She dances because she has not learned to ride a bicycle yet. She dances because there is not enough snow outside for building a snowman. She dances because that is what people are supposed to do (isn't it?) when there is music.
But mostly she dances because it is the best way to be bouncy and cheerful.
Cammy starts being bouncy and cheerful very early in the morning. She goes on being bouncy-ful and cheery-some, or whatever you want to call it, so late into the night that the moment she stops, she falls asleep. Like switching off a light. Just - Mom says - like a baby.
Cammy is not a baby.
She can't be a baby because she can read. Some words, anyway.
There is a baby in her house. It is quite true, he sleeps a lot. He doesn't even walk yet. Or dance. And he is nowhere near going to school.
Cammy has just been given her school uniform. Pete, her other brother, who has been at school for ages, said: ``That's good, Camilla.'' (He uses her full name for special occasions.) ``Now you'll look just like everyone else. What a relief!'' This is what he said when he put on his first school uniform. The school is trying an experiment, having all the girls look alike and all the boys look alike.
Cammy is not sure she wants to be exactly like everyone else. But she sort of knows what Pete means. And her uniform, which is very tidy and important, does seem to her a good excuse for inventing a new dance. She spins around in her school clothes like a top.
She likes her new dance very much. So she practices it over and over again. As she twirls she sings, ``I'm going to school on Tuesday, I'm - gasp - going to - gasp - school on - gasp - Tuesday.''
Cammy wanted to go to school so much she thought Tuesday would never come.
She wasn't the only one going. Lindy and Sam and Tom were too. They had become friends at the ``school for smalls,'' as Dad called the nursery school. They had been talking about going to the big school for weeks.
``I can't WAIT!'' said Sam.
``I can't WAIT 10 times more than you!'' said Tom.
``I can't wait a million million million more times than both of you,'' said Cammy, dancing on one leg to make sure.
``Plus one,'' said Lindy.
Tom thumped her lightly. Tom sometimes thumped people (not meaning to hurt) when he couldn't think of what else to do. Nobody minded too much. It was just Tom.
When they had all said goodbye to Miss Grubelbruder, their nursery-school teacher, Cammy gave her a pot of blue flowers. Lindy brought a bag of chocolates with one missing that nobody knew about. Sam had a letter he had written with his best picture so far. It was a portrait of Miss Grubelbruder. Tom presented her with a special message from his dad. It said: ``For Tom's favorite teacher, one free super-whale-sized ice cream, any flavor, topping of your choice, at Moby's Freezy-Weezy Emporium, corner of 16th and Melville, when convenient. With our gratitude.''
``Oh, Tom!'' said Miss Grubelbruder. She thought a moment and then gave him one of his thumps.
Since then, the wait had been long and slow. On Sunday afternoon, just after lunch (it was one of Mom's better attempts, Dad said), something very odd happened.
It was not long before Dad noticed.
``Mom,'' he said, ``take a look.''
Mom, who was busy catching up with work (she's a TV director) came after a while.
Both of them looked at Cammy.
Cammy was sitting in a chair.
She was not dancing.
She wasn't even smiling.
``Anything wrong?'' Dad asked.
``No,'' said Cammy.
``Yup,'' said Cammy.
``Well,'' said Mom, ``must get back to work.''
She went back to her work room. But Dad was puzzled.
After an hour and a half, Dad was even more puzzled. ``Why not look at your book about the boats, Cam?''
She just shook her head, even though it was her favorite book.
``Or call Lindy on the phone and see what she's up to?''
``Don't feel like it,'' she said.
At 5:15, Dad said, ``Right, Cam, this has gone on long enough, I think. Tell me what's wrong.''
Cammy was silent.
``Is it about the new school? You want to go, don't you? Your friends are going too, aren't they?''
Cammy said nothing. She hugged herself in the chair.
``You like your uniform?''
``Yes,'' she said, very faintly.
``You'll be having dance class!''
Cammy looked up and then down again.
``Oh, goodness sakes, you've got to say what's bothering you, or how can I help?''
Cammy burst into floods of tears.
Dad came over.
``I don't have ... I don't have ... (sob, gasp) - and Lindy has one, and so do Tom and Sam. They all have one. Tom has TWO!!!'' And her tears became so wet that she started to giggle, but that made things worse and she cried more and it was hard to breathe in, and....
``YOU DON'T HAVE WHAT?'' asked Dad, very loudly.
When she could say something at last, she whispered it in his ear. A very small, very quiet, very pathetic whisper.
``I don't have (sniffle), I don't have (snuffle) an ... eraser.''
Dad immediately stood up and laughed and laughed. ``You don't have an...! Oh, Cammy!''
``No (sob), I don't! I can't go to school (gulp). Everyone else has one.''
Dad promised. Of course she must have an eraser. ``Now stop worrying,'' he said. ``I'll fix it. A secret, huh? Between you and me.''
She felt a little better then. She even tried a brand new pirouette before bedtime.
Nothing was said the next morning at breakfast. Cam was to go to the studios with Mom for the day. The babysitter could only manage the baby.
``Hurry up, Cammy,'' Mom yelled from the hallway, snapping her briefcase shut, ``bring a toy or something! C'MON!''
As she ran out after Mom, Dad gave her a look back. She knew it meant: ``Secret, remember?''
Mom never finished work before 6:30. The drive was half an hour. Dad was already home.
``Hi, darling, good day?'' Dad called out.
``That nut from Poughkeepsie kept me waiting,'' she said. ``Whole afternoon.''
``Hi, Cam,'' Dad said. Mom headed for her study. ``Take a look. In your room.''
She flew upstairs.
There they were, all over Cammy's bed. All over it. All wrapped in different-colored paper. So many she couldn't think how to count them. Millions plus one!
She made a yelpy sort of squeaking sound and started tearing open the wrappers.
In each little package was a different eraser: Green, white, brown, black, half blue and yellow, rusty red, and pink. Some were large and flat. Some long and hard. Some had wedged ends. Some were round. One was even rainbow colored. There were erasers like musical instruments - a piano, a trumpet, and a guitar.
There were dinosaur-shaped erasers. A turtle eraser. An eraser like a dog's bone, and another like a Dalmatian, white with black spots. There were five erasers shaped like different flowers, and seven like chocolates. There was a funny-shaped eraser for sticking on top of a pencil. And there was a pencil that had an eraser all down the middle. There was paper all over the floor, and erasers all over the bed.
And the last package Cammy opened had seven erasers in it, all together. They were large, bendy letters. Wonderful letters. They tumbled out in a heap.
Cammy sat on the bed to see what the letters spelled. After trying a lot of different things, none of them making sense, she decided at last on this:
``Must be,'' she said under her breath.
``L-a-m-i-l-c-a,'' she said very slowly, puzzling hard.
``Oh, I know!'' she said out loud suddenly. ``It must be a special kind of dance. Lamilca! Lamilca!''
And she immediately did a splendid new dance all round the room. The Lamilca Eraser Dance.