Sunday, June 27, 2010
The Kid Around the Way
The crude sign made from notebook paper and written in pencil was hung by a single strip of tape to the telephone pole. "Yard Sale <---" I read aloud as I ascended the steep cul de sac with my mutt Walter in tow. This was always the most difficult part of the walk but I kicked in the turbo jets and rocked up the hill with a deliberate stride. Nearly at the top,I finally caught sight of the advertised lawn bargains. Standing behind a large card table full of crap at the end of a very long driveway, was a kid I'd seen around the neighborhood a few times before. And let me clarify that when I say crap, I mean exactly that. Not even the more colorful sign he'd made of construction paper that said "you've made it to the yard sale" was cute enough to overcome his lack of wares.
Among the items I noticed after he hailed me like a cab, was a half-burned pot holder, a rock, an empty bottle of Windex and a used sink stopper.However, his resounding confidence as he described what values he had available did convince me to pause, if only for a second. No matter how good his pitch was, it mattered not.I hadn't planned on doing any shopping during my stroll and as a result, brought no money. Now I'm guessing the kid was about 7 or so then(this was a couple years back) and when I explained my quandry and gave good reason as to why I could not purchase the sink stopper, he got very demanding. It wasn't until that moment that it hit me how much he resembled "Dennis the Menace".
"Well you can go home and get the $1.00 and come back." he declared.
"But why would I do that when I can buy a brand new sink stopper for fifty cents?" I countered.
"Yeah, but it won't be as good as this one." he guaranteed. "Just run home, grab the dollar...I'll be out here till dark."
His cockiness pissed me off beyond what it should've being that he was a child and I was a grown adult. I had been going through a pretty tough time and irrationally this kid and his arrogance personified the adversity I'd been battling for awhile. All I could think about was that this little bastard would more than likely be the CEO of some careless, blood lusting corporation some day. That he'd be chilling on a yacht in the Bahama's, laughing about how many losers he laid off that year and how profits are up and costs are down. He'll never understand what it's like to feel down trodden by the system. Like I said, irrational. So much so that after I lied to him, stating I would be returning with his precious dollar, I snatched down his "Yard Sale <---" sign at the bottom of the hill.
Petty,ridiculous,fulfilled. I felt all three as I found a new place for his sign in my cubicle. It would hang as a reminder that I had beaten a piece of the machine. One that didn't even exist yet, but still a victory and I enjoyed telling the story every time someone inquired about it's origins. "You're twisted" was by and large the overwhelming response and I can't deny that I wasn't but I also didn't care. In my messed up perception, I'd won something and it had been a long time since that had happened.
Over the last couple of years, I've seen "Dennis" out and about more often and have developed a real sense of remorse for robbing him. Sometimes he'll be pulling a wagon filled with gardening tools with one of his beloved homemade signs taped to the back that says "Weeds Pulled/Flowers Planted $5.00". Other times as I pass his house he'll have a large chalkboard on an easel that reads "Car Wash $8.00" set up at the end of the driveway. But the one constant is that this kid is always working, forever trying to earn a buck and it doesn't seem to be because he HAS to he just WANTS to and I admire the hell out of him for it. This kid is what America is supposed to be about. Working hard, taking care of yourself, never looking for a hand out, reveling in your personal responsibility and not crying because you can't accept any. Pride.
Last night we passed in the street and he stopped, laying his bike down in the road so he could pet my dog. I assume if he knew how I'd attempted to sabotage him at one point he wouldn't feel the need to nuzzle my cohort but oh well.
"Do you walk your dogs every night?" he asked earnestly.
"Bout every other night" I responded.
"Yeah, I always see you out with them....it's nice that you walk them so much. Some people don't care but I make my mom walk our dog when I have to work." He sounded so sincere as he scratched Walter's ears.
"Well I ALWAYS see you out working. You're going to run your own company someday aren't ya?"
Without an ounce of hesitation and with all the certainty that I've never had, he replied matter of factly "Well yes ma'am...that's the plan."
Maybe he will make some of the hard decisions I mentioned before when I thought I disliked him and if he does....I say....so what. At least I'll have no doubt he earned the right.