How It All Began
It was a saturday afternoon in February. The weather was unbelievably repulsive; rain mixed with sleet, slippery sidewalks, icy wind that turned your umbrella inside out -- the kind of day that makes you wish your dog was paper trained because he doesn't want to go out any more than you do. Especially a dog like our basset, Max, who's too lazy to go out even if it's a sunny morning in spring.
So anyway, that's the kind of afternoon it was. Boris and I were playing records in the living room, my mother was in the study doing her homework, my father was out to lunch with a client from Chicago, and Ape Face was being a pain in the neck. For about the eleventh time in the last half hour, he stood in the doorway of the living room.
"Annabel," he began.
"Are you here again? What do you want now?"
"Would you play me a game of Crazy Eights?"
"Boris, would you?"
"Well, won't somebody play something with me? There's nothing to do around here."
"I'm not allowed. Only Sesame Street, The Electric Company, or Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and they're not on."
"Get Mom to invite a friend over for you."
"She tried. Nobody's mother wants to go out in all this rain and stuff."
"I don't blame them. What about a friend in the building?"
"I don't have a friend in the building. My only friend was George -- and he moved to the country. You know that."
"As a matter of fact, I did not know that. Listen, I'm sorry your friend moved to the country and I'm sorry you're so bored, but there isn't a thing I can do about it. So if you wouldn't mind getting out of here and stop bothering us -- now. Scram! Go amuse yourself. Take apart a Baby Ben clock or something."
I figured that should occupy him for at least an hour.
Ape Face sighed. "Okay," he said.
A hot ten minutes later, he was back again. I tried to control my temper.
"Finished already? My, that was speedy of you!" Much too speedy if you ask me. I shot Boris a look of despair. Boris took over.
"Ben, old boy, I have a great idea. for you. Why don't you try putting the clock back together?"
"I already did."
"Oh," said Boris, nonplussed. "Congratulations."
"It was easy," said Ape Face. "I've done it a million times. There's nothing in my whole room I haven't done a million times. So Annabel, I was just wondering ... " he said hesitantly.
"Are you using your hair dryer right now?"
"Obviously not. Why?"
"I want to take it apart," Ape Face said.
"Oh you do, do you! Well, that's just altogether tough luck. It's a brand-new dryer and I'm not about to let you muck around with it. You'll wreck it up."
"No!" I shouted. "Now get out of here before I kill you!"
"Wait a minute," said Boris. "I think I have something that might interest you, Ape Face. In our apartment there's an old TV set. It's absolutely beyond repair -- hasn't worked for years -- but it has a lot of tubes and wires and parts you'd have fun fiddling around with. How does that sound?"
Ape Face was thrilled. "That sounds great!"
"I thought so. I'll tell you what: Seeing as it's no good to anyone but a mechanical nut like you, I'll sell it to you for a very low price."
"How much price?" asked Ape Face anxiously.
Ape Face was crestfallen. "I don't have fifty cents. I spent all my money on Wacky Packs. Couldn't I go upstairs to your house and you just lend me the use of the set for a couple of hours?"
"No," said Boris firmly. "You going upstairs is not a good idea. But even if you don't have the money, I'd be happy to bring it down to you now anyway; and you could pay me later. Okay?"
"Okay," said Ape Face. "There's just one thing. I hope you're not going to get mad at me -- but if the set's no good, why do I have to pay you fifty cents for it?" I must say, he had a point there. It did seem rather greedy.
Boris looked faintly annoyed. "The effort of lugging it down here is worth at least fifty cents. Besides, it's a seller's market. In other words, I've got what you want, and whether or not anyone else wants it is immaterial. You do want it, don't you?"
"Oh yes," said Ape Face.
"All right, then. It's a deal. Annabel, you're the witness."
"Fine by me," I said. "I just hope he doesn't electrocute himself."
"Oh, don't be silly," said Ape Face scornfully. "I know all about electricity. I know better than that. I wouldn't plug it in while I was working on it -- only when it was all fixed up."
"That'll be the day," said Boris flippantly.(Continues...)