was smiling now. Mr. Nibb asked her questions that were special, questions that most grown-ups thought that she was too young to answer. “Do people ask you silly questions just because you’re old?”
“Sometimes,” Mr. Nibb answered slowly. “But they mean well. They think that because I’m old, I can only answer simple questions. And I suspect they do the same thing to you because you’re young. But we both know that that isn’t true, don’t we?” he said, winking at Belinda.
Belinda smiled. “You ask great questions, Mr. Nibb.”
Mr. Nibb smiled back. “So do you, Belinda.”
That night Belinda went over to look at the stars through Mr. Nibb’s telescope. She asked Mr. Nibb all kinds of questions, and Mr. Nibb knew the answers to almost all of them. Then Mr. Nibb asked Belinda where she’d like to live when she grew up, and they looked through books that had pictures of the moon in them, to find a crater that would be perfect for Belinda’s house.