Drake, UI by Beverly J. Letchworth

The video game was finally out! He had to have it! Neal overturned the old bandage box he kept his allowance money in and watched $22.37 fall out onto his bed. He didn't have nearly enough to buy the Drake UI game. And
that was the game he wanted most of all.


He'd seen the ad on TV a dozen times. The video game should have come out right before the movie, but the manufacturer had delayed the game's release—and now every kid in the country wanted it! Neal felt as though he'd been waiting forever. Already he had the t-shirt, the cap, and the trading cards from his favorite movie in the world: Drake: the Ultimate Intelligence.


Neal's mind spun. Games from movies always sold fast at the stores. He'd have to get there by tomorrow to make sure he got a copy. But how? He was almost twenty dollars short. How would he get that much money so fast? Even if he asked for his allowance early, it wouldn't be enough. And he knew his parents wouldn't give him a double allowance to buy a video game. They were strict with the allowance rule.


Even as he thought about it, he knew who had the money: Matt! Neal also knew where his older brother kept his cash: in his bottom desk drawer under a box of CDs. Neal hurried into Matt's room. He'd just borrow the money and return it when he got enough saved again. Matt wouldn't have to know.


Now if he could just persuade his mother to take him to the store, he'd be all set.


The next afternoon, when Mom got home from work, she drove Neal to the mall. There were only five Drake games left, but Neal grabbed one, paid, and marched out to the parking lot holding his package over his head in victory. As he got in the car, he felt his stomach knot when he thought about using Matt's money, but he quickly pushed it from his mind. He wasn't really stealing it—just borrowing it. He'd pay Matt back as soon as he could.


But when Neal saw Matt waiting for them at the door, his stomach did more than knot—it triple-twisted. Matt was scowling as he pointed at Neal.


“Half my money's gone! It was there yesterday. And I think we've got the prime suspect right here!” Matt's voice was tight. Neal could tell he was really mad. “I know Mom and Dad certainly didn't take it!”


“What's this?” asked Mom, turning to Neal.


Neal groaned. He couldn't think of any reasonable explanation about why the money was missing. He knew he couldn't get off the hook. “I didn't steal it. I just borrowed it. I was going to pay you back.”


“And when will that be—a month from now?” snapped Matt. “It's twenty dollars! It'll take you forever to save that much. And I need it this weekend. So where is it?”


“I…well…,” stammered Neal.


Matt glared at him. “Look, Neal, it's MY money. You took it. Without asking. And what'd you spend it on?” He grabbed the shopping bag from Neal's hand. “More Drake junk? I can't believe it!”


“It's not junk. It's the hottest…”


Mom shook her head. “Neal, you know right from wrong, and this was wrong.”


Neal tried to swallow the lump that had formed in his throat. “Even if I'd asked first, he wouldn't have given it to me,” said Neal.


“You got that right! I—”


Mom raised her hand to silence Matt. “Neal, what are you going to do to get Matt his money back?”


“Can I get double allowance early?” asked Neal, already knowing what the answer would be. “Or maybe do some jobs around the house to earn the money?”


“Neal, you know the rules. And we expect you boys to help around the house without getting paid extra. It's not like your dad and I get paid to help around the house!”


Mom looked kind of sad, but her voice was stern. “I'm afraid you're going to have to come up with something else. You'd better go to your room and start thinking about it.”


Back in his room, Neal sagged against the wall. A wild thought went through his head as he thought about asking some of his friends to loan him money. No, that was out. Like him, his friends never had any extra cash.


He opened his bag and pulled out the Drake game. It was the coolest thing ever. His heart sank as he realized the only way to get enough money fast would be to return the game and get his money back. Neal moaned out loud. But it had to be done. He'd been wrong to take the money.


The next day, handing the game back to the salesperson was one of the hardest things Neal had ever done. He tried not to look at the other Drake merchandise, but he couldn't help it. Shelf after shelf…. He hadn't even known there was so much Drake stuff out there. It was amazing!


Neal fingered some of the items, reliving the movie as he did so. Some things were cheap, but others sold for twenty and thirty dollars and more. If he bought every item, how much would it all cost? Probably hundreds of dollars. No wonder he'd been using up all his allowance. If he bought every Drake item…what was he thinking…no way would he ever have enough to do it. Even if he did, he'd never have any money left over for anything else.


As he looked at the display, he suddenly thought it didn't look so amazing after all. All those toys and clothes and games. The company just wanted everyone to buy, buy, buy. And he'd taken Matt's money just so he could buy, buy, buy too! Well, from now on, he'd think before he bought. Maybe he'd buy some things, but only those he thought were really worth it. He'd start using some smarts. Like Drake, the Ultimate Intelligence, would do.

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