THIS IS A DRAFT
It'll change. It'll get better. So read it kindly.
It is copyright (c) David Weinberger 2002. Because it's a draft, you don't have permission to quote from it without asking my permission first. But I do encourage you to discuss it on the discussion boards listed on the home page. My email address is [email protected] Let me know what you think.
- David Weinberger
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I learned a lesson from the disaster of the Terwilliger Spoon. In fact, I learned several lessons. First, Ari is hopeless. I don't know why I encouraged him with Amanda in the first place. She's never going to be interested in a guy like Ari, not when she has a guy like Joel hanging around her, a guy so shallow that he's self-confident just because he has muscles. And what does that say about Amanda? Not much that's good. She'd probably ditch Joel for a cardboard cutout of a guy with more muscles and it would probably take her until after the prom to find out that he wasn't real.
Second, I learned that this is just a plain stupid way to spend my money. Thanks to the two thousand dollaras I spent, there now existed a perfect copy of a really ugly spoon. Ari wasn't happier. I wasn't happier. The world wasn't happier. There had to be a better way to use the money I'd been given.
I was lying in bed the next Saturday, thinking happily about all the things I could buy and then thinking unhappily about how I couldn't buy them without lying to my parents, when the phone rang. "It's for you," my mother yelled up the stairs.
"Hello, Ari," I said since he's the only one who would call me on a Saturday morning.
"It's not Ari," said the voice.
"Yes, it's your forgotten pal, Mimi."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I was going to come over and see you today. Really. I've been wrapped up with Ari."
"How'd that go."
"It went. It's gone. It was stupid."
"Can I come over?"
"Yeah. Right now."
"You don't sound so good."
"Can I come over?" she insisted.
"Sure. I'll get dressed and everything."
It took Mimi less than five minutes to get here, which either meant she left as soon as she hung up, or that she pedaled faster than I've ever seen her. I met her downstairs and we went to the swing set in my backyard. I'm too big for it, but that's sort of why I like it. I feel my age in it.
"Why the rush?" I asked as Mimi pumped her legs and got some height on the swings.
"I just wanted to get out of my house."
"What's going on?"
I knew that wasn't true. But Mimi was concentrating so hard on getting air that she seemed not to want me to ask again. So I didn't.
Mimi let go of the swing at its highest, sailed through the air, and landed on our lawn. That was going to leave a nasty grass stain on her butt.
"So, what do you want to do?" I asked.
"My mom and dad are fighting," she said.
"That stinks. What about?"
"My mom wants to get a job and my dad doesn't want her to."
"I thought your mom worked already."
"She does. Part time at the Sunny Day Care Center."
"That name always bothered me," I said, stupidly interrupting Mimi's flow. "I mean, is it a sunny day for the care center or is it sunny at the day care center? Shouldn't it really be the Sunny Day Day Care Center?"
"Anyway," Mimi said with a point on it.
"Anyway," I said, acknowledging that I'm an idiot.
"Anyway, she's been working there four days a week for a few hours while I'm at a school, but now Betty Freed's mom wants to hire my mom to work in her office. An office manager."
"So, what's the problem?"
"It's freaked my dad out. He says it's really just a fancy name for a secretary and that my mom wouldn't like it as much as working at the day care and she'd just be doing it for the money."
"So why does your mom want to do it?"
"I think because we need the money. That's the part that's freaking me out. I think my dad's worried about getting fired. He's had that job forever."
"He works at Dunn Industries, doesn't he?" I asked. I never really paid too much attention to what jobs my friends' parents had. After all, when you hear the parents talking about work, it's almost always incredibly boring. My dad's different, but that's because he's a newspaper editor which means he covers interesting things. Or maybe it's just because he's my dad.
"Yeah. He's a manager now. But he sounds like he thinks the company's going to be firing a whole bunch of people."
"That would stink," Dunn Industries was the biggest company in town. I was never sure exactly what they made, but whatever it was, it took a big factory way out past Sussman Falls. My father once explained that Dunn Industries makes parts for other factories. Machines that build other machines. I of course immediately started to wonder who makes Dunn Industries' machines, which would be machines that build other machines for other machines. And then who made those machines. And so on until you found the factory that makes the machines that make all the other machines for building factories. That's where I'd want to work. Or at least take a tour.
"Hey," I said, "Want to go to the skateboard park?"
"Yeah!" said Mimi. "Oh," added, the light going out of her eyes, "I don't think I can."
"I'm supposed to be watching my money." It cost $4 to skateboard for an hour.
"No problem. I think I've got some extra," I said. Mimi smiled, which was certainly worth the $4 to me. Off we went, talking about everything except Mimi's parents.
* * *
"What's going on with Dunn Industries?" I asked my Dad as we sat in the living room before dinner.
"What do you mean?"
"I heard they're going to fire a bunch of people."
"I don't know. What's a layoff?"
"When a company fires a bunch of people," Dad said, looking up from his magazine. "Well, that's interesting."
"Wouldn't that be bad for the town?"
"It sure wouldn't be good. Dunn employees about 20% of the people in this town. If the factory has a layoff, there'll be a lot of people who have no salary any more. And there aren't that many open jobs for people to get here."
"So what do people do?"
"They get unemployment insurance for a few months to carry them over. But, ultimately, people either find a job or they have to move somewhere else."
"It's bad for everyone. It's bad for the people. And it's bad for the town. When a town gets smaller, there are fewer people paying taxes, so the town has less money to spend and so it has to cut back on programs also. There's less money for schools, for parks, for the library, to fix the roads..."
We sat for a moment, thinking about what we might lose. I was thinking mainly about Mimi. I would hate it if she moved. It would change the town so much for me that it would be like we moved.
"Where'd you hear about this?" Dad asked.
"I don't know."
"It must have been somewhere."
"I don't feel right about telling you. The person who told me didn't say it was ok to tell anyone, especially the editor of the local paper."
"Protecting your sources? That's the first thing a good newspaper person learns to do. But I'm going to look into it."
I must have looked worried.
"Don't worry. I won't let anyone know I heard the rumor from you."
Dad picked up his magazine again. But I sat there thinking. This would be a good time to raise what I had learned by sneaking into Mr. Dunn's study. But did I really want to? I'd thought about it and I thought I knew what Mr. Dunn was up to. He was going to run coupons in his newspaper giving 10% off to everyone who bought from the companies advertising there. But who would pay for the 10%? Mr. Dunn. It would cost him many thousands of dollars, but it would give advertisers a great reason to advertise in his paper. And that would make his paper much more popular. Advertisers would switch from my father's paper to Mr. Dunn's and that would probably put my father's paper out of business since it wasn't doing so well to begin with. So, from Mr. Dunn's point of view, those thousands of dollars in coupons would get rid of his only competitor. Then, because he had more readers, he could raise his advertising rates and make back the money he'd spent. He could also raise the price of the newspaper, but I knew from my father that newspapers like to keep the price low so more people will buy them, which means that an advertisement reaches more people, which means that advertisers are willing to pay more to advertise. Also, woodchucks would chuck all the wood they could chuck if woodchucks could chuck wood.
I could tell my father what I'd figured out - about Mr. Dunn's plan, not about the woodchucks - but then I'd have to admit that I spied on Mr. Dunn, even though I hadn't intended to. I just started reading and didn't stop until I was done. That's not quite the same thing as spying, is it?
But my mom called us in to dinner where we talked about Maddie's costume for a class play about world explorers. Did you know that you can make a fake Conquistador's breastplate by cutting it out of cardboard and painting it gold? How fascinating.
* * *
I wasn't getting no use of my $100,000,000. Although I couldn't buy anything my parents would notice, there were ways of spending some money that they wouldn't know about. For example, I got dessert almost every day at lunch. And my tropical fish tank had a couple of new citizens, including three I nicknamed "Secret," "Lee" and "Rich"; try saying all three names one after the other.
This afternoon, I had gone to the games store and bought a couple of new video games. I paid cash, of course. And even though the amount it cost me was less than my money was earning in interest in ten minutes by just sitting in the bank, it seemed wrong. I could afford it, but it still felt like a waste. I almost walked out of the store without buying anything when I decided that having $100,000,000 and being too chicken-hearted to buy even a stupid video game or two was an even bigger waste. So, I bought them and went to Ari's to play them. "That's a new game," Ari's mother said, surprising me. I don't think my parents know what games I have.
"It's Jake's" said Ari, perfectly truthfully. His mother just assumed that I'd brought it from home, not that I was out buying them as if they were Tootsie Rolls.
It turned out that both games were actually pretty dumb, unless you can find yourself surprised when the same troll jumps out from behind the same rock every time you're forced to re-start a level, or if your idea of fun is moving down a mountain on jet-powered skis that tend to crash into trees no matter how carefully you steer them. I left the games with Ari and headed home.
It was a Friday night and it seemed as if the entire town was relaxed and looking forward to the weekend. The sky was turning that deep shade of blue that is the color I see in my mind right before I fall asleep. There was enough of a breeze to make soup a possibility but not enough to push my bike off center. I'm not one to notice the weather much, but that night was an exception.
Because it was a Friday, my father was home with a copy of his newspaper. He had been "on press" all day and seemed tired but not annoyed. I glanced at the headline and nearly blew my bubblegum out my nose: "Dunn Industries Threatens Lay Offs."
"Dad," I said, "How could you?"
"How could I what, Jake?" he said like someone who was looking forward to relaxing only to face accusations from his son. Which is exactly what he was.
"I told you about the Dunn Industry lay offs in private."
"Yes, you did. And I respected that."
"How can you say that? Look at this headline!"
"Now, Jake, I didn't use anything you told me. I went out and gathered my own information. And it confirmed the rumor you'd told me."
"What information? How did you find out?"
"I can't tell you that because then I'd be revealing my sources and I can't do that just like I didn't reveal your source. But, I called some people I know at Dunn Industries and they talked to me off the record."
"What's that mean?" I asked as if there couldn't be any possible sense to such a stupid phrase. I was so angry that I was willing to set myself up to look really dumb.
"That means that they agreed to talk with me only if I promised not to reveal who they are. And I won't. But they're good sources and I think the story is true. And I think you did a good thing telling me about it. It's good for the town to know what Dunn is up to."
I didn't feel good about it. And I didn't feel any better about it on Saturday when Mimi called to tell me that her father had been fired.
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