in the Kitchen
it really work, Dad?" Donny pointed excitedly at the big fireplace
in the kitchen.
sure does," said Mr. Binger. "This house was built more than
200 years ago. Maybe we'll make a fire tonight, after dinner.
But first you'd better help your mother with those boxes."
The Bingers had just moved out to a farm. Donny and his sister
Pam were looking forward to exploring the old stone farmhouse
and the tumbled-down barn. Perhaps there was a secret passage
-- or even a buried treasure! But first they had to help their
parents move the furniture into place and unpack boxes of
dishes and clothes.
It was past nine o'clock that night when the Bingers finished
a late supper. "Leave the dishes till tomorrow," Mr. Binger
called as he stacked logs in the fireplace. "Let's relax and
enjoy a good fire."
Donny and Pam toasted marshmallows over the fire for awhile.
But after an hour, Mr. Binger yawned and said, "Let's call
it a night."
The next morning Donny and Pam were up early, eager to start
exploring. Pam was in the kitchen, pouring herself a glass
of orange juice, when her mother came in. She glanced around
the room in surprise.
that was nice of you, Pam," she said, "to wash up the supper
dishes for me. And you did a very nice job on the kitchen."
Pam blinked. "I didn't wash the dishes, Mom. I thought you
said Donny. "We just got downstairs."
who did clean the kitchen?" Mrs. Binger asked. For the dirty
supper dishes had been washed and dried and neatly put away
in the cabinet. The room was spotless -- even the hearth had
been swept and the ashes emptied into the pail.
we have a Brownie!" Pam giggled. Donny and Mrs. Binger laughed.
That night, when Mrs. Binger went to bed, she left half a
box of unfinished mending on the chair by the fireplace. The
next morning, all the clothes in the box were neatly mended
and folded. And the hearth was swept clean again.
has certainly been giving me some nice surprises," Mrs. Binger
remarked, looking at Donny and Pam.
we really do have a Brownie," Donny whispered, nudging Pam
with his elbow.
At school that day, Donny looked up Brownies in the encyclopedia.
"You're supposed to leave a saucer of milk for them," Donny
reported to his sister that afternoon. "Let's try it."
That night, after their parents had gone upstairs, Donny and
Pam slipped down to the kitchen, poured some milk into a saucer,
and left it on the hearth. Sure enough, the next morning the
milk was gone.
got a Brownie, we really do!" Pam shouted. But Mrs. Binger
only smiled and would not listen to their explanation.
That night the children were determined to try to see the
Brownie for themselves. Pam set her alarm clock for midnight.
When it rang, she and Donny tiptoed down to the kitchen. They
poured out another saucer of milk, placed it on the hearth,
and then hid behind the refrigerator to wait.
seemed to go so slowly. Pam's head began to nod. Then suddenly
she was wide awake. Donny was poking her. In the pale moonlight
streaming in through the window, they could see a tiny figure
moving by the fireplace. He had a little broom and was sweeping.
Donny leaped out and grabbed him, while Pam flicked on the
light. It was a Brownie!
broken the rules,'' he said. "If you spy on a Brownie while
he's working, he'll leave the house and never come back."
no!" Pam cried. "Will you do that?"
guess not," said the Brownie. "I've been so lonely for the
last two hundred years that it's nice to have somebody to
talk to, even if it is only a couple of humans." He explained
that he had been accidentally trapped in a coal scuttle and
brought over from Europe by the family who had built this
house. "I'm probably the only Brownie in the whole United
States," he sighed.
The next morning, Donny and Pam tried to tell their parents
about the Brownie. But Mr. and Mrs. Binger thought the children
were just making up the story. For the next few weeks, the
Brownie continued to clean up the kitchen at night and do
any odd jobs that were left for him. Donny even tried leaving
his homework by the fireplace. It worked fine for history.
But the Brownie got all the math problems wrong. Sometimes
the children got up at night to talk to the Brownie. They
felt sorry about his being so lonely.
exclaimed Donny one night. "Dad's going to Europe on a business
trip next month. Maybe he can bring back a friend for you."
The night before Mr. Binger was due to leave for Europe, the
Brownie wrote out a message in Brownie language. Donny gave
it to his father the next morning.
he said, "if you're staying anywhere with a fireplace, please
put this paper on the hearth." Mr. Binger laughed and stuffed
the paper into his pocket.
nights later, as he was getting undressed for bed, he happened
to put his hand into his pocket and felt the paper. He pulled
it out and looked at it. He couldn't read a word. "Just scribbling,"
he shrugged. He crumpled the paper up and tossed it at the
fireplace. It missed and landed on the hearth. The next morning
it was gone, and the hearth was clean.
When Mr. Binger got back home, he laid his big suitcase on
the armchair near the fireplace. "Guess what I brought for
you?" he said.
As he opened the suitcase, Donny and Pam started to cheer.
Mr. Binger blinked. They weren't even looking at the toys
he was lifting out of the bag. They were watching something
he couldn't see at all: a small Brownie who leaped nimbly
out of a corner of the suitcase and disappeared into the fireplace.
2013 The Silversteins