Harold was second in line.
He’d fought hard to be the first one out of school, in a race to the comic book store to be there for the three o’clock release of the latest issue of Aardvark Boy. This was the big one. The one where he would learn the fate of Aardvark Boy’s sidekick, Sloth Girl! Had the sinister Roach Man succeeded in killing her? Blood pounded through Harold’s veins as he bounced on his toes. He’d waited a full month for this day!
The person ahead in line was Rob Lambert. A seventh-grader, he was one year behind Harold in school. The kid was weird. Like, really weird. Harold hadn’t seen him with many friends, but that didn’t come as a surprise. Mostly Rob could be seen sitting with his nose in a book–usually a comic–and he often talked to himself. Far too much to be considered normal.
The bell over the door rang and a loud holler drew the attention of everyone in line, which already wrapped around the store. A group of five boys entered, each with a cocky grin in place as they sauntered over to Rob.
Harold cringed. These guys were bad news. They were from his class and pretty much ruled the school. The teachers thought the boys were so great, and all the girls fell at their feet. Why? Harold had no clue. They were just a bunch of jerks.
“Hey, Rob-eee,” one of them said. “Mind if we jump in line?”
“Um…erm.” Rob visibly shook and sweat appeared along his hairline. “S-sure.”
Harold eyes went wide. No! That’s totally not fair!
“Thanks, little guy.” The jerk patted Rob on the shoulder like he was a child. The group laughed.
Fire burned inside Harold’s chest. He wanted to say something, to tell those kids where they could go and just how to do it. But starting a fight and getting kicked out of his favorite comic store wasn’t a good idea. He shoved his pride back down and simmered.
The sales clerk appeared from behind a red curtain that led to the back, and stepped up to the cash register. Harold’s heart skipped a beat. This was it!
“Folks,” the clerk said. “I have some disappointing news. We only got a few copies of Aardvark Boy. The distributor promised a full shipment on Wednesday. They’ve sent along free copies of another comic in reparation.”
Harold’s heart sank. No big deal. He was seventh in line. Surely the company had sent at least ten copies, right?
The five jerks got their copies and gave a hoot as they left the store. Rob stepped up and grabbed his issue of Aardvark Boy. Then it was Harold’s turn.
“Sorry son. That’s all I’ve got. Here’s a brand new comic, Bubblegum Girl.”
Harold grumbled. Figures.
Outside he flipped open the front cover. Something was stuck tight between the crease. What…? He pulled. An envelope with writing on it.
“Your reward for patience and kindness. Pass it on.”
Inside was a crisp fifty dollar bill. His jaw dropped. He glanced around. Everyone else read their comic but no one had gotten an envelope. He didn’t deserve this at all!
An idea formed in his mind. “Hey! Rob!” He jogged to catch up to the boy. “Mind if I take you out for ice cream?”
Rob’s face lit up. “Sure! We can read Aardvark Boy together, then!”
Harold smiled. He wouldn’t have to wait until Wednesday, after all.
©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017
Photo credit Unsplash by Mitch Rosen