Read aloud version
“Well, that makes five games of checkers,” Grandma said.
“Two times I won, and three times you beat me.”
Elsie nodded, grinning. “And it’s just the first night!” she said.
“Oh, I’ll get better,” Grandma said. “It’s been so many years
since I played checkers, I’m out of practice. By the end of the
week, you’d better watch out.”
Elsie picked up another gingersnap and munched on it.
Things here were so much different than at home. Here at
Grandma’s, she could stay up late into the summer night. At
home, Mama always made her go to bed at the same time as
her little brothers.
“Why don’t you have a radio?” Elsie asked. “We listen to the
radio at home after dinner. There are funny shows.”
“I’ll get a radio, someday,” Grandma said. “But isn’t it nice to
listen to the night noises?”
Elsie listened for a moment. There was the sound of
crickets, and the hiss of the lantern. There were no cars
going by on Grandma’s dirt road. There were no dogs
barking, no noisy neighbors.
“Let’s make some hot cocoa and popcorn,” Grandma
said. “Elsie, would you go and get some water from the
pump? I’ll get started with some popcorn. ”
At Elsie’s house, the water came out of a faucet in the
sink. But Grandma didn’t have running water yet. Even
though the year was 1946, Grandma still went outside
every day to pump water into a bucket.
“Elsie?” Grandma asked. “Do you want hot cocoa?”
“Sure, Grandma,” Elsie said. She stood up slowly.
“Where’s the bucket?”
Grandma handed her a tin pail. “Here you go.”
Elsie walked over to the porch. To get to the pump, she
would need to go across the porch, down three steps and across
a short walkway. In the daytime, she didn’t think twice about
pumping a bucket of water for Grandma. She liked lifting the
handle and watching the cool water flood out.
The night was a different story. Elsie wished that she could
take the lantern outside with her. But the lantern was far too
heavy. She could never carry the lantern and the bucket filled
Before Elsie pushed open the door, she looked long and
hard at the flickering flame of the lantern. If she looked long
enough, she thought, she could carry some of the light with her
to the pump.
She took a deep breath and pushed open the door. She took
one step into the darkness of the porch. Another step, and
From a distant tree, an owl hooted. Elsie looked around her,
but she could see nothing. Everything was darkness and
shadows. Suddenly frightened, she turned around, raced back
inside, and shut the door behind her.
Elsie’s heart was pounding. But she didn’t want to let
Grandma down. This was just her first night of visiting. She didn’t
want Grandma to think that she was a baby!
“I can do this,” Elsie murmured. She turned and looked at the
lantern again, for longer this time. Then, without giving herself a
moment to think, she pushed open the door and walked quickly
down the steps.
She made it all the way to the pump this time. She still could
see nothing but shadows, nothing but the darkness. As she
reached for the pump handle, she felt something cool and
“Eeek!” Elsie squealed. She dropped the bucket and raced
back to the house. Across the walk, up the steps, open the door,
shut the door.
“Elsie?” Grandma said. “Did you get the water? Where’s the
A tear started to trickle down Elsie’s cheek. She brushed it
aside. “Oh, Grandma, I’m so sorry! I was scared to go outside,
so I looked at the lantern, and then I went out, and the owl
hooted, and then there was something on the handle of the
Grandma smiled. “Oh, Elsie. You looked at the lantern before
you went outside?”
Elsie nodded. “It’s so dark out there!”
“Come with me,” Grandma said. She took Elsie to the door.
“You can’t look at the lantern and take the light with you. Your
eyes don’t work like that. You need to give yourself time to get
used to the dark.”
Elsie looked into the yard. It still looked dark and shadowy.
But then she noticed something. The more she looked, the more
she could see. It wasn’t the same as seeing the yard in daylight.
But it wasn’t as scary, either.
“Will you come with me?” Elsie asked.
Grandma didn’t answer for a moment. Then she said, “Elsie,
you’re going to be here for a week. I think it’s important for you to
be able to go outside by yourself.” She added, “And it’s not just
the pump that you’ll need to be able to go to.”
“But there’s something on the pump handle!”
Grandma chuckled. “Elsie, I share my yard with plenty of
creatures. I’m sure this one won’t harm you. When you get to the
pump, try looking at the creature from the corner of your eye.”
“The corner of my eye?”
“Trust me,” Grandma nodded.
Elsie sighed, and then stood up a little straighter. “I can do it.”
She opened up the door again. This time, she didn’t hurry or
rush. She walked carefully down the steps.
As she moved toward the pump, she noticed things she
hadn’t seen before. The stars twinkled in the sky, brighter here
than in town. Fireflies flickered all around the yard.
When she reached the pump, she didn’t see anything on the
handle. Then she tried looking at it from the corner of her eye,
just as Grandma had suggested. “Oh!” she exclaimed. She could
just barely make out the shape of a caterpillar. It wasn’t scary at
all. “Here, little one. Let me move you to someplace safe.” She
gently picked up the caterpillar and moved him to the grass.
Then she found the bucket, set it under the spout, and pumped
out the water.
When the bucket was full, Elsie picked it up and started
back toward the house. She almost didn’t want to go back
inside. There were other sounds in the yard, sounds that
were different from the crickets or the owl. Were they birds?
Different bugs? Elsie felt more curious than afraid.
“I’m back!” Elsie said, walking in the door. “Grandma, I
have a question. After we have hot cocoa and popcorn, can
we go on a walk in the dark? I want to know more about
what’s out there!”
Grandma smiled. “That’s something we can definitely
do,” she said. “Elsie, I’m glad that you’ve found out that
there’s nothing to fear in the nighttime.”
Elsie was glad, too!