The Private Journal of Tommy Anderson:
Old Man Vanya died today.
Well, maybe it was last night, but it was this morning when I found out about it.
My Uncle Joe is the chief of Police, and he told mother when he came by for breakfast. They’d been out at Old Man Vanya’s place all night. The old man had this special connection so he could call Uncle Joe directly. Or if anything happened out there this special alarm would go off. So when he got the call he collected Dr. Hendricks and went right out.
They set up the special alarm because Mr. Vanya was sort of important. Maybe lots of important. Not like other folks are important. I mean - he was important like that too. Like normal important. Everybody liked him and he sponsored the Little League team and tutored the language class and played chess and all those sorts of things. That’s like normal important.
But he was also like *important* important.
Jeff Johnson used to live just down the road from Old Man Vanya’s place, before his parents bought the new house, and he used to tell us about the big black cars that came up at night. Long rows of cars, with guys on motorcycles sometimes. And sometimes a plane would come in to the Municipal Airport, without a flight plan or markings or anything, and Mr. Vanya would leave on it. Then after a while he would be back like nothing happened, but you knew something had. Nobody said anything, but sometimes I would see my parent’s point at something in the newspaper, and I would guess that was what they were not talking *about*.
That’s what I mean by * important* important.
So they had to make sure it wasn’t murder or something.
It wasn’t. Just a stroke.
Old Man Vanya was ...well...old.
I don’t know how old. No one ever said. He didn’t have really gray hair or anything, which is sort of strange in an old guy, but he used a cane and sometimes a walker in the winter. Donna Hendricks said he had been in an accident or something, and that was why he had the limp. Actually, Donna said it was a bomb, or maybe a building falling on him. Maybe. I don’t know if I believe her. Her mother is the Doctor, so sometimes Donna knows things, but sometimes she’s just a blue-faced liar.
Donna said he got blown up because he was a spy. A Russian spy! That his name wasn’t even Vanya, and that his friend Mr. Solo was a spy too, and that they went off to shoot people.
I said that was silly, because if he was shooting people my Uncle Joe would have arrested him.
She said it was some sort of government thing and that made it OK, but that Mr. Vanya was a spy anyway.
I said she was full of it, and that Mr. Vanya had made dresses. I knew I was right because my mother *had* one of his dresses and I had seen the label and everything. The dress was in a bag in Mom’s closet, all by itself, because it was so expensive. Father said she paid too much, but mother said it was a designer gown and it was worth it.
Donna said that was just his cover story, so he could fly around the world, and anyway dress designers didn't carry a gun and Mr. Vanya did so he *had* to be a spy.
I asked my mother once, but she just told me not to be rude to my elders. Dad told me to mind my own business. So I decided maybe Mr. Vanya was a spy. Or maybe not.
Sam once asked him. Mr. Vanya came out to the geography class, and he brought some really neat things from all around the world, and afterwards he asked for questions. So Sam raised his hand, and when the teacher called on him he stood up and just... asked. Right to the man's face .... Sam said, “Mr. Vanya, are you really 007?” We thought the teacher would *kill* him, but Mr. Vanya didn't get mad. He just got this funny look and said, “ I don't think so.”
Slick answer. Turns out he was.
Well, a spy anyway. And Russian too, I guess. But not like you think. He was one of the good guys. One of the *really* good guys. Although the news guy used the word ‘intelligence director’. I’m pretty sure that’s just grown-up talk for a spy.
Donna was right too. Mr. Vanya wasn’t Mr. Vanya. That was just a name he used sometimes when he wasn’t doing his spy stuff. When he was here.
I don’t care. I liked Mr. Vanya. He was nice. He never yelled when we stole his apples, as long as we used the gate and didn’t climb the fence. And he let the Boy Scouts use his place for nature hikes. And he and Mr. Solo *always* bought tickets to the Shriner’s Fair. And if he won the giant teddy bear at the Dart Toss, which he *always* did, he gave it to one of the little sick kids.
They say the President is coming out for the funeral. Maybe more then one of them. Presidents, I mean. Like the *American* President and the *Russian* President and maybe some other Presidents and Prime Ministers and all those sorts from other countries. Because, like I said, Mr. Vanya was *important* important.
Jeff says we’ll get the day off from school to go see them.
Jeff is all excited. I’m not. A day off will be neat, but I think I’ll miss Old Man Vanya.