1It was the latest and the greatest. The brand new themed video game console was like gold sitting in the store window. And it came with an exclusive game that couldn’t be bought any other way.
“Mom! Mom, look!” Kevin pressed his hands against the glass. The game shimmered and sparkled in the sunlight.
Mom stood next to Kevin. “What is it, honey?”
“That’s the game I want!” he tapped the glass with his finger. “Can I have it? Please?”
“Not at that price.” She walked away. “Come on, Kevin. We still have lots to do.”
“But I want it!” Kevin jogged to catch up. “Why can’t I have it?”
“It’s too expensive. Your father and I aren’t made of money, you know.” Kevin rolled his eyes. That was the oldest line in the book. Besides, if Mom and Dad didn’t have money, how come they were always buying Kevin those new clothes that he hated? Or Mom’s fifty thousand pairs of shoes? What about that new lawn mower Dad just got? That would have cost a lot more that a video game system. Kevin stuck his hands in his pockets, slumped his shoulders, and followed Mom from store to boring store.
That evening, Kevin brought it up again at the dinner table. If Mom wouldn’t buy it for him, maybe Dad would. “Why can’t I ever have anything I want?” He crossed his arms and refused to eat.
“Tell you what, sport. If you can pay half the cost, Mom and I will pay the other half. But you have to keep your room clean, too. Deal?”
“Deal!” Kevin sat up straight. This was going to be a breeze. He had some money saved up in his piggy bank. After dinner, Kevin rushed up to his bedroom and dumped the money out of the bank. His eyes lit up at every coin and dollar that fell out. Too soon, it was empty, but there had to be enough here. He counted it. And counted again. How could there only be $12.53? He counted a third time. What happened to all those twenties he got for his birthday only a month ago?
“You already spent your birthday money,” Mom sipped a cup of coffee and flipped through TV channels. “Remember that new skateboard you just had to have?” Oh, yea. It was the best, with that sleek design and stripes on the wheels. All his friends had one, so he had to have one, too. He rode it once and stuffed it in his closet.
“I don’t want it anymore. Can we take it back?”
“You can’t take stuff back to the store after you’ve played with it.”
“No buts.” She gave him ‘the look’. No point in arguing anymore. “You’ll have to come up with the money another way.”
“How about you work for it, sport?” Dad raised an eyebrow.
Work? Really? “But I’m just a kid. I can’t get a job. What can I do?” Dad smiled. Kevin gulped.
That weekend, instead of hanging out with his friends, Dad had Kevin working in the yard; cutting grass, trimming hedges, sweeping the porch, and a whole lot of other boring, grown-up stuff.
“Good job, sport.” Dad handed him a fifty dollar bill Sunday evening.
“That’s it?” Kevin stared at the bill. “That’s all I get? All that work and this is it?”
“Be happy with that. Some kids have to do yard work for nothing.”
Kevin scowled and stomped up the stairs. He flopped onto his bed. A whole weekend. Wasted. And for what? A measly fifty dollars. He was never gonna earn enough money for the new game at this rate. He crinkled up the bill and threw it at the trash can.
“Have you guys seen the new game yet?” Danny turned around in his seat and faced Kevin at school. “I got mine Saturday. It’s really wicked! And the graphics are awesome.”
“My birthday’s three days away.” Josh pumped his fist into the air. “Mom and Dad already told me they’d get me one. How ‘bout you, Kev?” Kevin frowned and stared at his desk. “Kev? Earth to Kevin.” Josh waved his hand in front of Kevin’s face.
“Stop it!” Kevin swatted his hand away. It just wasn’t fair. Why couldn’t his parents be normal and just buy it for him? He was going to be the only one in school who didn’t have it.
“Hey, Kev,” Mark elbowed him. “The guys are all getting together after school for that new movie. Wanna come?”
“Sure.” Kevin heard the movie was supposed to be great. He grabbed that fifty Dad gave him when he got home and headed to the theater.
One movie ticket, an extra large popcorn, and an oversized drink later, Kevin held the remaining $2.35 with a frown. How was he ever gonna get the money for the game? He dumped the change into his piggy bank.
That weekend, Mom and Dad had a yard sale. Finally! The chance to make some big bucks. Kevin scoured his room Friday evening for stuff to sell. Hours later, he only had half a box full.
“Is that all you want to get rid of?” Mom stood in Kevin’s doorway. “What about that skateboard you said you don’t want? Or all those old video games you haven’t played in months?”
“I don’t know where the skateboard is.” Kevin slumped on his bed. It was supposed to be in his closet, but he tore it apart looking. “And I might want to play those old games again.”
Mom shrugged. “Suit yourself. But it’s gonna be tough to get much out of that.” She nodded at Kevin’s box and walked away. Mom was right. Kevin glanced at the box. There wasn’t much there. But if he put good prices on the stuff, he could get a decent amount.
Saturday came and went. And so did the stupid yard sale with all those miserly people. Oh, sure, Mom and Dad sold lots of stuff, but no one was interested in Kevin’s stuff. He only sold one thing, and for only half of what he wanted for it.
Kevin sat brooding on his bed that evening. I just wasn’t fair. A whole day wasted, and he only had five dollars to show for it.
“Knock, knock, sport.” Dad poked his head in Kevin’s room. “How was the yard sale?” Kevin crossed his arms and turned away. “That bad, huh?” Dad sat down on Kevin’s bed. “Are you starting to understand how hard it is to make money?”
“But you make thousands!” Kevin whipped his head around. “You and Mom always have money.”
“Not really, sport. And you’re forgetting about all the bills.”
“That’s why grown-ups have jobs. You keep earning and saving your money and you’ll be able to buy your game someday.”
“What about now? All my friends already have one.”
“Is that the only reason you want this game?” Dad raised an eyebrow. Kevin scowled. “I got some more yard work for you tomorrow if you’re still interested in making some money.”
“Will you give me a lot?”
“I’ll give you as much as you earn.”
“No, then.” Kevin turned his back.
“Welcome to the real world, sport.” Dad mussed Kevin’s hair as he got up and left. The ‘real world’ stunk.
Every weekend in spring, Kevin was home working with Mom or Dad. He got anywhere from thirty to fifty dollars each time, depending on what mood Mom and Dad were in. Once, he actually got sixty. Maybe they felt sorry for him that week. Finally, just a week before summer vacation, Kevin had enough money to pay for half of the video game system. As promised, Mom and Dad drove him to the store and paid the other half.
“Yesss! Yes, yes, yes!” Kevin hugged the game’s box in the backseat. “I can’t believe I got it! It’s all mine! Just wait until I tell the guys!”
“Do you really think they’ll care?” Mom asked from the front seat.
“Of course! This is the best game in the whole world!” Finally, finally, finally! All that stupid, boring, hard work for the past two months and he finally got his reward. As soon as they got home, Kevin tore out of the car and ripped the box open. He hooked the system up and was playing the game before Mom and Dad got in the house. The game was everything he expected; awesome graphics, challenging puzzles, and tough bad guys. Oh, just wait until the guys heard he got the game and they could play the online feature together!
Monday morning, Kevin bounced to his seat. The other boys were already there. “Hey guys, guess what?”
“Check it out,” Danny pulled what looked like a gand-held game system out of his backpack. “It just came out this past weekend.”
“Cool!” Mark grinned.
“I saw that on TV!” Josh’s eyes widened. “That’s the new one, with all those gadgets, isn’t it?”
Danny nodded. “It’s way better than that lame game that came out two months ago.”
“For sure,” Mark leaned back in his seat. “I’m gonna ask Dad for one after school.”
“Me, too,” Josh shrugged. “If I promise to keep my room clean all summer, my parents’ll buy me anything.”
“And then the four of us can play together. Right, Kev?” Mark elbowed Kevin.
“Uh, sure.” Kevin sat hunched over and stared at his hands. Yea. Right. Sure.
Kevin slammed the door when he got home and threw his backpack down. He stomped up to his room and flopped onto his bed.
“Something wrong, sport?”
“Will you buy me the new handheld game? Please?” Kevin folded his hands and looked up hopefully.
“Now, wait a minute. You just got the other one yesterday.”
“But there’s a new one that’s even better than that. Can I have it? Pretty-please?” Kevin threw his best toothy grin.
“Sure.” Dad smiled. Kevin’s heart soared. Did he actually say yes? “As soon as you make enough money, you can buy one.”
Kevin’s heart and face sank. “Huh?”
“And this time, you can pay for the whole thing yourself. You’re a big boy now, and you did such a good job saving for the first game, saving for this new one should be a breeze. Right?”
“No buts. You know now how hard it is to make money. It’s the same for Mom and me.”
“But your job-.”
“Can I take the old one back?” Kevin sat up. “And get my money back? Then I can buy the new one!”
“Sorry, sport.” Dad shook his head. “Stores won’t take back games that have been opened.” Dad tapped his chin. “You could try pawning it if you really don’t want it. But you’d be lucky to get fifty bucks for it.”
“But I paid a lot more! And that was only half!”
“Welcome to the real world, sport.”
“It’s not fair!” Tears spilled from Kevin’s eyes and he beat his pillow.
“You could always do more yard work this summer. With school out, you could spend more time outside and make money faster.” Kevin ignored him.
“What’s going on up here?” Mom poked her head inside the room.
“A hard lesson.” Dad kissed her cheek. “About money. And the bandwagon.”