Published August 01. 2009 4:00AM
"It was beautiful!" Minerva said. "She actually jumped on a chair and screamed! I only wish I had a camera."
We sat on my sofa. Her skinny arms flew around her head, and her fingers fluttered as she talked.
"Didn't you get into trouble?" I asked.
"Are you kidding? She said she was going to kill me. You've got to picture it. She's standing on top of this chair. In her high heels! Pulling up her dress so you can see her underwear! And she's doing this little dance like her feet are on fire. All because of a stuffed mouse!"
Minerva succumbed to another fit of laughter. But I didn't feel much like laughing. Finally, when she'd slowed down to a giggle, I asked, "Did your mother ask you where you got it?"
"Sure. I told her my good friend Wumpy Frimhaus gave it to me." She started chuckling again.
"What did she say?"
Minerva gave me a look. "What's the matter? Afraid you're in trouble?"
I coughed. "No. No, of course not. I'm just curious."
"She said, 'Wumpy Frimhaus? What kind of a name is that?'" Minerva roared at her own joke.
My ears burned.
"Hey, come on, Wumpy, I was just teasing."
"What is it? You mad at me or something?"
"Why'd you draw on Eddy's face?"
"Oh, that." Minerva smiled. "Don't tell me you didn't laugh."
I had to admit I had.
"But," I said, "you used permanent ink."
"Your point being?" Minerva said.
"My point being that that's no way to treat your friend!"
Her eyes flashed. "MY friend? Eddy MacWeeny is NOT my friend."
"No, but he's mine," I said.
"Don't you get it? You did that because of me. How do you think that made me feel?"
Minerva's face fell. Then, in that growly whisper of hers, she said, "I thought it might make you feel kind of good."
"Not only that," I said, brushing her words aside. "But then I don't hear from you for three days. And then you come crashing in here, push me down on the sofa and expect me to forget everything ... " Suddenly what she'd said sank in. "Feel good? Why would it make me feel good?"
"You know," she said, hiding her face in her hair, "that I liked you enough to be jealous?"
I hadn't thought of it that way. No girl had ever liked me enough to draw on my best friend's face. It made me feel kind of strange and ticklish inside, now that I thought of it.
"Look, I'm sorry, Wumpy," she said. "I don't have much practice at this sort of thing."
"What sort of thing?"
"Being friends," she said. Her big, gray eyes were worried. "Can we still be friends?"
"Of course! You don't quit being friends over a thing like that."
She fell back against the sofa and let out a sigh. "I'm glad."
Then she had a thought. "Did you tell Eddy I did it?"
"Eddy doesn't even know I know you."
"You mean I'm like a secret?"
Minerva just sat and smiled for a while, as if she relished the idea. "By the way," she said, grinning now. "Did you know you sleep with your mouth open? Man, I tell you, I was tempted to drop a fat ol' June bug in there."
"But you wouldn't, right?" I asked, shuddering.
"Nah. We're friends," she said, and then she gave me a look. "You know, I've been thinking. Wumpy's such a kid's name. You should have a more sophisticated name, a name with some authority."
"But people have always called me that."
"Yeah, but do you want to spend the rest of your life being Wumpy?" She rubbed her chin and cast her eyes up at the ceiling. "I've got it! I'll call you W." She pronounced it "dubya."
"Yeah. It's classy, don't you think?"
That's when it struck me. I barely knew her, but already she had changed me. First, she made me feel something I'd never felt before. And then I'd started doing stuff I'd never done before. It was like she was changing me into someone else.
Now, she was even changing my name.