The Mentor

Off-key crooning…

“The green leaves of summer are starting to fall, and those…’’

“Enough with all the melancholy end-of-summer stuff, Sawyer!”

“How about something a little more upbeat like a little ‘Summer Nights’ from Grease, Jesse?”

“Oh my God, no. If I hear about Sandy and Danny one more time I’m going to toss my cookies. You need to move on. Summer’s over. We had a good run, but school starts tomorrow.”

“Yeah, I know, but I sure am going to miss those lazy, laid-back days of summer, sleepin’ in, sittin’ on the porch sipping my lemonade and checking out all the cars that go by, video games, watching Paw Patrol until my eyes hurt, trips to the park …”

“Snap out of it, Sawyer, life isn’t all fun and games. It’s high time you got a little serious about your future.”

“To be honest, I’m scared about my first day of school tomorrow. I don’t think I want to go. Maybe I’ll just stay home.”

 “Don’t be ridiculous, Sawyer. You can’t stay home. And there’s nothing to be scared about. Sit down, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to be a good student.”

Huck strolled into the room. The kid is so cool he makes the Fonz look like Napoleon Dynamite.

“What’s up, bros?”

“Sawyer’s got his undies in a bundle over school starting tomorrow, Huck.”

“School starts tomorrow? Huh, I didn’t know that.”

“Gees, Huck, how could you possibly not know school starts tomorrow?”

“School, shmool, who cares? The Huckster’s got more on his mind than getting packed into a classroom like a bunch of sardines listening to some boring teachers try to teach us a bunch of crap.”

“Watch your language, Huck!”

“Crap, crap, crap, crap. Sawyer, relax. School’s no big deal. Just don’t let your goodie-two-shoes brother Jesse get in your head about it. You listen to him, and you’re going to hate school.”

“You’re going to like school, Sawyer, but you have to take it seriously. Learning new things is exciting, fun, and rewarding. Knowledge and hard work are the keys to a successful life.”

“You listen to Jesse, and you’re going to have a permanent seat at the nerd table at lunch. Lighten up on the kid, Jesse. Sawyer, all work and no play and you’ll turn into a super-geek like Jesse.”

First days of school can be worrisome for a kid. First first days of school can be downright scary. Sawyer was making the big move, from kindergarten to first grade, real school. Jesse, having polished off his first two years in a breeze and now entering third grade, would be there for his little brother. Huck would also be there to…well, that was the problem. Huck would be there. Having miraculously made it through grades one through four without one documented minute of study, Huck was not likely going to be a good influence on his youngest brother as he embarked on his academic journey. But Jesse ranked high on the responsibility scale, too high for an eight-year-old kid, and he wanted Sawyer to get off on the right foot.

“You got your pencil box packed?”

“I think so, Jesse.”

“Think so doesn’t cut it in the first grade. You’re not in kindergarten anymore, Sawyer. Let’s go through the list.”

“ Six #2 pencils?”




“Glue stick?”


“Remote control fart machine?”

“Shut up, Huck. That’s not funny.”

“Funny? Are you kidding me? That’s the funniest thing in the world. Sawyer, you make it sound like Miss Finn is rippin’ off a few thunder-busters, and you’ll be the most popular kid in the class.”

“Stop it, Huck! Sawyer, don’t listen to him. He’s just going to get you in trouble. Fiskars kid scissors?”


And so it went, Jesse the force of good, and Huck, the force of not-so-good, exerting competing influences over their little brother.

“Jesse, is Miss Finn a good teacher?”

“She’s great, Sawyer. She’s very patient, explains everything really well, and cares about her students. You’re going to love her.”

“B.S. She’s a witch, Sawyer. You can’t chew gum in class, she wants you to pay attention all the time, no throwing things, and she won’t let you go to the bathroom all day long. And I heard she killed a kid once.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Huck, Miss Finn never killed anyone.”

“It’s what I heard. Just watch yourself, Sawyer.”

“Is first grade hard, Jesse?”

“Not if you stay focused and work hard. It’s pretty tough stuff, Sawyer, letters, words, numbers. If you pay attention in class and do your homework on time, you’ll be fine. Focus is the key. You’ve got to stay focused.”

“Yeah, and here’s what you focus on, Sawyer- lunch, recess, and three o’clock. That’s when school lets out.”

“Huck, don’t tell him that…”

“Get in the lunch line early. Here’s where their stupid rules will work to your advantage. There’s no running in the hallways, but you do it anyway. That puts you at the front of the line every day. That way your hot lunch will actually be hot. And always look for some stupid, nerdy kid who might be willing to swap his dessert for your fruit or vegetable. It’s hard to believe, but they’re out there.”

“Sawyer, you cannot run in the hallway! That’s a very important rule. Principal Carson is quite strict about that.”

“Sawyer, I do it all the time. You don’t have to worry about Clueless Carson. His head’s up his butt most of the time anyway.”

“Keep it up, Huck, and I’m telling Mom.”

“Oh, that’s a surprise.”

“Sawyer, Principal Carson does not have his head, well you know, what Huck said.”

“Are you kidding me? You’d think after finding a fake puke on his desk five days in a row he’d catch on. Sawyer, the guy ran out of his office every time. Once he even barfed himself.”

“That’s so disrespectful, Huck. He’s a very nice, smart man.”

“Smart? One day I put a ‘School Closed’ sign at the entrance. When he saw it, Sawyer, he turned around and went home. Ha, ha, ha.”

“He did not go home. You just told everyone he did.”

“Well, he thought about it.”

“How would you know if he thought about it?!”

“And how about all the fire alarms I set off? The whole school knew I did it, and he never caught on.”

“Stop it, Huck. Sawyer, if you listen to Huck you’ll spend a lot of time in detention.”

“That’s where you want to be, Sawyer- detention. You don’t have to do a thing there. You just sit. And that’s where you’ll find all the cool kids. Hell, you and I can be in there together.”

“That’s sounds pretty cool.”

“Sawyer! No, you do not want to be in detention. Stop it, Huck!”

“I’m just trying to help the kid out.”

“ And, Sawyer, you want to look good for school. How you dress sets the tone for the day.”

“No one cares what you look like Sawyer. Just try not to smell. In fact, it helps if you look a little rough, torn dirty jeans, your shirt hanging out, hair a mess. It boosts your cool-factor, gives you some street cred. Now, back to what matters. Recess. Stay away from the nerd games like 4-Square, Red Rover, Kick-ball, and Simon Says. And stay off the playground equipment. The cool kids are never caught on the swings or merry-go-round.”  

“Don’t listen to him, Sawyer. The playground equipment is fun. You’ll love the climbing ladders and the big slide.”

“They’re death traps, Sawyer. I heard half the stuff was paid for by the school nurse and some bone doctor in town to keep their business up. You can shoot some hoops or toss a football around, but what you really want to do is play marbles or dice for money. Just make damn sure you get good at marbles before you play, and most of the kids won’t know the rules for dice so they’ll be easy pickins. You can make some pretty good dough at recess if you play your cards right. Oh yeah, and cards, Texas Holdem so you can get a lot of hands in.”

“Will you teach me dice and Texas Holdem, Huck.?”

“Of course, Sawyer. That’s what brothers do.”

“Huck! Don’t teach him that stuff! Sawyer, that’s not what you want to learn or what you want to do. You go to school to learn, not to gamble, pull foolish pranks, or get in trouble.”

“Sawyer, look how much stuff you know already, and you’ve never been to school! Life is short, enjoy yourself. Do you think they would have invented the remote control fart machine if they didn’t want someone to use it? You gotta have a sense of humor, Sawyer. You listen to your nerd-bag brother Jesse and someday you’ll be putting starch in your underpants.”

“I don’t put starch in my underpants!… I do ask Mom to iron them though.”

“Oh, my God. I can’t believe we’re related. Ok, little buddy, let’s move on. Three o’clock. Once your school day starts, that’s the only thing that matters, the moment you walk out of the joint.”

“Eight to three, that’s a long day, Huck.”

“You bet your sweet bippy it is, Sawyer. That’s why you need to be able to entertain yourself while all the teaching crap is going on.”

‘Huck! The language…oh, never mind.”

“Game Boy was always my go-to device. Then I got busted, and now they watch for that stuff. Same with the little radios and the earbuds. The best you can do now is a comic book slipped inside one of their humongous textbooks. And of course, you can always doodle.”

Sawyer was taking notes.

“Comic book and doodle…”

“Sawyer! Don’t write that stuff down. You don’t want to remember anything he’s telling you.”

“And there’s always the sweet element of distraction. My buddy’s brother is in college, and he calls it ‘defensive booking’. Rather than study yourself, you keep the other guy from studying to lower the curve. It’s brilliant, and you can have a lot of fun doing it. There’s all kinds of things you can do.”

“Lower the curve, that sounds interesting, Huck.”

Jesse couldn’t stand it. He put his hands to his forehead.

“Oh, my God.”

“Like what kind of things, Huck?”

“Spitballs, funny faces, fart sounds, whatever strikes your fancy. It’s a good chance to show a little creativity. They should give grades for it, but the tyrants that run the place don’t understand.”

“Sawyer, as Principal Carson always tells us, ‘Your business here is learning.’ Your future starts now. Education will be the foundation of your life. You fall behind, and the Chinese will eat your lunch.”

“Huck, you didn’t say anything about Chinese people in the lunch room.”

“Sawyer, Sawyer, Sawyer, you’ve got so much to learn. That’s why you’re lucky to have big bro Huck to take you under his wing.”

“Big bro Huck is going to get you in a lot of trouble, Sawyer. You need to listen to big-bro Jesse. You’re at a crossroads of your life, Sawyer. You can either try to make something of yourself, accomplish great things, and live a meaningful life, or idle away your time like a goofball clown…like your brother Huck.”  

The meeting of the brothers was interrupted as Mom and Dad entered the room.

“Well, Sawyer, have the boys been filling you in on what first grade will be like?”

“Yes, Mom.”

Dad understood the forces at work. He could imagine the good and bad angels perched on Sawyer's shoulders.

“Let’s hope you take your cue from Jesse and not from Huck.

“Yes, for sure, Dad. Jesse really helped me a lot. The main thing is I will need to focus. It’s important to pay attention, follow the rules, and do my homework on time. I understand my business there will be learning. Oh, and I always want to look sharp.”

Jesse smiled proudly; a devilish grin from Huck.


As the three boys and their Mother stood at the end of their driveway waiting for the school bus, Sawyer gave Huck a questioning look. Huck leaned toward Sawyer, smiled, gave him a quick wink, and whispered.

“Don’t worry. It’s all good, Sawyer. I snuck the remote control fart machine into your backpack.”

“Thanks, Huck. I think I’m going to like school.”

September 07, 2023 15:24

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Nina H
15:50 Sep 12, 2023

You hit all the ups and downs on the day before school! I have a feeling Sawyer is going to do just fine, with big brother Huck looking out for him/stirring up mischief in equal doses 😂


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Mary Bendickson
21:29 Sep 08, 2023

No-o-o-o. Don't listen to the devil-made-me-do-it Huck. Be a good kid.


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Delbert Griffith
14:37 Sep 08, 2023

LOL Shades of Mark Twain characters in the modern world. I reckon that Jesse is more like Becky, and, of course, Huck is Huck. (Tom) Sawyer taking advice from Huck? Great turn of events, IMO. I'd love to see what happens after the first day of school. Sounds like Huck, the devil on one shoulder, is winning - for now. Great tale, lots of fun, and hits the prompt perfectly. Nicely done, Murray. Cheers!


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AnneMarie Miles
04:48 Sep 08, 2023

Aw, this was silly and cute! A little angel and devil on little brother Sawyer's shoulders! I think we can all agree if Sawyer listens to BOTH of his brothers, he'll be on a great path. Balance is key 👌 thanks for sharing, Murray!


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