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Grandfather was in his favorite armchair, reading a book.
Thomas was trying not to interrupt.
"Where's Ringo, I wonder," he said, and added, "I'm talking to myself, Grandfather. Not to you.
Grandfather went on reading.
"Gone someplace, probably," said Thomas. "Some secret cat place that we don't know about." He looked around the room, hoping to find something of interest.
His bat and ball were against the wall, but he wouldn't be able to play for a while yet. He'd broken his ankle trying to steal second, and Dr. Hoskins had taken off the walking cast only yesterday.
"Did you hear Dr. Hoskins tell me to try for the pitcher's spot?" Thomas asked. "He says everybody wants a lefty hurler. What do you say to that, huh, Grandfather? Do you think that's maybe a good idea?"
Grandfather didn't hear. Or didn't listen.
Thomas liked to read. Not as much as Grandfather did. He supposed no one else in the whole world liked to read that much. Still he had his own books in his room, and some of them were pretty good. A big book about dinosaurs was his favorite. He liked to think of them stomping over the land, millions and millions of years ago. That would have been something to see. The earth would crack under those tons of weight, and their huge tails would dig trenches in the ground. A dinosaur could have lived right here in Florida where he and Grandfather lived now. Thomas could picture it standing out in the backyard, turning its little head from side to side, gazing across the Gulf of Mexico while it nibbled away the tops of trees.
"Dinosaurs ate salads did you know that, Grandfather?They made them out of trees and ferns and different kinds of moss. Like we make ours out of lettuce and tomatoes and broccoli and stuff. That's pretty interesting, I'd say." After a pause- "Wouldn't you say that was interesting?"
No sound from the armchair.
It was much too good a day to sit indoorslooking at words and pictures, even about dino-saurs. There might be something on television towatch, only it was too early for that. Grandfather said television before five o'clock in the afternoon would stunt his growth.
Thomas thought about that and laughed. "You sure say funny things, Grandfather," he observed,lifting his voice a little. After a bit he sighed and got up from the floor, where he'd been lying on his back watching a green lizard whisk across the ceiling.
He went to the kitchen for a glass of milk. He didn't exactly want one, but it was something to do.
He pulled the bottle from the refrigerator and dropped it, spilling milk over the linoleum. Unluckily, he had not put the cap on tight the last time he'd taken a drink. Luckily, the bottle was plastic. Besides, there was hardly any milk leftin it.
"Oh, baloney!" he called out. "Now see what's happened!"
No response from Grandfather.
"I suppose I ought to mop this up? Unless maybe you'd do a better job of it, Grandfather? Sometimes I don't clean things just the way you want me to. Maybe I shouldn't even start if you think it'd be better for you to do it. I'm just asking."
Grandfather stirred but made no answer.
"Okay," Thomas grumbled. "I'll do it myself."
He opened the door of the cupboard under the sink, yanked out a sponge, banged the cupboard door, slapped the sponge onto the floor, got to his knees, and sloshed and washed up the milk.
"This isn't easy," he explained in a loud voice.
Ringo put his nose to the kitchen screen door. "Let me in," he cried. "I've been out here for hours!"
Thomas smiled and opened the door. In came his big white cat, whining and twining. Complaining. Grandfather often said he'd never known how talkative a cat could be until they got Ringo. "Or," he'd usually add, "until he got us."
Ringo had appeared, a couple of years back, on a rainy April night, crying at the back door. "I'm a kitten!" he'd called in a small, mewing voice. "I'm this lost kitten that somebody has to do something about!"
Leaping from the floor, where he spent a lot of time, Thomas ran to open the door.
"Lookit!" he yelled. "Look, Grandfather, at this kitty that's all wet out in the rain!"
His grandfather, who'd been getting ready for bed, came to the door, frowning. "We don't need a cat."
"I think he needs us.'
Grandfather turned his hands up. "You have a way of putting things, Thomas, that I have no way to answer, except to say that you're right. I'll get a towel, and you find something for it to eat. There's some flounder left from dinner."
That was how Ringo had come to live with them. From a small complaining kitten he had grown to be a large complaining cat.
Thomas carried on conversations with him.
"How can you tell what he's talking about?" Grandfather once asked. "It's all meow to me."
"Easy," Thomas explained. "He's either asking to be let out if he's in, or in if he's out, and the rest of the time he's explaining how hungry he is. He thinks we starve him."
Grandfather lifted his eyes. "He should look in the mirror."