J A N E, T H E M I D D L E
M O F F A T
“This is Jane, the middle Moffat,” said Jane, trying to act as though she were Mama, introducing her to one of the ladies she sewed for. That is not the way Mama actually introduced her to these ladies. Mama merely said, “This is Jane.” She never added, “the middle Moffat.” Jane was adding that now to see how it sounded.
She was sitting under the big elm tree at the end of the long green lawn in front of the Moffats’ new house.
In her lap was a round rag rug she was crocheting. It kept humping up in the middle. Right now it looked more like a giant’s skull cap than a rug.
Perhaps when all the Moffats began to walk on it the hump would flatten out. They would stand on it often enough because it was going to be placed on
the burnt spot in front of the pot-bellied stove.
“I’m the middle Moffat,” Jane repeated. “Not the oldest, not the oldest son, not the youngest, just the middle.”
Sylvie was the oldest Moffat. When Mama introduced Sylvie to the ladies who came to try on, she always said, “This is Sylvie, my oldest child.”
Sylvie was sweet sixteen. On her last birthday her aunt had sent her sixteen lumps of sugar tied with pink ribbons all in a cluster. They were not to eat even though sugar was scarce.
“When you’re sweet sixteen you get these things and you keep ’em,” Jane explained to Rufus who looked wide-eyed at the idea of sugar you kept and did not eat.
Naturally Rufus did not know about these things. He was the youngest, just six in fact. He was in Room Two. In school he remembered to do almost everything the right way except to carry the one in arithmetic. He often forgot to do that. In the Moffats’ house you were apt to hear someone say, “Watch out for Rufus because he is the littlest.” Or, “Let Rufus do it first because he is the youngest.” When Mama introduced Rufus to the ladies who came to try on, she said, “This is Rufus, the baby in the family.”
And when Mama introduced Joey to people she would say, “This Joey, my oldest son.” Ever since Papa had died Joey had become more and more important in this family, He was thirteen. He locked the doors and closed the shutters at night. He kept the coal scuttles filled and he took care of the stoves. Joey, the oldest son.
But, when Mama introduced Jane, she just said, “This is Jane.” Because Mama had not figured out that Jane was the middle Moffat. Nobody had figured that out but Jane.
“Yes. This is Jane, the middle Moffat,” Jane repeated out loud, addressing nobody in particular though Catherine-the-cat gave her an inquiring glance and paused with her front paw on a grasshopper.
Why even Catherine was called Catherine-the-cat. Never just Catherine. And the sewing figure which the Moffats called Madame was usually referred to as Madame-the-bust. Jane should be called Jane, the middle Moffat. It sounded good.
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