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Pie Man
by Walt Giersbach

Everything I learned about work came from my 12-year-old brother, Allen, who taught me it’s better to be smart than educated. I was scribbling at my homework when I overheard him say to our sister, “Mandy, I’ll wash your car if you’ll give me that last piece of Mom’s pie.”

“That’s my slice!” She shrieked like you’d just rifled her underwear drawer. Mom was famous for her pecan pies and there was just one slice left. 

“That has Mandy’s name on it,” Mom called from the kitchen in that way mothers talk. Mandy’s one of those terrible people who won’t finish her dessert just because she wants to make you feel bad when yours is gone and she’s still picking at hers.

“But,” Allen explained, “you don’t want to go to the basketball game tonight and let everyone know you’re too lazy to wash the mud off your car.” Loved his make-believe horror.

“You’ve got a point, jerk.” she agreed, “but wash it fast and do it right or I’ll whack you.” 

This deal sounded interesting so I pushed my homework aside and followed him out the back door. Joey, our 17-year-old brother was sitting on the porch with a hoe in his hand, probably wishing he could be down the street where his girlfriend, Deirdre, was playing fetch with her dog.

“Hey, Joey, Deirdre’s waiting,” Allen said. “Too bad you gotta weed the garden.”

“Shut up, half pint. I don’t need you to define tragedy.”

“Hey, I got an idea. Joey, I’ll hoe the weeds if you’ll hose off Mandy’s car. Then you can drive it around to dry it and maybe pick up Deirdre for some kissy-face. Sound fair?”

Joey’s eyes got squinty, suspecting a trick, but the offer sounded too good to refuse. “So long, sucker,” he said, throwing the hoe in Allen’s hands.”

Allen dropped the hoe and went back to the garage where Dad was fiddling with his junk. So many little wheels were whirring around in Allen’s head he could’ve been a Chinese windup toy. 

“Hey, Dad,” he whined, like some kid in a TV show, “I was going to hoe the garden —but there’s a rabbit nest there. Bunnies. Want me to kill them?”

“Allen,” Dad said enthusiastically, like he hasn’t seen his number two son since breakfast. “Killing baby rabbits? That’s terrible. Leave the garden. Mom’s gotta get it through her head it’s not worth the trouble — and I hate cabbage.”

Allen smiled and went into the kitchen. 

“Okay, Mom, I’m done my chores. Mandy’s car is washed, the garden’s taken care of and I think I’ve done about enough for a Saturday. Guess I’ll have that piece of pie Mandy gave me and rest up.”

I couldn’t believe my ears! He had suckered Mandy by offering to wash her old car, got Joey to do the washing, and then finagled Dad into telling him not to hoe weeds. I only hoped I’d be that smart one day.

“You wonderful guy!” she cooed. “I’m so proud— but you can’t have the pie. I want to give it to Mrs. Timothy nest door. Mandy can find another snack.”

Allen’s eyes rolled back in his head like that scene from a cowboy movie where the bad guy gets shot and falls to the floor. Allen should’ve gotten an Academy Award.

“I think he’s dead, Mom,” I said. 

Mom put Allen’s head in her lap. “Oh, my dear. Sit up and talk to me. I’ll fetch the pie. You deserve it.”

I didn’t need homework to get educated. I needed smart.