Bargain Boy! by Donna Gamache

My mom is the one who got me hooked on garage sales. She's crazy about them. But she's a part time nurse, and sometimes she has the early shift, so she can't always go. Since I turned twelve, I've been going on my own. Mom's started calling me “Bargain Boy.”


There are just the two of us in our family—my mom and me, Jared. We live in the suburbs, and every spring our street and the two next to ours hold a gigantic garage sale. It's usually one of the best days of the year, almost like my birthday or Christmas. Every other year Mom had managed to arrange her shift to be off work for the street sale, but not this year. “Sorry, Jared,” she said. “It'll be up to you to find the bargains this time.”


“I'll do my best,” I said. “I'll ask Ed to go, too.”


Eduardo's my friend from two houses down. He's not a garage sale freak like me, but I figured I could talk him into going.


Saturday morning I set my alarm, and by 8:30 I was ringing Ed's doorbell. It was still cool, but the sun was bright. It was going to be a perfect street sale day.


“Hi, Ed,” I said. “You ready? How much money have you got?”


“Only six dollars. How about you?”


“I've got ten of my own. And Mom gave me five more in case I see something she wants. Shall we make it a contest? Whoever gets the best bargain wins, and the loser has to buy the other chips and a drink.”


“O.K.,” Ed agreed, “but you've had more practice.”


“Practice doesn't really count at this,” I said. “It's partly luck and partly knowing when something is a good deal. And remember, if you see something you want, buy it right away, because it might be gone later.”


We set off down the street, stopping at every sale sign. As usual, some houses had plenty of neat stuff, and others had mostly junk. “One person's junk is another's treasure,” Mom always said.


By ten o'clock I'd bought three brand new tennis balls for a dollar, two hockey cards for a quarter each, and a Michael Jordan T-shirt for fifty cents.


“I'm winning,” Ed announced when we stopped to compare. He held up several items, including two Star Trek creatures. “I've seen these for $10.00 each at a secondhand store, and I only paid fifty cents for the two.”


On the second street I saw something Mom wanted: mystery books by Dick Francis. I bought two, using her money, and also a skirt for the Christmas tree that I remembered we needed. Ed picked up a ping pong paddle and some old basketball magazines.


“I've spent all my money, Jared,” he said. “I'm going home. Bring my chips and drink over later.”


“O.K.,” I agreed, “but I'm doing the next street first. Maybe I'll beat you yet.”


The third street had four signs out. At the very last one I saw something for Mom: a leather purse—the Mexican kind—with flowers and birds and swirls carved into the leather. Mom had been watching for one for a long time, and this was only $10.00. I knew it was worth a lot more.


“It looks new,” I said to the man behind the table. “Is it genuine leather?” The man was tall, with white hair and a white mustache. He reminded me of my grandfather, except he was a lot older.


“Oh, yes,” he said, smiling. “It's genuine. We bought it in Mexico last year for my wife, but she hardly used it.” He pointed behind him to a small, white-haired woman hunched in a wheel chair, with a blanket around her shoulders. “She just loved it. But then she wound up in that chair, and she can't handle a big purse.”


“I'd like it for my mom,” I said. “Her birthday's in two weeks. But I've only got eight dollars left. Would you sell it for that?”


The old man hesitated. “O.K.,” he said finally. “We have to get rid of stuff. We're moving to a smaller place.”


We made the exchange and I headed home. Ed was raking leaves as I passed his house. “Let's compare what we've bought,” I said, and we spread everything out on his picnic table.


I opened up the purse to show him. It still smelled new, and the lining was clean. It would make a great birthday gift for Mom.


There were two main zippered pockets, and a smaller one on the side that I hadn't noticed before—good for keys, I thought, or change. I unzipped it and there, folded into a small square, was some money. I pulled it out.


“Wow!” Ed said, as I unfolded two fifty-dollar bills. “I guess you won the contest after all.”


“You better believe it!” I crowed. “You owe me a cherry soda and barbecue chips.”


Leaving him to rake, I hurried home and hid the purse in my closet, so Mom wouldn't see her present. I wasn't sure how to tell her about the money, but that could wait.


I made myself a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and sat out on the porch to eat it. Somehow, it didn't taste as good as usual. The sun wasn't as warm as I'd thought, either, and I didn't feel so excited any more. I kept thinking about the old couple—the way the man had smiled, and the way he looked at his wife in her wheel chair. I remembered he reminded me of my grandpa. Finally I went back inside and dug out the purse.


The old man was putting things away into boxes when I got there. There was no sign of his wife. “Yes?” he said, starting to smile, then saw the purse in my hand. The smile disappeared. “You want to return it? Your mother doesn't like it?”


“No—yes—” I stuttered, then opened the purse and handed him the money.


“What's this?” he asked.


“It must be yours. It was inside.”


The old man's eyes seemed to light up. “My wife thought she'd lost that, months ago, just before she took sick. I thank you for returning it.”


He didn't offer me any reward, and I wouldn't have taken it if he had. The smile on his face was bargain enough.


I knew there'd be another smile when I told Ed he'd won the contest, after all.
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The Dodgeball Trap by Diana Jenkins


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When people ask why I don't talk much, my mother always says, “Corina's shy.” That isn't really true. I'm quiet, but I'm not shy. I know what shy is. Emma Townsend is shy. She's always been that way. She used to burst into tears every time a teacher called on her. Now she will answer in class, but only in a tiny whisper! Emma's shy outside of class, too. At recess she's always reading a book. She never talks to anybody, and nobody talks to her. That's why it was so weird when Courtney Bailey spoke to her. I was shooting baskets with my best friend, Thai, when he said, “Look!” Courtney walked up to Emma and asked, “Do you want to play dodgeball?” Emma looked up from her book. Her mouth formed the word “okay,” but nobody except Courtney could have heard her. “You're the guard,” Courtney ordered. Emma put her book down and hurried to the edge of the playground. Someone always has to stand there and keep the ball from hitting the cars in the parking lot. Anybody else would have complained, but Emma stood guard the whole recess. I don't usually play dodgeball, but even I would have said, “Somebody else's turn now!” Every time there was a dodgeball game after that, Courtney made Emma stand guard. It had to be incredibly boring! One day, in Science class, we got to work with partners on a worksheet. Everyone was amazed when Courtney picked Emma for her partner, but Thai and I figured it out. We were close enough to tell that Courtney was letting Emma do all the work! After that, Emma started hanging around Courtney all the time. If Courtney wanted another milk at lunch, Emma went and got it for her. She gave Courtney pencils and markers and other supplies. I think she even let Courtney copy her math. “This makes me sick,” I said to Thai one day at recess. “What?” he asked. “That!” I pointed to Emma, on guard again. Thai shrugged. “At least she gets to play.” “That's not playing!” I said. “She never gets to participate in the game!” “Well, no, I guess not,” said Thai. “But it's good she has a friend.” “You can't be serious!” I said. “Courtney isn't really her friend! She's just using Emma.” “You know, Corina,” he said, “Courtney can't make Emma do anything.” “She can, too,” I said. “Well…kind of. If Emma doesn't do what Courtney says, she'll just drop her. She's trapped!” All day I kept thinking about Emma, and I decided I had to do something to help her. That night I planned what to say, then I called Emma's house. “Corina?” she said, like she had no idea who I was. “Yeah,” I said. “From school. I wanted to talk to you.” “Okay,” she said softly. “Look, Emma,” I said. “You don't want to be friends with Courtney. She doesn't care—” To my surprise, Emma interrupted. “What do you mean? Courtney's a good friend.” “Get real!” I said. “She always makes you play guard and—” “That's okay,” said Emma. “I don't like getting the ball thrown at me anyway.” “Yeah, okay, but she treats you like you're her personal slave!” “She does not!” Who knew that shy Emma could sound so mad? “You don't know what you're talking about!” Then she hung up! The next day I told Thai about the phone call. “It's like I said,” he told me. “No one is making Emma do those things.” “I know,” I said, “but it's just not right.” At lunch, I went up to Emma when she was getting an ice cream for Courtney. I had to try one more time! “Emma,” I said, “Courtney only cares about herself. She's just using you.” Emma looked at me and whispered, “I don't care.” I stood there and watched her walk away. The whole thing seemed hopeless! At afternoon recess I told Thai, “I wish I could help Emma. She just doesn't know what it means to have a real friend.” Thai smiled because he knew I was talking about him. Just then a dodgeball game started with guess-who? on guard. After Thai and I watched awhile, I got this fantastic idea! “Hey, Thai,” I said. “Let's play dodgeball.” “Huh?” he said. “Come on!” I jumped up and he followed me. We joined the other “targets” for a while. Then I ran over to Emma and said, “I'll guard for a while.” “Oh, that's okay,” said Emma. “Go on!” I said. “Come and play, Emma!” called Thai, catching on to my plan. So for once, Emma actually got in the game. While they played, Thai talked to her, and when he took my place as guard, I talked. She was too shy to say much, but she seemed happy. Thai and I went through that routine for about a week. Finally, Emma stood up to Courtney. One morning when Courtney told her to play guard, Emma just told her, “Somebody else can do it.” “Yeah, Courtney,” said Thai. “Like you!” “When was the last time you took a turn, Courtney?” I said. Everybody laughed! Courtney shrugged like she didn't care and went over to stand guard. Emma put her hand over her mouth, but she couldn't hide her big grin! At lunch that day, Thai and I waved Emma over to our table. When she sat down, she said, “Corina, you were so right about Courtney. I'm sorry I got mad at you.” “No problem,” I said. “And thanks,” she said, blushing. “Both of you! For…for everything.” “No problem,” said Thai. Emma sighed. “Well, actually there is a problem. I…I don't know how to say this. Do we have to keep playing dodgeball? I really hate that game!” Thai and I looked at each other. “No problem!” we shouted. If you enjoyed this story, you will love getting your own copy of My Friend–The Catholic Magazine for Kids each month, filled with stories, comics, puzzles, and lots more! Click here for information on subscribing.

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.

Pest Control Pennies


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I have an awful problem, and I don't know what to do.
My problem's name is Andrew, and he's all of three foot two.
He hid my orange crayon, and he lost my favorite book;
I'm sure he'd steal my underwear if he knew where to look.\


He follows me outside when I want to be alone,
He sits behind me burping when I am on the phone.
This morning when I woke up, he was jumping on my bed,
Laughing at his hamster (who was bouncing on my head).


I came downstairs for breakfast, and he waited by my chair.
As soon as I was sitting down, he poured milk in my hair.
“Mom!” I cried, “Come quick!” But my brother ran away.
Mom took one look at me and said, “You're quite a mess today!”


I went upstairs to change my clothes and gave a great loud yell
He'd left his sneakers on my bed, and oh boy did they smell!
I opened up my window, and I threw the shoes quite far,
As luck would have it, one hit Dad; the other hit our car.


I heard my brother laughing, and my father sighed and said,
“Whatever are you thinking, throwing sneakers at my head?”
I tried to tell my father it was Andrew who was bad
But my father simply walked away, looking very mad.


However could I stop him? Oh, I wished there was a way…
If anyone could tell me how, happily I'd pay.
Suddenly I had a thought; I knew just what to do.
I counted up my pennies: one hundred ninety-two.


I went into my brother's room and sat down on the bed.
I looked my brother in the eye, and this is what I said:
“Here's some pennies and here's a jar. Why don't we play a game?
Each time I'm nice I'll put one in, and you can do the same.


“But anytime we misbehave, we'll take a penny out.
I'm guessing we'll have seventeen before the week is out.”
“I think we can get twenty-two,” my brother answered back.
“If you would you like a cookie, I can get us both a snack!”


I put a penny in the jar, and laughed, and said, “Good start!
“I think you just may win this game, you're really very smart!”
“Why thank you,” he said sweetly, and I couldn't help but smile.
I had finally tricked my brother… for at least a little while!

Danny’s Magic Drawings Mary Raebel


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“But it's just a picture,” said Danny. He sat on the sidewalk in front of his house. Green and purple sidewalk chalk smudged his face and t-shirt.


“No,” said Ella. “It's magic. Your pictures are magic!” She waved a paper in front of his face. “Look. You drew a picture of me doing a cartwheel, and today for the first time, I did one!”


“That's right,” said Luke. “And you drew a picture of me hitting a home run at my baseball game, and it came true!”


Danny shrugged and finished the dinosaur he was drawing on the sidewalk.


“You'd better be careful what you draw, Danny,” said Luke, pointing to the smiling green dinosaur. “Magic can be powerful. Why don't you draw me finding the library book I lost?”


“Or me getting an ‘A' on my spelling test,” said Ella.


“But they're just pictures,” Danny said.


“They're magic!” his friends yelled together.


Danny sighed, then went inside and began to draw.


The next day, Luke found his library book, Ella got an A on her spelling test…and Grandma Cookie tripped on her front steps and broke her foot.


Grandma Cookie lived across the street from Danny. She had white curly hair, and she smelled like cocoa. Often when Danny and his friends were outside playing, Grandma Cookie would come outside, too. She always had a plate of cookies, with the chocolate chips still warm and melty from the oven. That's why everyone called her Grandma Cookie.


The name had made her chuckle, but not now. Nothing made her smile. Grandma Cookie didn't like sitting on the couch all day. When Danny and his friends came to visit, she frowned and said she wondered if she'd ever get off the couch again.


“Danny, you have to draw a picture of Grandma Cookie getting better,” said Ella.


“Draw her working in her garden or dancing or something,” said Luke.


“Draw her baking cookies!” said Ella.


Danny shook his head and picked at the dried red paint on the front of his shirt. “I can't make her better,” he said.


“But your pictures can,” said Luke. “They're magic.”


Danny shook his head sadly, then went inside and began to draw. Danny knew his pictures weren't magic. Once he had drawn a picture of himself with a long white beard. When he woke up the next day, there was no white beard.


He had also drawn a picture of his top dresser drawer filled with chocolate bars and jellybeans. But when he'd opened the drawer, the only things he'd found were his socks and underwear.


“I like those flowers you're drawing,” said Danny's mom, looking over his shoulder. Then she laughed. “They make me want to do some gardening.”


“They do?” Danny squinted at his picture.


Danny's dad walked in, carrying a big piece of apple pie.


“Hey, that pie was for dessert tonight,” Danny's mom scolded.


“Blame it on inspiration,” said his dad. “I saw Danny's picture of his favorite sweet treats. It inspired me to eat!”


Danny's parents laughed.


Danny's eyes grew wide. “Inspiration? My pictures make people want to do things?” He thought about it, smiled, and began to draw.


“What's this?” asked Ella the next day. She was looking at the pictures Danny had drawn the night before.


“It's you dusting Grandma Cookie's furniture,” said Danny. “This is me pulling weeds in her garden, and this is Luke sweeping her floor.”


“These aren't pictures of Grandma Cookie all better,” said Ella.


“No,” said Danny. “They're pictures of us helping her get better.”


And that's what they did. They dusted, and swept, and pulled weeds for Grandma Cookie. And when they were finished, Danny drew one more picture.


“What's this?” asked Grandma Cookie as she unrolled Danny's picture. She sat on the couch with her broken foot resting on some pillows.


Danny pointed at her foot, his finger stained with markers.


Grandma Cookie looked at the picture. She saw herself standing on the sidewalk, holding a plate of cookies. Danny had drawn a smile on her face and her foot without a cast.


“It's inspiration,” said Danny.


Grandma Cookie smiled. “It certainly is!” she said.
If you enjoyed this story, you will love getting your own copy of My Friend–The Catholic Magazine for Kids each month, filled with stories, comics, puzzles, and lots more! Click here for information on subscribing.