What on earth are you doing, Sam?” Mrs. Krupnik stood in the doorway staring at her son. Sam looked up.
Moms are sometimes very strange, he thought. They always ask what you are doing, even though they can see what you are doing.
Once, when he was younger and naughtier, Sam had found it interesting to unroll toilet paper. He knew that he wasn’t supposed to. But every time he wandered past the bathroom and glanced in and saw that roll of paper hanging there, with its end dangling in a tantalizing way, he couldn’t seem to stop himself. He would have to go in and unroll it. If he got it going just right, he could twirl the roll around very fast, and the paper would go all over the floor, and it was wonderfully interesting to him.
And always, whenever he did that, his mom would appear in the bathroom doorway and say, “Sam! What on earth are you doing?”
He could never figure it out. What did she think he was doing—taking a bath? Brushing his teeth?
Today, though, he wasn’t unrolling toilet paper. He was much too old to do a baby thing like that.
Today he wasn’t even in the bathroom. He was in the study. His dad’s study. He looked over at his mother, who was still in the doorway. Then he said patiently, even though he was quite certain she knew exactly what he was doing, “I’m typing.”
She came across the room and stood behind him, looking down over his shoulder. “My goodness,” she said. “You really are!”
Good, she didn’t sound angry. She sounded surprised.
Sam didn’t know why his mom would be surprised that he was typing. His father’s typewriter, here in the study, was a fascinating thing. And his dad had shown him, once, how you rolled in a piece of paper and then pushed the keys with letters on them.
“I typed my name,” Sam told her with pride.
And he had. sam sam sam
He had made some mistakes, of course, since it was his first try at typing. One of his sams had come out sal and another said wam.
But he was getting better at it.
“Look,” he said. Very carefully, with his tongue wedged between his teeth, he typed mom. Then he rolled the paper a bit in order to start in a fresh place.
“Attaboy, Sam!” his mother said. “You’re an absolutely amazing son!”
Mrs. Krupnik pulled up a chair beside Sam and showed him all sorts of interesting things: how to make big letters, so that he could type SAM instead of just sam. How to make little stars, *****, so that he could now type S*A*M and M*O*M.
She showed him how to make a sideways smiling face:
Then Sam figured out, all by himself, how to make a sideways grumpy face:
And together he and his mom discovered how to do a sideways winking smiling face:
Finally, when the page was filled, Sam took it out of the typewriter and gave it to his mother.
“That’s fabulous, Sam,” she said. “I’ll stick it on the bulletin board in the kitchen. Now, how about lunch? I cooked some hot dogs.”
Sam trotted behind her down the hall to the kitchen and watched with pride while she thumbtacked his typing paper to the bulletin board next to a painting of a rainbow he had done in school.
“I want mustard on my hot dog,” he said. “Yellow mustard, not brown. And ketchup. And also I want a pickle, and three cookies, and I want chocolate in my milk, and after that, an apple.”
His mother, smiling, arranged all of those things in front of him on the kitchen table. As Sam began to eat, he glanced over at the refrigerator door, where his magnetic plastic letters had lived for months. SAM, they said, in yellow and green, and LOOK in red and blue.
It was the magnetic letters (helped along by his mom, dad, and big sister) that had taught him the sounds of the letters.
“After lunch,” Sam announced, “I’m going to take all my letters off the refrigerator and throw them away.”
“Throw them away? Why?” Mrs. Krupnik asked.
Sam thought about it. He made a new decision. “No, not throw them away,” he said. “I’ll give them to babies. Maybe to the kids at my nursery school. Because now that I’m a typer, I don’t need baby stuff like those letters anymore.”
“Gosh,” his mother said, “if you’re so grown up that you don’t want your plastic letters anymore, maybe we should think about giving away your toys, too. Maybe, instead of your Matchbox cars and your Lego set, you’d rather have a briefcase and a box of cigars.”
Sam thought about that. He pictured how it would be to show up at nursery school some morning carrying a briefcase and smoking a cigar. Maybe he would take a bottle of beer, too.
It sounded like a great idea. But he had a feeling that Mrs. Bennett, his nursery school teacher, wouldn’t like it much. She’d probably say, “Time out, Sam,” and he would have to sit in the big green chair, drinking his beer and smoking his cigar all alone while the other kids were doing something fun, like fingerpainting with chocolate syrup or spelling their names in macaroni.
He smeared the ketchup and mustard together along the top of his hot dog with one finger. Then he licked his finger carefully.
“No,” he said. “I think I’ll keep my toys for a while.”
“Good,” his mother said. “I’m glad you decided that, because I hate the smell of cigars.”
“Not pipes, though,” Sam pointed out. “You don’t hate the smell of pipes, do you?” He tried holding his hot dog like a pipe, but it bent in the middle.
“Well, no,” his mother admitted, laughing. “I wish your dad didn’t smoke at all, because it’s bad for him. But I do love the smell of his pipe. As a matter of fact, I think I can smell it right now, coming up the back porch steps. Dad and Anastasia must be home from the store.”
“Hi, guys,” Sam’s sister, Anastasia, said as she entered the kitchen. She set a grocery bag on top of the washing machine and went to hang up her jacket.
“I hope you made more of those hot dogs,” Sam’s dad said. He put his two grocery bags on the counter beside the refrigerator. “Shopping makes me hungry. I bought a whole lot of stuff we don’t even nee...