The phone rang and I jumped to answer it.
“Hey Peg, what’s up…are you kidding me? That’s great! Sure…I can be ready in five minutes! I’ll call you right back.”
Being a teenager was tough work. Every five minutes the phone rang. Friends called wanting to do stuff. There were so many choices, so much to do, not enough time, and certainly, never enough money.
There was a knock on my bedroom door as I was pulling on my orange high-tops.
“Come in,” I called, grabbing the stereo remote to mute Bono.
“Jen, honey,” it was Dad. “What’s up? Going somewhere?”
“Yeah, Dad, Peg just called. Her brother Rob and his friend Joey want to meet us at the mall and get shakes and burgers.” I was tying the shoes, my fingers flying – kind of like I wanted to do – fly out that door before Dad said I couldn’t go or he had something else for me to do.
“By the way, Dad, could I have five dollars?” I was grabbing a jacket, letting him know I meant right now; I was about to leave.
“Well, Jen, I had an idea I wanted to talk to you about – just take a minute.” He took a seat on the bed, letting me know he meant hold on a bit; he had something to say first.
I waited. I couldn’t help that a high-topper was tapping just a little.
“Honey, I know you’ve got a lot going on; friends, plans, maybe a crush or two, schoolwork…”
I remained silent, wondering how he knew about my crush on Rob.
He continued, filling in my silence. “What I want to say, Jen, is with all that going on, you do need money. And while I love you, I think it’s time you started earning a little of your own…”
“But Dad,” I broke in here, whining of course, “I’m so busy, like you said. I don’t have time for a job right now.”
“Well, I wasn’t thinking of a job as such. I was talking to one of my clients, Mrs. Patterson. She lives in the neighborhood and has two boys, one four and the other seven. She needs someone to watch them in the evenings for a few hours while she works a part-time job.”
“But Dad, I don’t know anything about kids. What about my homework? When will I get that done?” I protested.
“You can carry your homework over to her house and do it after the kids go to bed. They go to bed around 8 or 8:30, she assures me.”
“But what about my friends…” I was still protesting.
“She’ll pay you five dollars an hour. You’ll have money to do things with your friends on weekends.”
Dad intended to win this one, I could see. I gritted my teeth. After all, he wasn’t being unreasonable and it would be nice to not have to ask for money all the time.
“Ok, when do I start?”
“Here’s her number; give her a call. You can work that out with her.”
When Dad left I called Peg and told her I’d be a few more minutes. Then I called Mrs. Patterson.
She seemed pleasant and sounded grateful. Unfortunately, she wanted me immediately.
“Oh Jen, you called just in time! I start a new job this evening. Can you come over around four? I realize that’s pretty quick.” It was. It was two-thirty then. What could I say?
I called Jen back and started digging frantically through my room for my piggy bank. Dad walked through the open door.
“You’re looking for this?” he held out a five-dollar bill. “Have a good time, sweetie.”
“Thanks Dad!” I gave him a quick hug and headed out the door.
At four, after a quick meal at Burger Bear where I complained about the plan, I rang the bell at Mrs. Patterson’s address.
She gave me quick instructions, introduced me to Jake and Willy, and showed me where their dinner was in the refrigerator.
The boys were surprisingly well behaved. We played a game of catch in the backyard before they ate their dinner.
I put Willy to bed with a story.
Jake asked if he could read me a story.
He got a big Bible, opened it, and read a child’s version of the story of the Israelites who ended up wandering in a desert for forty years after they complained too much.
What’s that phrase; ‘from the mouths of babes’?
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