Palo Alto Weekly 22nd Annual Short Story Contest
Second Place Teen

by Jeremy Laufer

Timma poked her wet nose into Bobby’s bag of corn chips. Like lightening, she grabbed a large chip and darted behind a stack of homework papers. Leaning back in his study chair, Bobby heard her munching contentedly. He was pretty sure corn chips were not on the approved diet list for his pet rat, but Timma loved corn chips. It was just another thing they had in common.

The only thing Bobby loved almost as much as Timma was hockey. He loved playing it, watching it, going to games and talking about it with anyone who would listen. As rats go, Timma was generally a good listener. So was Alex, who was, just then, climbing into Bobby’s bedroom window.

"Hey,” Bobby slapped Alex a high five, the traditional greeting of most twelve-year old boys. Alex was their gardener’s son. Ever since Bobby’s dad had hurt his back, Alex and his dad came every week to mow the lawn and trim the hedges. Alex’s dad said that if the boys helped him pick up trimmings or rake the leaves, they could spend the rest of the time playing. It was a good deal. Like Bobby, Alex loved hockey --and he also loved Timma. He always brought a bag of treats for the rat.

Hearing Alex call her name, Timma eagerly left her homework nest to munch on the slices of apple he held out for her. The boys put her back into her cage and went outside to help Alex’s dad. As they raked the leaves on the lawn, the talk, as usual, turned to hockey. Since Alex did not have a television, he relied on Bobby to describe the week’s games. Waving his rake like a hockey stick, Bobby described the goal that had won the Sharks their last regular-season game. "McLaren shot from the line…and, wham! Into the net, right past Hasek. GOAAALLL!!” Bobby danced in a victory circle.

Alex’s eyes glowed. Since Bobby told the story just right, his friend was literally spellbound.

"My dad might be able to get two play-off tickets,” Bobby confided.

Alex mouthed the word "wow” and joined Bobby in a dance of hockey excitement.

Bobby knew that Alex had never been to a game nor had never even seen a game on television. But Bobby also knew that Alex was such a good friend that he was always happy whenever Bobby got to see a live game. Bobby always tried to bring back a puck or program to share with Alex.

After they had finished raking, the boys played hockey with Bobby’s sticks and nets. Unfortunately, they never got to play long enough because Alex’s dad always had to move on to work at another house. On that Saturday, like every other, the boys waved to each other as Alex’s dad drove off in his red truck filled with the leaves from Bobby’s lawn.

Bobby went back to his desk and got straight to his homework. But during hockey season, he always found it difficult to concentrate. Spanish verbs and Algebra just did not compare with the march toward winning the Stanley Cup. Since he always dreamed of playing in the NHL, sometimes his dreams interfered with his work.

As Bobby was struggling with a conjugation exercise, his mom’s voice broke through his thoughts. "Bobby, are you done with your homework?”

"Uh, almost…” he replied. He was nowhere near done.

"Well, come to dinner. Your dad has a surprise for you.”

Since Bobby’s dad usually came up with the best surprises, Bobby quickly washed his hands and raced to dinner. When he got to the kitchen, his mom was dishing up his favorite spaghetti. Bobby’s dad was already at the table, his dark eyes were sparkling with excitement.

"You didn’t,” Bobby gasped. His dad nodded happily. "Yep, right behind the goal…” His dad could not finish the sentence because Bobby started whooping like a banshee. His dad was holding up two incredible tickets to the next hockey playoff game. It was like a dream come true. It was almost as good as actually playing in the NHL!

As it happened, Bobby’s dad knew a very rich man who had season tickets. Sometimes the man would go out of town, traveling on business, and occasionally Bobby’s dad would get his tickets. Bobby didn’t understand why any fan would travel during hockey season, but he was very glad the man did.

"But Bobby,” his mother’s voice filled with warning. "I don’t want another note from your teacher, telling me that you didn’t do your homework. All of your work has to be done before you go!”

That seemed easy enough. It was also her usual rule.

"Ok, mom! No problem!”

All week, Bobby thought of nothing but the game. When his teachers caught him constantly daydreaming, their irritation grew. They did not like hockey, and could not understand his passion for the game. Nevertheless, he looked forward to lunchtime when he and his friends would discuss the playoffs. On Monday, when he told his lunch table that he had tickets to the next playoff game, they had been as excited as he was. Later, during P.E., they played the roles of various Sharks and acted out what they thought would happen that Saturday at the Shark Tank.

Every evening of that week, Bobby tried to concentrate on his homework so his mother would not receive any calls from his teachers. He wanted nothing to interfere with his ability to go to that game. As usual, Timma kept him company on his desk as he worked, only occasionally chewing a corner of his math homework. When she turned to nibble the amazing tickets tacked to the lower edge of his bulletin board, he laughed and moved the board.

"Ok, Timma, you win!” He stroked her head and offered her a corn chip. She promptly grabbed it from his fingers and ran to her usual spot behind a stack of papers on Bobby’s desk.

All week, Bobby managed to do his homework perfectly. After acing a vocabulary test and turning in an English essay, he had only his science lab to finish for the next Monday. His mother told him that it needed to be complete before the game. So on Saturday morning, he got up early and opened his lab notebook. Then came the familiar whir of the lawnmower. As usual, Bobby opened the window so Alex could climb in.

"Hey,” Alex waved in excitement. He then held out some carrot sticks to Timma and brought out a small package.

"For you!” He said holding it out, his eyes sparking. Bobby opened the small package carefully. In it was a Sharks pennant. It was obviously home sewn and had a stick on one edge so Bobby could wave it in the stands.

"My mom and I made it for you!” Alex grinned. When he had found out Bobby was going to the play offs, he grew very excited and celebrated with a victory dance.

"You can wave it at the game!” Alex cried. He was clearly delighted that Bobby was going to be able to see the action live. Thanking Alex over and over, Bobby looked down at the pennant, hand sewn with careful stitches. It must have taken hours to make.

"You better work, man,” Alex motioned to Bobby’s desk. "You gotta finish before tonight!” Alex knew the deal: no homework, no hockey. He climbed out of the window and went to rake the leaves by himself. Glancing down at the pennant and then to his science lab notebook, Bobby had an idea. But he needed to figure out how to tell his mother and father.

He went to the laundry room where his mom was folding towels. "I’m not sure I’m going to finish my homework by tonight.” Bobby announced. His mom turned around, surprise filling her eyes. He explained that he had a lot of homework to do and that he probably should not go to the game.

"Ok, Bobby, out with it.” His mom sat down on her sewing chair and waited patiently. He sat down on the stool and started talking. First, her eyes widened. Then they filled with tears. Soon, she was nodding.

At five-o-clock, Bobby closed his science notebook. It was probably the best lab report he had ever written.

His dad appeared in the doorway. "You ready, buddy?” He smiled.

Bobby nodded. He grabbed Timma, and together they went to the family room where the big screen was already tuned to the game. His mother appeared, carrying popcorn and juice. The Sharks pennant lay on the coffee table, ready to be waved. The game was starting.

Bobby carefully scanned the crowd on the television. If he looked very hard, maybe, just maybe, he could see Alex and his dad sitting in the stands…right behind the Sharks’ goal.

Judge's comment
This is a wonderful story, told with impressive economy. The young writer has great focus and an excellent facility with language. The emotion is real and leaves the reader feeling uplifted. Well done!


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