"You are already fourteen years old! You should be earning money!" My mother tells me one morning. I groan, putting down my controller. I pause my game, looking over at her angrily. For three years now she has been bugging me about getting a job of some kind. But now I don't think I can make any more excuses for why I can't work. I mean, two summers ago I made the excuse that I got sick so often that I would barely be able to go to work. And then last summer I made the excuse that none of my other friends had jobs and that I would never be able to see them. And now I'm fresh out of ideas.
"Yeah, like what?" I ask, irritated. I comb my fingers through my hair, picking up my controller.
"Don't give me that attitude!” she says. “I saw flyers for volunteers at the library. Maybe you could do that," she suggests, sitting down at the counter. I sit up, swinging my legs over the edge of the couch.
"What do you mean 'volunteers?'" I ask.
"I mean the library needs volunteers to read to the blind. For each hour you read, you get five dollars. That's more money than I got during my first job." She says, reaching into her purse. She pulls out a flyer, handing it over to me. Knights and dragons are scattered across the paper, books with the title such as 'A Tale of Two Cities', or 'Moby Dick'. I sigh heavily.
"All right," I say, standing up. I walk over to the pantry and grab a handful of goldfish, shoving them into my mouth. I am going to sit back down when she starts speaking again.
"You can go anytime, but I suggest going today. You don't want someone else to take the job," she says excitedly. I groan once more, walk outside and over to my bike. I kick up the kick-stop, mounting the bike.
"Like anyone would take this job," I mutter, riding out of my garage.
The library is only a few blocks away, and it takes me only five minutes to reach it. I park my bike outside, locking it to a lamppost. I walk inside, the smell of old books washing over me. I glance around, looking for where to sign in. I find a counter with a sign next to it that reads, "Sign up to read to the blind!" A lady in her forties sits behind it, reading a book. I walk over, stuffing the flyer in my pocket.
"I'm here to sign up," I say.
"Okay! Just put your name here," she says, placing her finger on a blank spot. "And your phone number here." I write down my name in sloppy handwriting, along with my phone-number.
"So when do I start?" I ask.
"Whenever someone needs help reading." She says cheerfully. I grunt, walking out. I unlock my bike lock and ride back home, the cool evening air refreshing against my face.
I get up early the next day wondering when I will get a call. The day is uneventful. I don't get a phone call, so I just relax. The day after that is the same. But on Thursday, I finally get my first call. I ride over to the library. The girl who needs help is a small, six-year-old with pigtails. I read dozens of children's books to her for a few hours before she and her dad have to go. I am paid twenty dollars and then go home. The next day is like that. An eight year old kid wants me to read a few Goosebumps books, and I sigh. I grab a few books off the shelf and start reading. I end up reading one and a half books before the boy's grandma comes and picks him up.
The summer flies by, and more than ninety percent of my time is spent at the library. I earn hundreds of dollars and end up buying a dirt bike before the end of summer. Soon it's time to go back to school.
Through the entire school year the only thing I can think about it how much money I will earn during the next summer. The months during my ninth grade year are torturous. By Christmas I only have a few dollars left, and the school year feels like it will never end.
Summer arrives before I know it. And just like the summer before, all of my waking moments are spent at the library. But in July, something happens that changes everything. The librarian pulls me aside during one of my reading sessions.
"We . . . uh . . . can't pay you anymore." She says, her eyes downcast. My mouth falls open.
"What are you talking about?" I ask, glancing over at the little blind boy waiting for me.
"The library is short of money, and we can't pay you. We understand if you want to leave, and just know there will be no hard feelings . . ." I think about this for a second, millions of thoughts swirling throughout my head. Finally, I make up my mind on what to do.
"What do you mean?" She asks, puzzled.
"No, I will not quit. I don't care if you can't pay me. It is my duty to help these kids. So that's what I'll do."
And as the years progress, more and more people book sessions for me to read to kids. Over the next summers I anticipate seeing my friends at the library, the hours of reading and delving into the world of books. The little six-year-old eventually turns ten years old, and the little boy eventually turns twelve. I watch all of these kids grow up and eventually find different ways of reading. And by the time I am eighteen, I have easily earned over a thousand dollars. But instead of using the money for my own use, I donate it to the library so that they can get new books and stuff for kids to do.
As I am leaving the library for the last time, the librarian asks me to meet at the library tomorrow morning. This confuses me because my job is done and I will be going off to college, but I oblige. I ride out and head to the library the next morning, curiosity filling me like a balloon. When I round the corner, I am met with a lot of cheers and signs. Balloons are held in the hands of children I have read books to over the years, along with signs. And what the signs say make me tear up.
They give me a medal and everything, cheering and whooping the entire time. I am given a lifetime pass for the library, but I chuckle as I realize I have read almost every book in the library. Kids come up to me and hug me, thanking me. I am given a check from the library for a thousand dollars, and by now tears are rolling down my face. But I don't bother trying to stop them.
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Hi Isaac, My name is Helene Ahlberg and I work at a publishing company in Sweden called NE. We publish learning material for all school levels in Sweden. Right now we are working with a learning material for Swedish high school students learning English and our theme is Change. I found your fantastic editorial Books and I wonder if we could publish it in our learning material only for the students to read (and understand) and also work with exercises to the text afterwards? I would be very grateful if you would contact me at helene.ahlberg@n...
A very good idea for a short story. The tone could be different, maybe told from 3rd person to explore more than the protagonist's thoughts, with more details and with a less choppy feeling to it.
Thank you for the advice! I appreciate you spending the time to give me advice.
This is a nice story. Although, I would suggest considering telling it from the point of view of one of the kids the narrator helped. Because it feels sort of like a pat on his own back. Not quite bragging, but close. I think it would come off as a more feel-good story if told by one of the kids he helped, including personal details about how a different narrator's life was impacted.
I will definitely keep this in mind when doing something like this again! Thank you for the advice!