NT FRANKLIN - SHORT-STORIES
NT Franklin - I write after my real job hoping one day to have it be my real job. When I’m not reading or writing short stories, you might find me fishing or solving crossword puzzles.
Me and Bart Become Businessmen
School dragged on but spring vacation was coming, so there would be a break soon. Too early for baseball, too late for football; the time of year me and Bart struggled finding fun things to do. I’d been sitting on my front porch racking my brain for a good idea. Me and Bart could both use new baseball gloves. I had mine picked out from the Montgomery Ward catalog. It was a nice glove, but it cost money; money I didn’t have.
“Hey! I have a great idea to make money,” Bart shouted while crossing the street.
“What is it?” I asked.
“You know Girl Scouts sell cookies door to door? Everyone buys them. We can do that too.”
“But we’re not Girl Scouts. And we don’t have any cookies.”
“Not cookies. Garden seeds. We’ll sell them door to door, just like the Girl Scouts sell cookies. There’s an ad for them in the back of my Aquaman comic book. It’s a sure thing—it says so in the ad. We buy a seed assortment, sell them, and keep the profit. We can go door-to-door after school and on Saturdays.”
“Okay, but what are garden seeds?”
“You know, cucumbers and tomatoes and stuff. The ad says there are twelve packages of eight different garden vegetables and four bonus ones thrown in. They’re free. One hundred packages and we sell them for twice what we paid for them. That’s all profit.”
“How do we get the seeds?”
“All I have to do is get my mom to buy the seeds and we pay her back when the sales start rolling in.”
“Will your mom do that?”
“Yeah, sure. All I have to say is it will give me something to do other than mope around the house and get in her way.”
“This’ll be great! We’re going into business!” I said.
The seeds arrived at Bart’s house the last day of school before vacation and we were all set to sell on Saturday morning. We split the seed assortment in half, each loaded half of them into our bicycle basket, and headed out.
“I’ll take one side of the road and you take the other side,” Bart said.
After a couple of houses, I realized I wasn’t good at selling seeds. I was sorta scared at the first house and was glad no one was home. At the second house, I started mumbling and stammering and they shut the door before I finished. The third house had really old people who said they didn’t garden. I was relieved.
Bart was still on his first house. I thought he must be worse than me, but when we met in the middle of the street, he was grinning.
“Sold four packages of seeds to the first house. And one of them was the bonus package, so that’s all profit. How’d you do?”
“I’m not good at this. I went to three houses and didn’t sell anything,” I said. “This businessmen stuff is hard. Maybe we should go together, like a team. Teamwork is good.”
“Try some more and then we’ll see.”
Three more houses came and went quickly. I didn’t go to the last house because the old man in the house was really creepy and we never trick-or-treat there anyway. We met in the middle of the street again.
“Four more sales,” Bart said. “You?”
“Nothin’. Exactly what I thought I would sell.” I couldn’t look Bart in the eye.
“You’re right, teamwork is good; we should work together. People would buy more if they saw there were two businessmen rather than one,” Bart said.
What a relief. I carried the box of seeds to the houses, opened the box, and held them up while Bart did all the talking. I picked up a cucumber seed packet and Bart talked about how good they would be for their supper.
“And lettuce,” Bart continued, “would be harvested in forty days, it says so on the packet. It goes with cucumbers…”
And the sales poured in. We sold every day during the school vacation week. We were down to five seed packages Saturday. We were going to sell out and pay back Bart’s mom; we’d be in the money then. So we took off on our bikes to the area that Bart thought would have the most sales because they gave the best Halloween candy.
BLAM! The front tire of my bike blew out. This was trouble.
“Bart, my mom isn’t going to like this. Tires cost money.”
“Yeah, but we have money.”
“But we don’t know how to fix a flat tire.”
“I’ll bet Mr. Green does. His house is on the next block. He has every tool there is on earth in his garage. He doesn’t even park his car in it in the winter because it’s a workshop,” Bart said.
“Geeze, everyone calls him Mr. Mean because he yells at kids for riding bikes across his lawn. He’s pretty scary.”
“Nah, my bike chain fell off last month and he fixed it for me. He’s okay.”
“If you say so.”
“There, he’s in his workshop right now. We’ll push our bikes up his driveway and he’ll fix it, You’ll see. Just stay off his grass. He mows it almost every day and like to look at it.”
Bart shouted “Hi Mr. Green,” as we walked our bikes up his driveway.
“Mornin’, boys. What have you busted today?”
“Nothin’ yet. But his bike has a flat tire. Can you help us fix it?” Bart asked
Mr. Green took the wheel off the bicycle and had the tire off the rim in a flash. He studied the tire and pulled a nail out of it. “Need a new inner tube, boys. You can get them at the hardware store. Tell them you need a twenty-six by two-inch inner tube. Buy one, bring it back, and I’ll put it on for you.”
Bart pedaled while I sat on his handlebars.
“Gee, he’s okay, just like you said,” I told Bart when we were out of earshot.
“Told ya. He just doesn’t like his grass driven on by bicycles.”
The inner tube took a big chunk of our profit, but Bart said it was a cost of doing business. It didn’t take long to get back to Mr. Green’s workshop. The bike was good as new in no time. Problem was there wasn’t enough money for baseball gloves.
“What are you boys doing out and about anyway?” Mr. Green asked.
“We’re businessmen. Selling garden seeds,” Bart answered proudly. “We got seeds from an ad in a comic book and have 5 packages left to sell.”
“The last few are always hard to sell. What are they?” Mr. Green asked.
“Zucchini. Some people like it, but it isn’t a big seller,” I answered.
“You know, I can never get enough zucchini. I’ll buy them from you.”
He did and we were sold out and it was still before noon. The rest of the day was still ahead of us.
“That was my first sale,” I told Bart. “You did all the rest.”
“Nah, we’re a team and teamwork sold all the seeds. How about a celebration?”
“We don’t have enough to buy new baseball gloves, so how about a Coke and plate of French fries at the Town Diner?” I asked.
“Just what I was thinking.”
We each had a Coke and a plate of fries and they were delicious. Between that and the inner tube, most of our profits were gone. No new baseball glove so me and Bart would have to get another season out of our old ones. But, still, it was a good day and who knows, there is always tomorrow.
Me and Bart Help the Neighbors
Bart pedaled his bike up my driveway in a mad dash so I knew something was going on.
“I got us a job!” You know old Mrs. Dunnigan who died and no one’s been living in her house? I was riding my bike by her house and saw someone. He stopped me in the road and said he was her son Ron and asked if I wanted a job. He’ll pay us.”
“When do we start?”
“Now. Let’s go.”
I didn’t have to be told twice. “Which one is he?” I asked.
“Mom calls her son and daughter oil and water. Which one is he?”
“That’s right, but I don’t know which is which,” Bart said.
We biked up to the house and Ron was in the open door waiting for us.
“Hi boys. I need you to take all the old junk out of the house and put it into piles on the lawn before the dumpster arrives. Think you can you do that without killing yourselves?”
“Sure can!” Bart answered.
We followed Ron through the house. He pointed at table lamps, books, old clothes, chairs and stuff. As he pointed to things, he said “dump, dump, dump,” and once in a while, “keep.” Pretty much all the books were going and lots of little statues. “Stupid Hummels” Ron called them. Funny-looking chairs and couches were “dump” too.
“Boys, I’ll be outside supervising. Start hauling,” Ron said as he walked out the house.
“He doesn’t even want to know our names,” I said. “He seems mean and disrespectful. What do you think?”
Bart ignored me and asked, “Ever see so many books?”
“Only in a library. Old Mrs. Dunnigan must have been really smart.”
“More carrying and less talking!” shouted Ron from outside.
We looked at each other and quickly started carrying books out of the house, across the porch, down the steps, and made tall piles of them on the front lawn. We had lots of piles. Some of the books were so dusty I sneezed. I’d never seen books with leather on the outside. They looked special to me.
Ron didn’t carry anything out of the house. He sat on a chair in the front lawn frowning. He watched us carry boxes out and sometimes pointed to make a pile on one side or the other of the sidewalk. Sometimes he grunted “Keep.”
Once we were back into the house, I whispered to Bart, “Did you see that? He opened a can of beer. It’s still morning.”
“Yeah, I saw. Just keep carrying stuff. The less he carries, the more we do and the more we get paid.”
We started a new pile with the next load. We heard a screeching “RON!” and turned around immediately.
“It’s Mrs. Oliver from across the street and she’s mad.” I said.
“Ronald Dunnigan, what do you think you are doing? You can’t do that with Hilda’s books! Stop that!”
“My house, my books now.”
“You stop right now. I’m calling your sister.”
“Keep bringing the books out here, boys. Time’s a wasting,” Ron called out between sips of beer.
Mrs. Oliver stomped out of the yard, across the street, and into her house.
“She was stomping so hard there was dust trail behind her. This isn’t going to end well,” I said to Bart.
“Maybe not, but the man said carry books and he’s paying us.”
“Did he say how much he is paying us?” I asked once we were inside.
Bart didn’t answer right away; he was bending over loading more books into a box.
“Well, I haven’t exactly worked that out yet,” Bart finally answered.
“We should be careful with the Stupid Hummels, they look breaky and expensive. Just in case. You know, with the sister being called and all.”
“Maybe you’re right. There are still books to move anyway,” Bart answered.
We moved more boxes of books and a couple of padded chairs with skinny legs onto the front lawn. We carefully put the Stupid Hummels in a couple of boxes we found in the house.
“Chop, chop, boys. You needn’t be so careful with those,” Ron said as we walked out with one box each. “They’ve been junk to me my whole life and still are.”
“Just trying to do a good job,” Bart said.
Bart always knew the right words to say.
Before we could put the boxes down, a red car skidded to a stop in the driveway. A tall lady got out and immediately started yelling.
“Ron! What are you doing with mother’s books? She loved them.”
“My books now.”
“No, our books. Stop it.”
We bent down and gently set the boxes on the lawn and the lady turned white.
“Mother’s Hummels! You’re not respecting her things. How could you? She treasured those. How could you?”
She picked up a figurine from the box, cradled it in her hands, and was lost in thought. It was precious to her. Ron not respecting it hurt her.
Then the finger wagging and angry words started. Not knowing what to do, we backed up the steps and into the house. The yelling was getting louder and louder as we watched through a window. Then Mrs. Oliver showed up. Standing, legs apart, hands on her hips, and shaking her head. Looked like the school principal when there was trouble.
“I told you this wasn’t going to end well,” I said.
“Grab the side of this chair, we need to get out there and listen. Who knows how this will end,” Bart said.
“Okay, but we can hear just fine from here—they are really yelling.”
Bart picked up his side of the chair so I had no choice but to help him carry the chair outside
We set the chair down in the lawn and listened to the ruckus.
“Boys, you stop right now,” the lady said.
“But he’s paying us,” Bart pointed at Ron.
“Not anymore.” She opened her pocketbook and pulled out bills and handed them to Bart. “This should be enough for both of you nice young boys. Go home. You don’t need to be here for this.”
“Hey, those kids work for me, not for you.”
“Not anymore,” Bart said. He pocketed the bills and smiled at me.
“I called the police. They should be here anytime,” Mrs. Oliver said.
On that, me and Bart got on our bikes and pedaled off. We heard shouts of “nosy neighbor” and “bossy sister.”
“Glad I don’t have a sister,” I told Bart.
Once we got home, I asked “What do you think the cops will do?”
“I dunno, but I’m not telling my mom about it.”
“Me neither,” I said. “Oh yeah, how much did the lady pay us?” Bart spread the bills across his hands and then divided them up. “WOW,” was all I could say.
“Maybe we should quit school and work for the lady,” Bart said. “This calls for a fries and Coke celebration.”
With all the cash, I didn’t hesitate. “Nope, there is enough for me to take me and my mom for fries and a Coke. My treat. She’ll like that. I want her to know how nice she is.”
All in all, it was a good day and who knows, there is always tomorrow.