“Guess what?” Timmy`s mother said as the boy came in from school. “We have new neighbors next door!”
Timmy put his books away hurried out to the backyard. He hopes the new neighbors included a boy.
There was a huge man in the yard next door. His head was entirely hairless and he had a fierce-looking black moustache.
“ Hi, I am Timmy Scoutt.”
The big man didn`t seem to hear him. Without a word, he went into the house, and almost at once a boy about Timmy`s own age came out.
“Hi!” Timmy said again.
“My name is Timmy.”
“So?” the boy answered. There was no friendliness in his face. “Well, I`m George and I think I had better tell you my secret.”
“Your secret? What kind of a secret?” Timmy asked.
“I`m Greek, “the boy answered. “My grandfather doesn`t speak English, although my father and my mother do.”
Timmy was so puzzled by the new boy`s manner that he didn`t know what to say.
George shrugged his shoulders. “I know it.” He said, walking away. “You think you are better than we are. Who cares?”
Timmy was glad that his mother called him into the house. “Here are some milk and cookies,” she said “Why don`t you take some to your new friend?”
“I don`t think he`s my fried, “said Timmy, a bit disappointed. “Mom, what`s so bad about being Greek?”
“Nothing wrong with being Greek, Timmy—or any other nationality for that matter,” his mother said, smiling. “I heard what George said. Someone, some- where, must have made him feel that he was different because he is Greek.”
“ I like him,” Timmy said, “but I feel sorry for him, and his grandmother frightens me. He is so big!”
Timmy didn`t sleep well that night. George seem very unhappy, he thought. How terrible it must be for the grandfather too, living in strange land, where people spoke a language he couldn`t understand.
The next day was Saturday, and Timmy was working in his mother`s flower garden when he saw George and his grandfather in the yard. He had an idea.
“Hi George!” he called. “Tell me the Greek word for “good morning” so I can say it to your grandfather.”
George`s face turned red. “ I don`t like speaking Greek, “ he said sharply. “You stop making fun of us!” he walked away, leaving Timmy standing there, feeling sad.
On Monday morning Timmy went to see his English teacher. “ Miss Lynch, how can I learn to speak Greek?”
When Timmy explained about George and his grandfather, Miss Lynch didn`t laugh, as he had been afraid she would.
“Why Timmy, how wonderful!” she explained. I know of some books that teach foreign words and phrases by sound—we call the method phonetics. Let`s find one for Greek.”
When Timmy went home that day, he had the Greek phrase book with him. It was midnight before he turned off the light.
His mind was filled with strange, surprising sounds and words, and when he fell asleep, he dreamed of talking to George`s grandfather in Greek.
Timmy was never without the little book. He spent hours with it and soon he was reading the stranger sounds—the phonetics as Miss Lynch called them—into his father`s tape recorder. Gradually he began to understand the strange words in the beautiful language of faraway land.
One Saturday morning Timmy saw George`s grandfather working in backyard. With the little book in his hand, Timmy nervously approached the fence. “ Kalemera, Pappous!” he called. In Greek it meant, “Good morning, Grandfather!”
The big man dropped his hoe as he stared at Timmy. His broad into a huge grin as he answered. “ Kalemera geitanos!”
Timmy understood. The old man was saying, “ Good morning, neighbor!”
“Ego…Ego Timmy!” the boy said again. “I am Timmy,”
“Timmy? Kalos!” the big man answered and then striking his chest with his palm, he continued, “ George! Megalos George!”
Timmy was delighted, The grandfather had said, “Timmy? Good! George! Big George!” They could talk each other!
Timmy and Big Gorge were standing there laughing when young George came out of the house. His face was very serious, He said something in rapid Greek too his grandfather, and the big George suddenly stopped laughing and went back to his work. Young George stared Timmy.
“I told my grandfather that you were making fun of us because we are Greek,” he said angrily. “He was a great wrestler in Greece: Nobody ever defeated him. But here he is ‘just another Greek’!”
“I don`t understand!” Timmy said, “Why doesn`t he learn to speak English? He…”
“He says English is for rough people. Why don`t you just leave us alone. You… You Americanos?”
Without another word little George turned and walked back into his house. Timmy stared after him. George had called him an ”American” and he had made it sound like something bad.
Timmy decided to try again “Zestos?” he asked. “Hot?” But Big George pretended that he didn`t hear him. Sadly, Timmy went back to his own yard work. They just didn`t want to be friends with him, he thought. He couldn`t understand why.
That Sunday morning Timmy`s father and mother left Timmy at home alone. A bit later, George and his own parents drove away, living the grandfather working among his flowers in backyard. He had removed his shirt and his great chest was like a huge barrel. “How strong he must be,” thought Timmy, ”and what a good wrestler!”
Later, Timmy was watching TV, his Greek phrase book in his lap, when he happened to look out the window. Big George was lying face down on the ground!
Timmy run out, climbed over the fence, knelt beside the big man, and took his hand. It was cold.
“Pappous George!” he cried, “Grandfather George!” He wanted to say, “Grandfather George, what`s matter?”
But the words not come! Desperately, he tried to run the man over, and from Big Geotge`s pale lips came a weak whisper. “latriko… poukamso…..!
What was he saying? Timmy was confused. He tried hard to remember what the words meant. Than all at once he remember! Big George was saying ”Medicine.. Shirt…”
Timmy ran tom the bush where the man`s shirt was hanging and removed a small plastic bottle of tiny tablets from the pocket. He took out two of the pills and try to force them between the old man`s lips. He watched fear fully as the colour returned to the Big George`s face.
“Karthia!” the grandfather whispered. “Giatros!” Again Timmy understood. Big George was having a heart attack! He was saying, “Heart! Doctor!”
“Nai….Nai!” the boy answered, giving the old man hope. “Yes….Yes!” He ran for the telephone.
“He`ll be alright, Timmy,” George`s father said at the hospital later than afternoon. “But if you hadn`t understood enough Greek to know to get his medicine and call the doctor, things might have been…different, He wants to see you.”
Big George smiled broadly when Timmy entered the room. He uttered some words. Timmy couldn`t understand.
Young George said,” My grandfather says that if you will help him learn English, he will teach you to wrestle so well that nobody can beat you. “Will you? Please?”
Unable to speak, Timmy nodded. The grandfather raised his hand and hell Timmy`s. “Eukaristo,” he said, “felos!” Timmy didn`t need his phrase book to know that Big George was saying “Thank you friend!”