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Life Lesson

A short story based on true events

To be read aloud by either Daniel Stern or Richard Dreyfuss

It was the summer of 1996, the summer I turned 16. I was working at the furniture store with my dad. He was the general manager, so his days consisted of being the boss. I wasn't the general manager, so my days consisted of assembling furniture, moving furniture around the showroom, finishing furniture, delivering furniture, and cleaning skidmarks from the toilets in the ladies' room. Toilets are like furniture, right?

I needed the money. I was going to buy a 4-track recorder so my band, Torrential Reign, could put some magic on tape and get a record contract. We'd been losing market share to Silverchair for 2 years. Those bastards were somehow stealing all my riffs, and we had to level the playing field. I'd spotted an ad in Guitar World where unsigned bands could submit a three song demo tape and win a contract, so off to work I went.

I toiled throughout the summer. I spent days hauling entertainment centers in the Carmel Valley heat, negotiating oak bedroom sets up narrow staircases in La Mesa Village while some officer's wife barked orders not to scratch the led based paint in her precious rental home. I took windows out of their frames in Deer Flats and lifted in bureaus and book cases through the hole because the customer didn't measure to see that the furniture wouldn't fit down his hallway. I spent time carefully unloading the truck on the steep hills of Skyline Forest. I spent days rearranging sections of the showroom floor on the whims of the sales staff. I carefully sanded, sealed, sanded, stained, sanded, and stained countless pieces of furniture.

I scrubbed skidmarks off of toilets.

It wasn't all bad. There was ample joking around. There were tips (sometimes). I got to meet a few local celebrities in the store and on my deliveries. More importantly, though, I was slowly becoming more responsible. I was becoming a productive member of society. I was being trained in marketable skills. I was learning lessons I would carry with me for life.

And I was socking away my money so I could order that 4-track from Musician's Friend.

One day towards the end of the summer, and towards the end of my tenure at the store, I punched out at the end of the day and went over to see if my dad was ready to leave for the day. We lived about 35 miles away, so we carpooled with my mom. While we waited for her to come and pick us up, we went across the street to 7-11 to get some Big Gulps and feast on the bounty of the roller grill.

We went back to the furniture store's parking lot and sat on the bumper of the delivery truck while we consumed our goodies. What transpired in the next few moments taught me the greatest lesson to date of my young life.

We heard a commotion coming up the street. This wasn't all that uncommon, as the store wasn't in the best neighborhood. It was on the main drag through town, sure, but there were quite a few low-rent apartments and low-rent motels in the area. Quite a few of society's "invisible people" would hang out in the area.

I looked across the street and saw a tall, thin black man. He was wearing a pork-pie hat, a shirt with a large collar, a tan leather jacket, bell-bottom jeans and cowboy boots. Closing the gap behind him was a shorter white woman with bleach blonde hair and three inches of visible brown roots. She was wearing a faux fur stole, a white minidress and gigantic red heels. She caught up with the man and began slapping him on the back and hitting him with her purse. She started screaming, "GIVE ME MY MONEY! GIVE MY MONEY! IT'S MY MONEY! IT'S MY FUCKING MONEY! I SUCKED THE DICK! IT'S MY FUCKING MONEY!"

At that moment I realized: Pimpin' ain't easy.