Maps in a mirror, p.109
Maps in a Mirror, page 109
The box was in the living room when Billy came home from school. “What’s in the box?” he asked. “You’ll see,” said Mom, “as soon as Dad comes home from work.”
When Dad came home, he opened the box. Inside was a television set. All of Billy’s older brothers and sisters were happy to see the television, but Billy was more interested in the box. It was as tall as Billy, and so wide he couldn’t touch both ends at the same time. Billy thought the empty box would be a lot more fun than the TV.
“Dad,” said Billy, “can I have the box?”
“Sure,” answered Dad.
The next day Billy hunted all over the house for things to put in his box. He found an empty toothpaste tube in the bathroom, and an empty cereal box in the kitchen. He found a whole box full of old buttons. He found a shoe that didn’t have a mate. And he put them all in his box in the living room.
When his sister Annie came home from school, she said, “What is that box still doing in the living room?”
When his brother Todd came home from school, he said, “Does Mom know you have all that stuff in here?”
When his sister Dora came home from school, she said, “Can’t you play without making a mess?”
And after dinner they all said, “What is all that stuff for, Billy?”
Billy didn’t say anything. He just sat inside his box, putting the cereal box, the toothpaste tube, the buttons, and the shoe right out in front.
Dad smiled. “Why, it’s a store, of course,” he said. “How much are those buttons selling for?”
Billy thought for a minute. “A hundred dollars,” he said.
“Oh,” said Dad. “I’m a little short this month, I can’t afford that. Don’t you have any bargains today?”
“Oh yes!” agreed Billy. “They’re on sale for two cents each.”
“That’s a real bargain,” Dad said. “I’ll take three buttons.”
Then he handed Billy six cents, and Billy handed him three buttons.
“Oh,” said Billy’s brother and sisters admiringly. “What a neat store!”
The next day Billy hunted for things again. This time he found a yardstick, and Mom gave him some string. He tied the ends of the string through the holes in the ends of the yardstick. He pulled back on the string and the yardstick bent a little. Then he let go of the string with a twang.
“SWICK!” he said. “SWISH! ZIP,”
When Annie came home from school, she said, “Is that box still in the living room?”
Billy was hiding down inside the box. When she said that he stood up and held the yardstick out, and twanged the string. “SWICK!” he said. Annie left the room, laughing.
Todd came home and said, “Does Mom know you’ve got the yardstick in your store?”
Billy twanged the string at Todd and said, “ZIP! No she doesn’t, cause it isn’t a store!”
Todd left the room, saying, “I thought it was a store.”
When Dora came in she said, “What’s all this twanging and zipping and swicking? Can’t you play without making noise?”
But Billy only twanged the string at her and whispered, “SWICK! ZIP! SWISH! TWANG!”
And after dinner they all asked, “What are you doing, Billy?”
Billy didn’t say anything. He ducked down inside the box where no one could see him. Then he stood up and twanged and zipped them all.
Dad smiled. “Why, that’s a castle, of course!” he declared. “Are you a knight?”
“No,” answered Billy. “I’m the king. And if you come any closer, I’ll get you with my bow and arrow.” And then Billy pulled back on the string with all his might to make a huge twang. But the string didn’t twang at all. Instead, the yardstick broke right in half.
“Oops,” said Billy, “I’m sorry.”
Billy’s brother and sisters were about to say, “I told you this would happen,” but just in time Mom said, “Well, looks like without a bow you’re not a king anymore, are you?”
Billy looked at the broken bow. “Nope,” he agreed.
“Now it’s just a yardstick,” Dad said.
Billy looked at the two pieces in his hand. “I think it’s two half-yardsticks,” he said.
“Well then,” Dad said, “it looks like that box isn’t a castle anymore. What can it be now?”
Billy thought and thought. Then he got an idea. “it’s a repair shop!”
“Good idea,” said Dad. Billy, Dad and Mom hunted through the house. Mom found glue and tape, and Dad found two straight sticks. Then Billy set the yardstick on top of the box, and he put glue on the broken place and pushed the two pieces together. Dad helped Billy tape on the two straight sticks so the yardstick would dry straight.
“And now,” said Dad, “let’s leave the yardstick in the repair shop overnight.”
That’s what they did. Mom turned on the television set and Billy sat down between Mom and Dad and watched the show with the rest of the family. “I’m sorry I broke the yardstick,” he whispered.
“You didn’t mean to,” Dad said.
“And tomorrow it will be good as new, thanks to your repair shop,” added Mom.
Billy smiled. “I like my box,” he said.
When he went to bed, he thought for a long time about what his box would be the next day.
Maybe a zoo—if I can find a tiger, he decided at last—just before he went to sleep.
THE BEST FAMILY HOME
“Next week,” said Dad at the end of family home evening, “the lesson will be about why family members shouldn’t say unkind things to each other when they’re angry.”
“Yippee!” shouted nine-year-old Alan. He was glad the lesson was on family members not getting angry with each other. Alan’s brothers and sister always seemed to be angry with him.
He remembered borrowing Ryan’s electric shaver to practice shaving and Ryan had yelled at him. At Christmastime he tied red bows on Alice’s geranium to surprise her and she became really upset.
Even Dad and Mom had become irritated with him—like the time when he taped the two halves of the dining room table together underneath so that they couldn’t be pulled apart to put extra leaves in. Alan thought it was funny. Dad and Mother didn’t.
I cant wait for next Monday to come, Alan thought.
Then Father continued, “And I’m going to assign Alan to give the lesson.”
“Uh-oh,” Alan said.
“You can do it,” encouraged Mother. “You were so enthusiastic a moment ago.”
Alan thought for a minute. “I guess since I’m an expert on making people angry, I probably could give a lesson on how to keep all of you from being cross with me.”
Everybody laughed. But Alan really meant what he said.
He had never given a lesson in family home evening before—at least not all by himself—and he wanted to do a good job. And so he thought about it all week.
Every now and then Mom would say, “Alan, how’s the family home evening lesson coming? Want any help?”
“It’s coming great, Mom,” Alan would say. “I’ve decided to do it all by myself, but thanks anyway.”
On the Sunday night before family home evening, Alan spent a lot of the evening downstairs in his room, writing.
“What are you writing?” Dad asked.
“Things,” Alan answered, “for the family home evening lesson.”
As soon as he got home from school on Monday afternoon, Alan put a sign on the basement door. It said, PLEASE DO NOT ENTER! FAMILY HOME EVENING LESSON UNDER CONSTRUCTION.
His second oldest brother Harry knocked on the basement door. “Alan,” he said. “I want to watch television.”
“Sorry,” Alan called. “You can’t come down right now.”
Harry became upset. “I’m warning you, Alan, this better be a mighty good family home evening!”
“Don’t worry,” Alan said.
After a while his sister Alice knocked on the do
“I’m sorry, sis, not now,” Alan replied. “Can’t you crochet for a while instead?”
“I want to sew, Alan,” she said, sounding cross.
“Sorry,” Alan repeated. “But if I let you come down it would ruin my family home evening lesson.”
“It better be good,” Alice threatened.
“It’ll be one of the most interesting family home evenings we’ve had,” Alan promised.
Finally it was dinnertime and Alan came upstairs, closing the basement door carefully behind him. When dinner was over, the family gathered together in the living room for family home evening.
After the song and the prayer, Alan stood up and said, “Tonight the lesson is on how family members shouldn’t yell or talk unkindly to each other even when they’re upset. When someone yells at another person it makes that person feel bad, and that isn’t the way we’re supposed to make people feel.”
Everyone agreed that Alan was right. Then he passed out pieces of paper to everyone. Dad read his first: “If you came home from work and you set down your briefcase and then some of us got into it and made paper airplanes out of the papers, what would you do?”
Dad thought for a minute. “I would probably get angry.”
“But what would you do about it?” Alan asked.
Dad smiled. “I’d call in the ones who made the paper airplanes and explain to them that these were important papers that other people were depending on, and I would ask them to unfold the paper airplanes and flatten out the pages as best they could.”
“You wouldn’t yell?” Alan asked.
“I wouldn’t yell,” Dad promised.
Mom read, “If you were making a cake and one of your children came in and jumped real hard in front of the oven and the cake fell, what would you do?”
“Well, I would feel just awful,” said Mom. “I’d explain to that child how his jumping made the cake fall and ruined the family’s dessert and that I felt really bad about it.”
“But you wouldn’t say anything mean?” Alan asked.
“Not if I were acting the way I should,” said Mom, smiling.
Soon all the family promised that they would not be cross or unkind to other family members anymore even when they had cause to be angry.
“Is that the whole lesson?” asked Ryan.
“No,” Alan said. “Now we’ll go downstairs to the family room.”
Everyone went downstairs, Alan first. He watched them very carefully as they saw what the family room looked like.
Everything was in the wrong place. All the books were out of the bookshelves. Alice’s sewing things were scattered everywhere. The boxes from the storage room were piled up around the bottom of the stairs. There were little pieces of wadded up newspaper on the floor. And facedown on the Ping-Pong table was what looked like an expensive picture that Mom was going to frame, ripped right in half. It was the worst sight any of them had ever seen.
“What a terrible mess!” said his mother, irritably.
“I know it, Mom,” said Alan. “But you can’t yell at me. All of you promised you wouldn’t be cross no matter how upset you got.”
Dad looked at Mom. Mom looked at Ryan. Ryan looked at Harry. Harry looked at Alice. Alice looked at Alan.
“Alan,” Alice said, “if we can’t yell, can we at least whisper that we want to knock somebody’s block off?”
“No,” Alan said.
Alan gave them all a little time to think. Then he asked, “Is anybody here going to be cross at anyone else, namely me?”
After a while they all said, “No, we won’t.”
Then Alan smiled. “All right, you passed the test. Now I’ll tell you about this mess. Actually I didn’t just scatter these things around even though it looks that way. I set them all very carefully where they are so that nothing would be damaged. And see, Mom, I cut out some paper the same size as your picture and you just thought I’d ripped up the original one. I’ll have everything back in place in a couple of hours.”
Then everybody laughed, because Alan had really made them realize how they had been behaving toward each other. They decided that Alan shouldn’t have to put everything back alone, so they all worked together, and soon everything was back in place.
When it was all cleaned up, Alan said, “Well, I guess my lesson’s over. Thanks for helping.”
“It was a good lesson, son,” Dad said. “And if we could keep from yelling about the way this family room looked a few minutes ago, I think we can keep from being upset about anything.”
“It was a good lesson,” Ryan said, “but I hope you never make the family room look like that again.”
“You must be kidding!” Alan replied. “I’ll never make a mess like that again in my whole life. It took hours! You guys may think being a messy kid is easy, but I can tell you it is really hard work!”
Amauri pushed the bicycle up the long hill. At the top was a small Catholic church with a little building behind where the padres lived. In back of this building was a little shack that Amauri’s family called home. “Mamãe (Mother)!” he called out when he neared his house, and his mother appeared at the door.
“Where have you been, Amauri?” she asked, her back still bent from the day’s work of cleaning in the tall office building downtown. Then she saw the bicycle. “What do you have there, Amauri?” she asked, and her eyes looked worried.
“A bicicleta (bicycle), Mamãe,” Amauri answered.
“Where did you get it?” his mother questioned again, and Amauri knew that she was afraid he had stolen it, because many of the poor people in their neighborhood sometimes stole things to get money to buy food. Amauri’s mother was grateful that her five children didn’t steal.
“A man gave it to me, Mother,” Amauri answered proudly. “I’m going to be a delivery boy! I’ll ride the bicycle from place to place, delivering lunches to the businessmen and groceries to the ladies in fine houses!”
“You mean you have a job?” And Amauri’s mother smiled with joy.
Amauri told her about how he had walked up to a man and said, “Do you need a boy to work for you?” The man had thought for a few moments and then invited him inside his store. They talked for a while, and he told Amauri that he would pay him fifty centavos an hour.
“How many hours will you work?” his mother asked.
“Eight hours every day,” Amauri answered. “That means I will get four cruzeiros a day or more than twenty cruzeiros a week. I can buy food for the family!”
Amauri hugged his mother and she hugged him back. “What a good nine-year-old son I have,” she said gratefully. “Now you are truly the man of the family. Ever since your father died I have been the only one earning money. Now you will help me buy beans and rice for our breakfast and dinner. Enough talking for now, son. Remember, the elders are coming tonight, and we must get the house ready.”
Amauri got water from the well, and his little sister Cecilia cooked the beans and rice for dinner. The other children made the two beds they all slept on, while Mother carefully swept the cold, hard-packed dirt floor.
When the missionaries came, they stood outside the door and clapped their hands together, because that is the way people announce themselves in Brazil. Cecilia ran to open the door.
“Boa noite, elderes (Good evening, elders),” she said. “Come in.”
The tall elders shook hands with everybody. Elder Samson was blond and showed many teeth when he smiled. Elder Bonner had red hair and freckles all over, even on his arms. Although they were Americans, they spoke Portuguese, but sometimes it was hard to understand them.
The elders and Amauri and his family sat on boxes around the table, and then the elders told them all about the commandments of God, including one that asked them to give the Church one-tenth of all the money they earned. Mother was thoughtful when the elders told her this, because she barely made en
Amauri felt very proud to tell the missionaries about his job. “Who knows?” Amauri said, “maybe someday I will deliver a lunch right to the building where my mother works.”
“But what about school?” asked Elder Samson.
“School is not for poor people,” said Amauri’s mother sadly. “We do not have the money to buy books.”
And then Amauri remembered something awful. His face turned white. “What’s wrong, Amauri?” the elders asked.
“I just remembered,” Amauri said. “I only have three days to learn how to ride the bicycle.”
“What?” asked Elder Bonner, surprised. “Nine years old and you don’t know how to ride a bicycle?”
Amauri shook his head. “We are too poor to have a bicycle. Now I will have to learn before Thursday. How can I learn that fast?”
Everyone looked worried now. Learning to ride a bicycle wasn’t easy.
Then Elder Bonner said he had an idea. “We will teach you how to ride!” he shouted, and Elder Samson nodded in agreement.
The next morning the missionaries came back. They could hardly wait to get Amauri out of bed and onto his bicycle.
It was harder than Amauri had thought it would be. He fell down again and again. Even on a grassy field it hurt to fall, but he kept thinking: The Lord got me this job so that my family can pay tithing. And I’m going to get back on that bicycle.
The next day Amauri rode for ten meters all by himself before the bicycle started to tip over, then he stopped it from falling by sticking out his foot. At the end of the riding lesson he told the elders, “It’s time for me to go home. And you’ll have to hurry—I’m going to ride this bicycle all the way back home. And I’m going to ride it very fast.”
by Orson Scott Card / Science Fiction & Fantasy / Poetry / Nonfiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes