I could see the bike in the display window of the Park Ave Bicycle Shop. A black BMX with a fire design on the frame. Every day since third grade I had gazed at it on my walk home. Now, looking at it for the umpteenth time, I knew about every nook and cranny of the two-wheeler. It felt like it was mine. But there was still a quarter-inch window of glass and the $100 price tag that made all the difference.
The day that I got my first A-plus on my final report card of the school year was the day that Park Ave put up a sign that made me forget all about my exceptional achievements. It read:
Park Ave Bicycle Shop will be moving
on the first day of fall.
We apologize for any inconvenience.
That was only a couple of months away! I knew I had to do something, or else my biggest wish would disappear right in front of my eyes. The genius plan: earn $100 in a summer. I mean, how hard could it be? But soon I learned that earning money is not easy. Green bills don’t grow on trees. I really wish they did. Because on the last day of summer, I was $20 short.
I had done just about everything I could to earn those $80, and I wasn’t going to give up anytime soon. I had walked my neighbors’ dogs, tried a paper route, done some babysitting, set up a lemonade stand, given kids algebra lessons, and much more. Even after all that, I was still stuck on the number line, twenty marks short of the finish.
“Well, good morning, Jack! It’s the last day of summer, and I’m going to make the best out of it!” my dad proclaimed. “What are you going to do, buddy?”
“Not much I can do, seeing that I have to earn $20 on a day like this!” I replied. In the background we heard the weatherman say, “Today’s high is a whopping ninety- five degrees…”
“Oh right,” my dad said slowly, “isn’t it about that bike or something?”
“Dad,” I remarked, “it’s not just a bike. It’s a BMX. And it costs $100!”
“Oh,” was all he said back. Suddenly the phone rang. I sprinted to pick it up. On the other side of the line was my best friend, Marcus, the one with all the crazy inventive ideas.
When I first met him, we did all sorts of weird things. We once surveyed our whole neighborhood on which team they thought was going to win the Super Bowl and sent a certificate to everyone that guessed right! Last summer, we reinforced Marcus’s trampoline and we bounced all the way up to his roof! Another time, Marcus picked up a box of cereal that had high iron on the nutrition facts and we waved a giant magnet over it. I must say, after all my years together with Marcus, I had learned a lot of nonsensical information that may come to use one day. This time, though, the “adventure” was a simple garage sale. Right thing. Right time. Marcus strikes again.
I quickly ran into my house looking for things to sell. Once I realized how stuffed my basement was, I called Marcus back. “Marcus, I’ve got so many things in my house! How about you come over and we’ll do the sale here?” I asked. I heard Marcus breathe a sigh of relief. I could tell that he was having some trouble hunting down garage sale material.
“OK! Meet you in an hour!”
Mission status: still on track. I started tearing boxes apart in the basement, and soon enough I had a decent-sized heap of various junk. The pile itself seemed pretty neat, but when I turned around, the place had been trashed into a wasteland. It would be another half hour of cleaning up until I could admire my mountain of odds and ends once more.
Soon Marcus was turning into my driveway on his shiny new bike he got a few weeks ago. He told me that I also needed to get one so we could race and ride together. I explained to him that I had to earn it myself, and Marcus knew that.
“Hey, Marcus! Are you ready?!” I asked as we high-fived.
“Yeah! Let’s start selling!” he said, running toward the garage.
“Marcus!” I called. “Do you see anything we can sell yet?”
“Oops,” Marcus said. “I always skip the setup.” Maybe that’s why his model airplanes always nosedived into his carpet.
In the beginning, I felt like setting up was a piece of cake. But soon, the sun was shining brighter, and the boxes got heavier. I shouldn’t have packed so many. Marcus and I needed several water breaks to complete the job. When, at last, we finished, our arms felt like jelly. But we were ready “for launch,” according to Marcus.
We felt so accomplished after selling our first item. We treated the crumpled dollar bill as if it were gold. After that, we had to wait in the intense heat for more business. Marcus and I were being fried alive.
After a while, Marcus went inside and came out holding a slim red box. I grinned. America’s favorite word game. What could be better than playing Scrabble to pass the time? “So, Jack, ready for a rematch of a rematch of a rematch of a rematch…?”
“Stop,” I interfered. “Just start the game!” On the first draw, I drew seven excellent letters and put down a fifty-point word. Then a sixty-point word. Marcus looked frustrated, but then his frown transformed into a smile. He then put down all of his tiles to make a word which I had never heard of. I challenged it, and it was a word! I was flabbergasted!
“Hahaha!” Marcus said in a maniacal laugh. He tallied up the point total, which was a whopping 120 points!
“Lunchtime, boys! We’re having macaroni and cheese!” my mom announced. At lunch, we talked about some ideas that would actually work for our garage sale mess. Our conversation kept on going to my amazing Scrabble comeback triumph. I edged out Marcus with my last word, dollar, to beat him by a point. Who knew that the winning word would decide the outcome of my hardest task of the summer?
“This garage sale is a total failure!” I said, a few hours after lunch.
“Yeah,” Marcus said, “I mean, we have so many great things, but just about only two and a half people have shown up!” I laughed at typical Marcus humor. “Maybe we should just end it early. We’ve only earned…” he counted the money, “three dollars and seventy-five cents!” he stated.
“Well,” I said, without thinking, “remember that book in school we read when money falls from the sky at four o’clock? What if our neighborhood was the special place on earth?!”
“You must be out of your mind today, Jack!” laughed Marcus. “Our neighborhood is just a road with green grass and big houses in some random place in the universe! It’s not the headquarters of the lottery!” He had a point. We started packing up the items.
Suddenly, I heard my little brother yell out, “Invaders are coming! Ahhhhhhh!” and he stormed into the house to grab his plastic sword. We started laughing until tears came to our eyes.
Then, we heard my mom say, “You’ve got customers.”
A minute later we were back in business. This was what Marcus and I were hoping for all day long. I was cashier, and Marcus was treasurer. We started highfiving each other every time we sold an item. Marcus was starting to seem like his old self, saying comical quotes to our customers, or playing with all the little kids. Every so often, he would count up the bills and whisper to me how much money we had made. When we were getting close to our target, I started cheering with joy. Then it started raining.
Our customers quickly ran back into their cars, and, soon enough, my driveway was deserted. We had to scramble to move all our boxes inside. And I was sitting on one, with a sad look on my face. It wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t going to get that bike. Marcus slowly helped me bring the stuff back into my basement. “What’s the matter, Jack?” Marcus asked. I didn’t answer. I just got up from my seat and went into my room. Maybe Marcus’s ideas don’t always work. Nevertheless, this amount of money was more than I ever thought I’d earn in a year. And with my best friend’s help, I had done it in a summer.
As I rolled onto my bed, I counted the money in my hand. Ten ones, and thirty-six quarters. It sure was close, but not quite enough. I could see the bike before my eyes, but it still felt so far. I had to come up with an ingenious, brilliant plan to earn one more dollar before tomorrow morning when I “planned” to get my BMX. I was slowly heading to my sister’s room to borrow a dollar when I heard the doorbell ring. I ran downstairs, opened the door, and saw Marcus, drenched, but with a grin on his face. “You dropped something.”
In his hand he was holding a soaking wet one-dollar bill.