A kind-hearted boy spends all the money he was saving for a bike to buy a wheelchair for his bedridden neighbor. Later he discovers he is in her will.
There were two things Tony really wanted before he turned eleven: one was to have his very own bike; two was to know what went on in the creepy house next door.
“Freddy Kruger’s grandmother lives there!” said his friend Stuart. Tony didn’t think so, but he did hear a woman’s angry shouts sometimes in the afternoon. He asked his mom, but she told him to mind his own business.
His mom should have known that saying that to a ten-year-old is like waving a red flag at a bull…
Two days later, Tony took his dad’s binoculars out of the attic, and he started doing surveillance of the neighbor’s house. He noted down every single person who went in and out, and there were mainly two.
There was the grocery delivery boy and a tall, sour-faced woman in a nurse’s uniform who arrived early in the morning and left in the late afternoon. Her name was Lydia.
Tony knew this because that was what Freddy Kruger’s grandmother called her when she screamed at her. Granny Freddy, as Tony started to refer to the old woman, was very demanding.
Everyone needs a friend, even grumpy old ladies.
Tony didn’t understand why Nurse Lydia stuck around. He said so to his mother. “We stick to hard jobs because we need the money, Tony!” his mother said. “I know exactly how that poor nurse feels.”
Tony’s mom looked really tired. She didn’t laugh as much since his father died, and he knew that money was tight. “I’m sorry, mom,” he said. “As soon as I can, I’ll get a job…”
“You will stick to your studies, Tony Pappino!” she said. “And keep your nose out of our neighbor’s business. She’s a sick lady and deserves her privacy!”
The next day, Tony was crouching behind the hedges with his binoculars as usual. To his surprise, Nurse Lydia didn’t show. Had something happened to her?
If so, what about Grandma Freddy? She’d be all alone, with no one to bring her food or water… He started to worry. Then he made up his mind. He was going in.
First, he knocked on the door, but no one answered. He tried the doorknob and discovered that the front door was open. He walked into a dark and dusty hall.
“Hello?” Tony said as loud as he could. “Is anyone here?”
“Who’s that?” a voice cried. “Whoever you are, watch it! I’ve got a gun!”
“Please,” Tony said. “I don’t mean no harm! I’m the boy next door. I just came to see if you needed anything…”
There was a long silence, then a voice said grumpily, “Come in, I won’t shoot!”
Tony walked into a bedroom that was just as dusty as the hall. There was a lady sitting on the bed, and she had no gun, she also didn’t look anything like Freddy Kruger.
“Is there anything you need?” Tony asked. “Have you had breakfast?”
“What a kind boy you are!” the woman said and smiled. She suddenly looked very pretty and very merry. “I’d love a glass of milk and a cupcake. See what you find in the kitchen!”
Tony went into the kitchen and got Granma Freddy milk and some cookies he found in the pantry. He asked, “What’s wrong with you?”
“Old age, boy,” the lady said. “I’m ninety-three, and my legs don’t work anymore, so I can’t do anything I used to enjoy. I can’t see sunsets and sit in my garden…Life’s not worth it like this!”
Tony agreed that was terrible. He sat with the lady (her name was Tessa, not Grandma Freddy) and chatted with her for a long time. He made them both peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch and had a wonderful time.
The next day, Lydia was back at work, but Tony kept visiting Tessa. One day, he pointed out to Lydia that she should open the drapes and dust the furniture and she grumbled a lot but did it.
He brought Tessa flowers from the garden, but she sighed and said it wasn’t the same. Tony asked Lydia why Tessa didn’t have a wheelchair.
“She refuses!” Lydia explained. “Says she’s not a cripple and the legs God gave her were good enough for ninety-three years… She’s a stubborn old coot!”
Tony went home and thought and thought. Then he had a splendid idea. He asked his mom to take him to an old second-hand store he’d seen in town, and there he bought a second-hand wheelchair.
“But, Tony, ” his mom said. “You’ve been saving for a bike for the last two years! You’re spending all your money on that wheelchair?”
“Mom,” he said. “My legs work great, don’t they? I don’t REALLY need a bike, and Tessa REALLY needs a wheelchair, but she doesn’t know it. Let me help her, mom, please?”
Tony’s mom reluctantly agreed, and they took the wheelchair to Tessa’s house. When she saw it, her mouth dropped open. “What’s that?” she asked crossly. “Do you think I’m a cripple?”
“I think you want to see the sunset and your roses,” Tony said. “And if I were you, I wouldn’t waste my time throwing tantrums when I could be having fun!”
Tessa stared at Tony, then she started laughing. “Bring that contraption over here, Tony. I want to see the azaleas and the arum lilies. I’m sure Lydia’s killed them all. The woman had black thumbs!”
From then on, Tessa spent most of her time outside, and Tony visited her every day. She even made friends with Tony’s mom. When Tessa turned ninety-four, she invited them to tea.
They (and Lydia) were all sitting around the table having cake when a middle-aged man with a fat face and no chin barged in. He was waving a paper in the air, and he looked very angry.
“What have you done, mother?” he screamed. “I’m contesting this! You’re ninety-four, you can’t be trusted to change your will! I’ll have the doctor declare you senile…”
Tessa sat up straight in her wheelchair. She wasn’t the least bit scared of the shouting man. “Calm yourself, Edgar,” she snapped. “The day I changed my will I had myself examined by two doctors.
“I’m of sound mind, whatever the state of my old body may be. Yes, I disinherited you, and it serves you right. You haven’t visited me in two years, and you walk in here making demands?
“You’re a greedy idiot, Edgar. I’m leaving this house and my savings to this boy because he deserves it. Do you know what he did? He used the money he saved for a bike to buy an old woman a wheelchair. He is kind, loving, and considerate. What are YOU, Edgar?”
Edgar turned dark purple, and he looked like he was going to explode. Then he turned around and stomped out, slamming the door so every window rattled.
“Tessa…” Tony’s mom said. “You can’t…”
Tessa smiled. “I can do whatever I want,” she said calmly. “And I want you and this wonderful boy to have a better life. You see, he gave me back my sunsets and my azaleas, and most of all, hope!”
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