learned about work came from my 12-year-old
brother, Allen, who taught me its better to
be smart than educated. I was scribbling at
my homework when I overheard him say to our
sister, Mandy, Ill wash your car if
youll give me that last piece of Moms
my slice! She shrieked like youd just
rifled her underwear drawer. Mom was famous
for her pecan pies and there was just one slice
Mandys name on it, Mom called from
the kitchen in that way mothers talk. Mandys
one of those terrible people who wont
finish her dessert just because she wants to make
you feel bad when yours is gone and shes
still picking at hers.
Allen explained, you dont want to go
to the basketball game tonight and let everyone
know youre too lazy to wash the mud off
your car. Loved his make-believe horror.
got a point, jerk. she agreed, but
wash it fast and do it right or Ill whack
sounded interesting so I pushed my homework aside
and followed him out the back door. Joey,
our 17-year-old brother was sitting on the porch
with a hoe in his hand, probably wishing he could
be down the street where his girlfriend, Deirdre,
was playing fetch with her dog.
Joey, Deirdres waiting, Allen said. Too
bad you gotta weed the garden.
half pint. I dont need you to define
got an idea. Joey, Ill hoe the weeds if youll
hose off Mandys car. Then you can
drive it around to dry it and maybe pick up
Deirdre for some kissy-face. Sound fair?
eyes got squinty, suspecting a trick, but the
offer sounded too good to refuse. So
long, sucker, he said, throwing the hoe in
the hoe and went back to the garage where Dad was
fiddling with his junk. So many little
wheels were whirring around in Allens head
he couldve been a Chinese windup toy.
he whined, like some kid in a TV show, I
was going to hoe the garden but theres
a rabbit nest there. Bunnies. Want me to
Dad said enthusiastically, like he hasnt
seen his number two son since breakfast. Killing
baby rabbits? Thats terrible. Leave
the garden. Moms gotta get it through
her head its not worth the trouble
and I hate cabbage.
and went into the kitchen.
Mom, Im done my chores. Mandys
car is washed, the gardens taken care of
and I think Ive done about enough for a
Saturday. Guess Ill have that piece of
pie Mandy gave me and rest up.
believe my ears! He had suckered Mandy by
offering to wash her old car, got Joey to do the
washing, and then finagled Dad into telling him
not to hoe weeds. I only hoped Id be
that smart one day.
wonderful guy! she cooed. Im
so proud but you cant have the pie. I
want to give it to Mrs. Timothy nest door. Mandy
can find another snack.
eyes rolled back in his head like that scene from
a cowboy movie where the bad guy gets shot and
falls to the floor. Allen shouldve
gotten an Academy Award.
hes dead, Mom, I said.
Mom put Allens
head in her lap. Oh, my dear. Sit up
and talk to me. Ill fetch the pie. You
need homework to get educated. I needed