That Small Whisper

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
September/October 2001

By Neva Pederson, Illustrated by Alice Feng

“How did you sleep last night?” my sister Rose asks. She tosses back her honey-brown hair and hands me the breakfast bowl she just washed.

“OK,” I reply, rinsing it, “but I woke up with a headache.”

Rose is eleven, three years older than me, and usually we get along well. But today I am feeling grumpy.

“I didn’t sleep too well,” says Rose, “because you were wiggling around and had most of the blankets.”

Immediately, I rush to my defense. “I did not have all the blankets! They were just as much on your side!”

“I didn’t say you had all the blankets,” she says.

“You meant it though!”

Rose makes an impatient splash in the dishwater and I am silent. Standing tiptoe on my yellow footstool, I glance over the soapy bowl at her. Looking innocent in her teddy-bear nightgown, she scrubs dishes fiercely until her patience returns. But, yes, gazing intently at her, I can tell that she, with her rosy-cheeked face looking so sweet, is plotting the great evil she is going to do. Today she will try to steal more blankets to her side when we make the bed. I know she is scheming, getting ready to make her move and probably even sorting out words to put me in the wrong. I look back down at the bowl I am rinsing. I had better be ready and have my argument prepared.

That Small Whisper washing the dishes

“How did you sleep last night?” my sister Rose asks

“Let’s make the bed now,” says Rose, emptying the blue dish tub and wiping the counter.

“All right.”

You certainly aren’t always that anxious to make the bed, I think. I’ll expose you before you have a chance to rejoice in your success.

But as we trudge up the carpeted stairs, my conscience bothers me. Do the blankets really matter that much? And as we round the corner to our bedroom an annoying thought tickles my brain. Just apologize for wiggling so much and let her have more bedspread. But I instantly shove the thought away. No! She shouldn’t get away with this.

We remove the pink pillows and blankets from the bed. I have to put her in her place, I think, as we spread the sheets and blankets back on. After smoothing them down, the time has come for me to expose her.

Something whispers to me, “Don’t!” but I ignore it again and, peering at her side, I exclaim, “Rose! You have more blankets on your side!”

She glances up, astonished.

What fake surprise, I think.

“No I don’t,” she replies calmly.

“You do too. Come look.”

Coming to my side of the bed she says, “You have just as much as I do, maybe more!”

“Oh yeah?” With my hands, I measure the bedspread that hangs over my side and hold up my hands for her to see.

“Now go measure your side,” I command.

Obediently she returns to her side and measures in the same way, but when her hands are held up, I can tell (oh the evilness of it!), she has made her hands closer together on purpose.

“See?” she says.

“No! You made your hands closer together!”

“All right,” she retorts hotly, “if you don’t believe me, get the ruler!” Rose’s patience has run out and her brown eyes begin to spark.

As I march angrily to our desk to get the ruler, I glance at her side of the bed again. Uh-oh. Maybe she doesn’t have more. Maybe today she hadn’t been planning to steal more bedspread! Maybe . . . but of course, we have to be sure. Oh, I should not have started this mess.

The tension bears down as we measure her side of the bedspread. The ruler reads 11 ¾ inches.

“Are you still sure I have more?” Rose says, glaring at me.

“Ye- . . . Yes.” Actually, I’m not sure. But I have to stick to my story.

Now to measure my side. The pressure is so thick I can barely see. My heart begins to pound and perspiration dots my upper lip as Rose presses the ruler to the blankets. I hang back, afraid to look, my legs trembling. What if I have more?

“Twelve inches!” Rose announces triumphantly.

No! It can’t be! I refuse to accept it.

“Let me see!” I insist, trying to sound overpowering, and I snatch the ruler from her hands to measure for myself. But the ruler still reads twelve inches. I sigh.

Not daring to look at her, I slam the ruler back on the desk and, pursing my lips, I stalk out of the room.

After tramping angrily about for a while, I lean heavily against the wall. Why did I ever start that argument? How I want to go back and start over. I should have listened to my conscience. It was just a small whisper, but it sure would have saved a lot of trouble. And as I cool off and think back, I am thankful that my conscience still pricks and annoys me.

Peering into the room, I see Rose slamming drawers as she gets ready for the day. It looks as if I’ve spoiled her morning. I swallow hard and go in to apologize.

That Small Whisper Neva Pederson

Neva Pederson, 13
Agua DuIce, California

That Small Whisper Alice Feng

Alice Feng, 12
North Potomac, Maryland

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