The Silent Friend

By Jeanne W. Pittman

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    Mandy dropped her book beneath the tree and excitedly ran to the fence. Next door a large truck had just pulled up at the curb.

    Mandy watched closely as two men began to unload furniture from the truck. She wished very hard that the new neighbors would have to have a girl her age! All the other neighborhood kids were either older or younger than she was. It would be wonderful to have a friend her own age to talk to.

    As Mandy stood watching and wishing, a car pulled up behind the large truck. A man and woman climbed out—and a girl just Mandy’s size!

    “Hello!” Mandy called out.

    The girl didn’t answer.

    “Hello, there!” Mandy called again.

    The parents were busy talking to the men who were unloading the truck, and the new girl was just staring at the house. She didn’t turn around.

    Mandy felt disappointed as the girl followed her parents into the house. With a sigh, Mandy sat down under the tree again and tried to read her book. She couldn’t concentrate, though. She was too busy watching to see if the new girl would come back outside.

    It wasn’t until the truck was nearly empty that the neighbors reappeared. Mandy ran to the fence and tried again. “Hello!” she called out loudly.

    The new girl still didn’t turn around. Her mother heard, though. She motioned to her daughter and pointed to Mandy. The girl turned and smiled.

    Now that’s better. She must have been too busy thinking about something to hear me before, Mandy decided.

    “My name’s Mandy. What’s yours?”

    The new girl didn’t answer. Instead, she turned and motioned to her mother. The mother nodded, and they both walked over to the fence where Mandy stood.

    “Hello, Mandy. I’m Mrs. Henderson, and this is Carol.”

    “Hello, Carol.”

    Carol smiled shyly but still didn’t say anything.

    “Please forgive Carol for not speaking to you,” continued Mrs. Henderson. “She was born deaf. Because she can’t hear, she can’t speak well enough for you to understand her. But I know she’d like to be your friend.”

    Mr. Henderson called to his wife, and she hurried back to the truck. Carol stayed by the fence and continued to smile at Mandy, but her eyes were looking all over the yard.

    Mandy could feel her face turning hot with embarrassment. Now what do I do? she worried. How can I be friends with someone who can’t hear or speak? Carol and I can’t just sit and smile at each other all day.

    Suddenly Carol turned and ran to her father. She made motions asking for help. Smiling fondly at her, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a book, and gave it to her. When Carol ran back to the fence, she pointed to the gate and looked at Mandy questioningly.

    “You want to come in?” asked Mandy. Then she thought, How dumb, talking to her like that. She can’t hear me.

    But Carol was looking closely at Mandy and understood what Mandy had said. She nodded her head.

    Mandy nodded back and watched while Carol ran to the gate and let herself in.

    Carol went quickly to the tree and sat down. She motioned for Mandy to join her.

    Mandy wasn’t quite sure what to do, but Carol patted the ground beside her, so Mandy sat down and leaned against the tree trunk while Carol opened the book.

    Carol pointed to the word tree in the book, then touched the tree they were leaning against.

    “Tree?” asked Mandy.

    When Carol could see that Mandy understood, she nodded.

    Carol started to giggle, then Mandy giggled too. They laughed so hard that they both fell backward and bumped their heads against the tree.

    O-u-c-h, spelled Mandy from the book.

    Tears of laughter rolled down Carol’s cheeks.

    This is going to be fun, thought Mandy. She pointed at the word f-r-i-e-n-d in the book and gave Carol a big hug.

    Illustrated by Shauna Mooney