Out of breath, I collapsed behind dad’s tool shed and drew in gulps of air. Although my breathing slowed down quickly, I was spring-loaded. I looked around, but I already knew no one could see me wedged between the stacks of lumber and piles of tools and buckets.
I pulled the fat envelope out of the back of my pants and peered inside again: mostly ones, but there were some $5s and a couple of $10 bills. I had been kicking around the parking lot of the Kum and Go Mart when I saw it, flattened by the wind against the side of the building. When I saw what was in it, my heart raced and I looked up. Two people were walking from the gas pumps to the store, but they didn’t even look my way. I stuffed the money in my pants and ran.
I was scared; it was like I had stolen it, but I didn’t go inside the store and turn it in. I had just been thinking about the water park in Aden and how mom had said I couldn’t go because I hadn’t done anything constructive since summer began and that if I wanted to go I would have to earn the money and that she had a long list of ways I could do that. It was summer; I just wanted to goof off.
On the outside of the envelope was written: Louise — $68, Val — $24, Cathy — $20. Total: $112, the exact amount in the envelope. The names meant nothing to me.
I stashed the envelope between thick boards and ran to Sean’s house. Like me, he was doing pretty much nothing.
“Hey Sean. You want to go to the water park?”
“Yeah, dream on,” Sean said, rolling his eyes. “My mom won’t give me the money and I sure don’t have it.”
“I’ve got enough for both of us,” I blurted. “But you have to promise not to tell anyone.”
Sean sat up, curious, and willing, if I knew Sean. In whispers, I told him the story and my plan. He was in for the adventure.
The next morning I stood in the kitchen slapping peanut butter and jelly on bread. I filled my water bottle, hollered goodbye to my mom, who hollered back, “Be careful,” and jumped on my bike. I had secured the envelope in my backpack the night before, after I convinced my mom and dad to let Sean and me ride our bikes to Bennet Park by ourselves for a day of hiking and exploring. I also packed swim shorts, a towel, and sunscreen.
Sean and I biked the couple of miles to the bus station, locked our bikes, and waited for the bus to Aden and the water park. The 10 miles to Aden required a fare of $3.50 each. Neither of us had ever ridden the bus out of town by ourselves. We had a hard time sitting still and I think we talked too loud because one of the passengers kept giving us a mean look.
All day we flew down water slides, ducked under the waves in the wave pool, and even floated the lazy river. We ate our lunches, but there was no one to tell us we couldn’t also have Dippin’ Dots and Mountain Dew and Kettle Korn. We even rented our own tubes for the day instead of waiting in line for the free ones.
We took the 4:00 bus back to town. The sun and water had zapped us and we didn’t talk much. As we were unlocking the bikes, Sean asked me how much was left. I looked in the envelope.
“Cool,” Sean said.
On our bike ride home, we passed the Kum and Go. A few houses down, Sean pointed and said, “That’s where my Grandma Louise just moved. She and my mom and Aunt Val had a garage sale the other day. Lucky me, I got out of it.”
My throat felt dry.
“Hey Sean, your mom’s name is Cathy, right?”
“Nothing.” I felt sick at my stomach, like too much Kettle Korn.
The next morning, Sean’s grandmother opened the front door to find the envelope with $52 inside. There was also a note: “IOU $60.” I was at home, cleaning out the tool shed. My dad promised me $10 if I did a good job. [WD]