Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Costco Conundrum

Grocery shopping has always been sort of a necessary evil for me.  When I was a kid, my mom used to drag me and my brothers to the local Acme Market, and I would invariably get in trouble for asking the store manager where we could find the Acme Rocket Skates or the Acme Invisible Paint.  Also, the decision on what breakfast cereal to get almost always led to fisticuffs.

"I wanna get Boo Berry!"

"You always get to pick!  Let's get Cookie Crisp!"

"Cookie Crap sucks!  I wanna get Cap'n Crunch!"

Sooner or later, Mom would just grab the first box she could get her hands on, which is how we all discovered the bland taste and fiber-out-your-butt quality of Kellogg's Product 19.

As I've gotten older, my relationship with grocery stores hasn't improved much.

Recently I was at the local Stater Brothers supermarket and as I was putting all my items on the checkout conveyor belt, I noticed that a startling number of my groceries had been smashed all to hell.  I suppose I could've been more careful about loading my cart and avoided burying the package of King's Hawaiian Rolls (slogan: So Addictive You'll Think We Make 'em With Crack) under three twelve-packs of Diet Dr. Pepper, but as I will explain momentarily, I had little choice in the matter.  With the current layout of the Stater Brothers store, a certain degree of product mutilation was bound to happen.

First of all, the fruits and veggies are at one end of the store, the baked goods at the other.  The soda and canned products are located in aisles seven and eight, smack dab in the middle.  What this means is no matter which end of the store you start with, the heavy stuff is going to crush either your bread or your tomatoes.  It would make far more sense to put your canned goods in aisle one so customers could build a sturdy bottom layer in their cart, then have the freezer section in aisles two and three, and so on until you get to the last aisle which would be stocked with your eggs, breads, and other smooshables.

Not exactly super-symmetric quantum field theory, is it?

So there I was, two weeks ago, thinking I knew all there was to know about supermarkets when Theresa told me she had signed us up for a Costco membership.

Costco, for those of you who are as unfamiliar with it as I was, is basically your Steroid-Pumping-Retail-Slash-Grocery-Metropolis From Hell.  To begin with, there's an admission fee, just like Disneyland.  For fifty bucks, you can get a Gold Star Membership, which allows you to shop at Costco whenever you darn well feel like it.  For a hundred dollars, you can upgrade to the Executive Club which includes all the benefits and privileges of the Gold Star plan along with -- and I quote -- an annual two percent reward on most Costco purchases, as well as additional values on member services, such as lower prices on check printing, payroll services and identity protection; an account bonus for money market and online investing accounts; free roadside assistance for vehicles covered through the auto insurance program; and extra travel benefits.

Just tell me where I can find the Pop Tarts, thank you very much.

When Theresa and I went off on our first Costco shopping spree, I didn't know what to expect.  A really big grocery store, is what I was figuring.  But once we entered through the magical sliding doorway, this is what I saw:

As it turns out, Costco sells friggin' everything and sells it by the boatload.

For example, in addition to a few slabs of steak and a jumbo package of chicken breasts for barbecuing, I wanted to get a couple cans of Del Monte French-Cut Green Beans.  Due to official Costco regulations, though, you can't just get a regular can of beans.  You have to buy them in cans the size of your head.  Think I'm joking?


Since we don't typically invite the United States Marine Corps to our house for dinner (not that they wouldn't be welcome), I have no idea why Costco would force us to buy this many green beans.

Also, Theresa sometimes likes to fry up a few Tater Tots so we needed to pick up a bottle of Mazola Corn Oil.  But alas, Costco doesn't carry mere bottles of the stuff, so we ended up buying it in a very convenient eight-gallon jug.

That should take care of our Tater Tot needs well into the year 2015.

It gets even crazier in Costcoland because their product line extends far beyond groceries.  Need a flat-screen TV?

Go to Costco.

A gas barbecue?


Take a gander at the Table-o-Clothing!
Hammocks, shirts, books, pool toys, furniture?

Costco.  You name it, they have it.

Hell, they even have a jewelry department where you can buy a reasonably-priced diamond ring for that special lady in your life.  Can't say I'd recommend it, though.  There's a reason they don't have a television commercial with a blushing bride-to-be holding out her left hand for her girlfriends to admire, gushing the phrase, "He got it at Costco."

I know.  Women.

By the time we'd finished shopping, Theresa and I had so much stuff loaded onto our flatbed cart that we genuinely started to worry about whether or not we'd have room at the house to store the industrial strength drum of Captain Crunch, the shipping crate of Pop Tarts, the 100-pound bag of potato chips, and the 1500-pack of Diet Dr. Pepper.

But wouldn't you know it, Costco has just the solution.

That's right, they even sell sheds.


Stumble Upon Toolbar submit to reddit

Monday, May 23, 2011

Shopping Shenanigans

I had planned to do three things on Saturday morning; withdraw money from the bank, go to Easylife Furniture to buy a living room set, go home and spend the rest of the day relaxing.

So I rolled out of bed around 9:00, went through the whole morning routine (Head-Shaving: An Adventure in Blood Loss), and I was ready to roll by 9:30.

"Okay, Theresa, I'm outta here. I'll be back in about half an hour."  That truly was my plan.  Thirty minutes, no more no less.  I'm a guy, running a couple errands isn't exactly blind-folded quadruple by-pass surgery.

"Oh," she said.  "You mean you don't want me to come with you?"

This is what's known as a "loaded question" which is to say, it's not a question.  It was Theresa's thinly-veiled way of saying, "Yay!  Shopping!"  I realized of course that if I'd said, "Nah, I"ve got this," I was going to get the pouty-faced guilt trip, so I took a deep breath and replied:

"Of course I do, honey, I'd like nothing better than to take you to the furniture store.  I was just thinking that maybe you'd have better things to do than tag along with me."

Translation:  "Shit."

I went to the living room and turned on the television while Theresa went through her whole morning routine.  Shower, hair, makeup, primping, selecting an outfit, nail-filing, eye-brow tweezing, brushing her teeth, selecting a different outfit, and of course picking out the right shoes.  She wrapped it up at 11:00, or put another way, about half an hour after I would've been back had I gone by myself.  Had I stuck to my original game plan, I'd be eating my lunch already.  Not that I am bitter.

First stop, Bank of America (motto: Fees, Fees, and More Fees),where I filled out the withdrawal slip for a hefty wad of cash.  Furniture is not inexpensive unless you're into Gilligan's Island bamboo stuff, which Theresa and I are not.

We drove to Easylife Furniture to pay for the living room set we'd picked out the previous evening.  I located Pete, the odd-looking tobacco-stained Easylife sales representative, and filled out the paperwork while Theresa wandered off to check out dressers.

I forgot to tell you this, but we had purchased a dresser the night before, right after we'd selected the living room furniture.  Our new dresser was at home in our bedroom as we shopped that morning, so why Theresa felt the need to browse the dresser area is anyone's guess.  But far be it from me to question such things, at least to her face.

So anyway, I gave a couple grand to Pete the salesman, and we arranged for the furniture to be delivered on Thursday.  Bada bing, bada boom, we were out of there, and I seriously thought we'd be getting home around noonish.

That's because I'm very naive.

We pulled out of the Easylife parking lot, and headed -- I thought -- back to the house.  Apparently, Theresa had other plans.

"Honey, can we stop by PetSmart? I need to get some diapers for Newton."

Mustering all my strength, I refrained from both sighing and rolling my eyes because that would've only turned out badly.  "Sure, T, I'd be happy to go to PetSmart, there's nothing I'd rather be doing right now at all."

Sarcasm.  Not just an attitude, a way of life.

We went to PetSmart and located the Puppy Pampers.  I should probably explain this.  Due to Newton's unwillingness or inability to refrain from "marking his territory" in the house, Theresa and I have resorted to dressing the little pain in the ass in diapers.  This is even more important now, because if he pisses on the new furniture, I'm going to beat him to death with Big Bertha.

It's a golf club, shut up.

So Theresa grabs a package of the doggy diapers and we get in line.  Just when it's our turn, she looks at me and says, "Oh, wait, we need to get one of those watering dishes."

This time I lost the battle.  I rolled my eyes.

She selected an automatic-refill water dish, the kind where you fill up the tank, flip it upside down in the dish compartment, and forget all about it until the dogs come panting to the back door a week later.  We checked out, but as we were walking to the car I noticed that Theresa had mistakenly purchased the automatic-refill food dish, not the water dish.  She went back in and made the exchange while I contemplated the relative merits of hanging myself versus committing harakiri.

It was now 12:30.  I should've been home hours ago.

Theresa came back out with the water dish, but before she even got in the car, another store in the strip mall caught her eye.

"Hey, can we go check out that furniture place?"

Heavy sigh.  I didn't even bother fighting it.

"Why, what's over there?"


"Yeah, okay, and?"

"Well, I want to look at dressers."

Dressers.  Yet again.

"You mean like the one we bought last night and spent an hour or so putting together?"

"I want to see if we got a good deal."

"And if we didn't?"

"Just come on."

Unfinished?  Looks done to me.
So we went over to Dave's Unfinished Furniture.  I have to admit, the name captured my attention.  I imagined all sorts of half-completed items.  Three-legged chairs, cushionless couches, armoires without arms or whatever.  "Why yes, Theresa, we have a lovely dresser for you over here.   No drawers, though, is that a problem?"

Turns out that's not what unfinished furniture is.

While she was looking at dressers for about half an hour, I tried to recall a few plotlines of CSI: New York to see if I could figure out a way to remove trace evidence from a hypothetical murder scene. When Theresa finally finished perusing the showroom, we left with nothing but Dave's business card.

It was just after 1:30.

On the road again. We made it as far as the intersection of Amargosa and Bear Valley, less than a mile from Dave's Unfinished Furniture store.

"Oh, can we stop at Target?"

Maybe if I just pull out into the intersection, a speeding tractor trailer will . . .

"Sure, Theresa, why not?"

The Target store near our house is one of the new-and-improved SuperTargets.  They have groceries, clothes, electronics, pretty much anything you can imagine.  If there is a Hell, it's rife with SuperTargets and fabric stores.

It's important to remind you at this point, when I go shopping, I don't browse.  My shopping style can best be described as "find it, buy it, get the hell out."

Which bears not the slightest resemblance to Theresa's shopping style.

To Theresa, shopping is not a task, it's an event.  I've observed her technique on more than one occasion, and as far as I can tell, it's simply "wander up and down every aisle, comparing the useless crap in the store to the useless crap we have at home, stop and have a pretzel, try on clothes you have no intention of ever buying, go grab a latte from the in-store Starbucks, look at ugly shoes, consider buying a couple doggie toys for Newton the High-Maintenance Wondermutt, and maybe, just maybe, actually purchase something."

You can't be mad while eating a Double-Double.
Theresa put on her own production of Alice in Targetland while I suffered a Grand Mall seizure.

We left SuperTarget with a box of Cheez-its and a 12-pack of Diet Coke.

The time?  2:45.

Thankfully, we were only about a mile from home, so options for further course corrections from Theresa Friggin' Magellan were limited. But wouldn't you know it, she managed to pull it off.

"Hey, let's stop at In-N-Out Burger.  My treat."

All was forgiven.


Stumble Upon Toolbar submit to reddit

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dishwasher Debacle

When you're in a relationship, it is very important that you and your significant other see eye-to-eye on important matters such as which way the toilet paper goes on the holder, who sleeps on which side of the bed, and -- this one should go without saying -- who gets primary custody of the TV remote.  If a couple can't agree on the big issues, there's no way they'll get through the smaller ones like whether or not they want to have children.

Another potential topic for debate, by which I mean heated argument nearly leading to fisticuffs, is the proper procedure for loading the dishwasher.  I've recently learned that there is more than one point of view on this.  In my experience, most household appliances are named for their function.  For example, a food processor is for processing food, the cheese grater is for grating cheese, and the wooden spoon is for disciplining your children.  Using my Sherlock Holmesian powers of deductive reasoning, I came to the conclusion that our Whirlpool 1000 Series SheerClean Tall Tub Built-in Dishwasher was for washing dirty dishes.

Clearly, that was where I went wrong.

According to the International High Priestess of Dishwashing who, because I don't want to sleep on the couch for a week, shall remain nameless, no dish, glass, fork, bowl, plate, knife, spatula, spoon, mug, or especially pot with burned chili crusted all over it God-dammit should be put in the dishwasher unless it has been thoroughly washed first.  To me, this is ridiculous because dishwashers are expensive and therefore I am not going to do their job for them.  The dirtier the dish the better, is how I look at it.

We have a policy in our house that states, "Whoever is responsible for dirtying a dish (defined as a plate, bowl, cup, utensil or other dishwasher-safe piece of cutlery), assumes the additional responsibility of loading it into the dishwasher."  There are also sub-sections of the policy covering when to run the dishwasher and who's responsible for emptying it when the dishes are clean.  The problem with this system, as you've probably figured out, is that the International High Priestess is the only one who bothers to follow it.  The rest of us have a much simpler procedure, namely, the "put the dirty dish in the sink and the dish fairy will take it from there" method.  It's a system that serves us well most of the time.

Which brings us to last night's events.

I was attempting to give the dish fairy a break by taking the dirty dishes from their comfortable resting place in the sink, and loading them into the dishwasher.  As I was bending down to put a plate in the rack, the International High Priestess materialized out of nowhere and said, "You're not putting that in the dishwasher, are you?"

Remaining in my hunched over position, with one hand on the plate and the plate in the dish rack, I replied, "Why no, of course not.  What ever gave you that idea?"

Sarcasm.  Not just an attitude, a way of life.

"You know you can't put a dirty dish in the dishwasher."

"I can't?"

"No, it needs to be washed first."

"Then what does the dishwasher do?"

"The dishwasher just finishes -- here, just give me the plate, let me show you.  Again."

I handed her the plate and paid careful attention to the lesson that followed.

"Okay, you take the sprayer and rinse the plate like this."  She demonstrated.  "Now, take the soapy sponge and scrub both sides of the plate.  Rinse off the soap and now it's ready for the dishwasher."

I thought to myself, The dishwasher?  It's ready to be inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and used to serve dinner to the Boy in the Plastic Bubble.  "It's not the difficulty, it's the pointlessness," I replied.  "If you're going to run it through the dishwasher anyway, why go through the trouble of washing it by hand?"

In the end we agreed to disagree, which means she's right, I'm wrong, and we're all going to do it her way.

As long as she doesn't find out how I do the laundry, I'll consider myself ahead of the game.


Stumble Upon Toolbar submit to reddit

Monday, May 9, 2011

Salamander Surprise

When Mike the Whip's mother packed his lunch for school that day, she had no idea that, less than an hour later, he would be adding an amphibian to his peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Mike's culinary embellishment wasn't the result of a desire to try new delicacies, it wasn't because he was looking for a unique source of protein, no, Mike shoved a salamander into his PB and J for one reason only.

We dared him to.

Mike the Whip was one of those kids -- every neighborhood has one -- who simply could not refuse a dare.  Whether it was feeling up Debbie Esposito, jumping his Huffy over five trash cans, or swiping a six-pack of Old Milwaukee from the local Stop-N-Shop, if you said, "Hey, Mike, I dare you to . . . " it was one hundred percent guaranteed that The Whip was going to take you up on the challenge.

Paul, Mike, and I were third graders at Parker Elementary, a school named not for the great bebop alto saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker, but simply for the street on which it was located.  The three of us walked to and from school every day (yes, kids -- in the snow, barefoot, uphill both ways), and since we had little tolerance for boredom or routine, we made a point of never taking the same route twice.  Sometimes we'd walk along Route 28, other times we'd take a series of side streets, and every so often we'd take the "scenic route" through the nearby woods.  The term "attention deficit disorder" wasn't part of the cultural lexicon in those days, but if it had been, we would've been the poster boys.

On the day in question we chose the scenic route, and began the trip by tossing five aluminum cans into the brook to see which one made the trip downstream the fastest.  We dubbed this race the "Indy-can-apolis 500."  Actually, Paul and Mike named it that, voting down my suggestion of "Can-tucky Derby."  Being kids, we didn't consider the ecological ramifications of introducing even more garbage into New Jersey's water supply, even after sitting through Woodsy Owl's "Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute" assembly earlier in the year.  We thought Woodsy was kind of a douche, and besides, this was the Indy-can-apolis 500 we were talking about.

So we were strolling alongside the brook, cheering on race leaders Mario Can-dretti and Aluminum Unser (the A&W Root Beer and Orange Crush cans, respectively), when Mike said, "Hey, look, there's a couple salamanders down by the water."

"Yeah, so what?" I asked.

Mike walked down the bank to get a closer look.  "I think they're cool," he said, scooping the black and tan lizardish creature in the palm of his hand.  "Check it out."

Paul and I checked it out, completely disregarding the tin cans racing down the home stretch.  The little bugger must've been a baby, only a couple inches long, half of which was its tail.  And it was slimy.  We passed the salamander back and forth, letting it scurry up and down our arms.  I don't know what put this thought in Paul's head, but out of nowhere he said, "Hey, Mike, I dare you to eat it."

"Eat what?"

"The salamander.  I dare ya."

I know what you're thinking.  That's simply ridiculous.  No way is a kid going to eat a living reptile.  And if we were talking about any other kid, I'd agree with you.  It's crazy, it's stupid, clearly, the potential havoc to one's digestive system would prevent any child from even thinking about such a stunt.

But you never met Mike the Whip.

Mike and I met when we were three years old, and were friends for the next decade.  During that time, there never seemed to be any discernible criteria for what he considered to be food.  It was disturbing, actually.  He'd eat dirt for no particular reason.  On another dare, he swallowed fifty-seven cents in small change (five dimes, a nickel, and two pennies).  He jokingly said later that when he took his next dump, it was two quarters and seven pennies.  And on several occasions Mike's tendency to swear led to the consumption, albeit involuntary, of small pieces of Irish Spring soap.

Eating a salamander wasn't out of the question, is what I'm saying.

Mike took the thing in his hand and looked it over.  "Can I kill it first?"

"Nah, I dare ya to eat it alive," said Paul.

"Okay, fine, but you gotta at least let me put it in my sandwich or something, otherwise I'd probably just cough it up or gag."

"Yeah, Paul," I said.  "That way it'll be easier for him to swallow it whole, like a chunk of food."  And maybe he'll accidentally bite it in half, squirting guts in his mouth, is what I was silently hoping for.  Best friends or not, that would've been awesome.

Mike handed me the salamander and opened his lunch bag.  "I got a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I'll stick him in that.  Either of you guys got something for me to wash it down with?"

"I got something in my thermos," Paul said, flipping the latch on his official Scooby Doo lunchbox.  "Apple juice, I think."

"Aw, man," said Mike.  "Apple juice is disgusting."

"Uh, Mike?" I said.  "I'm not trying to be picky here, but you're about to eat a live salamander.  I don't think the juice is gonna be your main problem."

"Yeah, but still, you don't have any Dr. Pepper?"

"Sorry," said Paul.

Mike unwrapped his sandwich, peeled back the top slice of bread, and I placed the salamander on the bed of peanut butter.  He squeezed the bread together, so that only the tip of a tail was poking out.  I can't imagine what the poor salamander was thinking at this point.

"Okay, open up the thermos, I'm gonna need the juice pretty quick."

The next sequence of events is burned in my memory, as vivid as if this all had happened yesterday instead of almost forty years ago.

Mike stared at the sandwich for about thirty seconds, mentally blocking out the fact that he was about to eat a live squiggly-wiggly.  Closing his eyes, he took a bite, making sure to leave plenty of clearance to avoid biting the thing in half.  He stuck out his hand, shaking it frantically -- Paul's cue to hand him the thermos.  Mike took a swig of apple juice, and swallowed the chunk of PBJ and S without chewing.

Time stopped.


In the years that have passed, I've come to the conclusion that this was simply a trick of the imagination.  Surely, the salamander couldn't have survived the trek down Mike's throat into a pool of stomach acid.  Imagination or not, though, Mike was absolutely convinced that he had a live lizard crawling around in his belly.

Which is probably why he violently barfed out everything he'd eaten since pre-school.

Looking down at the yellowish pool of vomit -- bile, chunks of Pop Tart, dead salamander -- Mike shook his head.

"Man, I told you.  Apple juice is disgusting."


Stumble Upon Toolbar submit to reddit

Monday, May 2, 2011

Deborah's Bicycle

Most of the things I write on Knucklehead! are intended to make you, the reader, smile or laugh.  Every so often, though, I'm inspired to write something more serious or sentimental.  This is one of those times.  What follows is a true story.

Deborah is ten years old, a fourth grader at a typical elementary school in a typical neighborhood.  In April, most of the students at Deborah's school took the mandated state tests, to assess their proficiency in language arts and math.  On the next to last day of the testing period, before the first bell rang, assistant principal Mr. Matthews noticed Deborah sitting alone on a playground bench.

"Good morning, Deborah," said Mr. Matthews.  "Why aren't you out there playing tetherball with your friends?"

"I'm not feeling so good," she said with a sniffle.  "I sneezed and coughed all night, but I'll be okay."

"You sure?  I can take you up to the nurse's office to see if you have a fever and we can have your mom pick you up."

Deborah shook her head, wagging her neatly-styled ponytail.  "I can't go home, it's a testing day."

"We don't want you to get sicker though, Deb.  You can always make up the test tomorrow."

"I have to stay, Mr. Matthews.  I want to win the bike."

In an effort to motivate students to attend school every day of testing, a local Target store donated three brand new bicycles to the PTA.  At the end of the testing period, all students with perfect attendance would have their names entered in a drawing, and the bikes would be presented at a schoolwide assembly.  For the entire two weeks of testing, the students buzzed with anticipation.  "I'm gonna win a bike!"  "Nuh-uh!  I'm gonna!"

Mr. Matthews reached out and placed his hand on Deborah's forehead.  "Well, you don't feel warm," he said.  "Go on to class, but if you start feeling worse, be sure to come up to the office.  Your health is more important than a bike."

"Oh, I don't know about that," Deborah said with a smile.  She slung her backpack over her shoulder and walked off to room 207.

The following week, on Friday, the students who qualified for the drawing gathered in the cafeteria.  The excitement was palpable.  To a chorus of "oohs" and "aahs," Mr. Matthews and a few student volunteers rolled three bicycles onto the stage.

A black and orange motocross bike.

A sleek green racing bike with hand brakes and five different gears.

A pink "girls" model with a banana seat and handlebars adorned with multi-colored vinyl streamers.

It was the girls bike that had Deborah's attention.  As she looked it over, Mr. Matthews walked up behind her.

"Got your eye on this one, huh Deborah?"

"Yeah, isn't it great?  I really, really want to win it, but there's so many kids in the drawing.  I don't have much chance, do I?"

"I promise you," said Mr. Matthews, "you have just as good a chance as everybody else."

"Yes, I guess that's true," said Deborah.  "Oh, I hope I get picked!  I just have to win it."

"I hope you do too, Deb.  Good luck.  Knuckles!"  He held out a fist, and Deborah bumped it with her own. 
She returned to her seat as Mr. Matthews walked up on stage to start the drawing.

"First of all, I want to thank all of you for coming to school every day during testing," he said into the microphone.  "I'm sure your hard work and dedication will help us reach our testing goal for this year.  As you know we have three bikes to give away," -- loud cheering from the crowd -- "so let's get started, shall we?"

Mr. Matthews reached into the box of names.  He pulled out the first slip of paper.

"Our first winner is a sixth grader . . . is Jeffrey Donahue here?"

Whoops and hollers from the sixth graders followed their spindly, freckled classmate to the stage.

"Okay, Jeff," said Mr. Matthews.  "Take your pick."

Jeffrey checked out the black and orange motocross bike -- the knobby tires, the pegs on the rear axle.  He walked over to the green racing bike, sat on it and squeezed the hand brakes.  This was not a decision to be taken lightly.  He gazed back and forth.  Racing bike?  Motocross bike?

Apparently, the pink bike with the streamers was not in the running.

"I think I'll go with the orange one," he said.

"Good choice!" said Mr. Matthews.  He wheeled the bike to the side of the stage and taped Jeffrey's name to the handlebar.  Off-microphone, he told Jeffrey that he could call his parents after school to come pick up his new bicycle.

Jeffrey, freckles shoved together by a toothy grin, jogged back to his classmates where he was greeted with high-fives.

"Okay, who wants the next one?" Mr. Matthews asked.

Five hundred students shouted "I DO!  I DO!"

He pulled out the next slip of paper.  A thousand eyes opened wide in anticipation.  In the fourth grade section of the crowd, Deborah thought, "Please let it be my name.  Or at least another boy's name this time."  She knew that if a girl won, the pink bike with the streamers was history.

"Our next winner is a third grader!"

Cheers from the third grade contingent, disappointed moaning and groaning from everyone else.

"Moses Williams!"

Moses sprinted to the stage like he was competing for the anchor spot on the Olympic 440-meter relay team.

"Let me guess," dead-panned Mr. Matthews.  "You're going to take the pink one."

"NO WAY!" shrieked Moses.  "I want the green one with the gear shifter!"

"It's all yours, Moses, congratulations!"  Mr. Matthews taped Moses's name to the handlebar and set the bike aside.

With just the pink bike remaining, the enthusiasm among the boys in the audience waned significantly.  Even if their name was picked, would they really want to win a girls' bike?  The teasing wouldn't end until they were in high school, if then.

"Okay, just one bike left," said Mr. Matthews.  "Let's see who the lucky winner is this time."

He pulled a name from the box.  The cafeteria was as silent as a cafeteria full of elementary school kids can possibly be.

"The winner is . . .a fourth grader . . . "

Deborah held her breath.  She was a fourth grader!

"It's a girl . . . "

Butterflies invaded her stomach.  She was, of course, a girl.

"Congratulations to . . . DEBORAH VELASQUEZ!"

Deborah shot up from her seat.  "Yes!" she yelled.  "Yes yes yes yes yes yes YESSSSS!"

She ran up onto the stage and gave Mr. Matthews a big hug.  "I can't believe it!" she said.  "This is the best day of my life!  I won!"

"You sure did, Deb.  Remember to come to the office at the end of the day to call your parents to pick it up."

Three-thirty arrived.  The winners, still giddy, lined up in Mr. Matthews's office to call home with the exciting news.  Jeffrey made the first call.  Then Moses.  Finally, it was Deborah's turn.

"Hi Mom!  Something awesome happened at school today! . . . remember the drawing for the bikes that I told you about . . . yeah, that was today . . . well guess what?  I WON! . . . no, I'm not kidding!  I really did!  . . . yeah, and I'm going to give it to Scarlette, okay, but please don't tell her . . . no, I want it to be a surprise . . . okay Mom, thanks . . . oh, I almost forgot, can you come pick up the bike in the truck?  . . . awesome, thanks.  Love you!"

Mr. Matthews wasn't sure if he heard right.  "Deborah, did you say you're giving the bike away?"

"Yeah, it's for my little sister Scarlette.  She's six.  She's been wanting a bike for so long, but we don't have enough money for her to have one so I told her I'd try really hard to win the one here at school so she could have it.  I was hoping and hoping, and I really won!  Isn't that great?"

"That's really generous of you Deborah, but couldn't you keep the new bike yourself and give Scarlette your old one?  I mean, you earned it with your attendance."

"I don't have a bike at home, Mr. Matthews.  I told you, we don't have the money for stuff like that.  That's why I had to win this one for Scarlette."

'Deborah, that is the kindest, most amazing thing I've ever heard in my life," said Mr. Matthews.  "Scarlette is very lucky to have you for a sister."

"She's a good kid, Mr. Matthews, she deserves it."

A short while later, Deborah's family pulled into the school parking lot in a Ford pickup.  As Deborah walked the bike out to the truck, her sister Scarlette hopped out through the passenger door.  She took one look at the pink bike with the banana seat and handlebars adorned with multi-colored vinyl streamers, and when her big sister told her who the bike was for, Scarlette broke into a beaming smile.

It was almost as bright as Deborah's.

We hear an awful lot about what's wrong with kids nowadays -- violence, vandalism, underachievement -- and not so much about what's RIGHT with them.  The next time you see a news report, or hear a neighbor talking, or find yourself thinking about "those rotten kids," I want you to do yourself a favor.

Take a minute and remember Deborah.  And the kindness in her ten-year-old heart.



Stumble Upon Toolbar submit to reddit
Related Posts with Thumbnails