Usually Moe was outside before Rosie, as Rosie didn’t enjoy mornings very much. So when Moe wasn’t on the street when she came down from her apartment later in the day, Rosie went to get him. He didn’t have a foot wiggling sign like hers.
Moe was in a grumpy mood, something unusual for him, but Rosie didn’t pay much attention to his grouchiness thinking that the best thing to do was to ignore it. She suggested that he change into his shorts—“It’s hot out today.” “I know that,” he said sharply—and that they go to the cascading fountain in the park, the large one under the green statue of an eagle, to cool off under the spray.
Moe sullenly declined.
“It’s too hot to stay inside,” Rosie said again, hoping to change Moe’s mind. “Come on. What else do you want to do?”
It was certainly too hot to stay inside. That was obvious. Moe was silent for a moment, then said, “Go away, Rosie.”
“All right, then. We’ll just stay here,” Rosie conceded. “So, what should we do?”
“Just leave me alone,” he repeated.
Rosie started to say something when Moe interrupted.
“No, really,” he said. “I don’t want be with you.”
Rosie couldn’t figure out what was wrong. She had never seen her friend so testy before. He looked a mess, too, tired, with dark circles around his eyes.
“Is there something I did to upset you?” Rosie asked.
“Nothing, Rosie. It isn’t you.” He looked away. “It’s me.”
“You’re my friend, Moe,” she said. “Come on, don’t be this way. Tell me what’s wrong. We don’t have any secrets between us, do we?”
hey sat silently for what seemed an eternity. Rosie took her piccolo from her back pocket and began to play. A slight smile crossed Moe’s face, and he finally turned his head towards Rosie.
“You’re right, Rosie,” Moe confided. He spoke softly, almost in a whisper. “I’m ashamed of something.”
“Ashamed? What did you do?” she wanted to know. Was he thinking about the time he set a piece of paper on fire with his magnifying glass and it blew into the dry grass and ignited a small fire? Was it when the two of them came to school late because they stopped at a candy store and told the teacher that Moe had a stomach ache and he couldn’t get out of his house in time? They had once thought of taking something that didn’t belong to them.
“It’s not anything I did, Rosie.”
“Then what is it, Moe?”
“I’m embarrassed.” Then he added, “By my feet.”
“Your feet?” she said. “What’s wrong with your feet?”
“They’re ugly,” Moe said as if he were struggling to get the words out.
“Why do you say that?”
“When I was in the shower last night,” Moe explained, “I looked down and saw that my big toes curl up. And my other toes are bent. I don’t want everyone staring at me.”
Nothing Rosie said made any difference that afternoon. No jokes made him laugh, no music made him smile. Every suggestion was turned away.
Rosie called Grandpa Walter to tell him how upset she was about Moe. Her grandfather told her that when he first became bald, he also had felt self-conscious, and he wore a hat all the time, even while indoors.
Rosie returned the next day to Moe’s apartment with two packages.
“I’ve been thinking, Moe, but I don’t think I ever told you that I’m embarrassed by part of my body, too,” she said. “It’s my ears. Think for a minute. Have you ever seen them?”
“When you were a pig.”
“That was only for a day. What about since?”
“Do you know why?”
“My ears stick out and I don’t like the way they look.”
Rosie pulled her hair away from her ears. Moe saw what Rosie meant.
“So I brought these for us,” she said, handing him one of the packages.
“What’s this?” Moe asked.
“Open it, you’ll see.”
Moe opened one package and took out a pair of blue rubber water shoes.
“You can put these on when you go in the water,” Rosie said. “That way no one can see your toes.”
“But these are for the beach,” he said. “No one wears them in a fountain pool.”
“From now on they will.” With that she opened up the second package. “I bought a pair for myself, too.” Hers were black and decorated with golden stars.
“O.K. But that doesn’t help when I’m not in the pool.”
“Sure it does. We won’t wear them just in the pool. We’ll wear them everywhere.”
“We’ll be laughed at,” Moe said.
Rosie looked at him and said, “And so? At least they’ll be looking at two of us.”
Rosie and Moe liked their water shoes so much that they preferred wearing them to any others, and not only didn’t they get laughed at, the shoes became so popular that within a week nearly everyone they knew had gone to the store to buy a pair. When Rosie and Moe went back to buy a second pair, there were none to be had.
That was fine with them. They decided that they had a new project for the summer: looking for shoes in places other than shoe stores and seeing if they could create another fashion style.