Published July 20. 2009 4:00AM Updated July 20. 2009 9:57AM
"That's the nicest thing anybody ever said to me. You know, I'm sorry I said you weren't sophisticated looking. Actually, you ARE rather distinguished looking. Perhaps it's your glasses. Anyway, I really want to thank you for bailing me out yesterday. You and Mississippi, that is."
She smiled at Mrs. Zippy, patted her on the head and set her down. Then she grabbed my hand and pumped it up and down.
"My name is Minerva Snowdenstoke Wimberly, and, since you're wondering, yes, I am one of THE Snowdenstoke Wimberlys, the very same, but, of course, since we're going to be friends, you can just call me Minerva. May I call you Walt? Or should I call you Walter? Some people are ridiculously sensitive about their names."
I pried my hand out of her grip and stepped back. She was skinny as a spider, but she had a killer handshake.
"Nobody calls me Walt or Walter," I said. "Everyone calls me Wumpy."
She was silent, then … "Did you say Wumpy?"
"Yeah. It's my nickname."
"Wumpy! That's the most ridiculous, preposterous name I've ever heard! Wumpy! What kind of a name is that?" She was laughing so hard she bent over clutching her sides.
"Oh yeah?" I sputtered. "Well, what kind of a name is Minerva? Or Snowdenstoke? Or Wimberly? You have three stupid names in a row!"
She stopped laughing. Her gray eyes flashed and clouded. She shoved me - Hey! - so I tripped and sprawled, my glasses flying off and clattering across the floor.
Before I could move she was on top of me, sitting on my chest and waving her blurry fists in my face. "You want to keep sucking air," she growled, "you'd better say you're sorry."
"Get off me!"
"Say you're sorry."
"Not until you say you're sorry."
"OK, OK, I'm sorry, all right?"
"Good," she said, and she stood up.
I flipped over and scrambled for my glasses. When I put them on, I saw her strolling into my living room. She had the funniest way of walking. Her skinny arms and legs seemed about to wander off in four different directions.
"Say, this is a pretty nice joint you've got here. Of course, it's not as posh as what we Wimberlys are used to, but it's not bad, not bad at all."
She spied the glass on the table.
"Hey, Wumpy, that wouldn't happen to be lemonade, would it?" She flopped down in my chair, folding her legs beneath her, and made eyes at my lemonade.
I stood in the hallway and glowered at her. Who gave her the right to walk into my house and take over? Listen, I'd say. Why don't you just go home?
My heart was pounding. I swallowed hard. "Listen," I said.
She turned her moony eyes on me and blinked.
"Why don't you just go ... ahead and drink that lemonade, and I'll go get some more for myself."
"Thanks, Wumpy, thanks a lot. Hey, and I'm sorry I laughed at your name. We're still friends, aren't we?"
I couldn't believe it. I kicked myself all the way into the kitchen. Frimhaus, I said to myself, you're a jerk, a jerk and a total maroon. What did this snotty rich kid want with you? "Friends!" she said. Ha! If this is how she treated her friends, I'd sure hate to see what she did to her enemies.