Skip could hardly wait to show his parents the report card; he took a shortcut around the old train depot, kicking up clods of dirt with Keds. He usually dawdled on the way home postponing dreaded chores. Today, he would not saunter up porch steps, he’d scurry. He increased his pace causing his backpack to sway with each step.
The book carrier freed his hands to pitch rocks or thump ripening wild blackberries off vines. He likely would never achieve restraint in his lifetime. Breathless with anticipation, and overexertion, he made his way home. Seeing his father outside tinkering with the dilapidated charcoal barbeque, he approached.
“Hi Dad, gonna’ grill burgers and hot dogs for supper?”
“No, just seeing if I can manage to cook with it or if it’s time to retire her.”
Skip chuckled and asked, “Mom busy?”
“She was folding clothes last I knew.”
“Oh, just want to show you both my report card.” Searching his father’s face, and guessing that the barbeque was foremost on his mind, he accepted lack of interest in his big news.
“Report card, huh? Hope you’ve raised those failing grades.” Turning on the outside water spigot and spraying water in all directions, he briskly rubbed his hands together. Telltale signs of grease and charcoal dispersed as he said, “Go in and grab a 7 UP; I’ll be right in.”
Skip sighed. The 7 UP instructions were a good sign. Sitting on his father’s knee, he had shared sips of the lemon-lime soda pop from green chilled bottles. He pulled off the backpack, hung it on the hallway coat tree and kicked off his dirty tennis shoes. The sound of the clothes dryer door closing caught his attention.
“Mom, I’m home!”
“Wow! You’re early!”
Meeting in the doorway to the kitchen, they exchanged a spontaneous squeeze.
“Dad’s coming; wanna show you my report card.”
Opening the refrigerator, he pulled a can of 7 UP out of an unopened six-pack.
Still think it tasted better in a bottle.
By the time he popped the top, and swallowed the first swig, his father appeared. He stood with open palm, looking at Skip.
“Well, let’s have it!”
“Oh, it’s still in my backpack; be right back!”
In a flash, he returned and forked over the passing report from his teacher.
Holding the report card, his Dad eyed the row of grades. Skips Mom scanned the report card while peering over his shoulder. Almost in synchronized time, smiling, they both looked up.
His Dad gave him a firm handshake and said, “You did us proud, Son.” As soon as he lessened the grip, Skip accepted a congratulatory hug from his mom.
His father had insinuated a reward for bringing up his failing grades but had not given a promise.
“Skip, it seems to me that any boy who gets promoted to the 6th grade, with summer school grades like these, deserves some recognition!”
His mom jokingly injected, “A boy who still forgets to make up his bed?”
“I’m sorry Mom, I overslept again!”
His father said, “I know you studied real hard, and I want you to have these tickets to next weekend’s town carnival.” He had pulled a water dampened roll of tickets from his wet khaki pants.
“Wow! Thanks, Dad! Wait till I tell the guys!”
He counted the days to the arrival of the carnival, expecting fun amusement rides, especially excited about the roller-coaster.
On Friday morning, his mother sent him to the grocery store with a list of cookout items. The grill was nearly ready. Knowing the shortcuts to all destinations, he swung his legs over Mr. Grover’s fence and eyed the field of watermelons. The crop was not ripe yet, but he could not resist stopping for a spell to thump a few melons. Unrelenting, he accidentally pulled one from the vine.
Mr. Grover saw the whole thing and walked across the field to Skip, still crouching by the ruined melon. Skip looked up, into the understanding eyes of a wise and gentle man.
The gray-headed farmer raised Skip to his feet with extended calloused hands. Looking him straight in the eye he said, “I thump the melons too; sometimes break a few. To my surprise, found one ready yesterday. What do ya say; I send it home with you to yer folks? No need to tell em’ bout yer little mistake this morning.’ I heard there’s a carnival in town and wouldn’t want you to miss it on my account.”
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