Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dangerous Derrick Needs Cash

Chapter One
The World’s Coolest Bike

It was an August Sunday, the summer before third grade.  Just after getting home from church, Derrick and I were sitting on the hard, prickly, brown grass of my front yard.  Derrick reached in his front pocket and pulled out a crumpled ball of paper.  He uncrumpled it, sighed and stared at it for awhile.
“Man, Billy, I gotta get me one of these,” Derrick said as he held up an advertisement for a sporting goods store.
“Weird, you want pink jogging shorts?!”
“No, you dope, this,” Derrick said as he pointed to the bottom of the page.  There, in smudgy full-color, was a picture of a bicycle that was tricked out to look like a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
“Wow, that is so cool.  I want one too!”  Then I read the print under the picture.  “But Derrick, it’s two-hundred and fifty dollars.  You don’t have that kind of cash.” 
“I don’t need that much.  Keep reading.  You can make your own bike look like that with a kit that only costs fifty bucks.” 
“That’s a lot better.  Do you have fifty bucks?” I asked.
“No.  I bet I could get it, though.” 

Chapter Two
The Need for Green

Derrick and I spent several painful minutes thinking of ways to come up with some cash.  We generally considered “thinking” as off limits during summer break, but this was an emergency.  Thinking didn’t seem like it was paying off, so we gave up and just tried wishing and hoping for a while.
After several minutes it turned out that wishing and hoping was going to be the ticket.  Help arrived, and it came in the form of Jim Pounder and his gang.  They weren’t trying to help, but something we heard them say was the answer to our prayers.
“Hey guys, let’s go down to the waterfall where that kid fell off the cliff and broke his back,” Jim said to his gang.  His gang grunted in agreement. “I heard he was down there looking for gold.”
Derrick and I could hear them from over on our side of the hedge that separated my yard from Jim Pounder’s.  I was happy that the bushes hid us from the big kids.  If they had seen us they probably would have practiced their favorite hobby: chasing and pounding me and Derrick.
“Did you hear that?” Derrick whispered to me, as a grin began to grow out toward his ears.
“Ya, I want to go see that waterfall,” I answered.  Derrick and I kept very still and quiet, because we didn’t want to miss anything important about the waterfall.  We were really disappointed later when we found out the guy with the broken back wasn’t there anymore.  The least they could have done was put up a bronze statue where he had fallen.  After all, that was history. 
The waterfall sounded cool enough on its own, but after listening to Jim Pounder and his gang talk, we found a totally perfect solution to our need for cash, too.

Chapter Three
A Possible Solution

“I heard what that kid was doing when he fell down by the falls.  Do you know what it was?”  Jim didn’t wait for his gang to answer, “I heard he found gold down there and had started his own secret mine.”
We didn’t need to hear anything else.  When the big kids headed for the falls, we followed them all the way.  We were very sneaky and careful so they wouldn’t know we were tailing them.  We didn’t want them to “shake us off their trail.” That’s what the bad guys always tried to do in the TV westerns when they were headed for a hide-out or a lost gold mine.
“Billy, we should have changed clothes when we got home from church,” Derrick said while we were hiding behind some bushes.
“You’re right.  My mom’s gonna get mad if I get them dirty.”
“Huh?  No, I mean it’s going to be hard to hide in these white Sunday school shirts.”
The big kids walked a long way out of the neighborhood.  I hadn’t thought you could get that far away from home without taking a car.  After miles of walking, the big kids turned off of the road onto a trail.  The trail went into some woods, but they weren’t our woods.  They were someone else’s woods.  I held back.
“Billy, what are you waiting for?”  Derrick asked.
“I haven’t been in these woods before.”
“Me neither.  Cool huh?” Derrick said as he plunged into the shadows.  We could hear the big kids ahead of us.  They made a lot of noise crashing through the bushes.
            We crept along through the woods behind them. The trail wound through a sea of green ferns under the dark canopy of tree branches.  Not far into the woods, the trail began to follow the twists and turns of a stream that had carved a trench into the forest floor. 
Derrick and I hopped down into the gully with the stream, so we could be stealthier trackers.  As we splashed noisily through the shallow water, clanked over piles of rock and grumbled at tripping over branches, we got closer to Jim and his gang.  From our hidden position, down in the stream bed, we could hear their conversation.  Then one voice raised above the others.
“Boy, I think I’m ready to head home.  If there were any little kids around they might want to follow so they wouldn’t lose their way.” 
“Yeah, I think I’m ready to head home too,” said another voice.  “You’re right, though.  A little kid wouldn’t want to forget how to get home.” 
I silently agreed with the second voice.  It was a good thing there weren’t any little kids around. 
“Yep,” the voice said again, “a little kid sure wouldn’t want to be out here come dark.”
COME DARK! The words screeched through my brain, like a metal rake on a chalkboard.  Derrick and I both stared at each other.  Neither one of us liked the thought of getting caught out come dark.
At the sound of the big kids trudging back through the forest toward the road, we began to scramble to the top of the gully where we had been hidden.  Just before we reached the top, the dirt crumbled and we tumbled back into the stream. 
“It’s a good thing we landed in the water,” Derrick pointed out, “It cleaned most of this red clay out of our white shirts.”
After climbing and tumbling back into the stream a few times, Derrick and I were able to make it to the top.  We turned in the direction the big kids had headed and started to follow.  We couldn’t see them, but luckily big kids are easy to track, mostly by sound and smell.

Chapter Four
A New Direction

Suddenly, Derrick froze.  “We haven’t seen the falls yet.”
“Yeah. That would be embarrassing.”
We turned and headed down the path in the opposite direction of home.  Somewhere ahead we knew that we would find water thundering down with rock crushing, and back breaking force onto the boulders below us.
It didn’t take us long to find the falls.  The trail ended at the edge of a cliff.  On our right, the stream that we had been following downhill gushed out of a V-shaped opening in the top of the cliff and crashed into a small pool, fifty feet below us. 
“Wow, that’s awesome,” Derrick said. 
“Ya, wow,” I said.
Next, we did what any boy would do.  We started throwing stuff.  For a long time, we picked up and threw rocks, sticks, and small plants over the edge.  After a while, the thrill of throwing stuff took a break.  Any boy, of any age, will tell you that that thrill never really goes away. 
“You know, Billy, I bet that spot over there by those rocks is where the kid fell,” Derrick said as he pointed.
“I bet you’re right.”

Chapter Five
The Ideas Just Keep Coming

“Wait a minute.  I got an idea.  We could make money being tour guides to show people where he fell.  Like those guys that give tours at the Grand Canyon,” Derrick said.  He was starting to bounce up and down the way he always does when he gets really excited. 
“That sounds like an awesome idea.  How about if we see if we can find the gold first, okay?”
“Okay, we’ll make more from the gold anyway.  Let’s go down in the canyon.  That’s probably where the gold is.”  Derrick wasn’t bouncing anymore, but he was still grinning excitedly.
Half way through our climb down, the dirt crumbled under us and we again tumbled down into the water.
“Hooo Boy, that was fun!  Let’s do it again!” Derrick yelled.  Then he jumped into the waterfall and let it splash down all over him.
“Derrick, wow, your shirt is really clean now!” I said after he stepped out from under the falls.
“That’s neat!  I wonder if it will get even cleaner?” Derrick said and stepped back under the water again.
“Oh man, your pocket tore off,” I said to Derrick when he stepped back out of the waterfall.
Derrick leaned over and picked up the square of fabric that was floating by his knee.  “But look how clean it is.  My mom is gonna be real impressed,” he whispered.
“Wait a minute!  We could make money washing people’s clothes down here.”
“I don’t know, Derrick,” I said slowly, “Maybe we should just keep looking for the gold.”
            “Okay,” Derrick said and then started looking around at the edge of the water. 
“Derrick, do you hear a dog barking?” I asked as I watched Derrick splashing in the shallows.
“Never mind that.  Come here quick,” Derrick said as he motioned me over to him.
“I’m sure I hear a dog.  It sounds like your dog Stinky.”
“So what?  I think I found the gold.”
“You what?  Where?” I said and splashed toward Derrick. 
“Right here.  Look.”  Derrick held out his left hand to show me two shining gold-colored pea-sized nuggets.  “I think there’s more.  Help me find it.”
While we were collecting the nuggets Derrick’s dog, Stinky, came barking and bouncing his way down toward us. 
“Stinky! Get out of the way,” Derrick said as he pushed his German lab-hound to the side.  Derrick’s appropriately named dog, Stinky, soon got tired of trying to see what we were doing and instead started wrestling with the waterfall. 
“Billy, I think we have enough to get those bikes.  Let’s go.”
“I bet you’re right,” I said as I patted my heavy bulging pockets.
“Come on, Stinky.  Let’s go,” Derrick called to his dog.  His pet rushed over to him and jumped his front paws on Derrick’s shoulders and tried to do what looked like a slow dance with Derrick.
“Stinky, knock it off,” Derrick said.  “Hey, Stinky,. . . you’re not stinky anymore!”
“No way,” I said.  I leaned over and took a careful sniff.  “Geez, Derrick.  You’re gonna have to get your dog a new name.”
“I guess so.”
With Derrick’s newly unstinky dog following us, we headed for home.

Chapter Six
That Won’t Work Either?

My dad is really smart.  Sometimes that doesn’t feel like a good thing.  When we walked up my driveway my dad was leaning under the hood of his car doing something to the engine.  We told him what we had been doing and showed him our treasure.
“Well, Bill,” my father said to me, “I hate to be the one to tell you this, but this isn’t really gold.”
“Are you sure, dad?” I whined.
“Aww, Mr. Billy’s dad, it’s gotta be.  We need the cash to buy some really cool bikes.”
“I wish I could tell you different, Derrick, but it is called iron pyrite.  Some people call it fool’s gold.  Don’t feel bad though, it even fools grown-ups sometimes.”
“I don’t feel bad ‘cause I got fooled.  I feel bad ‘cause I wanted that new bike.  Hey, you know what Billy, we could still be tour guides.”  Derrick looked questioningly up at my dad, as if he wanted some support.
“You know, you guys might want to talk to Billy’s mom about that,” my dad said and quickly turned back to work on the car.
“Hi, Billy’s mom,” Derrick said as we walked into my house. 
“Hi, Derrick.  Hi, Billy,” she said as she looked up from reading one of her doctor magazines.
We told my mom our plan to be tour guides.
“Boys, I know how interesting the story about the young man breaking his back is to a couple of eight-year-old boys, but I’m pretty sure you won’t get anyone to pay you to show them where it happened.  Besides, I was working in the emergency room the day that happened.  He didn’t actually break his back.  He cracked a rib, and he is all better now.”
“Oh,” we both said glumly.
“Well, we could still make money washing people’s clothes,” Derrick said.  The excitement was back in his voice.
My mom lifted her magazine back in front of her face.  From behind it we could hear her say, “Maybe you boys should go talk to Derrick’s mom about that one.”
“Hey, mom,” Derrick yelled out as he banged open his kitchen door.  “Mom, where are you?”
“Right here, Derrick,” his mom said tiredly from the kitchen table.
“Mom, we’re gonna make money washing clothes for people.  Then we are going to buy these really great bikes with all the money.  Can we wash clothes for you, first?  Look how white my shirt is.  I washed it myself.  Pretty good huh?”
“Derrick, where is your shirt pocket?” his mom asked.
“Right here,” Derrick said pulling the wadded piece of fabric from his pants pocket. “The waterfall tore it off, but look how white it is.”

Chapter Seven
The Golden Ticket

“Derrick, I am not going to pay you money to tear up clothes.”
“Aww, Mom.  But look how clean it is,” Derrick pleaded.
“I don’t care how…”
Just then Derrick’s dog banged through the kitchen door and jumped up on Derrick’s mom for a wrestling match.
“Derrick!” his mom yelled, “get your filthy dirty stinking dog off me.”  She stopped, sniffed the air, and stared at Derrick.  “Wait a minute.  Derrick, your dog isn’t dirty and stinky anymore.  What did you do?”
“He got cleaned off in the waterfall where we were gonna wash the clothes.”
“Well, that’s something I’ll pay for,” his mom said.  Then she walked to the counter and pulled four dollars out of her purse.  Then she handed two of them to each of us.
“Thanks!” we sang out.
“Billy, are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Derrick said.
“Probably not, but how about if we try to make money washing dogs?”
Half an hour later, we had completed our first advertisement.  It was a hand painted sign that read:
“Dog washing $4.00. 
No extra charge for
Extra stinky dogs.”

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