“Kids today have it so easy,” says the Odd Old Man Next Door to his wife. The couple has just returned from a visit to grandson Conor. Conor, obsessed with computer games, has been longing for an adult laptop for several months, an eternity for him.

            They sit down at the dining table for a cup of coffee. The Odd Old Woman Next Door stirs sugar into her drink, circling the spoon round and round for what seems like hours. She notices the OOMND frown and cast a disapproving look in her direction, so she stops stirring to reach for the box of donut holes and pushes it toward her husband. She knows this will distract him and put him in a better mood.

            He seizes a cinnamon-covered treat to pop in his mouth whole. “His dad’s going to get him the new computer this weekend. Eight hundred dollars! Can you imagine?”

            The OOWND picks up her donut hole with thumb and forefinger and nibbles delicately. “Well, as I understand it, he’s been saving for quite a while. His allowance, his house-plant watering business, the chores he’s done for us.”

            “Eight hundred dollars. When I was young, if I had ten dollars, I thought I was rich. Eight hundred was something that families lived on for a year.”


            The OOMND shakes his head as if to debate the point, so the OOWND hastily amends her statement. “At least very few families had to live on that.”

            “My first bicycle cost thirty dollars. And I rode it for ten years,” says the OOMND. “I’d go around the neighborhood after a snowstorm and shovel neighbors’ sidewalks for fifty cents. Can you believe it?”

            “And my first babysitting jobs were for eighty-five cents an hour,” she answers “I was expected to buy all my own extras with that.”

            “Now a bike easily costs several thousand dollars,” he says. “And to get a haircut for fifteen dollars, I have to go to barber college.”

            “Conor says once he saves up enough money for the laptop, he’s going to throw his money around,” she says. “I wonder what he thinks that means?

            “I can just see him with a jarful of coins, tossing it in the air, and laughing as it rains down. Trying to catch them. Batting them everywhere.”

            “Or taking a stack of dollar bills to hide all over the house. Under cushions, in the cat’s climbing tower” She sips her coffee and ponders. “Say, I bet we could throw our money around,” the OOWND says.

            He chuckles. “You already do that. Every time you see someone on the corner asking for change, you pass him a five.”

            “Well, it makes me feel good. These days lots of people have trouble making ends meet. What about you? Whenever I turn around, you’re buying a new mystery.”

            “I don’t spend nearly as much as you do on going out for breakfasts. According to the blanks in our budget, you laid out fifteen thousand on breakfasts last year.”

            “That’s an exaggeration. It includes our weekly dinners out.”

            “Still, a significant figure.”

            The OOWND sighs. “After talking about food, now I’m hungry.”

            He pushes the donut holes in her direction. “Here. Have another.”

            She holds her palm up. “No way. Each of those has about two hundred calories.”

            The OOMND stretches in his chair. “The way I see it, as regards Conor, the important thing is the same as it always has been. He worked for his money and what he buys. He values it A major life lesson for a nine-year-old. And he’s having fun.”

            “Us, too,” the OOWND answers. “We get money, we throw it around, and we have fun. We throw it around, but we don’t owe anyone anything.”

            “What would the neighbors think if they saw us flinging bills and coins up in the air in the front yard? Would they run to grab some?”

            “Who cares?” says the OOMND. “That’s one of the good qualities of growing old. Not worrying about people’s opinions.”

            “You’re right” his wife agrees.

            “So I guess Conor’s not so different from us,” says the OOMND.

            “Guess not.” She reaches for her husband’s hand and squeezes it.

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