Big Things Come In Big Packages
Joshua, ten going on eleven, if he ever makes it that far with all the trouble he is having, had a poor record in arithmetic and blindly hated whoever it was who invented fractions. Seven and seven eighths plus two and three quarters minus four and one sixth almost got him left back. To provide practice in an interesting way and encourage saving his mother bought him a piggy bank, though he was no big spender. Except once. He threw away fifteen cents at a win-a-prize booth at Coney Island, a nickel a throw. The hoops he threw failed to circle any of the prizes but just for trying he received a fortune cookie which read, 'Untold wealth awaits you in Japan'. The last count of his piggy bank showed four dollars and fifty-five cents, a sum that would get him no closer to Japan than the Staten Island ferry. But that money had been set aside to buy birthday presents, one for his father and one for himself, both soon due. His father's birthday being closest, Joshua had begun his search for an appropriate gift. His sharp-looking sister Edith, the eldest of his three older sisters, discussed the matter with his mother while he was having a glass of milk and cookies in the kitchen.
going to get papa a beautiful silk tie," Edith confided.
listening for ideas, rejected both ties and handkerchiefs at once. He
wanted something that would make a splash. His middle sister, Marian,
was away at a nurse's college, but the youngest of the girls, Judith,
refused to tell him what she planned to get. It was to be a surprise,
Nevertheless, he was sorry he hadn't thought of cigars himself, though he didn't think he could have bought enough of them to make the splash with the two dollars he had allotted, and his present would have looked inadequate. Bulk was more important to him than intrinsic value. With not much time left he spoke to his mother.
about socks?" she suggested.
The afternoon of the second day preceding his father's birthday, Joshua passed a store selling automobile equipment and accessories. In the window display was a large gadget that held a shiny chrome tulip-shaped ashtray with a flip-close cover hung to a device for storing maps attached to two coffee mug holders, all to be clipped to the dashboard, on sale for three dollars. This was it.
a man-to-man transaction, Joshua was deftly pushed into concluding the
sale by the fast-talking clerk admiring his acute recognition of a good
thing when he saw one. "You sure got an eye, sonny!" said the plastic-looking
young man with the slicked-down hair parted in the middle. "Can
you wrap it up?" Joshua inquired, hesitantly.
Joshua walked scarcely half a block before he realized he had made a major blunder. His father smoked, but only cigars, and never, never in the car. In fact, he considered it a dangerous action, pointed out other drivers smoking cigarettes, called them damn fools, and said, "He drops that cigarette in his lap and he's finished. That's it!" He made the prediction every time he saw another one of the damn fools. On top of that, his father no longer allowed drinks to be brought into the automobile ever since the occasion when he had to make a sudden stop and the large paper cups of sarsaparilla the girls were drinking in the back seat spilled all over the place. It soaked everybody, and the back seat, too. They had to turn around and go home. Joshua's pain at having to face the loud-mouthed clerk almost caused him to keep the purchase, but the image of his father opening the package and the look on his face was more than he could bear. When he timidly asked for his money back the clerk stared at him with such contempt Joshua thought he would pee in his pants. But he received his reimbursement and fled the store in both anguish and relief.
It was not until the very day of the event that Joshua, beside himself with frustration, entered the corner pharmacy where he had already investigated various products that he held in abeyance as last minute possibilities. He made his choice. "How much is one of these?" he asked Mr. Yurow.
When told the price, Joshua, two dollars in his pocket, made a quick calculation. He could buy half a dozen of them, or forget the pen and pencil set he wanted for himself, and put up his entire savings and buy a dozen. It would make everybody else's ties, handkerchiefs, and cigars a joke. He ran home to get the balance of the money.
dinner everybody sang "Happy Birthday" while the chocolate cake his
mother had made was served. The presents were produced, Joshua making
sure to hold his back until last. His father's heavy brows, bulbous
nose, and strong, dimpled chin, flushed by the two schnapps he'd had,
received his gifts, rewarding kisses to the girls. Joshua, waiting until
the tumult died down, pulled a huge bag from under the table and plopped
it onto his father's lap.
he upended it, dumping the contents, cascading twelve of the largest
size boxed tubes of shaving cream like projectiles, scattering all over
the table and on to the floor, forcing his father to stumble back stunned.
To Joshua's delight his father stood there, his mouth agape, staring
amazed at the bonanza of shaving cream boxes.
in their bedroom a short while later, Decker arrived with his children's
offerings and stared in grim disbelief at his wife who had preceded
Right Out Of Ripley | What's In A Name | The Day I Almost Became A Vegetarian
Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life | The Nervous Young Man | Everybody's Wild About Harry
The Planet According To Higgins | More Stories!
Copyright © August 3, 2000-