This is diploma month, and time hangs heavy on recent grads. If you're looking for evidence, just listen to what befell a Levey reader named Grace.

She answered the phone one night last week in her Falls Church kitchen. A male voice was on the other end. The voice sounded "youngish" to Grace, "but, hey, I'm over 40 now, and more and more voices sound that way," she said.

The voice asked to speak to Grace's husband, by name. Grace said he was still at work. Was there anything she could do? "Tell him the AIDS test is positive, and to call the lab for further information," the voice said. Then the phone went dead.

Grace called her husband as fast as a human being can punch seven buttons. Her husband said he had no idea what the call was about. He had never had an AIDS test, he told his wife, and he had no reason to have one.

Grace took him at his word. "But I have to be honest with you, Bob," she said. "As much as I love my husband and as much as I trust him, it made me wonder for a few days."

That, of course, was the whole idea. Our friendly pranksters must have looked up Grace's husband in the phone book (he is in fact listed there). If he had answered, they probably would have hung up. But when a woman answered who might have been the man's wife, bonanza!

A chance to make innocent people suffer! To sow suspicion where none existed before! Perhaps to hit a grand-slam home run and cause a knock-down, drag-out domestic battle, or even a divorce!

You probably suspect it, and the local medical societies confirm it: No reputable lab or doctor delivers bad news about AIDS to anyone but the patient. And very few labs or docs deliver the bad news by phone under any circumstances. So if you're ever put in Grace's position by a surprise phone call, you can be 99.99 percent sure that the "positive AIDS test results" don't exist.

In the meantime, why don't you kids who called Grace go to Ocean City and commune with the seagulls for a few days? Maybe they'll find you funny. No one else does.

He isn't Pup-Pup, but he'll do.

Regular readers will remember the story I published back in April about a 3-year-old girl from Silver Spring named Leigh Koback. While shopping at Montgomery Mall one afternoon with her mother, Karen, Leigh accidentally left Pup-Pup behind on a bench outside Mrs. Field's Cookies.

Pup-Pup was a stuffed dog who had been in the family for three generations. He had seen better days, but that didn't stop some passerby. In the few seconds that it took Karen to realize that Leigh wasn't still holding Pup-Pup, he disappeared.

I wrote about Pup-Pup in an effort to persuade whoever picked him up that this was no ordinary stuffed dog. But the column was more poop than pup. Leigh's precious pet never returned.

However, the story captivated Sharon L. Winegard, who manages the cookie shop in front of which the disappearance took place. Sharon taped a copy of my column in the window to see if she could help things along. When that didn't work, she rummaged through her attic and found a 6-inch-tall brown bear with a Mrs. Field's label sewn to his chest. "It was from a 3-year-old promotion," Sharon said. "Obviously no one was using it."

Last week, Sharon presented the brown bear to Leigh and Karen. The little girl was "delighted," Sharon reports. As for Karen, she told Sharon that "she'll never, ever let this one go."

As Sharon points out, her gift "doesn't bring back Pup-Pup." But Sharon walked miles that she didn't have to walk for a heartbroken little girl. That's the kind of spirit that's better than a chocolate chip.


Elaine R. Schneider of Columbia sent along a $40 contribution to our annual drive. Her explanation: "Today {May 29} is my 40th birthday, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate it."

Neither can I, Elaine. Many thanks for thinking of the 1,100 underprivileged kids we're trying to help this summer. With gifts like yours, all 1,100 can go to camp for two weeks each, beginning 13 days from now. Without gifts like yours . . . . well, let's hope we never have to finish that sentence.

Calling all birthday boys and birthday girls: Why not emulate Elaine and send us a check? It's a present that'll do your heart -- and our community -- a lot of good.


Make a check or money order payable to Send a Kid to Camp, and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.

In hand as of June 8: $55,012.37.

Our goal: $275,000.