The Booklet

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Andy found the booklet on the way home from school.  The fall windstorm he was leaning into blew it up against his right leg.  It stuck.  He tried to kick it free, but he couldn’t.

Andy stopped walking and kicked again.  The booklet stayed stuck to his leg.

He turned around, his back to the wind and kicked.  The wind should have helped blow the booklet off his leg, but it didn’t.  He kicked the booklet with his left foot.  It didn’t help.  He kicked his right foot twice more, then danced around wildly, trying to get rid of the booklet.

But it stayed stuck.  It was as if the booklet were part of his pants.

He stopped dancing, reached down, and picked up the booklet.  It pulled away easily from his leg.

He was going to toss it onto the sidewalk behind him, but he decided not to.  Kicking it wouldn’t have felt like littering to him.  But somehow, once he picked it up, it was his.  And throwing it onto the ground would make him a litterbug.

He leaned into the wind and continued walking.  He’d throw the booklet away when he came to a garbage can.

As Andy walked, the wind eased up, and then stopped.  And then, because the wind let him, and because he had nothing else to do, Andy looked at the booklet.

 

“How to Get What You Want (In Ten Easy Steps)”.

 

“What I want is to throw this away,” Andy said.  He looked around for a garbage can.  None was in sight.

Okay, so maybe there were other things he wanted.  He could think of three things he wanted right off the top of his head.  And those were only school things.  He thought of four things he wanted at home.  And five things he wanted for Christmas.  When he thought about it, Andy realized that he wanted a lot of things.

He looked at the booklet again.  Could getting what you want really be that easy?

 

Finally, he found a garbage can.

He didn’t throw the booklet away.

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Step One

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When Andy arrived home, his mother was reading on the living room sofa.  “Hi, Andy,” she said.  “How was school?  Come give me a hug.”

Andy hugged his Mom and said, “It was okay.  We made paper helicopters and dropped them out the window.”

“Did you get in trouble?”

“No, Mom.  It was the teacher’s idea.  It was for science.”

 

Mom went back to her book, and Andy went to his room.

When he walked in his bedroom door he stopped.  His clothes drawers were dumped on the floor.  His collection of stuffed white tigers, which he kept on his dresser, was spread across his bed.  His desk chair was upside down, in the middle of the room, surrounded by pillows.

He slammed the booklet on his desk and ran back into the living room.  “MOMMMMMMM!  THEY DID IT AGAIN!”

His mother looked up from her book.  “What’s the problem, dear?”

“The triplets wrecked our room again!”  Andy had three brothers, Johnny, Ronny and Donny.  All four years old.  Any one of them would have been the messiest four-year-old in the universe.  Put them all together, and it was disaster.  And Andy had to share a room with them.

He hated it.

“I’m sorry, honey,” said his mother.  “I’ll have them clean up when they get back from playing at the Bensons.”

“But Mom, they do this every day!  Isn’t there something you can do to stop them?  Maybe lock them in the attic or something until they’re old enough to move out of the house?”

“I know it’s hard to live with them,” his mother said.  “But they’re good kids.  Just a little active.  You just wait.  They’re getting older every day, and before long you’ll all be best friends.”

Andy couldn’t think of any way in the universe that he’d ever be best friends with his brothers.  Or even good friends.  He couldn’t think of any way he’d even stand being around them any longer.

Andy stomped back into his room and slammed the door.  He pulled the pillows off of his chair and threw them on the triplet’s triple-decked bunk bed.  And then he turned his chair right side up, dragged it to his desk, and sat down.

He put his elbows on his desk and his head in his hands, and frowned.  How he wished he didn’t have to share a room with those monsters.

And then he saw the booklet, sitting there on his desk, right in front of him.

 

“How to Get What You Want (In Ten Easy Steps)”.

 

Andy knew what he wanted.  He reached out and opened the booklet to the first page.

 

“Step One:  Keep asking over and over and over and over and over for what you want.”

 

What could it hurt?  He’d try it.

He went back into the living room.  “Mom,” he said.  “Can I have my own room?”

“Not now,” said his mother.

“But Mom, can I have my own room?  I need my own room.”

“Not now!” said his mother.

“Please Mom?  Can I have my own room?  I want my own room.”

“You can’t have your own room, Andy,” said his mom.

“Please Mom, please Mom?  Can I have my own room?  I want my own room.”

“Andy, no,” said his mother.  “Now let me finish my book.”

“But Mom, can I…”

“Andy,” said his mom, “if you ask me one more time then you’re grounded for the rest of the day.”

Andy stomped back to his room and slammed the door.

Step Two

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Andy sat down at his desk and turned the booklet to the next page.

 

“Step Two:  Make promises you won’t keep.”

 

He went back to the living room.  “Mom,” he said.  His mom stopped reading and gave Andy the look.  Her mouth didn’t say anything, but Andy knew just what her eyes were saying.  They were saying that if he said anything about getting his own room, then he was in big, big trouble.

But Andy didn’t care.  He had to have his own room.

“Mom,” he said, “if you let me…”

Just then the front door burst open.  Three wild dogs raced into the living room.  One flew at Andy, hitting him in back of the knees and knocking him down.  The other two jumped on his mother.

It was the triplets.  “Hi Mom, we’re home!”  Ronny and Donny shouted, right in her ear.

“Hi Andy, we’re home!”  Johnny climbed on top of him and started jumping.

“Did you have fun at the Bensons?” Mom asked.

“Mom!  Get him off of me,” begged Andy.  “He’s going to break my back!”

“Donny, please get down off of your brother,” Mom said.  Donny jumped off of Andy and into his mother’s lap.

“Now boys,” she said.  “Did you mess up Andy’s stuff?”

“We were playing jungle safari,” said Donny.

“You shouldn’t play jungle safari with Andy’s things unless he gives you permission,” said their mother.  “Now tell Andy you’re sorry.”

“We’re sorry,” they all said at the same time, but none of them looked at Andy.  And none of them looked sorry to Andy.

“Now run into your room, please,” she said, “and don’t come out until it’s clean.”

The three boys jumped off of their mom and raced to their bedroom.

Finally, Andy could talk to his mom again.  He spoke fast before the triplets could come back.

“Mom, if you let me have my own room I’ll clean the whole house every day for the rest of my life and I’ll always do everything you tell me to do.”

“No you won’t,” said his mother, smiling.  “And you’re grounded for the rest of the day.”

Step Three

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Andy stomped back to his room.

The triplets were standing in the middle of the room.  They had their fists on their waists.  They were glaring at Andy.  “You wrecked our fort!” said Johnny.

“You wrecked my room!” said Andy.

“It’s our room!” said Donny.

“Yeah, our room!” said Ronny.

“Not all of it,” said Andy.  “You messed up my tigers.”

“Uh uh,” said Donny.  “They were just running away because they don’t like you.”

“And you dumped out my clothes,” said Andy.

“Uh uh,” said Ronny.  “The tigers dumped them out.  They were mad at you.”

“Not true,” said Andy.  He could play the tiger game too. “The tigers told me that you threw them on my bed.  They don’t like to be thrown.  And they are mad that you blamed them for my messy clothes.  They don’t like that either.  And they told me that they are going to eat you guys tonight when you’re asleep.”

The triplet’s eyes got wide.  “They did not!” said Johnny.

“Yes they did,” said Andy.  “While you were at the Benson’s.  They told me that you messed up our room.  And that you tipped over my chair.  And that you are mean to them.  And they think you’re all just the right size to eat.”

“That’s not true!” said Donny.

“You’re lying!” said Ronny.  “Besides, your tigers can’t eat us.  They’re not real tigers.  They’re just stuffed.”

“They’re just stuffed during the day,” said Andy.  “But at night they come alive.  And you haven’t seen them become alive because you’re always sleeping.  But I’ve seen them come alive.  They came alive last night.  They jumped onto your beds and looked at you.  And they told me they wanted to eat you.”

The triplets looked nervously at the white tigers.

“But I told them they can’t eat you,” said Andy, “without my permission.  And that’s why they didn’t eat you.  Yet.  But unless you clean up all of my stuff you messed up, I’m going to tell them tonight that they can eat you all up!”

The triplets were silent for a minute.  And then Donny said, “Okay, we’ll clean up your stuff.  Just tell your tigers not to eat us.”

“Tell them we don’t want to be eaten,” said Ronny.

“Yeah,” said Johnny.  “Tell them…hey, wait a minute!  I have an idea.  We’ll take turns staying awake so we can keep the tigers from eating us!”

“Good idea,” said Ronny.

“First I’ll stay awake and keep the tigers away,” said Donny.  “And then Ronny will stay awake.  And then Johnny will stay awake.  And all night long one of us will be awake.”

“And we won’t have to clean up Andy’s mess!” said Johnny.

“All right!” said Donny.  “Let’s get weapons to protect us from the tigers!”  And all three ran off to their closet, and their toy box, and under their beds, digging for things they could use to fight off the tigers.

That was the last straw.  Andy had tried to reason with his brothers.  But they were impossible.  He had to get his own room.  Now.

He turned back to his desk and turned the page in the booklet.

 

“Step Three:  Demand.”

 

He left the triplets making an even bigger mess in the room, and marched back to the living room.

 

“Mom, I want my own room RIGHT NOW!  GIVE IT TO ME!”

 

This time Andy’s mom looked up from her book.  “Why Andy, even if I wanted to give you your own room, I wouldn’t do it after you talked to me like that.”

Step Four

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When Andy went back in his room, it was an even bigger mess.  The triplets had pulled all of their toys from under the bed.  And from out of their toy box.  And from out of their closet.  And they’d thrown everything all over the room.

Everything but the toys they’d chosen as weapons.  Johnny, Donny and Ronny sat on their beds, surrounded by baseball bats, and action figures, and plastic swords.

“Your tigers won’t eat us now!” said Johnny.  “If they try, we’ll conquer them!”

“Cause we’ve got lots of weapons made specially for fighting tigers,” said Donny.

“And we’re going to stay awake all night,” said Ronny.

“And they’re not even going to get to our beds,” said Johnny, “because we set booby traps all over the room.”

“And if they try to get us in the middle of the night,” said Ronny, “they’ll step on a booby trap and they’ll go KABOOM!”

“Like you’re going to go when you step on a booby trap,” said Donny.

“These aren’t booby traps,” said Andy.  “They’re your toys.”  He kicked a plastic car back under their bunk beds.

“KABOOM!” said Johnny.  “You blew up!”

“I did not,” said Andy.  “I’m right here because your stupid booby traps are just your toys.  Want me to show you?”  And Andy started walking around the room, stepping on the triplets’ toys.

“Hey, stop that!” said Donny.

“You’re breaking our toys!” said Ronny.

“No, I’m not,” said Andy.  “They’re booby traps and I’m blowing them up.  KABOOM!  KABOOM!  KABOOM!”

“We’re telling Mom!” said Johnny.  And the triplets’ jumped off their beds and ran out of the room

“KABOOM!  KABOOM!  I WANT MY OWN ROOM!” shouted Andy after them.

 

When the triplets were gone, Andy went back to the booklet and turned the page.  It was time to try again.

 

“Step Four:  Chant.  Over and over.”

 

Andy closed his eyes and started chanting.

“I..want..my own..room!

I..want..my own..room!”

I..want..my own..room!

I..want..my own..room!”

“Nope,” said Mom.  Andy opened his eyes.  His mom was in the room, frowning.  Surrounding her were the triplets, smiling.

Step Five

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“Andy,” said his mom, “the boys say you’re breaking their toys.  Is that true?”

“No,” said Andy.  Of course he wasn’t breaking their toys.  He’d stepped on them, yes.  But the triplets had already broken all of their toys that could be broken.  Any toys they had left would survive a nuclear war.

“Where are the toys Andy broke, boys?” his mom asked.

“All over,” said Johnny.  “Can’t you see them?”

“What I see,” said their mom, “is that you boys have spread all of your toys around the room again.  And I also see that you haven’t cleaned up Andy’s clothes yet either.  I want all three of you to put away all of your toys.  And then I want you to clean up Andy’s clothes.  If you don’t do it right now, you can’t go to the Benson’s to play tomorrow.”

“That’s okay, Mom,” said Donny.  “We can play in our room tomorrow with our toys.”

“And you won’t get dessert tonight,” said Mom.  “We’re having banana splits.”

“Banana splits!” said all three of the boys at once.

“With bananas?” said Donny.

“Well duh,” said Andy.

“Andy, that’s not polite, dear,” said Mom.  “Yes, Donny, with bananas.”

“And with splits?” said Ronny.

“What!” said Andy.  “You’re so…”

“Andy, that’s enough.”  Mom frowned at Andy.  Then she turned back to Ronny and smiled.  “Yes, honey, with splits.”

“Yummy!” said Johnny.  “Let’s get cleaning so we can have banana splits!”  And the triplets began throwing their toys back under their bunk bed and into their toy box.

“And Andy,” said Mom, “maybe it would be better if you came out while the boys cleaned.”

Andy wasn’t sure it would be better.  He was afraid that if no one watched the triplets, his clothes would end up at the bottom of their closet.  “I don’t know, Mom.  Maybe I’d better…”

“Andy, come,” Mom said.

“Okay, I’m coming,” he said.  But before he left the room, he stopped at his desk and turned to the next page in the booklet.

 

“Step Five:  Whine.”

 

Andy followed his mother into the kitchen.  “How would you like to help me with dinner?” she said.  “Would you please peel some potatoes?”

“Okay,” said Andy.  He picked three large potatoes from the potato basket, found a peeler in a drawer, and began to peel the potatoes into the sink.

As he peeled, his mom took some lettuce and tomatoes from the fridge and began to cut them up.

“Mom,” said Andy, “you saw what the boys did to our room and to my stuff.  And you saw how we fight.  Don’t you think it would be a good idea for me to have my own room?”

“Andy, please,” said his mother.  “Let’s not discuss it right now.”

Andy stopped peeling. Time for step five. “But Mo-m-m-m-m-m!  I W-A-A-A-A-A-A-N-T MY OWN ROOM!”

Mom stopped cutting and looked at Andy.  “Andy, we don’t allow whining here.”

“But the boys whine all the time!”

“They’re only four and they’re learning.  You’re old enough to know better.”

“But Mo-m-m-m-m-m!”

“Andy, five minute timeout on the living room couch.  I want you to sit there quietly with your arms folded.”  Mom reached over to the oven clock.  “I’ll set the timer so you’ll know when you can get up.”

“But Mo-m-m-m, that’s not fair!”

“Ten minutes, Andy.  Now go.”  She set the timer for ten minutes.

Andy threw the potato and peeler into the sink, stomped into the living room, fell onto the couch, and slam-folded his arms against his chest.

For ten minutes all Andy thought was, “I WANT MY OWN ROOM!”

Steps Six, Seven, and Eight

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After ten minutes the timer buzzed.  “You can get up now, Andy,” his mom said from the kitchen.  “And if you’d like, you could come back and help me.”

Oh yes, Andy would go back into the kitchen.  But he wouldn’t be there to help.  And first he had to look at something.

When he stepped in his bedroom, it was much cleaner.  At least it looked cleaner.  Under the bunk bed was a mess where the triplets had jammed too many of their toys.  And they’d put his clothes back in his drawers.  But they’d just crammed them in.  And they hadn’t closed the drawers all the way.

But at least Andy could walk into his room without stepping on things.

The boys were sitting on the bottom bunk.  They were holding the few weapons they’d kept out.  “We talked to your tigers,” said Johnny.  “We told them that you’re bigger and that you’d taste better.  So they’re going to eat you tonight.”

Andy just smiled and ignored them.  He knew something they didn’t know.  He knew that after today he would have his own room.  Because he was now going to do the next THREE steps all at once.  That should be powerful enough to get what he wanted.

He read the next three pages in the booklet.

 

Step Six:   Cry.

 

Step Seven:   Scream and stomp your feet.

 

Step Eight:  Hold your breath.

 

“Good night.  Sleep tight.  Don’t let the tigers bite,” said Andy.  And he flipped off the light switch, stepped out of the room, and slammed the door shut.

He ignored the screaming triplets as he walked into the kitchen.

 

Andy rubbed his eyes, thought sad thoughts, and began to cry.  “Mo-m-m-m!”  Andy sobbed.  “I (sniff) want my (sniff) own room (sniff)!  Please (sniff sniff)!”  He cried his hardest.  He rubbed his eyes.  He wiped at his tears.  This was going to work.  Andy was sure of it.  After all, it worked all the time for the triplets.

His mother stopped setting the table.  She reached up in the cupboard above the fridge and pulled down a box of tissues.  She pulled out one tissue and handed it to Andy.  Then she returned to setting the table.

 

On to step seven.  Andy began to scream and stomp his feet.  “I WANT MY OWN ROOM!  I WANT MY OWN ROOM!”

“ANDY!  STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!” shouted his mom.

 

Andy did stop screaming.  And he stopped breathing.

“Finally, some peace and quiet,” said his mom as she continued setting the table.

Andy kept holding his breath.

His mom set out the knives.

Andy kept holding his breath.

His mom set out the spoons.

Andy fell on the floor and pretended to faint.

“Andy,” said his mom.  “If you’re tired, why don’t you go to your room and take a nap.”

Andy took a breath, stood up, and went back to his room.

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