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Small but Wiry

Abridged from The Middle Moffat by Eleanor Estes.

T H E    N E W   

When the new parish house was built, there was a splendid gymnasium added to it. Sometimes when Janey Moffat was sitting on the Green, resting from a bike up Shingle Hill and watching the ants, she could hear the girls’ junior basketball team

   Author:  Eleanor Estes
Copyright Date:  1963
Publisher:  Science Research Associates
Pagination:  32 p.

practicing. She could hear the umpire’s shrill whistle, the yelling and shouting and stamping of the players, and the ball bouncing along the floor or banging against the backboards. It sounded like a lot of fun. Sometimes Janey thought she should join the basketball team and stop watching the ants.
     Here was this lovely new gymnasium with the new plaster smell to it, and none of the Moffats belonged! It seemed too bad. When the new gymnasium was finished, the minister in the pulpit had said:
     “The gymnasium belongs to you. To all of you. Use it, and rejoice that we now have such a splendid gymnasium for our young people.”
     Whenever Janey saw the minister, she felt self-conscious to think that none of the Moffats, not one of them, belonged to the gymnasium. He would think the Moffats did not appreciate it. They all four belonged to the library, all four went to school, went to Sunday school, and dancing school too, except Rufus, who was the littlest. Yet none of them belonged to the gymnasium. “... A splendid gymnasium for our young people,” murmured Jane, remembering the words of the minister.
     She, Janey, was one of the young people and she had set foot in the new gymnasium only once, the night of the parish house apple blossom bazaar. “I should join,” she thought.
     Just then some of the basketball girls came out onto the Green to rest. They were dressed in white middy blouses and bloomers. They all wore sneakers.
     Janey loved sneakers. She had hers on today, too. She could run like lightning in them, and always beat the trolley cars except the Bridgeport Express. Almost like flying. She didn’t have any of those big bloomers. But maybe Mama would make her a pair out of the blue serge skirt she had torn jumping over the back fence.
     Should she join? She pondered this question. She considered other sports. At most games of ball she was none too good. She might as well be honest about that. Her brother Joey would seldom play ball with her, preferring little Rufus even, unless there was absolutely no one else around. At croquet she was pretty good. She rarely finished first; but also she rarely finished last.
     Once, in a fit of exuberance over having won, she had thrown the croquet ball straight up in the air. She looked for it to catch it. She didn’t see it and thought she must have thrown it right up into the blue sky, where it would probably make a hole and there would be a new sun. Suddenly it came down—ouch!—right on her head, and raised quite a lump.
     Jane had an idea these tremendous basketballs would be easier to catch. You could encircle them with your whole body and hug.
     “I should join.” Jane blissfully pictured herself tossing the ball through the basket as easily as flipping tiddlywinks into the cup. She would win the game and be carried on the other girls’ shoulders, like the heroes in the books that Joey was always reading. At the last moment when her side was losing and the game seemed to be lost, she would slip in sidewise, flip the ball up, and it would fall clean through. The game would be saved and, “Hurrah for Jane Moffat!” everybody would yell. Her side had won, thanks to her cunning.
     More exciting still, the ball would land on the rim of the basket, teeter back and forth for several seconds with all the players on her side willing it in, and she willing the hardest, and all the players on the other side willing it to fall outside. But of course in a breath-taking moment the ball would slide in, and again, “Hurrah for Janey Moffat!” everybody would yell.
     These were very pleasant thoughts. Jane turned over on her back, stared vacantly at the clouds, and wondered why she had not considered joining the basketball team sooner. It was rather late in the season, but possibly by joining now she would save the team from a season of disgrace. This sometimes happened in the books she read.
     The girls went back into the gymnasium, the umpire’s whistle blew shrilly, and there was a loud burst of shouting. An exciting moment! “Yes, I s’pose I should join,” said Jane. She rubbed the bits of grass and clover off her skirt and legs and crossed the street. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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