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When I woke up the next day, I felt tired and restless, as if there were something I was supposed to be doing but I couldn’t remember what. At first I thought it must have been a dream, but as I pulled on my clothing, it struck me: I had a hundred million dollars in the bank, and what I was supposed to do today was be rich.
The problem was that I had no idea how to be rich. I couldn’t snap my fingers and have Jeeves the Butler enter. I couldn’t go to the Rolls Royce store, pick out a model and say, “What the heck, give me two.” I couldn’t even buy a new basketball without making my parents suspicious.
I did figure out two things to do, although they’ll probably seem awfully small to you – sort of pathetic, really. First, during lunch I bought an extra brownie. And then, after school, I went to the Small Lives pet store and got two fish I had been admiring for a long time but never even considered buying because they were way out of my price range. But my parents wouldn’t know that. They had no idea how much fish cost, unless you’re buying them by the pound.
My only fear was that they (my parents, not the fish) would ask me what I paid for them (the fish, not my parents). I promised myself that I would never lie about the money. I didn’t want the money I’d won to turn me into a liar.
I emptied the baggie into the fish tank and watched my rare and exotic new fish examine their new home. They didn’t seem to care at all. You’ve got to hand it to fish: It takes a lot to get them upset.
As I lay on my bed looking at the fish tank, I thought about how weird my day at school had been – my first day as a multi-millionaire. The day would go along normally and then I’d remember I was rich, and I’d get a little jolt. I’d drift off into a daydream for a bit, and then something would bring me back to school. I'd pay attention to school for a while, and then … another jolt.
I left my hundred dollars at home and went to school with three dollars in my backpack. They felt different now. Before, they were the three dollars that I had and everything I could buy was stacked up against them. Now, they were just a tiny part of an endless stream. It’s like the difference between carrying a canteen and having running water. With a canteen you have to constantly worry about whether taking a drink now is going to mean you’re going to go thirsty later. With running water, you just know it’s always there. It’s a good feeling.
But the most interesting thing that happened to me that day didn’t seem that interesting at the time. It was Ari mooning about Amanda again. We were walking from English to Phys Ed (or “Fizz Ed” as I used to think it was called), the longest walk in the school. And since we were in the middle of a unit on aerobic exercises, neither of us was exactly racing to get there. I used to think running in place was the stupidest human activity, but then our class started doing “step aerobics” where you walk up and down a stairway that has a single step on it.
Ari was going on and on about how Amanda’s hair smelled like roasted chestnuts and her smile was like square pearls with her braces being the necklace and her walk was like a gazelle except she only had two legs and didn’t graze on wild clover or chew her cud.
This latest bout of Amanda fever was brought on by the fact that he had actually spoken with her. It took most of the walk to the gym to find out what had happened, but it seems that Ari had fallen off his skateboard just before entering the school building and, as luck would have it, was propelled straight into the school door precisely as Amanda was starting to enter. Ari rebounded off the door, and Amanda assumed that he was lunging to hold the door for her. She glanced at him and Ari, in his panic at being noticed, actually blurted out, “Terwilliger …” It was the only word he could think of.
Amanda smiled the smile of a Greek goddess (remember, I heard this from Ari) and said, “Terwilliger? What about Terwilliger?”
“Spoon,” Ari said.
“Yes it is. What do you know about it … um …” she said, pausing for him to tell her his name even though they had been in the same home room for four years and so she had heard his name called at roll approximately 720 times.
After a few moments in which Ari considered what it would take to get his name changed to “Rock” or “Lance,” he said, “Ari.”
“Well, Ari, how do you know about the Terwilliger Spoon?”
“I heard you lost it.”
“From whom could you have heard such a thing?” she asked, not so sweetly this time.
“From you. I was behind you when you were talking about it with Lydia.”
“You were eavesdropping?”
“No. Well, yes, but not on purpose.”
Amanda turned away and started walking down the hall. Desperate to extend the conversation, Ari blurted out, “I can help you find it.”
“And how is that?”
“I think I know where it is.”
“Um, the last place you saw it.”
“At the Madagascar Café?”
“Yes, that’s right, the Mada … Mada … Magadagga Daggadagga.”
“Then why don’t you get it for me?”
“Then you can go to the dance,” Ari said hopefully.
But her eyes turned to weapons and she pierced him with her gaze. “I can go to any dance I want,” she said icily.
“But I thought your father grounded you.”
“That’s what he thinks,” she said. She lowered the flames in her eyes and said, suddenly sweetly, “But if you can get me the Terwilliger Spoon, I’d appreciate it.” She smiled like a boa constrictor digesting a particularly juicy rabbit and walked slowly to her first class.
By the time I saw Ari during the walk to Fizz Ed, he was swinging back and forth between delight in thinking that Amanda had paid attention to him and fear that he had made a promise on which he could not come close to delivering.
“What am I going to do?” he said during one of the fearful moments. “I have no idea where the Terwilliger Spoon is.”
“Well,” I said, “she’s given you a starting place. The Madagascar Café. Why don’t we go over there this afternoon and see if they’ve found it?”
“Ok. But I wish she’d eaten somewhere easier to pronounce.”
That afternoon, after I’d gone to the fish store and made my purchase – two Danio kyathi from Burma – Ari came over and we rode our bikes to the Madagascar. You could tell this was one of the fanciest restaurants in town because it only had a tiny sign. Also, there were real flowers in glass vases on top of white tablecloths on every table. This was definitely the type of place Amanda would hang out in. Of course, it didn’t hurt that under the sign it said that it was “A Member of the Dunn Family of Companies” – yet another spot in town owned by Amanda’s dad.
We stood outside, uncertain of how to approach the matter.
“We could just ask,” I said.
“Ask if they found a fancy spoon? They’ll know it’s not ours.”
“So? We’ll tell them it’s Amanda’s and they’ll call her father.”
“Then I won’t get the credit. Besides, don’t you think they would have noticed if they found a spoon? It must have gotten mixed up with their regular spoons which are probably pretty fancy themselves.”
“We could ask to see their spoons,” I said.
“Yeah, sure,” Ari said sarcastically. “‘We’re teenage spoon inspectors. Show us your silverware or be prepared to suffer the consequences.’”
“Ok, ok,” I said.
We stood silently, our bicycles leaning against us. “Got it!” I said. “You could get a job there washing dishes! Then you could inspect all the spoons.”
Ari brightened. “Yeah!” he said enthusiastically. “Oh, no. Drat! How can I get a job there? My parents won’t even let me join the computer club because I’m already doing too many things after school.”
We pondered again. And thus it was that I ended up as the Madagascar’s new dishwashing assistant.
This was not the way I had expected to spend my afternoons after I put $100,000,000 into my bank account.
It didn’t take me long to be sure I had seen all of the restaurant’s silverware. And all of it was the same. As far as I was concerned, there were only two types of silverware at Madagascar’s: ones covered with goopy food, and ones clean but so hot that you could barely touch them.
I would have quit, but I would have felt like I had lied to the manager of the Madagascar, a big man with a thin little mustache that fascinated me. Also, he turned out to be a pretty nice fellow. So I decided to stick it out there for a week.
When I was done, I reported to Ari that there was no Terwilliger Spoon there.
Ari wiped most of the milk off of his upper lip and said, “Well, that’s that.”
“Not necessarily,” I said.
I had a plan. But I couldn’t tell Ari because it would reveal to him that I was a rich kid. So, when he insisted on knowing, all I said was, “I can’t tell you yet. But I’m going to need your help.”
“Anything,” he said, hope beginning to beat in his heart again.
“I need to find out exactly what the Terwilliger Spoon looked like.”
“Just trust me.”
“Well, ok,” he said. “But how are we going to find out what it looked like?”
“Where else? The Internet.”
Usually we’re good at finding what we need – Ari especially has a knack for it – but we came up empty this time. So, that afternoon we went to the library, and we looked through just about every book and magazine in the place. We even engaged the help of Mr. Lipton the Librarian. He was a weight lifter and the rumor was that he had come in third in the Mr. Universe contest. When Mimi once asked him about it, he replied by giving her a Dewey Decimal number that turned out to lead to a shelf of books about rumors.
Mr. Lipton pointed Ari and me to reference works we had never even heard of. One weighed so much that it took two of us to open it, although Mr. Lipton carried it in one hand. All that we found was an entry in The Century Book of Achievements that was actually a guide to rich people. We discovered that Graham Terwilliger had made a fortune in India importing guns which he traded for Indian art masterpieces, and that he later settled in this country where he made a second fortune trading Indian masterpieces for logging rights in the Northwest. The only connection to a spoon was a reference to his elaborate parties. Perhaps he used the spoon to serve caviar … which he probably served in crumpled up Indian art masterpieces.
We left the library no wiser – at least, not any wiser about the Terwilliger Spoon.
Ari, predictably, was glum. I said, “Let’s go to the Soda Squirt.”
“I’m out of money,” said Ari. “I spent everything on a new pair of shoes for the dance.”
“That’s ok, I think I have some,” I said. “You know, from washing dishes at The Madagascar.” I’d earned $54 from my work. When I’d gone to deposit it, Ms. Minden took me aside, punched some numbers into a calculator, and told me that in the nine hours I’d worked at The Madagascar, I’d earned $4,109.59 in interest, just by doing nothing. That’s $684.93 every hour of nothingness.
While we were slurping the last of the chocolate glop at the bottom of our Atomic Sundaes, I had an idea.
“What is it?” Ari asked.
“I’ll tell you. And the best part is, you get to speak to Amanda again.”
So, the next day, Ari showed up at school forty-five minutes before it started so that he could casually run into Amanda by coincidental unplanned accident. I sat with him behind a large tree at the end of the schoolyard where we had a strategic view of everyone who entered. I had a nasty cramp by the time Amanda strolled up the stairs, and wasn’t really paying attention. And Ari was busy trying to carve his and Amanda’s initials into the bark of the tree with a number 2 pencil. When I spotted her, it was almost too late. Ari shot up like a rabbit who’s just seen a fox, and practically knocked Amanda down. Again.
Because we had gone over what he was going to say so many times, I could tell what he was saying even though I could only barely hear him: “Hey, Amanda, I had an idea. If your father has a picture of the Terwilliger Spoon, I’d be happy to make some inquiries.” This would have come off as more casual if he hadn’t had to look twice at a scrap of paper he was carrying to remind himself of what he was supposed to say.
There followed an exchange I couldn’t make out, but apparently it went well enough because Ari came back and reported that she was going to think about it.
The next day, Ari found an envelope in his locker with a picture of the Terwilliger Spoon inside it.
And at last I had found a reason to be rich.
I rode to the edge of town where there was a shop I had often passed and wondered about: Smithy’s Silver Smith. The store’s neighbors were a bingo parlor and an abandoned tire store with a pile of old tires in the parking lot. There, between them, was Smithy’s, with a carefully cleaned blue and silver sign picturing a gleaming crown. In the window were shiny rings, broaches and necklaces, carefully arranged on black velvet. It seemed an odd place to have a silver shop,
“Hello?” the owner asked, not looking up from the stool on which he sat. He was hunched over a work table that had strands of wire, pliers, a lit flame, small hammers, and polishing cloths.
“Hello,” I said.
“Ah, a child,” he said, still not looking up.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“He guesses!” he said, snorting a laugh. He looked up. “Ah, an in-betweener,” he said, not unkindly. He was holding a battered piece of silver with a dark pair of pliers in one hand, and a sharp-pointed hammer in the other. He put them both down, dropped off the stool – his feet didn’t reach the ground while sitting – brushed some silvery slivers from his thick brown apron, and looked me straight in the eye.
“How can I help you, my young man,” he asked.
“Do you make silver things?”
He gestured to his work bench. “That is precisely what I do. Guillermo Smith, silversmith,” he said, shaking my hand. He looked me in the eye again, as if trying to see something buried way back in my brain, as I waited for sensation to return to my crumpled right hand. His own eyes were dark and capped by bushy eyebrows that needed a good mowing. The rest of his head was hairless.
After staring into my face, he seemed to make up his mind about me. “How can I help?”
“Can you make a spoon for me?”
“A spoon?” he asked thoughtfully. “Yes, well, of course.”
“Except it’s got to look just like this,” I said, pulling out the picture of the Mr. Dunn’s spoon.
“The Terwilliger,” he said.
“You know it?”
“Yes, I know it. My father made it.”
“Really. He was commissioned to make twenty of them. I watched him make them as a boy.”
“That’s amazing,” I said. “But I thought it was commissioned by a guy who lived in the 19th Century.”
He laughed. “That was the story the man who created them wanted people to believe. He was really just a local businessman with an eye for a sharp deal. He thought it would make the spoons more valuable if they had a glamorous history. It worked, too. He made a fortune selling them to collectors.”
“But they’re not really worth that much?”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong. My father did a magnificent job on them. They just have nothing to do with Indians and elephants. But the Terwilligers are special to me. They’re what got me interested in silver smithing. I watched my father craft each one to perfection. I loved everything about them – the brightness of the silver, the tapping and tinking of the hammer, the shine that came out of hiding if you rubbed it enough. My father was a far better silversmith than I.”
“Do you think you could make another?”
“Perhaps. I don’t know. I’d like to try. But why would you want a Terwilliger Spoon?”
I remembered my vow not to let my fortune turn me into a liar. “I can’t really tell you,” I said. He nodded, turned his back to me, and bent over his workbench. “But I promise you, it’s not for anything wrong.”
“Can you tell me what you would do with it?”
“I’m going to replace one that a friend lost.”
“Hmm. I’m not sure.”
“It’s not like I’m going to sell it to make money. I just want to help out a friend.”
“Do you have any idea how much it would cost to make a spoon like the Terwilliger?” I shook my head. “It’s a big spoon. Lots of silver. Highest quality. That itself will run hundreds of dollars. And then you’ll only have a shapeless lump of metal.” He looked to see if I was shocked. “Then, I’ll have to spend many, many hours working the metal. Look at the detail in this photograph. All told, I’d say it’s going to cost around $2,000. So, much as I’d like to help you …”
I took out an envelope from my backpack and started counting out hundred dollar bills; I had stopped at the bank on my way over. When I got to 20, I stopped counting. “That’s two thousand,” I said.
I must say I enjoyed Mr. Smith’s look of astonishment.
“Where on earth did you …”
Now it was my turn to look Mr. Smith in the eye. I made a decision. “I can trust you can’t I?”
“Yes,” he said. I liked that he didn’t say anything more.
“I won a lot of money in the state lottery. But no one knows because I can’t tell my parents about it.”
“You won enough to afford spending $3,000 on an ugly ceremonial spoon?”
“I thought you said it was $2,000.”
“That was before I knew you could afford it.”
Mr. Smith looked lovingly at the photograph. “A Terwilliger. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try. Come back in a week.”