By Annie Laura Smith, Alabama.
Greg sat on the driveway of his home and rolled his papers for delivery on Monday afternoon. He pulled a rubber band neatly around each rolled paper and tossed it.
The shouts of his friends playing soccer in the schoolyard across the street caught his attention. He watched his neighbor, John, kick the ball into the goal as excited shouts came from his teammates.
Greg sighed and looked wistfully at the group. How he would love to be able to play soccer, too. But he had to deliver newspapers every afternoon, as well as before church on Sunday mornings. There just wasn’t enough time for playing soccer and doing his homework.
After filling his canvas bag with the rolled papers, Greg hoisted the heavy load on to the handlebars of his bicycle. As he pedaled down Willow Lane toward his paper route on Brookdale, he glanced back at the soccer game. The boys continued to play at a furious pace.
He eyed the Lambert’s yard warily as he approached the gate to throw their paper. Their Golden Retriever, Max, seemed to have a strong dislike for him. Greg tossed the paper on the porch and pedaled rapidly toward the next house.
Max bounded out of the Lambert’s driveway, barking furiously. He ran along side of Greg’s bicycle for the next block and continued barking. The dog stopped following him and quit barking only when Greg crossed the street.
His parents’ friend, Mrs. Morrison, was watering her flowers and gave Greg a friendly wave as he passed her house. Greg slowed his bike to be sure the paper landed in the proper spot at Mr. Adams’ house. When it missed the doormat, Greg stopped, got off his bike, and threw the paper directly in the center of the mat.
Mr. Adams opened the front door. “Well, young man, I’m glad you’ve finally learned how to deliver a paper properly,” he said.
Greg swallowed hard and said, “Yes, sir.”
He finished his route and quickly pedaled home. John met him in the Anderson’s driveway, bouncing his soccer ball.
“Hi, Greg. We sure miss you on our team. Wish it was the good old days when you were our goalie.”
Greg shook his head. “I just can’t do that now.”
“Why don’t you give up your paper route,” his friend said. “Then you’ll have time.”
Greg just shook his head again as his mother called to him.
“Boys, I have some freshly baked oatmeal cookies. How about a snack?”
John quickly followed Greg into the kitchen.
“Boy, your Mom’s a great cook!” John said as he downed his third cookie. “Let’s kick the ball around for a while,” he suggested as he finished his glass of milk. “You can be the goalie.”
The boys played soccer in Greg’s backyard until almost dark when Mrs. Anderson called to them that Greg’s dinner was ready.
Greg said goodbye to John and went to his room. As he cleaned up for dinner, he thought about his paper route. It had been necessary after his father suddenly lost his job. Greg saw his parents struggling to meet their bills. His mother had to go to work while his father looked for another job. Greg knew there must be some small way he could help, too. His friend Mark had a paper route, and Greg decided that he could get a paper route to help his parents.
“But, Greg, that won’t leave you enough time for sports and your homework too,” his mother had said.
“That’s OK, Mom,” Greg had told her. “The paper route will be fun!”
The paper route had not always been fun though. Especially, on the days when Max chased him barking for blocks. Or when Mr. Adams fussed at him for not throwing the paper on his front doormat every day. And he had not fully understood what it would be like not to be able to play soccer regularly with his friends. But the money he earned really had helped his family.
On Tuesday Greg stopped at the soccer field before he began his paper deliveries. John and his other friends were just beginning a game. John called to him, “Hey, Greg. Come play a quick game with us.”
Just as Greg started to say no, the soccer ball went out of play and rolled to a stop by his feet. He picked it up and tossed it back to Tim who was playing goalie.
Tim caught it and stepped aside. “I have to go home, Greg,” he said. “Here—the goal’s all yours.”
Greg took the ball from Tim and stood in front of the goal. He kicked the soccer ball to the waiting players and the thrill of playing soccer was back.
His friend John took the ball down field and scored a goal. They continued with the game until their team was ahead 3-0.
Greg didn’t realize how much time had gone by until he looked at his watch at the end of the third goal. It was almost 6:00 O’clock! His papers were all supposed to be delivered by 5:30.
He threw the ball to John and said, “I’ve got to go now.”
John caught the ball and said, “OK. I’ll see you later.”
When Greg got home, he found the canvas bag on his bike was empty, and his mother’s car was gone. Surely, Mom didn’t deliver my papers, he thought.
His mother drove into their driveway as he put his bike into the garage. She got out of the car and said, “Greg, just as I got home from work today, several of your subscribers called about not getting their papers. What happened?” She sat down on the porch steps as she spoke.
“I stopped by to see the guys playing soccer, Mom. I only meant to play for a little while.”
“Greg, I’m sorry you had to get a paper route and miss playing soccer, but it’s really helping us right now.”
Greg lowered his eyes and nodded his head.
“Dad will find work soon,” his mother said. “You’ll be able to resume your sports activities before very long.” She reached over and patted him on the arm. “And you’ll be the best goalie on Willow Lane again soon, too,” she said with a smile.
He looked up at his Mother whose weariness showed in spite of her smile. He realized that he had let his parents, and his subscribers down. All of them were counting on him.
“Thanks, Mom for delivering my papers,” Greg said. “You won’t have to do it again.”
His goal now would be to let his parents and his subscribers know they could depend on him. The soccer goal could wait until his Dad got another job. Greg hoped especially for his parents’ sake that it would be soon.
—Annie Laura Smith, M. Ed., Alabama. Annie was a Learning Skills Specialist at the University of Texas at Dallas. She has published numerous novels and nonfiction books.