Earning Your Keep

He wipes taco juice off fingers. “Do you think Mom would like this?” Holds up plush teddy bear.

Younger brother shrugs, looks around, winks.

He pats pockets, broke. “Take it,” says brother, still scanning. He stuffs head in pants. Diving bear’s pink paws protrude.

Behind, “HEY!”

Store badge on pressed shirt, “Shouldn’t you boys be in school?”

Nervous feet. Bear paws wiggle against stomach. Red-faces, “It’s summer.”

“Maybe you boys can help me, that is, if you have the time?”

Younger brother shifts anxious. “Can I pee first?” Badge nods, smiles, waves.

Younger brother pees, then boys clean bathroom. Store badge helps. “Simple work is good work,” says badge. Boys scrub hard, sweating quiet.

Finished job sparkles. “Good work. You boys have earned something. Pick a small gift to take with you. Maybe a teddy bear?”

Helpless eyes.

Pink bear drops from shorts. Younger brother freezes. Long silence.

Badge bends, picks it up, hands it to older brother. “She’ll love it.”

© 2009 Mel Bosworth


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