The first time it snowed, my best friend, Lou, came to school wearing it. I’d never seen such a crazy-looking creation. It had fat stripes of purple, orange, red, green, and pink. It wrapped around his neck three times, and the ends still reached below his knees. I’d only put that scarf on for Halloween.
“Some strange creature’s eating Lou’s face,” Bobby teased, pulling one end.
“We’ll save you,” Annie joked, tugging at the other end. Together they wrapped Lou up until he looked like a mummy that had rolled in ten different kinds of paint.
“That’s enough,” I said, chasing them off. “Go build a snowman.” I untangled Lou.
“Thanks,” he said, tucking the ends of his scarf into his pockets.
“Why don’t you take that thing off and hide it in your backpack?” I suggested. “The whole school’s going to tease you if you parade around in that.”
Lou shrugged. “They’ll get tired of bugging me. I want to wear it.”
“Whatever,” I said. The bell rang, and five minutes later we were doing fifth-grade fractions, so I couldn’t waste any more brain power wondering about Lou’s scarf.
It snowed almost every day that week, and Lou kept wearing his crazy scarf. He was wrong about the kids getting tired of teasing him. Of course, Lou did look like he’d borrowed that thing from a circus clown.
“Don’t you have another scarf?” I asked him. “One that’s a normal color, like blue, and about three feet long instead of ten?”
“Yes, but I’m wearing this one.”
“I guess you like all the attention,” I grumbled, “but I’m getting a bit tired of the crowd we keep attracting.”
“It’d be easier if you’d just lose that scarf,” I suggested again, less hopefully.
I sighed. “Could you at least tell me why? Since I’m the one who has to keep rescuing you, I deserve to know.”
Lou looked at me for a minute. “I’ll tell you on Monday,” he said.
“Monday. And ask your mom if it’s OK if you’re a little late getting home from school that day.”
All weekend I wondered about Lou’s scarf. Why did he wear that goofy thing to school? Why wouldn’t he tell me until Monday? It was a mystery to me. Lou was usually kind of fussy about his clothes, and he didn’t like stripes.
On Monday, Lou showed up wrapped in that mile-long scarf as usual. The other guys pretended it was a snake from outer space.
“OK,” I told Lou, “I waited. Now let me in on the secret.”
“After school,” he said. “I promise.”
When the last bell finally rang, Lou was waiting for me by my locker.
“Come on,” he said. “I help out in Mrs. Reed’s room for a while on Mondays. They’ll be waiting for me.”
“What about the scarf?”
“I’ll tell you afterward. Come on.”
I followed Lou into Mrs. Reed’s room. She worked with a few kids who were mentally handicapped. It was hard work for them to learn how to do everyday stuff, like telling time and tying shoes.
“Hi, Lou,” said a girl named Jen. She had big brown eyes and soft black curls. She gave him a big hug. I liked her right away. “Please read Black Beauty today.”
“Please, please!” two more kids begged.
For the next fifteen minutes, I watched Lou read to his little fan club. They sure were happy to have him there. When he finished, Jen hopped over to me.
“Are you Lou’s friend, too?” she asked.
“Yes.” I smiled.
“Lou’s my best friend,” she said. “I made him a beautiful scarf.”
“That must have taken a long time,” I said, wondering if it was the scarf he’d been wearing.
“I picked out my favorite colors and made the scarf all by myself,” she reported proudly. “Now Lou wears it every day.”
“I’ve seen that scarf,” I said, looking at Jen’s happy smile.
“I’ll be your friend, too,” she said, patting my hand.
“Thanks,” I said before she skipped off.
“Ready to go?” Lou asked, pulling his scarf up over his cheeks as he waved good-bye to Jen and the others.
“Ready,” I answered with a grin. Lou didn’t need to explain anything now. Jen’s feelings were more important than a little teasing. He knew how proud and happy it made her feel to see him wearing her gift. Suddenly I felt honored to have a friend like Lou.
“By the way,” I told him, “I’ve decided that I like your scarf.”