For the Busy Business-Parent

Whimsical Bedtime Stories for Children of All Ages
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Worth Something

Tommy sat quietly on the front porch steps, a far away look in his eyes. A newspaper, opened to the obituary section was crumpled in his hands.

Tommy's next door neighbor, Amanda Grey skidded her bike to a stop on the sidewalk in front of Tommy's house.

"Hey Tommy," she called to him. "C'mon, hurry up, you're going to be late for baseball practice."

Tommy just sat there, his mind on other things.

"Tommy?" Amanda called again. "Tommy?"

There was no reply.

Frowning slightly, Amanda wheeled her bike in reverse and then took off back to her own home. She slammed on the brakes and jumped off, dumping her treasured bike unceremoniously on its side on the grass. She went pounding up the steps.

"Grandma," she shouted. "Where are you?"

"I'm in the den, Amanda," a vaguely distorted voice called back.

Amanda jogged down the hall and into the den. Her grandmother was on her knees with a mouth full of straight pins, a pencil behind her ear, and a tape measure around her neck, preparing to hem a pair of drapes.

"Grandma, I think there might be something the matter with Tommy next door," she said worriedly. Her grandmother pulled the pins from her mouth and jabbed them into a nearby pincussion as she quickly rose to her feet. "What's wrong?" she asked Amanda. "Is he hurt? Is he bleeding?

Amanda shook her head. "He's not bleeding or anything, Grandma. But something's the matter. He's just sitting there and he won't talk to me."

Amanda's Grandma shook her head. "I was afraid of this," she said to herself. She extracted the pencil from her hair and with a flick, pulled the tape measure from around her neck, laying them both on the big mahogany desk next to her. "Where is he?" she asked.

"On his front porch," replied Amanda. "Just sitting there, staring off into space."

"Let's go," said her Grandmother, and with Amanda hurrying behind her, the two of them went out the back screen door, down the steps, and through the big sunny garden. They walked quickly towards the vine covered wrought-iron gate in the weathered old stone wall that separated the two properties.

Amanda and her Grandma walked around the yard towards the front of Tommy's house until they were able to see Tommy still sitting quietly, exactly as he had been when Amanda was there earlier. They paused, just out of his sight. "See?" whispered Amanda. Her Grandma paused for a moment, assessing the situation, and then turned to Amanda. "Amanda, honey," she said quietly, "Why don't you go on to baseball practice. I'll see to Tommy, and then you and I will talk later, OK?"

Amanda was about to protest when she looked into her Grandma's eyes and saw something she couldn't quite place. "Uh...OK, Grandma," she said, then she turned and scooted off across the yard, rushing so that she wouldn't arrive too late to play.

Amanda's Grandma walked quietly up to Tommy and sat down on the steps next to him. They shared a companionable silence for a few minutes before she spoke. "I saw the paper this morning," she said quietly, nodding towards the crumpled section in Tommy's hands. "That hurt, didn't it?" she asked.

Tommy nodded, and his lower lip trembled ever so slightly.

"I saw in the paper that great-grandfather died. He was pretty famous," he said evenly. "They gave him a very nice write-up. Only somebody accidentally gave the paper the wrong information," he said. "There weren't five grandchildren and eight great grandchildren." Timothy's mouth compressed into a determined line. "My Dad is grandchild number six and I'm the ninth great grandchild," he said firmly.

Amanda's Grandma sighed. "You're exactly right," she said.

"So how come we're not good enough to be counted as family?" Tommy asked bitterly. "I know who gave them that information. It was my great-grandmother. How could she DO such a mean thing? Do you have any idea how awful this article is going to make my Dad feel when he sees it?" he demanded. "My Dad never did a single solitary thing to hurt anybody. All he ever did was get born. Heck, all I ever did was get born too. Neither of us ever did anything to hurt HER! Why does she want to hurt US?" Tommy's eyes were filled with pain and incomprehension.

"You know, I got to meet them a couple of times," he continued. "And my great-grandfather was really nice. I liked him. But afterwards, my great grandmother sat down and wrote this awful letter to my Dad and she said so many mean things in it that even though he was a grown-up, it made my Dad cry."

Tommy balled up his fist and slammed it into his knee. "I hate her! I hate that she hurt my Dad. I hate that she made him cry. I hate that she thinks we're not even worth counting as family in the very last thing ever written about my great-grandfather."

Tommy put his head in his hands. "It was such a MEAN thing to do," he sobbed. "It's not fair. My Dad's worth something. I'm worth something!."

Amanda's Grandma gathered the wounded boy into her arms and sighed again, shaking her head over the petty, hateful act that made this young boy cry, and which would wound yet another later on today.

She reached into her pocket for a tissue and pressed it into Tommy's hands. He hiccuped, then wiped his eyes and blew his nose as he nestled into Amanda's Grandma's comforting shoulder. She rocked him gently, stroking his hair.

"You are worth something Tommy," she said, "You're worth a lot. And don't you ever forget it."

"Honey, your Dad had a tough time of it when he was a kid, because his parents split up when he was still a tiny baby. He was all grown up by the time his own father finally managed to find him again. But your Dad's father, your Grandpa, sure was glad to find him again. And finding you too, turned out to be an extra special treat. You do know that your Grandpa loves, you, right?," she asked.

Tommy nodded. "Yeah, but he's probably the only one in his whole family who does," he said sadly.

"But isn't he the only one that really matters Tommy?," she asked.

Tommy accepted a second tissue and sat up. He looked uncertain.

"So what does your Grandpa have to say about these things?," she asked.

"Well," he said. "One time when he flew up to visit us, he took my Dad and me over to spend the afternoon with my great-grandfather."

"Umm-hmmmm," Amanda's Grandma nodded. "And what happened with your great-grandmother?"

Timothy giggled through his tears. "Boy, I'll tell you, she was some kind of cranky with Grandpa for just springing Dad and me on her."

Amanda's Grandma had a twinkle in her eye. "And what did your Grandpa say to her?" she asked.

Tommy laughed. "He told her phhbbbbbbttttt!!! and said he was going to make sure we got to visit my great-grandfather whether she liked it or not."

Amanda's Grandma burst out laughing. "Well," she said. "Good for him! It looks like your Grandpa was willing to go to battle with the dragon for his son and grandson, wasn't he?"

"Yeah," said Tommy. "He really was, wasn't he?"

"Tommy, your Grandpa did that so you'd at least have the opportunity to meet and remember your great-grandfather," she said. "You've inherited his brilliant mind, you know. And I know for a fact that your great-grandfather deeply appreciated the opportunity to meet and know you too."

"My great-grandmother wasn't very glad about it," he said glumly. "I guess that's why she did that mean thing with the newspaper today."

"Your Grandpa didn't know about that, Tommy," she said softly. "He'd have tried to stop it had he known."

Amanda's Grandma leaned forward, elbows on her knees, and rested her chin in her hands. She looked off into the distance, as if remembering something a long time ago.

"I'll let you in on a secret, Tommy," she said. "When my grandfather died, nobody called to let me know. I had to read about it in the newspaper, because my grandmother, like your great-grandmother, was somebody who decided spite was more important than love. The story in the paper said there were two grandchildren." She turned and faced Tommy. "But my grandmother knew, and I knew, that I was number three."

Tommy and Amanda's Grandmother's eyes met.

"But... but you're worth something," he said.

"And so are you, Tommy," she replied, with a smile.

Tommy smiled back. "Yeah, I am," he said. "I'm worth something."

She reached over and wiped a tear from the corner of his eye, then gave him a playful tap on the chin.

"Whaddya say, sport," she said.

"C'mon. Let's go play ball."

Worth Something by Cynthia Gurin - Copyright 1997 - All Rights Reserved
For Joshua and his Dad

About the Author - Cynthia Gurin lives in South Florida with her husband Bob, a quartet of cats, two dogs, a remarkably wise duck, and a teddy bear or two. She has achieved recognition in both the Miami Herald and The Wall Street Journal for innovative marketing techniques. She considers the Personal Ad, through which she met her husband, to be her most rewarding literary endeavor. She holds a senior corporate position in the real world. Send Mail

Other Stories by Cynthia Gurin: - See the Author Directory

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