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
Minnie stared at her
knuckle. She stared and stared.
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:
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.
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
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.
Pundergast had said. "I see youíre wearing your 'Minnie' skirt."
Minnie had worn pants ever since.
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.
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?"
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.
Overnight?" asked Mr. Pundergast.
instant," Minnie said meaningfully.
Mr. Pundergast studiously. "Not a very big wart. A Minnie-wart, so to
Minnie scowled deeply.
"Did you put
something on it?" asked Mr. Pundergast.
peroxide. And a Band-aid."
Mr. Pundergast again, scratching his shiny head. "Have you got any soda in
"Good! Try some
soda. That should help."
Minnie reluctantly. "Iíll try it."
Mr. Pundergast as he walked away. "If being ill annoys you, Minnieís soda
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
"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
"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!
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."
squeaked Mr. Hadnot. "Once my mother had a wart. She rubbed it and talked
to it Ďtil it went away."
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.
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.
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."
Minnie. "Quarantine Russia?"
"Thatís what I
said," Dr. Bigabill explained. "Maybe Russiaís been playing with
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.
Russia said menacingly to the sparrow.
please," Minnie warned.
But Russia had spied a
dachshund ambling down the sidewalk. "Pfitzz!" said Russia meanly to
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.
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
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
"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.
morning," said Mr. Pundergast cheerily.
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
"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.
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.
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."
said Minnie, still thinking of warts. "I think itís the catnip in your
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
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.
said. "Look at me!" Russia looked. "What do you think made my
warts go away?"
Russia blinked wisely
but said nothing.
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
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
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