A couple of years ago New York was hit by a major snowstorm. Wearing thick-padded booties, the snow silently tiptoed in while we slept and when we awoke there was a three-foot-deep crystalline blanket everywhere we looked. It was coming down pretty heavy and we could barely see anything in the backyard as we looked out our bedroom window … almost as if someone was standing on our roof shaking out a king size comforter full of feathers. Bill and I stood there for a while taking in the silent beauty of it all, then shuffled into the kitchen to prepare a pot of coffee and a few slices of my homemade banana bread.
The instant we were done making breakfast, the lights went out. There was no point in trekking down to the basement to check the circuit breakers; we knew the area had experienced a power outage. We sat in the kitchen by the still-hot radiator enjoying our coffee and warm toasty bread, a pale white glow from the snow enveloping every room in the house. Before retreating to the living room, I poured our pot of coffee into a thermos to stay hot for a few hours.
I went to the closet and brought down Bill’s emergency hand crank radio with LED flashlight, AM/FM stations including the NOAH weather channel, a power bank of phone chargers and USB ports. This baby would serve us just fine until the power was restored. In the meantime Bill ventured out to the frozen tundra of the screened-in porch to retrieve some logs for the fireplace.
Bill got a nice fire going while I set up the radio on the table between our recliners. The phone chargers and USB ports were lifesavers; we were able to keep our cell batteries from dying and my laptop going so I could work on my stories. I was even able to plug in my new electric blanket which used a handy dandy USB port. Bill marveled at the technology of the little red radio and only bemoaned one design flaw – there was no TV.
We were happily ensconced in our recliners enjoying our little haven. All was silent outside except for an occasional gust of wind and every so often we’d spot a blue jay out our front window picking berries off the holly bush. I think we must have dozed off for a bit when we were roused by the harsh sound of steady scraping. We listened for a few seconds, then realized someone was outside shoveling the snow. We peered out the window to see our two little neighbors, six-year-old twins Jackson and Connor, shoveling our front path. At least that’s who we figured they were; it was impossible to tell by the way they were bundled up.
We sat back in our chairs, sipping our coffee and listening to the steady scrape-scraping of the boys’ shovels. Closer and closer the sound came; now they were clearing the steps leading to our front door. The adagio of their shovels was replaced by a sharp staccato knocking on our front door. I sank deeper into my blanket while Bill went to get some money to pay the enterprising kids, delighted that he didn’t have to shovel our front path himself. He opened the heavy wooden door and stood just inside the glass storm door to settle up accounts. Jackson and Connor stood on the front porch leaning on their shovels; toothless grins, cherry-red faces and sparkling blue eyes glistened in the still-rapidly falling snow which clung to their long blonde eyelashes.
“We cleared your path for you, Mr. Richy!” they proudly declared in unison, looking over their shoulders to admire their handiwork which was now covered by a fresh ½” of new snow. They looked back at Bill, staring up at him for his approval, their faces sporting the goofiest, most irresistible smiles imaginable.
“I see that, boys, and a fine job it is, too” replied Bill. “So tell me, what’s your going rate?“
With furrowed brows and crinkled noses the twins eloquently asked “Huh??”
“How much do I owe you for shoveling our path?” Bill asked in a way they could understand.
Very matter-of-factly with absolutely no sign of embarrassment or regret, the boys announced “Oh, we’re not allowed to accept money. Our mom and dad said we have to do good deeds.”
“Hold that thought, boys, and don’t go anywhere.”
Bill scurried back into the living room. “Are you hearing any of this conversation?” he asked me, clearly incredulous. “A concept like that in this day and age is mind-blowing!”
“Well, what’s your game plan?” I asked, knowing Bill always had a plan brewing.
“My game plan? Why, I’m going to pay those boys for a job well done and toss in a few packs of Pokémon cards just for good measure!” He was downright gleeful.
Bill scurried back to the boys and, opening the door just a crack to keep the cold out, shoved $20 and two packs of cards into their pockets.
The boys immediately started to put up a fuss about taking the money but Bill told them to stash it in their piggy banks for a rainy day and if their dad had a problem with, he was more than welcome to come over and talk about it. With new-found treasures in their pockets, the toothless twosome raced home to show their friends their unexpected booty. Their little friends cheered loudly at the sight of the boy’s riches. Even their dad came out to see what the hubbub was all about.
The big financial deal now settled, Bill sat back in his recliner and sighed contentedly.
“You’re such a soft touch” I teased. “You’re rather pleased with yourself, aren’t you?”
“As a matter of fact, I am!” he replied. “Listen, I’m all for good deeds but when I was their age, I was out shoveling snow and I know it’s hard work. Those kids did a damn good job. If their dad objects to them getting paid, I’ll just tell him to think of it as a tip for his two fine sons. I can’t believe he’d have a problem with that.”
Well, it came as no big surprise when the twins soon returned and began shoveling the snow off our driveway – and this time they had reinforcements. Their momma didn’t raise no dummies! You haven’t lived until you’ve seen five six-year-olds shoveling one driveway like their little lives depended on it.
“Better get your wallet out, Rockefeller. They’re back and they brought company” I laughed.
Bill may have unwittingly created a couple of monsters; during the spring the twins started going door-to-door pulling a wagon behind them. They were selling rocks! I’m reasonably certain their parents did not give permission for their budding business venture because it ended as abruptly as it started. Too bad; I’m sure they had the rock-selling market cornered. Very entrepreneurial kids; even Warren Buffett had to start somewhere!
Well, kind of a pity when you think about it. The boys scrubbed those rocks until they glistened in the sparkling sunlight. They really were impressive-looking rocks – there’s no denying that – but they were still just rocks, not exactly a priceless commodity.
Bill bought two. He’s such a soft touch.
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