“Six hundred dollars!” Dyllan reads the price tag in whispered amazement, trying hard to picture in his ten-year-old brain what that amount of money would look like.
“That’s a steal! They could charge double but it’s important to the developers to make Ziplay accessible for everyone,” Sam says with excited authority.
Dyllan turns to give his friend a doubtful look. “How is six hundred dollars accessible to everyone? It’s not accessible to either of us!”
Sam walks the perimeter of the Ziplay display, carefully studying the different game cartridges and running his hands over the sleek test controllers. “You know your Dad’s gonna get it for you for Christmas! Once you have it, I will be there to make sure the other controller doesn’t get cold.”
Dyllan stares at the crystal clear graphics in the flat screens on the wall. He lets out a longing sigh. “Christmas is nine months away. We need this by summer vacation. Otherwise, what else will we do? What did your parents say when you asked them?”
Sam straightens himself and puffs out his chest. “That’s an expensive piece of equipment for a boy.” He says in his best attempt at a deep voice. “If you want something that big you will need to work for it. You will need to earn the money yourself.” He deflates into a disappointed slump after finishing his impersonation of his father.
Dyllan shakes his head. “How are we supposed to earn money? We have school! We can’t get a job.”
Sam points at his friend to acknowledge his agreement with this point. “That’s exactly what I said! They honestly have no clue how hard fourth grade is.”
Dyllan nods. “They have no idea how much has changed since they were in school! The world has changed and modernized. We don’t just doodle on chalkboards, we have real work to do and real problems!” He scoffs to emphasize his frustration.
Sam slams his body into Dyllan’s and drapes his bony arm over his shoulders and gazes up at the screens with him. “That’s right my friend, real problems, like how are we going to get the money for a Ziplay.”
After as much contemplation as a ten year old can handle, Sam makes a declaration. “We can make six hundred dollars. Kids make money all the time.” Dyllan nods and watches his friends excited pacing and jumping while he makes his speech. “We can work on the weekends, mowing lawns and that sort of thing. Dad told me I had to work for it, but I think he was bluffing. I don’t think he expects I can actually do it.” His arms knock a few books off a shelf behind him in his excited movements. “With two of us, we can make double the money, twice as fast! I think we can get a Ziplay by summer vacation!”
Sam continues his ambitious planning while they walk home. He jumps into the air with each new idea. “A lemonade stand! That’s a classic! You can never go wrong with a classic.” He jumps and spins in the air. “ Walking dogs! I actually like walking dogs, and I bet our neighbors would pay us to take their dogs out.” Dyllan listens and walks along at a steady pace with his friend. They pass a small art gallery window. Several small sketches hang suspended in frames in the window. Dyllan stops and looks in. Sam turns and runs backwards to Dyllan and wrinkles his face into a hard stare in the same window, not in any reaction to art, but to admire the strangeness of his own expression in the reflection on the glass windows. “What are you looking at?”
Dyllan points inside at one of the sketches. “Look at the price on those drawings. That one’s three hundred forty dollars and the one in the middle is…”
Sam interrupts him. “Six hundred, but what are you getting at?”
Dyllan hits Sam in the shoulder. “My drawings are better than those. Those aren’t even colored in! If I can just sell two or three drawings, then we’re there!”
Sam shakes off the idea, “The only people who buy artwork are people who have so much money that they’ve already bought everything else in the world and still have tons of money left over so they waste it on art.” He turns and continues down the sidewalk. “We don’t know anyone who fits that description.”
Dyllan breaks his stare and trots after Sam. “That’s some grade-A stupid BS right there. Where did you hear that from?”
Sam doesn’t look at Dyllan but maintains his carefree tone. “It’s the truth. Think about it. Do you know anyone who has ever bought a drawing or a painting?”
“Someone is buying the drawings there. That place has been here as long as we have or maybe longer!” says Dyllan.
“Fine,” Sam shrugs. “Don’t believe me. Go ahead and try to sell some of your art. I bet I will make three times what you do this weekend mowing lawns.” Dyllan doesn’t respond and kicks a small rock down the sidewalk. “What, reality sinking in?” Sam teases.
Dyllan crashes into his side, pushing him off his step. “No. I just don’t want you to be mad at me when I prove you wrong.”
Sam runs in a small circle to come up behind Dyllan and wraps his arm around his neck, bending him over in a headlock. “Oh, you are on, my friend! I hope you do prove me wrong because that will mean we are closer to a Ziplay.”
Dyllan pushes his leg into Sam’s, tripping him up and breaking free. He turns and trots backwards, smiling at Sam. “Okay, good luck earning money with your gardening this weekend!”
Sam takes off in a full sprint, yelling as he passes Dyllan, “knock em dead Van Gogh!”
Monday morning announces the end of a failed weekend. “How did you do Van Gough?” Sam asks.
Dyllan is stoned faced. “I brought some of my best work to that gallery, but the lady there barely talked to me. She told me they only sold art from grown-up artists. She didn’t even look at any of my work. You may have been right.”
Sam gives him a hard pat on the back that makes a hollow drum sound. “That’s ageism right there. Plain old fashion discrimination!”
“So I guess you won this seeing as I didn’t make a single dollar this weekend,” Dyllan says.
“No. I am sorry to say, but it’s a dead tie.” Sam says. “I went around to every house on my street. I even rang doorbells and actually talked to my neighbors. I used all those lame words like sir and allow me to introduce myself.”
“That’s a phrase,” Dyllan says in an expressionless voice.
“Whatever,” Sam continues. “After all that, I was stomped out by big corporate!”
“What?” Dyllan asks.
“Yeah. It’s the timeless tale. Big business strangling out the small business owners like me.” Sam gesturing wildly as he talks and walks back and forth like a theater performer giving a monolog. “Nobody is willing to pay the little guy to mow their lawn because they all have a monthly lawn mowing subscription! For a flat monthly fee, some big lawn conglomerate comes by and mows your lawn once a week.”
Dyllan scoffs, “Great. We have made no progress whatsoever.”
Sam gets defensive. “It’s not my fault! I was out there all weekend, pounding the pavement. Getting rejection after rejection. You just went to that one stupid art store and then gave up!”
Dyllan stands up to be eye to eye with Sam. “You didn’t even think I should bother with one gallery…”
Sam cuts him off, “And I still don’t! Get your head out of your sketch pad and help me think of a way to earn some money!” Dyllan fails at hiding the sting of his friend’s words. He turns quickly and starts to walk away but Sam catches up to him. “I just mean that maybe an art gallery won’t work, but you might be onto something with selling stuff.” Dyllan ignores him and keeps walking. “I got heaps of old toys I never even look at anymore, and I know you do too.” He smiles at Dyllan. “What if we sell them?”
Dyllan stops and faces him. “You mean like a yard sale?” He asks. “Exactly!”
That Sunday, Dyllan’s dad drops him in Sam’s front yard, along with two boxes of childhood debris. Sam has converted his front yard into a sales floor with the help of his mom and some folding tables. Mable, his younger sister, is hard at work with paper and crayons at one of them. Sam motions to her with an apologetic look. “My mom said I had to let her help,” he says, rolling his eyes.
“I’m making the signs!” Mable beams and holds up her work for admiration.
“Great job kid,” Dyllan says.
Dyllan starts emptying the contents of his boxes onto the tables. Sam starts holding up random items for examination. “Where’s the rest of your stuff?” he asks while looking over an old picture book.
“What do you mean? This is a ton of stuff. Are you putting more out?” Dyllan asks.
Sam sets the book down and looks around at the collection of childhood artifacts. “No, I was just checking.”
Four precious weekend hours pass. They sell most of their books and about half the toys. Boredom has made them frustrated and cranky. “Mable! Stop messing with that stuff! If you’re playing with it, then people won’t think it’s for sale,” Sam scolds. She sets the small metal car down that she was playing with and retreats into the house.
“My Dad is picking me up in an hour. Should we start to put this stuff away?” Dyllan asks.
Sam sighs looking around at the leftovers. “Fine.” He starts throwing toys into a box without much ceremony.
“What did we make?” Dyllan asks.
Sam shakes his head in frustration. “Sixty-three dollars.”
Dyllan smiles. “Well, that’s loads more than last weekend!”
Sam continues to throw toys, sending them crashing into the box. “It’s not even close to enough,” he says. “I put everything I could possibly spare in this sale. There’s no way I could do another.” He gives a sideways glance towards Dyllan.
Dyllan knows his friend well enough to understand what he is not saying. “This was everything I could spare too,” he says solemnly.
Sam scoffs as he chucks a nameless action figure into the box. “Sure, two boxes worth of your worst cast-offs.”
Dyllan’s bad mood can’t resist the invitation to fight. “WHAT? You think I’m holding out on you? What’s your deal?”
Sam focuses all his attention on Dyllan and looks him right in the eye. “You have two houses, so you should have had twice as much stuff as me.”
The fury that rises up in Dyllan takes control of the otherwise quiet and contemplative boy. “You telling me that because I have to pack up and move to my dad’s sad little apartment every weekend, I should have some kind of surplus of toys to pawn?”
“DYLLAN!” Dyllan spins at the sound of his father calling his name. His Dad is standing on the sidewalk next to his car staring at him. He feels like swallowing himself up when he locks eyes with the hurt in his father’s eyes. “Are you just about ready to go?”
Dyllan turns to Sam with even more hate. “Good luck with your stupid lemonade stand next week.”
The two don’t speak to each other at the school the entire week. Saturday morning hints at the approaching summer with a clear blue sky and warmer temperatures. Sam is setting up a lemonade stand in his driveway while simultaneously supervising Mable and her friends who are helping. “Let’s put the cups here in the front so our customers can choose their own cups,” Mable says with enthusiasm. Sam ignores her as he samples the product.
“Can I have some too?” Jenny asks.
“No. It’s for the customers. I am just doing quality control.”
“I want some too!” Mable sqweeks.
“Me too! We can help with quantity controls,” Alyssa says.
Sam smirks at the joke hidden in her confusing quality and quantity. “If all you little kids drink up all my profits then I will have wasted another weekend!”
They stare at him wide-eyed till they somehow come to the conclusion that he is telling them, no. “MOM! Sam isn’t letting us help!”
Meanwhile, Dyllan asks his dad to post some pictures of his drawings online for sale. “What? What do you mean?”
Dyllan thinks for a moment, unsure of exactly what he is asking. “Well, I know people sell stuff online. Like this couch you bought online and then we drove to that guy’s apartment and picked it up. I thought maybe if I put pictures of my artwork online then people can come here and buy it.”
His dad looks at his optimistic son, thinking for a moment. “Sure, but we can easily just mail them to any serious buyer, that way they don’t need to make a trip.”
Dyllan smiles. “And then they just mail me the money!” He says.
Monday morning, force of habit and boredom motivate the two boys to strike up awkward conversation. “How was your lemonade stand?” Dyllan asks.
Sam shakes his head. “A total waste. I had to let Mable help and she and her two stupid friends kept drinking all the lemonade. Even worse, I had to split the money we made with her because she helped!”
Dyllan’s mouth drops open. “Is your mom serious? She is totally sabotaging you!” The awkwardness dissipates a little. “I sold some art work.” Dyllan offers cautiously.
Sam’s head snaps to look at Dyllan. “REALLY?”
“Yeah! I had my dad post them online and then I sold two to two different people. I mailed them this morning and they will mail me the money.” Dyllan says with a smile.
“I don’t believe it! You’re a real artist! You’re like that guy who paints all the melting clocks. How much?” Sam’s excitement at Dyllan’s success repairs the friendship.
“Thirty bucks each!” Dyllan answers proudly.
“Jeez! This gives me an idea! You were right all along. With your talent and my business savvy, we can bring this thing home.”
It takes a week for them to fine-tune Sam’s plan. Dyllan proudly hands Sam a plastic blue binder on the following Monday morning. “Sixty pages,” He says with confidence.
“Great! You’re an art machine!” Sam puts the folder into his backpack. “I will sell them for two dollars each or three for five.”
Dyllan nods. “That would put us over a hundred if we sell out this week.”
Sam can’t hide his excitement. “I know! With the money from your previous art sales, the yard sale, and the lemonade stand, we just need to sell out every week for the next four weeks and we will be playing Ziplay all summer long!”
When school lets out, Sam runs for the main entrance with the blue folder in hand. The road in front of the school is jammed with the usual long line of cars waiting to pick up children. Sam puts on his best salesman smile and taps on the window of the first car. “Coloring pages to keep your kids busy? Two dollars each or three for five!” He holds up a picture of a dinosaur drawn in thick black lines. The Woman in the driver's seat pulls her sunglasses down to examine it and looks back at the school door and then back at Sam.
“Sure sweety, but you got anything with a horse?”
Sam jumps. “Sure do, will that be just one horse, or do you want to get the three-for-five deal?”
The woman digs through her purse on the seat next to her. “Ha! I like your style kid. I’ll take the deal.” She hands him a five. Sam hands her three pages with a horse drawn on each one and takes the five-dollar bill. He shoves it in his pocket and yells, “Thank you!” back at her as he turns to head to the next car.
The next day, Sam’s grin is so big that Dyllan can feel it from down the school hallway as they approach each other. “It worked didn’t it?” he asks.
Sam makes an attempt at playing it cool. “There are some kinks to work out. For example, I need to make sure to have lots of change with me next time, but….”
Dyllan pushes his friend, “Get to the point, how many did you sell?”
Sam pushes him back, “I sold out!” he screams.
Dyllan’s mouth drops open. “Serious? Are you messing with me?”
Sam shakes his head and pulls the now empty blue folder out of his backpack and hands it over. “Sold out on the first day. Not only that, you even have some requests for next week.”
Dyllan grabs his hair with both hands and smiles with a wide-open mouth. “You’re a genius! We did it!”
Sam pats him on the back. “No you’re the artistic genius, I’m just the salesman.”
Dyllan puts his arm around him as they walk down the hall together. “We make a pretty good team. Ziplay, here we come.”