The Rich Uncle
"Guess what?" Ramona Quimby asked one Friday evening when her Aunt Beatrice dropped by to show off her new ski clothes and to stay for supper. Ramona's mother, father, and big sister Beezus, whose real name was Beatrice, paid no attention and went on eating. Picky-picky, the cat, meowed through the basement door, asking to share the meal.
Aunt Beatrice, who taught third grade, knew how to behave toward her third-grade niece.
"What?" she asked, laying down her fork as if she expected to be astounded by Ramona's news.
Ramona took a deep breath and announced, "Howie Kemp's rich uncle is coming to visit," Except for Aunt Bea, her family was not as curious as Ramona had hoped. She plunged on anyway because she was happy for her friend. "Howie's grandmother is really excited, and so are Howie and Willa Jean." And so, to be truthful, was Ramona, who disliked having to go to the Kemps' house after school, where Howie's grandmother looked after her grandchildren and Ramona while the two mothers were at work. A rich uncle, even someone else's rich uncle, should make those long after-school hours more interesting.
"I didn't know Howie had a rich uncle," said Mrs. Quimby.
"He's Howie'sfather's little brother, only now he's big," explained Ramona.
"Why, that must be Hobart Kemp," said Aunt Beatrice. "He was in my class in high school."
"Oh, yes. I remember. That boy with the blond curly hair who played baseball." Mrs. Quimby motioned to her daughters to clear away the plates. "All the girls said he was cute."
"That's the one," said Aunt Bea. "He used to chew licorice and spit on the grass to make the principal think be was chewing tobacco like a professional baseball player, which was what he wanted to be."
"Where's this cute licorice-chewing uncle coming from, and how did he get so rich?" asked Ramona's father, beginning to be interested. "Playing baseball?"
"He's coming from--" Ramona frowned. "I can't remember the name, but it sounds like a fairy tale and has camels." Narnia? Never-never-land? No, those names weren't right.
"Saudi Arabia," said Beezus, who also went to the Kemps' after school. Being in junior high school, she could take her time getting there.
"Yes, that's it!" Ramona wished she had remembered first. "Howie says he's bringing thewhole family Presents." She imagined bags ofgold like those in The Arabian Nights, whichBeezus had read to her. Of course, nobody carried around bags of gold today, but she enjoyedimagining them.
" What's Howie's uncle doing in Saudi Arabia?" asked Mr. Quimby. "Besides spitting in the sand?"
"Daddy, don't besilly," said Ramona. "I don't know exactly." Now that she was the center of attention, she wished she had more information. "Something about oil. Drills or rigs or something. Howie understands all about it. His uncle earned a lot of money." The Quimbys were a family who had to worry about money.
"Oh, that kind of rich," said Mr. Quimby thought maybe a long-lost uncle had died and left him a castle full of servants, jewels, and rare old wines."
"Daddy, that's so old-fashioned," said Ramona. "That's only in books."
The conversation drifted off, leaving Ramona behind. Her father, who would earn his teaching credential in June, said he was inquiring around for schools that needed an art teacher, and he also told about the problems of the men who worked in the same frozen-food warehouse where he worked on weekends at below-freezing temperatures. Mrs. Quimby told about two people who got into an argument over a parking space at the doctor's office where she worked. Aunt Bea talked about a man named Michael who had invited her to go skiing and was the reason she had bought new ski clothes. Beezus wondered aloud if Michael would ask Aunt Bea to marry him. Aunt Bea laughed at that, saying she had known him only two weeks, but since this was January, there were several months of skiing left and there was no telling what might happen.
No more was said about Howie's uncle that evening. Days went by. Uncle Hobart didn't come and didn't come. Every evening Mr. Quimby asked, "Has Old Moneybags arrived?" And Ramona had to say no.
Finally one morning, as Ramona and Howie were waiting for the school bus, Ramona said, I don't think you have a rich uncle at all. I think you made him up."
Howie said he did too have a rich uncle. Even little Willa Jean, when Ramona went to the Kemps' after school, talked about Uncle Hobart and the presents he was bringing. Ramona informed Howie and Willa Jean rather crossly that her mother said it wasn't nice to talk about other people's money. They paid no attention--after all, he was their very own uncle, not Ramona's--and went right on talking about Uncle Hobart this and Uncle Hobart that. Uncle Hobart had landed in New York. He had actually telephoned, live and in person. Uncle Hobart was driving across the country. Uncle Hobart was delayed by a storm in the Rockies. Ramona wished she had never heard of Uncle Hobart.
Then, one day after school, Ramona and Howie saw a muddy van parked on the Kemps' driveway.
"It' Uncle Hobart!" Howie shouted, and began to run.Ramona took her time.