“Well, Nesrin explained all of that at school,” continued Cara in her funny nasal voice. The clothespin was still on her nose. “Remember?”
Oh yeah, that was it. He knew that he had heard this before. But Lenny wasn’t finished with his game yet. He took three small aluminum foil packets out of his plastic shopping bag; before opening them, he tugged the kitchen towel blindfold down over Cara’s eyes again. He was really proud of this experiment. In each packet was a small cut piece of something light-colored, yellowish white. Lenny put the first little bit into Cara’s mouth.
Cara chewed around on the piece of something. “Apple!”
Apple was right. He put the next bit of something on her tongue.
She sucked it and crunched it, then swallowed it, and shook her head. “It tastes like nothing,” she said. “It is harder than apple, I think, but … no, really, I do not know.”
Lenny took the third piece from the last packet and gave it to her, and waited excitedly for her to say something.
“Well maybe this one is apple … or maybe the other one was … or maybe …”
Lenny pulled the blindfold from Cara’s eyes and carefully took the clothespin off her nose.
“Yuck!” she exclaimed, as soon as the air rushed up her nostrils. “Onion!”
Lenny giggled. Two pieces were apple but one piece, the middle one, was onion. When he and his mother had done this experiment, she showed him how it was possible to confuse some kinds of apples with onions when you were chewing them. You needed really firm apples. There was one kind that was really sour. Cara could taste that with her tongue. The other piece of apple Lenny gave her was firm but it was a different kind that was not very sour, so it seemed to be as tasteless to her as the piece of onion. But afterwards, when she could smell things again, the taste of that piece of raw onion was pretty awful!
“Yuck,” Cara said again, and grabbed a handful of gummy bears which she stuffed straight into her mouth. “We were looking at family pictures today,” she said with her mouth still full.
Lenny thought, at first, that he had not heard her right.
“Mama and Papa think that I do not look very much like either of them … not like Maul. They always say that. I think it is because of my nose … and, in school, Manuel called me Pinocchio …”
Lenny frowned and his eyes narrowed. Boy, if Manuel ever said anything like that again, well I will show him just who Pinocchio is!
Cara swallowed her mouthful of gummy bears so she spoke more clearly now. “What is like my nose for you?” she asked.
Lenny understood immediately. Cara wanted to know if he had some flaw, maybe, that made him feel bad — if there was something that he was ashamed of, something that made him sad just because it was the way it was and could not be changed. Lenny thought about this. He did not really care much at all about how he looked. But when he went to the bakery with his mother and just nodded when she pointed to this or that and asked him what he wanted; when the bakery lady would say in a pretty loud voice, “Well can he not talk? Speak up young man!” then he would feel absolutely miserable. Just thinking about this made him droop—shoulders sagging, head hanging.
Oh, said Cara. And this oh seemed to say everything.
“Okay, what now?” asked Lenny, with a little sigh, hoping that his confession had evened things up between them.
“Yolitzva!” exclaimed Cara. She leaped up out of her chair all at once with her arms raised and a big smile.