How not to impress a boy
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
The seat by the big, front window at Mayhew’s, an old-fashioned ice cream shop, was where everybody who was anybody in the sixth grade at Boyd Middle School wanted to be. My friend Anna and I liked the front because you could see everybody who strolled by. That way, if a boy you liked came up the sidewalk, you’d have time to take a deep breath and think about what to say if he came inside.
Anna and I were sitting in front of the window one spring day when her eyes got big and she said, “Don’t look now, but Allen Keyes just walked by! Invite him in, Ruthie.”
Anna had had a crush on Allen since he’d moved to town right after Christmas that year. To tell the truth, Allen was really cute, and he was in the seventh grade, so that made him even cooler. His family went to our church and his mom sang in the choir with my mom. That’s how I knew him.
Anyway, Anna knocked on the window and waved to Allen. He looked up and squinted at her and then smiled when he saw me waving, too. His smile made my heart beat faster too. I could see why Anna liked him.
“Come inside,” I mouthed, and was kind of surprised when he nodded and walked through the door.
“Hi Allen,” Anna drawled. He didn’t even know her name, and she was acting like she’d known him since first grade.
“Hi Ruthie. Hi, umm...” He looked at me for help.
“This is Anna,” I said. “She’s been to church with us a few times, but I don’t think you’ve ever met.”
“Want to sit with us?” Anna asked, and he did.
I scooted over so my back was to the window.
Allen looked around. “This is a cool place. I’ve never been in here before.”
“Oh everybody hangs out here,” Anna said.
She was gushing a lot and getting on my nerves, and I swear she actually batted her eyes at Allen. She was my best friend, but sometimes, especially when it came to boys, she was clueless.
“Do I order at the counter or does someone come over?” Allen asked.
That’s what I liked about Allen. He wasn’t afraid to ask the questions that some people might feel like a dork asking. He just seemed to have more confidence than any of the boys I knew.
“You can order at the counter,” Anna said, smiling and batting her eyes (again).
I watched Allen walk to the counter and whispered, “Quit acting like that or he’s going to think you’re an idiot.”
She looked at me blankly for a second and then her eyes got big and she said, “Oh. My. Gosh.”
“What?” I asked. “Do I have something in my nose?”
“No,” Anna replied, rolling her eyes. “But look behind you. There’s the strangest looking woman over at the Taylors’ yard. She just now walked up the sidewalk with a lawn mower and... look at her, Ruthie. I mean, who in the world would mow the grass dressed like that?”
The woman looked fat and matronly, but she wasn’t that old. Her dark hair was pulled back in a long ponytail, and she had tucked a pink azalea blossom behind one ear. She wore a red T-shirt about two sizes too big for her and a full, denim skirt that stopped right above her lavender socks and black high-tops. Before I could say anything, though, Allen was back, taking a bite of ice cream as he sat down.
“How is it?” I asked.
“Great,” he replied. “It’s my favorite.”
“Well you get dinner and a show today,” Anna said. “Ice cream for dinner and that,” she nodded out the window toward the lawn lady, “is your show. Have you ever seen anybody so weird?” She laughed like she had just said the funniest thing in the world. “I mean, where has she been shopping? At every garage sale in town?”
Allen scooped up the last bite of his ice cream and looked out the window toward the woman mowing the grass. “She’s a live one,” he said, raising his eyebrows a couple of times. Then he smiled and stood up. “Wish I could stay longer, but I was on the way to help my sister with a project and now I’m late.”
“I didn’t know you had a sister,” I said. “I’ve never seen her at church.”
Allen smiled again, and I felt my stomach do a somersault. He was really, really cute.
“She lived in Florida but she’s had some problems and just moved here. Now she’s getting settled into an apartment and trying to start her own business, so I told her I’d help her out this afternoon.”
I thought he might be kidding, but then I realized he wasn’t. Allen was just too sincere to kid about something like that. And I could picture him helping his sister unpack boxes and put things away.
“I wish you didn’t have to go,” Anna said with a sigh.
“Hate to be late,” he said. “Bye Ruthie. See you around.” He waved at Anna and walked out the door.
“He is so fine! And I’ll bet there’s a really interesting story about his sister, don’t you?” Anna asked.
I shrugged my shoulders. “I doubt it,” I said, watching Allen as he held the door for two little girls coming into the shop. “They’re a nice family. She might even be as cute as Allen.”
“You’re probably right,” Anna answered. She glanced over my shoulder and her eyes got big again. “Oh. My. Gosh.”
“What?” I was tired of her dramatics, but I turned just in time to see Allen talking to the lawn lady as he tied a bandanna around his head. And then he hugged her, kissed her cheek, and started pushing the mower up and down the Taylors’ yard, helping his sister out with her new business. Just like he’d said.
Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Amy Newmark
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens
Florida, HCI, 2011