Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Waste Not, Want Not," Another Middle-Grade Short Story


Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

“Do you want to go to the movies together this afternoon?” May Lee asked Tess on a slushy Saturday in February.

“I’d love to. It’s too cold to do most other things, but I can’t. I’ve spent all my allowance.”

“Don’t you have some money saved?”

“No. Somehow it just goes, disappears.”

This was when Tess was twelve, an athlete and a fine student, but not a saver, not at all. She knew she should save “for a rainy day,” or for a slushy one, but just couldn’t seem to do it.

May Lee’s parents, like Tess’s parents, gave her a weekly allowance, from which she was to buy little stuff, not necessities, but snacks and treats and admissions to movies and such. May’s parents were originally from China, where thrift was emphasized, as many in that country were poor, and widespread poverty went back thousands of years. Even now in America, her parents were very careful about spending money. May’s mother made many of May’s clothes, and she made them well.

Tess’s parents, a school teacher and a firefighter, we neither poor nor rich, but they, too, were careful with their money. They tried not to buy things they did not need, and they watched for sales and for opportunities to attend free events. They did many of their home repairs rather than paying others to do them. The kids all had chores to do to help out, too. Eric had a part-time job on the week-ends. The Williams family were savers rather than spenders.

“May, I‘ll call you back. I’ll go ask Mom for my allowance a day early. Maybe she will agree.”

Tess found her mother in the kitchen.

“Mom, could I have my allowance a day early this week? May and I would like to go to the movies this afternoon, but I’m out of money.”

“Where did it go?”

“I’ve got no idea.”

“How smart is that?”

“Not smart, but it just goes. Too much trouble to keep track.”

“I don’t know about this week, but I have seen you buy stuff you then don’t use, like lipstick of a certain color. My parents taught us an old New England saying:

Waste not, want not.

Make do, do without.

Use it up, wear it out.

Your father and I try to follow this, too.”

“Mom, just this once?”

“No. that won’t teach you a thing. Next time, you’ll expect me to give in again. You know me better than that!”

“Maybe Rick will give it to me,” referring to her brother, some five years older.

“No. Rick will not go against my decision. He knows me better than that, too!”

Calling May back, Tess said, “I’m sunk. Can’t go. No dough.”

May replied, “Let’s go to the museum, instead. The price is right…it’s free!”


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