TOBY & EARL in Clean Sweepers

Earl slightly opened one of his eyes as he thought he heard a light tap on his bedroom window. The comforter was pulled up over his head and face as the bright sun shone between the slats of the blinds. Maybe it was just a stupid bird that saw his imagine in the window again. He thought. It had happened before, birds would land on his window sill and see their imagine in the window and peck at it. He knew it couldn’t be someone knocking on his window since his bedroom was on the second floor. I may have been dreaming it. He thought again. He pulled the comforter on up to cover his whole head. As he slowly closed his eyes he heard it again, a slight but distinct tap on his window. It must be a bird. He thought again. Maybe it’ll go on away was his next thought.

TAP! He heard it good that time and it seemed to be a little louder, so he definitely knew he wasn’t dreaming it. He threw the cover back and walked to the window while talking out loud. “Stupid birds! Just because they want to get up early on Saturday doesn’t mean I do too.” School had just ended for the summer the day before and Earl was looking forward to his first day of the school’s summer break by sleeping in late. He grabbed the string on the blind and snatched it up quickly. He had spooked birds like that before and watched them quickly fly away. But there was no bird. He looked around the outside of his window when suddenly he saw what looked like a small BB come from the direction of the ground and tap his window again. TAP!

He looked down and saw his best friend Toby standing in his yard. When Toby saw Earl look at him he waved his arms up in the air then motioned for Earl to come out.

Earl raised his window up and put his hands on the sill and leaned out the window. “Toby! You do know it’s the first Saturday of the summer vacation don’t you? What do you want?” He asked.

“Hey. Want to make some money? I got a job for us if you want to.” He said.

With a confused look on his face he asked. “Who is going to hire a couple of ten-year olds?”

Toby held his hands out as though he was feeling for raindrops. “Do you want to or not? If you don’t I’ll see if Taylor wants to.”

Taylor Neese lived on the corner of the street. A couple of years older than Toby and Earl, he didn’t hang around them too much, especially at school. He hung out with some of the older kids, he tried to look and be cool. He did do things with them on the street or at their house every once in a while like play ball and even played with cars, trucks and army soldiers when he knew no one from school would be around to see him. For awhile he even played video games with them when one of them got a new gaming system or a new game for their birthday or Christmas. As far as anyone from school knew he was way too cool to do any of those things.

So in the back of his mind Earl knew Toby was only bluffing about getting Taylor to help him.

“Well, wait a minute and let me get dressed and I’ll be right on down.” Earl told him before he pulled the window and blind back down.

Earl walked out the back door and saw Toby as he stood there waiting for him with his red wagon loaded with a shovel, hoe and a couple of yard rakes. “Whatcha’ got them for?” Earl asked.

“That’s for our new business…partner.” Toby told him with a big grin on his face.

“And what business is that?”

“Our yard cleaning business. That’s if you want to be my partner.” As Toby reached and took the wagon by the handle he continued to talk as he started walking toward the sidewalk. “I mean if you don’t want to I can go ask Taylor. I’m sure he would be more than willing to make a bunch of money this summer. I’m expecting to make about a million dollars before going back to school and if you wanted to be my partner then I figure we could split the profits.” He stopped just as he pulled the wagon completely onto the sidewalk, put his index finger and his thumb on his chin while he looked up toward the sky while he figured the numbers in his head. “I figure that would give us about $50,000 dollars apiece.” He looked at Earl again with a grin on his face. “Reckon you could use $50,000 dollars this summer?” He started walking again. “Shoot, we’ll be the richest kids in school. I betcha’ nobody else would make that kind of money over the summer.

“So I guess you got the money part figured out but have you figured out who is going to pay us that kind of money to clean their yards?” Earl asked.

“Well, mama told me that Mr. Robertson wanted someone to help sweep the leaves and junk up from under his magnolia tree in his backyard. She called him and asked him if he still needed some help and he told her to tell me to be over there bright and early Saturday morning. Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins wanted someone to rake the leaves and berries up from their Chinaberry trees in their yard and I heard that the old widow woman on the next street wanted someone to sweep up all the pine straw in her yard. I’ll have to go over to find out for sure though. Daddy said if we did a good job then we could make a lot of money this summer just by letting word get out.”

“Well who told you that you could make a million dollars in one summer?” Earl asked.

“Daddy did. He said we could get a good name for ourselves sweeping old people’s yards we could make a ton of money. He said we probably could even make a million dollars. And with you helping me then I figure we could work twice as fast and get more yards and make even more money. That’s why I said if we made a million dollars then that would put us making about $50,000 dollars apiece. Don’t you see? Together we’ll have a better chance to make the big bucks.”

Earl didn’t say anything else and walked next to Toby down the street to Mr. Robertson’s house. When they got up the walk to the doorsteps Toby held the handle of the wagon out to Earl. “Here, hold this and I’ll knock on the door and see if he’s here.”

Toby knocked on the door. He knocked again. “He’s supposed to be here.” Toby said. “Mama told me he said to be here bright and early Saturday morning.” He knocked a third time. Toby walked to one of the windows, put both his hands up to cut the glare, and peered inside to see if he could see any movement through the thin-laced curtains. “I bet he done forgot.”

“You don’t reckon he’s in there dead do you?” Earl asked with a concerned look on his face. “He is pretty old you know.”

“Well if he is I ain’t gonna sweep his yard at all!” Toby said as he stepped down on the top step and sat down on the porch. “Cause we can’t get paid by a dead man.” Toby had a mad expression on his face as he blew a breath and put his elbows on his knees and rested his chin in the palm of his hands.

Earl joined him on the doorstep and sat down beside him still holding the handle of the wagon.  They both turned and looked back at the door when they heard the lock from the inside and the door being opened slowly.  Mr. Robertson was a tall slender man with a head full of silver and white hair that he combed straight back.  “Well hello boys. I thought I heard a knock on the door while I was getting dressed.” Mr. Robertson said while he opened the screen door. “Why don’t you two come on in.” He said with a smile.  As the two boys walked in he asked them, “You’re here to clean the yard today aren’t you?”

“Yes sir.” Toby said as they walked into the living room.  Toby and Earl both looked around at all the pictures and whatnots he had on the wall, mantle, shelves and coffee table. “Earl said you might be dead in here but I knew better Mr. Robertson.” He turned and looked up at the elder gentleman. “I figured if you were going to die you would wait until after we got through sweeping your yard anyway.” Toby said with a grin on his face. Earl took his elbow and punched Toby in his side after he revealed the conversation they had on his front porch.

“Well, I’m not dead and I don’t plan on dying anytime soon. But I appreciate your concern. Come on and I’ll show you what I want done.”  Mr. Robertson led the boys through the house out the backdoor to show them where he wanted them to sweep and clean up. “Now I’ll have to go to town after while to run some errands.” He looked down at them. “You boys think you’ll be alright while I’m gone?”

“Yes sir.” They both said in unison.

“Alright then. I’ll let you two get started and I’ll go on and I’ll be back later.”

While Mr. Robertson was gone to town the boys had raked up all the leaves, bagged them and set them on the corner of the street so the city garbage truck could pick them up later. When Mr. Robertson came back he watched them for a few minutes out his kitchen window as they finished up their work. He stepped out the backdoor and ushered them to come inside and get some fresh lemonade he had made.

While the boys sat at the little kitchen table Mr. Robertson asked them, “Well boys you did a fine job how much do I owe you?”

Toby and Earl looked at each other. Toby spoke up and his voice almost trembled as though he was almost afraid to say. “I…I guess…uh…um…three dollars?”  He asked more than told Mr. Robertson.

Mr. Robertson got up from the table and walked over to his cabinet and pulled out a coffee can. He reached into the can and fumbled inside of it for a minute. “Well fellers I don’t reckon I have three dollars all I’ve got are a couple of fives.” He turned around and handed them each a crisp five-dollar bill. “Besides I think you boys deserve it.”

They both said at the same time, as their eyes got wide open. “Thank you, Mr. Robertson.” With that they put their glasses down on the table, got up and proceeded to leave.  As they both began to make their exit out the backdoor Toby turned and told him with a more confident voice. “Now Mr. Robertson if you ever need your yard cleaned again, we’ll be in business for the rest of the summer.”

A smile and wave from Mr. Robertson the boys left and went home.

The following Monday Toby had talked to Mrs. Jenkins who lived down the other end of the street about raking and cleaning her yard.  They had several Chinaberry trees in their backyard and it always made a huge mess with the stems, leaves and berries and it seemed that the small flowers would bloom and fall off all in the same day.

By the time they got through Mr. Jenkins had already got off work and made it home. He stepped out of his car at the same time Toby and Earl had put the last garbage bag of leaves on the curb. He walked around back with the boys to observe their work. “You boys did a fine job! I think you both deserve something extra special.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet and handed them five dollars apiece.

“Thank you Mr. Jenkins!” They exclaimed excitedly. They ran around to the backyard and grabbed their wagon and tools and came running back around front heading home.

“Wow Toby! You were right! We done made ten dollars in two days! We shore will make about a million before the summer’s over!” Earl said.

“I told you! Didn’t I? We are going to be rich before school starts back.” He blows a breath and thought for a moment. “You know what Earl? I think I’m going to buy me one of them suped-up golf carts. That way we can just ride to school together and we wouldn’t even have to take the bus.”

“Yea! We both could get one and that way we could take turns driving each other to school every day.”

Thursday afternoon the boys got the job to rake Mr. Langston’s yard but he was very feeble and had been sick so he didn’t have much money to pay them so Toby and Earl agreed to rake his yard for three dollars each. To which he gladly accepted.

Friday they got to rake the churchyard. Reverend Clemmons came out the church door as they got through and brought them both a bottle of water and sat down on the front steps with them as they drank their water. “I’m very proud of both of you boys. You know, idle hands are the devil’s workshop and I’m glad to see that you both are not keeping your hands idle.”

“No sirree.” Toby said as he took a big gulp of water. “You won’t see our hands idle. Daddy caught my hands idle one time and he got all over me for it.”

The Reverend laughed out loud. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out several one-dollar bills.  He handed both the boys two dollars apiece, patted them both on the shoulders and told them he’d see them in church on Sunday.

As they walked back home Earl asked.  “Toby. What is a idle hand?”

“It’s the same as dirty hands. You know like when you play in the dirt or mud and don’t wash before you eat.” Toby said confidently.  “Daddy got on to me and told me not to be doing that…Yep…Idle hands.”

Saturday they got up real early and went to the next street to old widow Bailey’s home to see if she needed all the pine straw raked up in her yard. Toby and Earl knew it would be a big job and it would take all day so they were counting on it to be a big paying job. 

As they pulled the wagon up to the bottom step Toby walked up to the door and rung the doorbell.  Mrs. Bailey was an old, frail widow woman who wasn’t much taller than the boys themselves.

“Mrs. Bailey. We were wondering if you needed your yard raked.”

“Why yes sir. I sure do.” She stepped out onto the porch and looked at the pine straw that had blanketed the yard from several of years of neglect. She smiled at them and told them. “Why I’ll give both you boys fifty cents apiece if you rake my yard and get all this pine straw up.” She turned to walk back into the house before turning around again. “Now let me know when you get through and I’ll pay you.” She turned and walked back into the house.

Earl stepped up on the porch next to Toby. “Toby.” Earl said in a solemn voice. “I just don’t think this is working out like we planned. It seems like to me that every time we rake a yard we are making less money not more.  If we keep going like this then by next week we’ll be paying them to just do their yard work. We haven’t made but fifteen dollars apiece. I could be wrong but I think that’s a long way from $50,000 dollars or even a million. I just don’t think I want to do all this hard work for just fifty cents.”

Toby looked at Earl. “I don’t think I do either. I know what we’ll do.”

Toby turned around and rung the doorbell again. When Mrs. Bailey came to the door he told her. “Mrs. Bailey. We’ve got to go eat breakfast but as soon as we get around to it we’ll be back.”

“Why you boys didn’t eat breakfast before you came over?” She asked.

“No ma’am.” Toby said.

As they stepped off the porch Earl asked Toby. “Toby. Why didn’t you just tell her we couldn’t do it for that little bit of money? You didn’t have to lie to her.”

“I didn’t lie to her. All I had this morning was a Pop Tart. Now do you call that a breakfast? I think we should get our money and go to town and to the arcade.” Toby smiled at Earl. “What’d you say pal.”

Earl smiled back. “Sounds good to me.”

With that they both left and went home and decided that their yard cleaning business wasn’t making enough money for them to continue.

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