Saturday, August 23, 2014

Field Day, A Short Story

Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

Rick asked Tess and Tim, “What do you want to do for a booth at Field Day this year?”

Every year, on the Memorial Day week-end Saturday, their town held Field Day, where people came to watch a softball game between the police and fire departments, to ride on a few rented amusement park rides, and to buy various items from tables set up by the townspeople, with the profit to go to upkeep for the town’s Bradley Field, including such things as mowing the grass, keeping the softball diamond ready for play, repairing the swings and other park equipment.

“Refreshments stand,” said Tess, and Tim nodded in agreement.

“Would you be selling food? That seems rather hard, especially if anything needs to be cooked.”

“Soda,” said Tim, and --- surprisingly --- Tess agreed.

They sat down at the dining room table, and Rick started writing their plans on a large pad of lined paper. First came a discussion of what sodas to sell: Coke or Pepsi? Diet or regular? Root beer? Mountain Dew? Ginger ale? Orange soda or lemon-lime? They listed lots of other possibilities.

Mr. and Mrs. Williams got involved briefly in the planning. Mrs. Williams thought that on a hot day people would not be very choosy about their drinks, and she quoted the saying, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

“What’s a gander?” Tim asked.

“A female goose,” Tess answered quickly, as though it were a TV quiz show question.

Mr. Williams had a different view, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”

“Poison?” asked a puzzled Tim.

“I mean that what one person likes another person may dislike. It’s just an old saying.”

“Oh,” said Tim.

Mrs. W., sometimes a history teacher, thought to herself, I’m tempted to joke that one man’s Mede is another man’s Persian, but I doubt anyone will laugh.

Having given the children the benefit of their advice, although not agreeing with each other, the parents wandered off.

The three Williams kids then decided to limit the number of soda types to four: cola, diet cola, ginger ale, and orange soda. They chose flavors they would be willing to drink if they did not sell them all. Cans or bottles? Cans seemed safer, nothing to break.

How much soda should they buy? They hoped to raise $50. If they sold the sodas for $0.50 each more than each cost, then they would need to sell 100. Could they sell that many? It would depend on the weather and on how many people came.

How many people would likely be at Field Day? Rick estimated it would be a couple of hundred. The police and fire softball teams had about 15 members each, a total of 30, and most of their spouses and kids would probably come, for a total of around 100. Other people would be there to watch the game and to go to the different tables, so maybe that would be another 100, a total of 200 or so. That seemed like the crowds they had seen at the last couple of Field Days, too.

“This is not so easy to figure out,” Tess complained.

“You can see the problem business people have,” Rick answered.

“Will everyone buy a soda?” Tim wanted to know.

Rick said, “Good question.”

“Not likely,” Tess replied.

They decided to buy at least 100 sodas, probably more. They knew that the sodas came in cases of 24 each, and the crew ended up planning to buy two cases of regular cola, along with one each of diet cola, ginger ale, and orange, so five case, a total of 120 sodas.

They arranged to get a table and a large garbage can, then started buying what they needed: the sodas, plastic cups, napkins, and ice that they kept in their freezer.

Field Day came. Rick, Tess, and Tim arrived early and set up their table. It was sunny and was going to be hot for the end of May, so they were likely to sell all their sodas, which they put in the shade. They had a large insulated container for their ice, and put up a sign listing the soda choices, the price for each, and stating that the profits would go to the Field Day Fund.

Business was good before the softball game, then slowed during it, but picked up briskly when the game was over. The three of them were kept busy getting and opening the cans, putting ice in the cups, pouring the sodas, taking the money, making change.

Ginger ale did not sell very well, but a lady who had just come from eating a hot dog hurried over and bought a ginger ale. “Ginger ale is great for an upset stomach,” she said softly enough so that the hot dog stand people wouldn’t hear.

Mrs. Williams came by, looked at the people lined up for drinks and at the number of soda cans left. She trotted over to the family car and drove off. She headed for home, quickly returning with lemons, sugar, a dish, bottled water, a few spoons and a sharp knife.

“What’s all that for, Mom?” Tess asked.

“Lemonade!” Mrs. W. got to work, and her lemonade sold more rapidly than any one type of soda. It was a hit.

When Field Day ended, the Williams crew had made more than $100 profit…they donated it all. They were pleased and proud.

Mr. Williams was happy, too. For the fourth year in a row, the Fire Department, for whom he played third base, beat the Police Department…soundly. Mr. W. made a few fine plays and got a couple of hits, as well.

That night, chatting about the day, Mr. Williams couldn’t help joking, “They say that when things are tough, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade…and I’d say that when wife gives you lemons, sell lemonade.”

Nobody laughed at this, but Mrs. W. smiled, commenting, “They also say there is no disputing taste…each to his own taste…perhaps they meant taste in humor.”

Only Rick laughed.


One of our fifty instructional short stories for young readers.

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