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My Other Best Friend
Since freshman year, my closest friends have been the ones who spend their nights scrubbing toilets and their summers cleaning every crevice in every classroom. Together, the custodians and I have hauled heavy tables for refreshment stands, hung five foot banners up for school events, and scraped off sticky pieces of duct tape after Homecoming. Whenever I have desperately needed an unlocked bathroom door, they have always been there for me with their lifesaving keys.
Gerald is my favorite. He is a tall African-American man who wears large, old- fashioned glasses and a very wide smile. Usually, I find him walking down the hallway, swinging his slender, tree-like arms and whistling a cheerful tune. Once, I asked him to help me carry some water bottles for the student council concession stands. After pulling the refrigerator handle aside, he crouched down and examined the heaps of Starbursts, Snicker bars, Oreos, and potato chip bags.
"This is what you're selling?" he asked me. I nodded.
"Well, let me tell you," he said and straightened up, "I have seen the football games, soccer tournaments, pep rallies, everything. And you know what the secret is?" I shook my head.
"Hot dogs," he said, grinning widely. "Make them fresh off the grill. The smell will make anyone come to you like a hungry puppy dog. Try it, and you'll see."
I did. The sizzling, fragrant aroma of the frankfurters wafted down the hallways, and hordes of eager athletes, parents, and bookworms crowded around the tables. Ketchup and relish slathered hot dogs boosted student council profits to $1500, triple the amount expected. Very soon, freshly grilled frankfurters became the staple of after school concession stands.
Yet Gerald's wisdom stretches far beyond a good business sense. One day, as I was practicing my K-turn in the student lot, he came by and tapped on my window.
"Practicing your driving?"
"You are not going too far, to somewhere like Trenton, right?"
"Well, let me give you a word of advice. I have some relatives who live there, and they told me something very important. If you drive in that area, do not flash your headlights at a car without its lights on. It may be a gang member from the Bloods or Crips. Do you know about those gangs?” I nodded. “Anyway, just be careful. You don't want to get into trouble." I smiled and thanked him for the advice.
In some ways, Gerald has been a better friend than any of my schoolmates, never failing to greet me with his usual warmhearted, “Hello, Lucy! How are you today?” He has also been a better mentor than my school teachers, teaching me life lessons that I would seldom find in an academic textbook. Around him, I have laughed and giggled and talked until I sounded silly, but it was all right. With him, I have been at total ease.
As I make my way down the hall, my best friend Gerald strolls by with his cart of sponges, mops, and detergents. He stops whistling and exclaims, "Lucy, you will be leaving soon, no?"
I tell him that I am not a senior yet.
"Good," he says, with his usual grin. "Now, I will still have you for one more year."