All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
Teddy: May 1999
My mom placed the crisp one-dollar bill into my hands, 'Now Teddy spend this dollar wisely!' She warned as she tousled my shaggy light brown hair with her manicured pink nails.
'Okay mom,' I replied knowing where I would spend this piece of green paper. Howard's Candies. The infamous hole in the wall candy shop with all of the most rare and delicious candies anyone could ever taste. To an eight-year-old boy like myself, this dollar bill was the key to heaven.
Before the old car puttered to a stop, I impatiently leapt out the door and to my dark room to hide my new dollar bill, for I didn't want my older sister stealing it like last time. I drew a small star on all the corners of the bill and wrote Teddy on the bottom to mark that the bill was mine and folded the bill neatly (or as neat as I could manage it) into sixteenths. If my sister was to steal this, I knew she would never be able to write in my messy handwriting. Next, I stuffed the bill into where no big sister would go-her brother's underwear drawer. Perfect, I thought to myself. No one is gonna steal this one.
Exactly three days and seven hours later (I was counting) my mom finally agreed to take me to Howard's Candies. I had been asking her constantly day and night, until she finally got annoyed with me, saying that I was the cause of her 'massive migraines'-whatever that means. I looked up at the endless shelves with bowls of colorful candy steadily balancing on the thick beams of wood and caressed my folded bill, pondering what kinds of candy I should get. I spotted the ones my dad and I used to get-sour apple ropes. We used to see who could eat the most of them without getting a drink of water. I felt a tear bubble to my eye but I held it back. ' Could I please have a few licorice sticks, some grape octopuses, and uh...' I thought harder. 'And some chocolate coins.' Yes, that was a great mix! I thought forgetting my sadness that washed over me just moments before. The bald fat man at the counter with a nametag that said, 'Howard' scooped my candy into a clear bag and weighed it on a scale.
'$1.00 please,' he said.
'Okay! Right here!' I replied happily handing over the doodled on dollar to the cashier, tasting the savory candy in my mouth and already thinking on how I would brag about it to my friends.
'Just fire the secretary already! She does nothing good for the company!' I shouted in the phone.
'But Victor, you just hired her. Giver her a chance,' Anne, a high up CEO calmly said.
'Fine! One more screw up and she's out though!' I replied angrily and hung up. I was already in a bad mood and this was definitely not helping it. My niece and nephew had birthdays coming up so I had to get them what they wanted most (candy) and venture out of the nice city and into what I call 'Homeless Square' to an old, sketchy candy shop I went to as a kid. I opened the door and the bells jingled and a man with the name Howard on his nametag looked up. Man he must be old! He was here when I was a kid, I thought to myself.
'Hello,' Howard said, his bald head reflecting off of the many glass bowls of candy. ' Just tell me if you need help finding anything.'
'Okay,' I muttered. It felt like I was a young boy again, a bundle of excited energy bubbling from my body j from just looking at the sugary candy. I slowly paced down the aisles of candy as the memories of the shop were flowing into my brain. Eating bags and bags of candy with my brother, becoming hyper and crazy; annoying my poor mother to tears, and then the sugar crash. I chuckled to myself at the thoughts.
I grabbed two of the already pre-packaged boxes of candy. One with sour candies the other with chocolate remembering that years ago my uncle used to get the exact candies for me.
'That will be $3.00 please,' said Howard as he put the boxes into a big brown bag. I pulled out my wallet and handed him a five noticing the sign No credit cards please.
'Here's $2.00 back,' said Howard.
'Thank you,' I replied through gritted teeth remembering the stressful job I had to get back to and the lunch break that was dwindling away. I stuffed the bills into my pocket of my Bartels slacks and saw that one of them had small star drawings doodled and the name that looked to be 'Teddy' scribbled sloppily on the bottom. As I walked out of the store and into the bitter wind, my cell phone beeped and buzzed through my pants pocket. I fumbled through my pocket and whipped out my cell phone just in time to answer it, causing one of the dollar bills to fly out onto the sidewalk with cigarette butts lining the path. A little girl with a blue hat came bouncing down the street, smiling at me as she picked up my dollar.
'Tillie, give this nice man back his dollar!' Said the woman with dark hair who looked to be the girl's mother.
'No, no. Keep it,' I blurted out, surprising myself of my own generosity.
I felt the hot sun beat down my neck, the perspiration sliding down my face. I bob my head and smiling at the people who take the time to listen and who dropped coins into my Styrofoam cup I sat in front of me, Change Please written on the front. I beat my drumsticks on three five-gallon buckets I've found plus the Coke can and light post. I called it 'street drumming.' Using the materials you find and somehow creating music worth listening to. The mixture of pinging and low beats echoed along the streets of downtown Portland, putting a hop in some people's steps.
I was positioned in front of Nordstrom's-it was my strategy. I figured the people who shopped there probably had some extra cash in their wallets that they would loan me a few bucks. Small kids came running up, excited and nervous as they dropped the change into my cup. When I hit the coke can in appreciation, they giggled and ran back to their parents, always looking back to wave as they left. A little girl who looked to be 5 or 6 came skipping to me her blue knitted hat holding down her thick black curls. She smiled at me then gently placed a doodled on buck in the cup. I gave her a wink, hit the can, and like every other kid she ran back to her mom who had the silkiest darkest hair I have ever seen, giggling like a hyena all the way.
These are the only times when being a poor, homeless, young black man could be fun. The other times however, are not so fun.
As I stepped through the McDonald's swinging doors I could feel all eyes on me. People looked at me then scurried away with their kids. Come on, I thought to myself. I may have bad B.O but I'm not mean or hurtful.
'Welcome to McDonald's, what can I get for you today?' Asked a tall zit faced girl as she eyed my military coat despite the weather and the big black bag containing my drums.
'Um, I'll take an iced coffee,' feeling the thirst in my mouth for something sweet and with caffeine.
'Would that be it for you?' She asked, almost robotic.
'Yes, uh it would.'
'Your drink will be up shortly,' the girl said with a forced smiled.
I nodded and leaned on the wall waiting for my drink, I looked at all the people in the McDonald's and created stories for them of what their lives were like. For instance, the fat lady had a very depressing child hood so she ate a lot. As a teenager she went on the popular show 'Biggest Loser' and lost all of her weight, being the winner of the competition. Then she got home, and ate her weight again and is trying to get some paparazzi to recognize her and put a story about her in People magazine. Or there's the blonde lady who looked to be only 20, balancing a baby on her arm and holding another toddler's hand while both screamed at her. I bet she was babysitting those two kids, but the parents never showed up to pick them up so she had to raise them on her own in the wild, undercover with the help of the local wild animals. Stuff like that.
I felt bad for the girl. The toddler was yelling so loud I thought my eardrum would burst. Even the little baby was crying, her face all red and her little fists clenched.
As a kid, my mom always said I had a talent for writing because of my creativity and I believed her. Now I wonder how stupid I was. We had lived in the Westside of Tacoma, Washington in gang territory. Shootings and crime happened a lot, and it seemed like every kid had a parent that was passed out cold from drugs or alcohol. My mom however never did that. She was saving all her money so she could get me out of there and to a nice college far away from home. But when my stepdad came into the story, gambling all of my momma's savings, our lives went downhill. Not being able to pay the rent, and all the fights that went on between my mom and stepdad. They always ended up with him storming out of the house not coming back till morning and my mom locked up in the bathroom with bruises across her face. I shuddered to think about the night I found her'
'Here's your drink sir,' the girl at the register said, interrupting my train of thought.
' Thank you,' I replied as she handed me a drink squeezing a little too hard causing the lid to pop off and spilling half my coffee on the McDonald's slimy floor.
'Oops! My fault,' she said with out meaning it. '1.50 please.'
What!? Isn't she going to get me a new drink or at least comp the cost? It was her fault after all!
'Okay right here,' I said painfully handing over two quarters I collected on the street and a dollar bill. The bill was torn and a dark green with dirt smudged on the edges and a new coffee stain from the incident just seconds before. I noticed a mutant star in all of the corners and a name that was too smudged to read written on the bottom. With the pen I found on the counter, I drew horns and a mustache on George Washington's face while the girl looked at me questionably.
I took my drink outside and felt the light pour over my dark skin, as I walked down the filthy road I called home.
'Lucy finish your chocolate milk quickly now,' I said, as I saw a homeless black man step into the McDonald's. Its really not that I'm racist or against African-Americans, but really just the fact that I've watched a lot of violent gang movies and I was very protective of my two girls, Lucy and Lara.
'NO!' Screamed Lucy, her blonde curls bouncing all over her head.
'Okay, okay, Luce. Please do mommy a favor and use your inside voice,' I said quietly, embarrassed by Lucy's behavior. Then as if she thought it was the best time to throw a tantrum, Lara began sobbing and screaming. Her pink baby mouth in the form of an 'o' yelling bloody murder. The homeless man looked over at us and gave the baby a look that seemed to say, 'How in the world could a little creature scream so loud?'
When we finally got home to our old, rusty mobile home I felt angry seeing my husband passed out cold in the green la-Z-boy chair I found at the neighbors garage sale, a bottle of Budweiser in his hand and an empty bottle of cheap vodka laying on the floor.
'Daddy!' prodded Lucy. 'Look at my Cinderella toy I got from McDonald's!' Her face dropped when he didn't pay any attention to her, instead he just grumbled and chugged a huge gulp of beer. I knew better than to tell him to look at his daughters and for once have an intellectual conversation with them or to go to an AA meeting. Instead he'd just take my practically empty wallet out to the casino a few miles away.
I yawned as I hung my clothes to dry on the clothesline just outside the house. I turned my pants inside out and felt a crinkle in the pocket taking out 2-dollar bills soft and wrinkled from going through the washing machine. Hmm, I must've just stuffed these in my pocket instead of my purse during the stressful outing to McDonalds. I flattened out the bills against my leg and handed them both to Lucy who squealed with delight.
'Dank you Mommy!' Lucy said strangely. (She is still learning the ropes on talking and sounding the letters.) I beamed at the words 'thank you' thinking that I may have done something right in raising my girls.
'Ooo! Mommy look!' I bent down to see what Lucy was pointing at. Somebody drew all over George Washington's face causing him to look like the devil. There was also some little stars on the corners of the bill with something written on the bottom that was not legible, however I could almost make out a 'T' and a 'Y' in the blur. I pulled a purple marker out of my back pocket (that's what happens when you become a mom, holding markers in your pockets) and leaned down so she could put the dollar on my back and draw a picture on it. She colored all over the dollar so it ended up being a purple mess.
'Mommy look, its me!' Lucy said pointing to her picture.
'Very nice Luce. Very nice.' I replied nodding though not seeing where she could've gotten where a little girl was in the swirl of purple.
I felt like jumping up and down in excitement just at the sight of my new car. Sure it wasn't much, a '98 white Honda civic with scratches on the right side, but it was mine. All mine. I could crank the radio on as loud as the poor speakers could go without the nagging from my mom telling me when she gets in the car its way too loud for her. Or I could decorate my car with bumper stickers I've collected from across the United States. That last thought got me started jumping again. My mom finally agreed to let me and my two best friends (Cole and Gwen) go on a road trip. In just a few days I'd be riding down the interstate in some state like Utah with my crazy curly haired green-eyed friend Gwen (not my girlfriend by the way) and my brilliant Asian friend Cole puking his guts out in the back because of his motion sickness issues. Yes, this was going to be awesome.
I ran up the stairs to my dungeon of a room and stuffed all of my birthday money into a little box in the back of my underwear drawer. I didn't bother to do my signature doodles on all of my money as a security system, because my sister was already out of the house in her old mobile home with her crappy husband and her two daughters. What were their names'? Lilly and Lola? Lauren and Lila? I knew they were an 'L' alliteration but I totally forgot what they were.
Interrupting my train of thought on trying to remember the two girls' names, my phone rang, blaring 'Swing Life Away' by Rise Against. I looked at my phone and saw a picture of Gwen flashing reminding me to pick up quick.
'Yo, G-dizzle!' I said, trying to annoy her.
'Ted, stop trying to sound gangster.' She snapped
'What do you want Gwen?' I asked.
'I want to know what you got for your 17th friggin birthday is what!'
Then I remembered. The car! YES! 'A car Gwendolyn! Teddy got a friggin car.'
'Oh wow! What kind?' she inquired.
'A '98 Civic. We will be taking it on our adventure rather than Cole's piece o' junk.'
'No! Ted No! I'd much rather take his Toyota 4Runner that might I say is not a friggin piece of junk!' Gwen was really starting to get mad now. 'If we are going to be trekking across the continental US of A, I want a reliable car. And Cole's 4runner my friend, is a total reliable car.'
'Gwendolyn calm down! Please, please, please holy god can we take my car?' I really don't know why I want to take my car. I mean, Gwen is 100% right. Cole's car is way more reliable than mine. 'Umm' you won't have to give me a birthday present? Oh and remember my car will use less gas so it'll be better for the environment!' There was silence on the other line. I could tell Gwen was really thinking of my offer-she hated giving and getting presents with a severe passion. She was also a 'stay green help the planet' kind of girl before it became 'in.'
'Fine. You win. ' Gwen said and then hung up suddenly for she is not one who likes to be beaten. I knew Cole would much rather use my car, because he wouldn't have to get grounded for weeks at a time just because of a little scratch on the door from swinging open too fast and hitting another car.
I had both hands on the steering wheel and stared at the Arizona road ahead of me with complete concentration as Gwen was barking orders on where to turn, and poor old Cole as imagined was puking his guts out into the giant garbage bag. I cracked the windows a bit noticing the puke smell. Ew.
'Lets stop here. I've gotta pee.' Gwen was never one to hide when she had to go to the bathroom. 'And let's hope the bathroom at this Shell doesn't smell as bad as the AM PM by my house.'
'TMI, my friend. TMI.' Said Cole as Gwen glared at him. 'Hey I'm gonna go inside and get me some Sprite and Advil. You want anything, T?
'Actually I think I'll come inside also,' I said. 'Just because I'm craving a big ole bag of pork skins!' I said jokingly as Gwen, the vegetarian punched me in the gut. I went straight to the candy aisle and to see if this Shell had any candies I haven't tried. I'm a totally candy connoisseur I mean, I started the website candyaddict.com where people write blogs about candy. You can't get any more candy obsessed than that.
I saw an Australian candy called 'Violet Crumbles' and immediately felt my mouth watering as I read the description. A light airy honeycomb with Nestle milk chocolate. Oh my god, yummy.
'That would be $1.00 please. Oh and can you give this to your Asian friend?' Said the girl behind the counter who looked to be a little bit older than me, handing me a pink piece of paper with her number in it.
'Sure!' I said laughing. This was the first girl who ever gave her number to Cole. He will be thrilled. I handed the girl a five said thank you, and left.
It wasn't until I sat down in the car and stuffed the change she handed me into my wallet that I noticed what was on the dollar. A big, purple mess, that looked like the marker exploded on the dollar. I laughed to myself remembering how I used to draw on all of my money for protection and to show off my creativity. I stuck the bill into my mouth while I rammed my wallet into my pocket (I wanted to show Cole and ask if I could still spend the dollar even with it drawn on) when I jumped because Gwen yelled at me.
'Do you friggn know where that dollar has been you moron?!'
'Uh no...' I replied suddenly getting grossed out. What if this dollar was in dog crap and I just touched my lips to it? It was that moment I looked closer at the bill and could see my messy handwriting as a kid scrawled at the bottom. I then looked at the corners and could barely decipher my little star drawings on the corners of the buck because they were so faded (the purple mess didn't help much either.) I remembered back to when I was kid and I was so obsessed with space just like my dad when he was alive. He died when I was 6, and he was a world famous astronomer. It was after he died I began to take an interest instars and the planets. I felt a tear surface in my eyelid. I looked up to hold it back.
'You okay man?' Questioned Cole. Gwen just stared at me, narrowing her eyes trying to find what was wrong with me.
'Uh, yeah. I'm fine. Just a little sleepy is all. Shall we get going?' Gwen and Cole nodded suspiciously and I set off into the unknown of Arizona. As I bobbed my head to the music softly playing on the radio, I thought about the dollar. I wondered about the people that colored on this bill, the people that spent it, touched it. I wondered about the happiness ole' George could've caused someone like it did to me on that fine trip one day long ago to Howard's Candies.