Emily never jumped in leaves.
They were dirty.
They might be wet.
Bugs crawled in them.
At Emily’s grandparents’ house, there were piles and piles of leaves. Emily and her best friend, Vinni, were visiting after school on a sunny November day.
“Watch me!” Vinni shouted. She ran and jumped into a mountain of leaves.
Emily wrinkled her nose. “Aren’t they itchy?”
“No!” said Vinni. “It’s fun!”
“Ick,” said Emily.
Vinni shook her head. “You are so weird.” She threw a bunch of leaves at Emily.
“You know, girls, different people like different things.” Emily and Vinni stopped. Emily’s Pop-Pop was standing behind them. He leaned against his rake.
“For example, you, Vincetta—”
“Vinni,” interrupted Vinni.
Pop-Pop started again. “For example, you, Vinni”—he pointed right at her— “you like wearing fancy hair clips, fancy shoes, and fancy pants.”
“So does Emily,” Vinni said.
“Exactly,” said Pop-Pop. “Without the hair clips.”
“So how is that different?” Emily asked.
Pop-Pop stroked his chin. “No hair clips.”
Vinni’s mouth was open. She raised one eyebrow and looked at Emily. Emily shrugged. The girls waited.
“You know,” said Pop-Pop, “it’s good that people are different. For example, next Monday is Veterans Day.” Pop-Pop loved to talk. “Different people will celebrate in different ways. Some people will hang a flag. Some will go to a parade. Others will remember loved ones quietly at home.”
“What’s a veteran?” asked Emily.
“It’s a doctor for dogs,” said Vinni.
“That’s a veterinarian,” said Emily.
Pop-Pop was shocked. He put down his rake. “You don’t know?” He pointed at both of them. “You don’t know about the people who helped keep our country free? Don’t you ... I can’t believe ... second grade?”
Suddenly Pop-Pop stopped talking.
His knees buckled.
The girls couldn’t move.
He bit his lip. He steadied himself.
“I need to lie down.” Pop-Pop went to the hammock and fell fast asleep.
Excerpted from The Veterans Day Visitor by Peter Catalanotto and Pamela Schembri
Copyright © 2008 by Peter Catalanotto and Pamela Schembri
Published in 2008 by Henry Holt and Company, LLC
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.