A writing exercise—a photograph prompted this beginning of a story

Steve looked up as Mike walked into the kitchen. “Man, it must be a thousand degrees in here.”

Mike shook his head, “I know. I can’t believe this is what I have to go through to get a car.”

“Why don’t your parents buy you one? I thought you said they had tons of money.”

“They do,” Mike answered, “but my Dad said he didn’t have stuff handed to him. He says it builds character to have to sweat a little.”

Steve laughed, “Well, your Dad didn’t have to flip burgers. He worked in a nice air conditioned grocery store. And, you don’t need to buy your own car. You can have his old pickup for free. At least your parents can send you to college. Mine can’t even afford to buy all of us clothes.” Steve turned back to the steaming grill.

Mike ignored Steve’s last remark. He knew Steve’s family didn’t have a lot of money and he always forgot about that when he complained about working.

Steve had been his best friend since first grade. When they were little, Mike thought it was cool that Steve wanted to hang out over at Mike’s house all the time. Later, he figured out it was because Steve was embarrassed his family had such a small house and his family was poor. Steve’s Mom had to work cleaning houses for wealthy families like Mike’s.

That’s how Mike and Steve met.  It was the summer before first grade.  Steve’s Mom had to drag Steve and his little sister, Jane, with her while she cleaned houses.  All the families made Steve and Jane sit on the porch in the heat while their Mom cleaned.  Their older brother and sister went to their grandmother’s house.  She said she was too old to take care of Steve and Jane, so, their Mom took them with her. 

Mike’s family was the last one on the list for Mrs. Jamison.  Mike remembered the first time they showed up. He was so excited to see a boy his age and was thrilled when his Mom invited them to play with Mike. Mike had no idea Mrs. Jamison was working for his Mom.  He just thought she was one of his Mom’s friends.  He didn’t even care that playing with Steve also meant he had to play with a girl, Jane.  Mike was an only child and looked forward to Mondays and Fridays when Steve came to his house. Once school started, they hung out almost every day after school.

In the third grade, the new kid, Josh, joined them and the three had been hanging out since.

Mike glanced toward the dining room where Josh worked as a bus boy. I guess I’d rather be in this sizzling kitchen than stuck out there talking to the customers. Josh sure doesn’t seem to mind, though. He’s always whistling. I guess I’d be whistling too, if I got to work out front with Roxanne.

Mike turned back to the grill and noticed that Steve had been watching Josh, too. He knew Steve had been thinking the same thing as he had. Poor Josh. What was he going to do now?


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