Tony’s family lived in a two-bedroom apartment right in the middle of the city. His parents slept in one bedroom, and Tony and his little sister, Linda, slept in the other.
In the front room was an alcove. It was sort of like a closet without a door. Tony wanted to sleep in the alcove by himself, but his papa and mamma said no.
“We need you to take care of your sister. When Linda is older and no longer afraid of trains going past at night and shaking the house, you can move to the alcove,” they told him. “But not until then.”
“When will that be?” Tony asked. But no one could give him an answer.
Then one day a letter came from Tony’s grandfather. He was coming to stay with them.
“Where will Grandfather sleep?” Tony asked.
“In the alcove,” Papa answered.
“But that’s where I want to sleep,” Tony said.
“I’m sorry,” Mamma answered, “but Grandfather is old, and he needs his rest.”
“But, Mamma,” Tony said, “you always tell me that I am a growing boy and need rest too!”
“Yes, you do, Tony,” she said. “But the alcove isn’t the only place you can get it.”
Tony was happy Grandfather was coming to stay, but it was hard not to be upset about having him sleep in the alcove.
The afternoon that Grandfather arrived he asked Tony to go for a walk with him to the candy store. On the way they saw some boys playing ball on a vacant lot.
“Looks like a good baseball game,” Grandfather said.
“Oh, yes,” Tony said.
“Don’t you play baseball?” Grandfather asked him.
“I play in front of our apartment,” Tony said. “Mamma doesn’t like me to come down here by myself.”
“Well, you’re not by yourself now,” Grandfather said. “Let’s stop and play for a while. I’ll play in the outfield.”
Tony looked up at his tall grandfather. “You will?”
“Of course. What position do you play?”
“I’m a catcher,” Tony said.
“Then let’s play,” Grandfather said.
Both of them joined the game. Grandfather made two nice catches in left field and Tony hit a double.
Finally Grandfather wiped his forehead with his big red handkerchief. “I’m ready to go to the candy store now,” he said, “if that’s all right with you, Tony.”
“Okay,” Tony said. “We’re ahead thirty-five to two, and our team can get along without us now!”
Grandfather and Tony said goodbye to their friends and walked down the block.
The door of the candy store opened when Grandfather pushed on it, and a little bell tinkled. Inside it smelled like a mixture of licorice and peppermint.
Grandfather picked out some chocolates for Mamma and a lollipop for Linda. He told Tony to choose whatever he wanted.
Tony chose a piece of bubble gum with a baseball card inside the wrapper. The gum was dusted with sugar and crackled as Tony started chewing.
Tony had a wonderful afternoon with his grandfather, but at dinner that night he couldn’t help thinking about the alcove again.
Then Tony began to think about his own father growing old. Tony wondered if he would ask Papa to live with him even if his family had only a small apartment and Tony’s son had to sleep in a room with his little sister.
Tony looked up at his father’s strong, warm dark face. Suddenly he was filled with love for Papa. It was almost a sad kind of love, and it made his throat feel large and lumpy.
He stood up and went around the table. “Papa,” he said, “when you’re old and alone, I want you to come live with me.”
After dinner Grandfather pushed his chair back from the table. “Tony,” he said, “I’ve been thinking about the alcove.”
Grandfather put his long legs out in front of him. “Do you think these long legs could fit in the alcove?”
Tony looked at Grandfather’s legs. He did not know what to say.
“I think I’d better sleep on the couch,” Grandfather suggested, “and I think you should sleep in the alcove.”
“But what about Linda?” Tony asked. “She’s afraid of trains, so she can’t sleep alone.”
Everyone looked at Linda.
“I’ll tell Linda a story every night at bedtime,” Grandfather said, “if she will promise not to listen to the trains. Okay, Linda?”
Linda looked at him. “Every single night?” she asked.
“I, won’t miss one night!” Grandfather promised.
“Will it be a special story?” Linda asked.
“I’ll tell you a very special story every night,” Grandfather promised.
Tony looked at Grandfather’s legs again. He could fit in the alcove, Tony thought. He just says he couldn’t.
Suddenly some of that love he felt for Papa filled Tony’s heart for Grandfather too.