Ten Kids, No Pets, p.1Ann M. Martin
11: Zsa Zsa or Zuriel
About the Author
“Abbie, fix my hair … please?”
“Abbie, I need you!”
“Abbie, I can’t move my suitcase! It’s too heavy.”
Abbie Rosso closed her eyes for a moment. She was not the mother of all of these children. She was only their big sister.
“Kids! The moving van is almost loaded up.” Mrs. Rosso ran breathlessly into the bedroom. “Are you sure there’s nothing left anywhere? In the closets? In a cupboard?”
Abbie’s mother was a sight. August was not a good time of year to move. Especially not to move out of hot, grimy New York City.
“Mom, take that dust rag off your head,” Abbie whispered loudly. “Someone might see you.”
“Plenty of people have already seen me,” replied Mrs. Rosso. (Abbie groaned.) “Now please, kids. Give me some help here. You’re sure nothing’s left behind? If we don’t pack it now, it’ll stay in New York forever.”
“There’s nothing!” exclaimed Woody, sounding exasperated.
“Nothing, nothing, nothing,” added Jan, hopping from one foot to the other.
“Did you check?” asked Mrs. Rosso.
“Nope,” said Woody.
“I did,” said Bainbridge. He was the oldest of the boys. “It’s okay, Mom. The movers got everything. I’m positive.”
“Thank you.” Mrs. Rosso glanced out the window at the moving van three floors below. Then she left the bedroom, taking a suitcase with her.
“I can’t believe we are actually moving,” said Abbie, shaking her head. She wasn’t speaking to anyone in particular, and none of her nine brothers and sisters answered her. What did she expect? It was moving day. They were excited. Every single one of the Rossos wanted to move to the big farmhouse in New Jersey — except Abbie.
Abbie wandered into the bedroom she had shared with Candy and the twins. It wasn’t a very big room, and it had always been a mess, between Candy’s books and Faustine and Gardenia’s nature collection, but it had been the room she had grown up in. More important, the room was in New York, which was where Abbie wanted to stay.
Abbie was fourteen. She would be starting high school in a month. She had friends — lots of them — in New York. And they weren’t all girls, either. Lately, Roddy Howard had been calling her on the phone. And once, when she’d been sitting in front of her building watching Ira and Jan, the Mr. Softee ice-cream truck had come by, and Josh Freeberg from the building next door had bought Abbie a toasted almond popsicle. Abbie was pretty sure she wouldn’t hear from Roddy or Josh after today.
“That’s mine! Give it back!”
“No, it’s mine! I claim it!”
Abbie could hear a fight starting in the next room. By the sound of things it was going to be a doozy. Bainbridge was there, and he might break it up — or he might not. Since Abbie was the oldest of all the kids, she felt it was her duty to keep them in line.
Abbie dashed into the room that had been the little kids’ bedroom. Hannah, who was eight, was tussling with Jan, who was six, over a pen.
“Hannah! Janthina!” cried Abbie. She separated them, then stood between them with her hands on her hips. She took the pen from Hannah. “Who started this?” she asked.
“She did!” the girls exclaimed, pointing at each other.
Bainbridge stepped in. “Jan found the pen under the radiator. Hannah says she lost it last winter.”
“I can’t believe you guys are fighting over a ballpoint pen,” said Abbie.
“There’s nothing else to fight over,” replied Hannah, glancing around the bare room.
The other kids laughed. Hannah could usually make them do that.
“Well, I’ll keep it for now,” said Abbie. She stuck it in the back pocket of her jeans. “When we get to New Jersey, we’ll decide what to do with it.”
Footsteps sounded in the hallway outside the bedrooms. Mr. Rosso strode into the room where Abbie and her brothers and sisters were waiting with their suitcases.
“Is the van all packed?” asked Ira. Ira was seven. He was the tidiest person Abbie knew. It was important to Ira that the van not only be packed but be packed neatly.
“It’s all packed,” replied Mr. Rosso.
Abbie’s father sat down on the windowsill. Apart from the floor, it was the only place to sit in the bare room. Looking at him, Abbie thought that her father was probably in the wrong profession. He was an advertising executive in New York, and a very respected one, from what Abbie could tell. On weekdays he wore a dark suit and a tie and polished shoes. He carried a briefcase with a fat appointment calendar in it and rode around the city in cabs, having important lunches with other businesspeople. Once he had eaten dinner with Mayor Koch.
But that Mr. Rosso wasn’t the real one. The real Mr. Rosso came to life on the weekends. He wore faded blue jeans and work boots and soft, old shirts with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. And he made furniture. That was his passion — carpentry. The Rossos had a fairly large apartment, as apartments in New York go, and Mr. Rosso had taken over one end of the kitchen for his woodworking. The arrangement was fine if you didn’t mind sawdust in your soup every now and then, but Abbie’s father often complained that he didn’t have enough space. If he had more space, he could build bureaus and tables (and maybe one day a wall unit), instead of just chairs and bookshelves. Now that they were moving to the farmhouse, Mr. Rosso would have a whole basement to himself.
“Do you kids have everything?” asked Mr. Rosso.
Abbie’s brothers and sisters nodded. Abbie thought that was a pretty funny question, coming from her father. Mr. Rosso might have been an important businessman, but at least around home, he was just like the absentminded professor in a funny old movie Abbie had once seen. He would lose things and forget things, he was completely disorganized, and his mind was always off in outer space. Once Bainbridge had found Mr. Rosso looking through a carpentry catalog in the living room.
“Dad?” he had asked.
“Is it all right if I shave my head, get a monkey, and move to Chicago?”
Mr. Rosso hadn’t even glanced up. “Mm-hmm,” he had replied.
Woody and Hardy, who were eleven and ten, had been listening. They had laughed so hard they’d fallen on the floor.
Mr. Rosso now continued to sit on the windowsill in the bedroom. Abbie and Bainbridge glanced at each other.
“Daddy?” said Ira. “Is it time to go?”
“What? … Oh, yes. Yes, it is.”
“Yoo-hoo! Where is everybody?” Mrs. Rosso called from the other end of the apartment.
Abbie blushed. She blushed every time her mother said something as embarrassing as “yoo-hoo,” which was fairly often.
“We’re still back here, Mom!” Abbie replied.
Mrs. Rosso entered the bedroom, and then the entire Rosso family was together. There were Abbie’s parents, Abbie herself, and Bainbridge, Calandra (who was called Candy), Dagwood (Woody), Eberhard (Hardy), Faustine and Gardenia (or Dinnie), Hannah, Ira, and Janthina (Jan).
There were a lot of interesting things about Abbie and her brothers and sisters, and most of those interesting things were due to Mrs. Rosso. First of all, Abbie’s mother had decided to have all of her children a year apart, and that was exactly what she had done. The ten kids were like stairsteps (except for Faustine an
Then there was the business of their names. It was apparent to most people that some of the kids had highly unusual names. It was apparent to a few people that the kids had been named in alphabetical order — A for Abigail, B for Bainbridge…. What nobody outside the family knew was just how Mrs. Rosso had chosen those particular names. She had a system for naming her children, just as she had a system for almost everything she did.
Mrs. Rosso liked systems and rules. Her rules were not the no-sweets-before-dinner or the no-Saturday-morning-cartoons kinds of rules. They were rules that involved running the house, such as glasses must be put in the cupboards according to height. Or books, records, and tapes must be shelved in alphabetical order. Or clean clothes must always be put away at the bottom of the pile so that the clothes on top were used first. (“That way,” she had explained once, “they wear out evenly.”) All of her rules were designed to save time and money, two things you don’t have much of in a ten-kid family.
The naming system was a simple one. Abigail was the first Rosso child, and her name was the first name on the A page in the girls’ half of Mrs. Rosso’s dogeared book called What Shall We Name the Baby? Bainbridge was the second name on the B page in the boys’ half, Calandra was the third name on the C page in the girls’ half. This was a fine system, Abbie thought, if you didn’t mind winding up with children named Eberhard and Gardenia. Abbie and Hannah and Ira were nice, normal names. Faustine and Calandra were romantic and old-fashioned-sounding. But Bainbridge? Dagwood? It was no wonder poor Woody got into so many fights. Maybe, Abbie thought, when they moved to the farm, the kids in Woody’s new school wouldn’t find out what his real name was. That was one advantage to Dagwood’s awful name. He could shorten it. So could Eberhard. But Bainbridge was stuck. Luckily, he was easygoing. And for some reason, when kids found that out about him, they didn’t tease him so much.
“Well, if you’re all ready,” said Mrs. Rosso, interrupting Abbie’s thoughts, “then it’s time to get into the van.”
The “van” was not the moving van, of course, but the mini-van the Rossos had bought as soon as they’d bought the farmhouse. They’d traded in their little Toyota Celica, which had been fine for short drives in the city with two or three kids, for a mini-van that held all twelve of them, with room to spare.
The Rosso kids, especially the younger boys, loved the van. They tore out of the apartment and began thundering down the hall to the elevators. Mr. and Mrs. Rosso followed.
Abbie took her time. “I’ll be right there, Mom,” she called.
Abbie left the little kids’ room and went back to her own room for one final, long look. She gazed out the window. This is the last time I’ll see this view, she thought. The view was of the brick apartment building across the street, a newsstand, the Aloha Deli, and Mrs. Ho’s flower shop. Abbie let her eyes drift from one to the next and back to the apartments. There was Mr. Fineman’s old cat snoozing on the windowsill. Abbie had seen Puddin’ there every morning for as long as she could remember. And there was Mr. Fineman himself, peering down at the Rossos and the van from behind his lace curtains. Mr. Fineman was the neighborhood spy and tattletale. No kid could get away with anything if he was at the window.
Abbie wandered out of her room and along the hall to what had been the older boys’ room. She saw the dent in the wall from the time Woody had thrown a shoe at Hardy and missed. She saw the marks on the door jamb where Bainbridge had kept track of the car wrecks he’d seen from the window. Abbie’s footsteps echoed woodenly as she walked through the empty rooms. Without furniture the apartment looked huge. Maybe they didn’t need to move after all. They had plenty of space; why did they need more?
Abbie walked slowly through the living room and dining room and den and finally reached the front door.
She paused there, drew in a deep breath, and left the apartment. Last time, she thought, as she rode the elevator to the ground floor. My last time in our apartment building.
Abbie’s eyes were assaulted by glaring sunlight, and her ears were assaulted by the shouts of her brothers and sisters as she closed the door to the building behind her.
“I want to sit in back!” Woody shouted.
“I want to ride in front, next to Daddy!” cried Jan.
“You know the rule,” Mrs. Rosso said. “Biggest kids in back, littlest ones in front, in alphabetical order” — which was also age order —“and I sit next to Daddy. Now everybody in. Come on, Abbie.”
Abbie ran down the stoop. “Bye, Mr. Fineman!” she called, waving to the building opposite her. She couldn’t resist. Mr. Fineman didn’t answer, of course, but the curtains moved slightly as he stepped back from the window.
“Abbie! Abbie!” someone shouted from down the block.
Abbie stopped, halfway in the van. “Leah!” she cried. “Mom, it’s Leah. I have to say good-bye one more time. Please?”
Mrs. Rosso nodded.
While Abbie was talking to Leah, Garret Klebanoff showed up to say good-bye, and Bainbridge crawled over the little kids and out of the van. Then Shirley Rosenstock showed up, and Hannah jumped out of the van. After that the Smarts and the Bermans came by, and Mr. and Mrs. Rosso got out of the van.
A half hour later, Jan and Ira were playing ball with the kids who lived in the apartment above theirs, and not a single Rosso was in the van.
Then two things happened at once. Josh Freeberg came out of the building next door, and Mrs. Rosso tapped her husband on the shoulder and said, “Honey, look at the time.”
Abbie’s father pulled his hand out of his pocket and discovered that he wasn’t wearing his watch. “I must have left it inside somewhere,” he said. “I better go check.”
“Daddy, I have to go to the bathroom,” Jan announced loudly. “I’ll come in with you.”
Abbie blushed. Josh would show up just in time to hear Jan talking about the bathroom.
“Hi, Abbie,” said Josh.
“Hi,” Abbie replied. She glanced at Leah.
Leah grinned at Abbie and left her alone with Josh.
“I’m really going to miss you,” Josh said.
“I’m going to miss you, too.”
“I wish we were going to be in high school together. It would be fun.”
“Yeah,” said Abbie.
“If you were going to be here, I would have asked you to the first school dance.”
“You would have?” Abbie couldn’t believe it.
“Kids!” Mrs. Rosso called then. “Time to go!”
“I guess my dad found his watch,” said Abbie. “We better say good-bye.”
“Yeah…. Well, good-bye.” Josh leaned over and brushed Abbie’s cheek with his lips.
Abbie’s face turned a fierce shade of red again. “Bye, Josh,” she replied, eyes to the ground.
“Whoa!” exclaimed Hannah. “Abbie and Josh, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes —”
Hannah’s words were cut off as Bainbridge clapped a hand over her mouth, picked her up, and carried her to the van under his arm.
“Abbie, good-bye!” cried Leah. She threw her arms around Abbie. “I’m going to miss you so much.”
“Oh, me too,” said Abbie.
“I’ll write every day.”
“I’ll write every day, too,” said Abbie.
Abbie nodded. “I better get going. I have to sit in the back. It’s easier to get there if Bainbridge and Candy and I go in first.”
“Bye!” Leah called again.
“Bye!” said Abbie.
When the Rossos were settled properly in the van, Abbie, Bainbridge, and Candy were in the seat farthest back. In front of them were Woody and Hardy.
“Ready?” asked Mr. Rosso.
The Rosso kids were reflected in the rearview mirror — ten freckled faces. The freckles were one of the few things Abbie didn’t like about her family. She liked having nine brothers and sisters and hoped to have ten kids herself one day. She liked the fact that the Rossos looked so much alike — brown hair, blue eyes, round faces. But she didn’t like their freckles.
“Seat belts,” called Mrs. Rosso.
“Daddy?” said Jan. “I have to go to the bathroom again.”
“Honey, you just went,” Mrs. Rosso pointed out.
“But I have to go again.”
“I have to go, too,” said Ira.
“Anyone else?” asked Mrs. Rosso.
Abbie and her brothers and sisters looked at one another.
“Me,” said Hardy.
“Me,” said Dinnie.
“They might as well go now,” said Abbie’s father. “Otherwise we’ll have to stop at every rest station on the New Jersey Turnpike.”
Abbie looked out the window of the van. All of the neighbors, Leah and Josh included, were standing around waiting to send them off. Instead, the doors to the van opened, and Jan, Ira, Hardy, and Dinnie tumbled out, followed by Mrs. Rosso. Abbie could feel herself blushing as she shrugged at her friends.
It was ten minutes before everyone was strapped into the van again.
“Good-bye! Good-bye!” called Leah and Josh and Garret and Shirley and the Smarts and the Bermans.
“Good-bye!” called the Rossos.
The van pulled into the traffic, and Mr. Rosso edged along Thirty-first Street until he reached Park Avenue. He made a careful turn onto Park and began making his way to Forty-second Street and finally to the Lincoln Tunnel. Abbie looked long and hard at everything they passed. It was the last time she’d be looking at New York as a true New Yorker.
Ten Kids, No Pets by Ann M. Martin / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes