Loveable 8 year old Vinnie Figures Out His Dad’s Soft Spot.
Loveable 8 year old Vinnie Figures Out His Dad’s Soft Spot.
My Gramps was telling Mom one time somethings stay with you all your life. I think this is one of those things. I knew it was all over as soon as Dr. Crossman sent Billy into the office. Billy was going to crack faster than an egg when my mom makes my dad his Sunday omelet. When Billy walked into the office, I thought I could hear him crying. The door closed behind Billy. Dr. Crossman stayed in the hallway staring at my beautiful drawing. I had to think fast. Since I am too smart for my own good, my mind traveled faster than the rocket roller coaster at the amusement park.
I figured the office secretary probably put handcuffs on Billy and was threatening to call the police. Strangely, Dr. Crossman was still studying the drawing. She flips it over, probably looking for a clue as to who drew it. I wonder if she wants me to sign it. It might be famous one day. She can take it on the Antiques Road Show and have it appraised. It is a genuine Vinnie.
I decide it’s time to make my get away. I take a deep breath and walk past her. As I’m walking past her I I say, “I hope you had a nice day, Dr. Crossman. If no one told you, you look very nice.” Some day I’ll learn to keep quiet and not try to be so cool.
Dr. Crossman glances up from the drawing. She says, “Vincent, you’re William’s best friend if I’m not mistaken.”
I answer, “Oh, he has lots of friends. I wouldn’t say I’m his best friend. I’m Rupert’s best friend. Rupert is home schooled.”
Dr. Crossman points a finger at me, “You know what I mean. In my office, Vincent.”
I’ll spare you the details. Billy cried and cried. It was pathetic. He didn’t even hold out for one minute. He said I drew the picture and showed it to him and asked him if wanted to drop it by the office door. I knew if I told Dr. Crossman the truth, she wouldn’t believe me. So I didn’t tell her Billy wanted to drop the drawing. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done it.”
Dr. Crossman said, “I’m going to call your mother, Vincent.”
I said, “She’s having a conference with Mrs. Navis. You probably don’t want to bother her.”
Dr. Crossman left Billy and me in her office. She kept her door open and told the secretary Olga Patterson to check on us. Ms. Patterson looks like she could play football for the Patriots. Nobody messes with her. She really runs the school. Twenty minutes later, although it seemed like two hours, Dr. Crossman, Mrs. Navis, and Mom come into the principal’s office. Dr. Crossman tells Billy to go home. She tells him she is going to email his mother. Billy starts crying again.
I don’t want to go into the gory details. How would you feel if you were eight years old and you had three old adults taking turns picking on you? Here’s a sample of what went on. Doctor Cross sits behind her desk. I sit in a chair in front of her desk. Mom sits in a chair to my right and Mrs. Navis sits in a chair to my left. I am surrounded with no chance for escape.
Dr. Crossman has my drawing on her desk. She is staring at it. I almost start laughing. I bite the inside of my cheeks to stop from laughing. Doctor Crossman looks at me and says, “Vincent, blah, blah, blah and blah.”
Mom and Mrs. Navis nod their heads. They agree with every blah, blah, and blah Dr. Crossman said.
Mrs. Navis takes her turn. She turns to Mom, “Vincent is too smart. He blah, blah and blahs and blahs.”
Mom agrees with Mrs. Navis and Dr. Crossman and blah blah and blahs back to them. Actually, it wasn’t so bad. I keep nodding my head, saying I’m sorry, and promising to try harder. I sit on my hands so they couldn’t see I was keeping my fingers crossed. I’m hoping by the time I get home, Mom will calm down enough to be reasonable. When everyone is finished working me over, Mom marches me out to the car. I get in the passenger side and buckle my seat belt. I didn’t want to take any chances she might be tempted to toss me out the door.
When Mom gets in the car, she buckles her seat belt and turns to me, “Not one word. Not one single word.”
I let her start the car and pull out of the school parking lot. Then she starts up, again. “Vincent. You failed your math test. You made fun of Dr. Crossman. When Dad comes home the three of us are going to have a very serious talk about school.”
I didn’t want to get ground up again. I say, “Mom, Dad works so hard every day. Don’t ruin his day. I’m sorry. I promise to study harder. I will get a hundred on the next math test.”
Mom says, “You’ll do better than that. There is no tablet, no Playstation, no playtime with Joey when you come home until I see lots of improvement. And, I want a promise, no more drawing of Doctor Crossman or any other teacher. Do I hear a promise and no fingers crossed. Don’t think I didn’t notice you sitting on your hands in Doctor Crossman’s office. I knew what you were doing.”
“I promise, Mom,” I said. I showed her my uncrossed fingers, but I crossed my toes at the same time. You might wonder what lessons I learned from all of this. I’m still trying to figure that out. It’s too bad parents don’t remember how boring school was when they went to school. I’m in third grade. I have nine more years of school. Then it’s four years of college. Mom and Dad are already talking about graduate schools for me. I can’t wrap my head around it. All I want to do is ride my skateboard, play football and basketball with my friends, and play Mind Craft on my tablet.
As for Billy, he’s still my friend. I’m not mad at him. If Doctor Crossman hadn’t come out of the office right after Billy dropped my drawing, it would have worked. I’ll think of something else, but it will have to wait until everyone forgets about today.
As for today, I’ll go home, do all my math homework and study my spelling words. I’ll try a lot harder. When you’re getting all A’s parents forget about the other stuff. I know Mom will be watching me and she’ll check every answer. She’s really a nice Mom. I’ll ask her if I can go to Joey’s after I finish. I think she’ll say yes. I’m lucky to have Mom and Dad.
Most everybody likes me. Mom tells me one day I might be President. I think the best thing about being President is that you can fly in helicopters and tell the pilot where to go. I have lots of friends. Billy is one of my friends. He likes to hang out with me. Mom told me Billy looks up to me. I don’t know what she means, we’re the same size.
When I caught up to Billy, he says, “Wuz up?”
I pull him aside and turn him toward the wall lockers. I whisper, “Promise me, Billy. If I show you something you swear you will not tell anyone.”
“I promise, what is it, Vinnie?” asks Billy. He was so excited like I was going to give away a something top secret. It this case, it was top secret.
Mom’s always telling me to think before I act. She says if I think before I act, I’ll stay out of trouble. She told me more than one, “Vincent, one day you will listen to your Mom.”
This wasn’t one of those days. I didn’t follow Mom’s advice. I made two big mistakes. The first mistake was deciding to show my drawing to Billy. The second mistake was I forgot to make him promise on the life of his Mom’s toy poodle. If he broke the promise, his Mom’s toy poodle would die and he would have fourteen years of bad luck.
I open my homework folder far enough to show Billy my drawing of Dr. Crossman. Billy says, “Is that a horse?”
I say, “Sort of. Read the name above the horse.”
Billy smiles really, really big. He says, “That’s so cool. It really looks like her. She is so ugly. What are you going to do with it?”
I answer, “When I walk by her office I’m going to drop it on the floor. By the time anybody finds it, I’ll be home.”
“Can I do it? Please let me drop it. I never did anything like this before, Vinnie. Please let me,” begged Billy.
I like Billy. He never argues with me. He always wants to be on my team when the guys on the street play football or basketball. He’s not any good, but I always pick him. I say, “Sure. Be careful. You can’t let anyone see you drop it. As soon as you drop it, don’t turn around, go out the door. We’ll talk on the playground.”
Before I take the drawing out of my homework folder, I look around. Most of the kids are out of the building. Who wants to hang around school, right? The corridor is clear, I pull out the drawing and hand it to Billy. Billy holds it up for a second and says, “I wish I could draw as good as you. I bet you will be famous someday.”
I smile. I didn’t want to say I agreed with him, because that would be bragging, but he’s right, I’ll be famous some day.
I warn Billy, “Walk slowly, Billy. Let the drawing slip out of your hand as you pass the door. Keep on walking. Don’t turn around for nothing, promise.”
“I promise. Cross my heart,” said Billy. He was always superstitious about saying the last part, ‘hope to die.’
Dr. Crossman’s office is about twenty feet away from where we were standing. I stay where I am. I want to see who picks up the drawing after Billy drops it. Billy walks down the hallway. He’s active very cool, for Billy. I don’t know why, but he is smiling like he is the happiest kid in the world. He puts the drawing in his right hand, the hand closest to the office door, and swings his arms as he gets closer to the door. He is doing as good a job as I would have done. As he walks past the office door, he lets go of the paper and keeps walking. I watch the paper float to the ground and skid right in front of the office door. Perfect landing.
Unluckily, at that moment, Dr. Crossman comes out of the office. She sees the paper on the floor. The drawing is facing the floor. That is a good thing. She looks down the hall at me and I wave at her. She waves at me. She looks up the hall and sees Billy.
Dr. Crossman calls, “Billy. Billy, did you drop a homework paper?”
Billy turns around and I think he is going to have a heart attack. He should say no and keep on walking. But, Billy is Billy.
Billy says, “I’ll get it, Dr. Crossman.” His voice squeaks like a clarinet with a bad reed. I know this sound, because Mom makes me take clarinet lessons. I want to take drum lessons, but she says no.
Dr. Crossman bends over and picks up the paper. She smiles at Billy as she hands him the paper. My drawing is facing her. She sees and pulls the paper away from Billy. From twenty feet away, I can see red blotches on her face. “William Johnson, in my office,” says Dr. Crossman pointing to the office door.
The last words I hear Billy saying are, “I didn’t draw it. I was forced to drop it in front of your door.”
Mom, dad, and I sat down for dinner. Mom made chicken soup in the instant pot. Bummer. Mom’s on a healthy kick. I knew this was going to happen when I saw her watching a healthy eating show. I’ll starve this week. I said, “I thought we were having pizza?”
“I never said we were having pizza, Vinnie. Eat your soup. I got a healthy recipe off the Healthy Food Channel. It’s good for you. It will make you strong,” said Mom.
Why do parents always say, ‘It’s good for you? Chicken soup will make me strong? I’ve never seen a strong chicken. If chicken soup was so good for you how come you never see chicken soup fast food places?’ I said, “Can I made a bean and cheese burrito in the microwave?”
“No. Eat your soup,” said Mom.
“Can I microwave a hotdog?”
“Okay,” I said. I took a bite of the soup and said, “Sorry, Mom. This really is good.”
“Thank you, Vinnie. I knew you’d like it.”
It tasted horrible. I was trying to think of a way to get rid of it. Dexter was at my feet waiting for me to toss him some scraps. It’s impossible to toss soup without making a mess of everything. I faked eating my soup. Dad got up to get a glass of water. Mom said, “Hurry up, Vinnie. You don’t want to be late for the soccer game.”
I said, “Mom, my soup is really good, but it’s too hot for me to eat. Can you save it for me so I can eat it when I get home? I want to get ready for the game.” When I come home, Mom will be busy with something else and I’ll take a personal frozen pizza out of the freezer and put it in the microwave.
“Okay, Vinnie. Good luck,” said Mom.
“Thanks, Mom,” I said and took off for my room before Mom realized I didn’t eat anything. I always keep a stash of treats in my drawer for such occasions. I quickly ate a Snicker’s candy bar and I put another one in the pocket of my soccer shorts. I slipped on my jersey, shin guards and carried my soccer shoes to the car. I got in the car and waited for dad. It was his turn to take me to the soccer game. I hate to tell him, but it will be another big disappointment. I don’t care if I score a goal. If I luck out and play goalie, I don’t care if the other team scores a hundred goals. Don’t you hate it when parents try to live their life over through their kids?
We get to the soccer fields. There’s a gillion cars and kids and parents already here. My game starts at 7 and goes to 8. I could have used the time to play with my friends, mess on my tablet, or practice jumps with my skateboard. Playing soccer is like Mom’s chicken soup, it’s supposed to be good for you, or so parents say. Dad drops me off by Coach Tobin. I get out and run to my friend, Alex.
I said, “Hey, Alex, I hope I can be goalie.”
Alex said, “I was hoping I could be goalie, Vinnie. I don’t feel like running up and down the field.”
Oh, oh, I thought. Alex is heavy and slow. Coach Tobin will stick him in goal for sure. That’s how it happened. Alex got to be goalie. I got to play forward. Whenever the ball came near me I kicked it. I even scored a goal. It was the first goal I ever scored. Too bad I kicked the ball past Alex and scored a goal for the team we were playing. It didn’t affect the game, we lost 10 to 2.
On the way home, Dad said, “Son, the object of the game is to kick the ball in the other team’s goal.”
Like I didn’t know this. I came up with a lame excuse, “I know, Dad. I was trying to help Alex out. The poor kid doesn’t know a thing about soccer. I was trying to pass the ball to him so he could kick it downfield. He was daydreaming and the ball wait by him into the goal.”
Dad glances over at me and says, “That’s a pretty smart play, Vinnie. I admit, Alex just stands around.”
I say, “He usually is picking his nose when he plays goalie.” Why I said this, I have no idea. It seemed like something Alex would do. I take a chance Dad is as hungry as me, “How about you and me stopping by TCBY and getting a yogurt? You can surprise Mom with a cup of her favorite. That will make her happy.”
“That’s a good idea, Vinnie,” says Dad.
I’m very thoughtful. Actually, I knew Dad didn’t like the chicken soup anymore than I did. He’s in pretty good shape. He goes to the gym in the morning before work. He got a large frozen yogurt. I got a medium but loaded up on toppings. I finished my frozen yogurt before we got home. I was starving. Now for my personal pizza. Before I can open the freezer, Mom hollers, “How did you do, Vinnie?”
I answer, “We lost, Mom.”
She says, “What was the score?”
I answer, “I think it was close. I forget the exact score. I played forward. I had so much fun. Soccer is a great game.” One of the rules you learn as a kid is to tell parents what they want to hear. If I told Mom I didn’t like it, lecture time starts, you know what I mean.
Mom hollers from her study, “Take a shower and head to bed. I’ll be in to say goodnight in a few minutes. You want to be ready for school tomorrow. You’re going to have a math test.”
This is news to me. It’s not fair, I didn’t have advance warning. Teachers love to torture kids with surprise tests. I say, “A math test? Mrs. Navis didn’t say we were going to have a math test.”
Mom says, “It was in an email she sent it to all the parents. I’m not worried, you had all your math homework correct. I’m proud of you.”
Oh, oh. I’m in deep trouble.