“Ummmm…why are you on my lawn?” She stepped out from behind a tree. She had a Super Soaker. But she wasn’t brandishing it; she had it pointed up, resting on her shoulder, so I wouldn’t feel too threatened. She kept both hands on it.
“I’m just putting pizza coupons on everyone’s doors.” I never broke stride toward her front door, walked right past. No. No. Don’t shoot me with your water gun in Arkansas August. Help.
“Here, I’ll take that.” She jogged to position herself back in front of me. I handed it to her and rerouted my path around her to the next house.
“Do you work for the pizza place? How old are you?” She wiped some sweat off her nose, and it made me conscious of the droplets forming on my own. I can’t wipe them now though. I must resist. She cannot think I am trying to be anything like her.
“Yes, I work for them.” We were paid 10-cents per coupon, my brother, my sister, and I.
My mom organized it. I can’t remember how many coupons were in a huge box, but if I remember correctly, I think we tried to do 1000 per day. We sectioned and rubberbanded the coupons into stacks of 25. So we would try to do 40 stacks of 25 in one or two days.
We would get up and do it early. Mom would drop two of us off at the beginning of a block, one kid on each side of the road. The third kid would stay in the car and have a break. Mom would drive to the end of the block and wait.
I was lean. I was tan. I was 11. I was burning up. I was tired. But…I was getting rich.
I could tell Super Soaker was older than me, so I didn’t want to say my age. I was tall and I always looked 1-2 years older than I was.
“How old are you? I’m 13.” My little lost puppy isn’t barking at me anymore. Just wagging right along with me.
I couldn’t wait til I was 13. That was finally the age when it wasn’t embarrassing to say it. Being 10 was cool, but 11 and 12…just don’t ask. I am wise beyond my years and 11 and 12 don’t sound cool.
“How did you get a job at the pizza place? You can’t be much older than me. What grade are you in?” Picking up pace was not a hint in her world.
“My dad got us the job. It’s only for the summer.” It didn’t end up lasting the whole summer. We weren’t fired, more like laid off.
I think we were too driven and too efficient about it. We had a good momager who kept us organized. I know we complained a lot, but looking back, I’m really glad we did it. And if I never said it then–thanks Mom. I know that it couldn’t have been very fun for you.
“Do you think they would hire me too?” Look, Puppy, stop trying to wheeze in on my gig.
“Ummm…I don’t know. You could go ask for an interview.” I couldn’t ignore the nose sweat beads any longer, wiped them. Almost the end of the block. Hallelujah. But I have one more block to go before I get my car break.
“Are you hot?” Yeah–no shit, Sherlock. I heard my dad say that once, and I said it in my head all the time. Funniest thing ever when you’re 11. I’m sure my face was magenta; I turn so red in the heat.
“Um…it’s like 95 degrees out here and I’m walking fast. Yeah I’m hot.” And I’m busy. Some of us have jobs.
“Want me to spray you down with my Super Soaker? I put some crushed ice in it. It would cool you off.” Sure enough. I looked down at the tank of the gun and yep. It had ice chips crashing around in noisy waves, condensation dripping on the outside.
“Yeah sure. Don’t get my coupons wet.” I stopped walking, faced her. I held the coupons up high in one hand, closed my eyes, a jumping jack frozen in time. Fire away. What you got?
She blasted me kindly. This wasn’t her first time doing this. Felt great.