A Lesson in Economics

I was in my room reading. (Because I was eleven, and at age eleven, I was always in my room reading.) 

“Want to come outside and do something with me?” my big brother asked, like the book in my hands wasn’t already an answer to that question.

Glance out the window. It looks hot. “Like what?” 

“I was thinking of maybe building a miniature golf course.”

Intriguing. But also, hot. And also experience tells me grandiose plans are not necessarily going to become a reality. Whereas the unlikely band of misfits in this book are very real and most definitely going to save their kingdom through courage and friendship and a little bit of magic. (It was probably a band of misfits. I don’t really remember, but there was inevitably a band of misfits and some kind of sorcerer.)



It was a little surprising that he didn’t try to talk me into it. He usually tried to tempt and tease me to bend to his will. It usually worked. (I should have known the lack of bluster meant a more serious plan was in motion, but I hadn’t yet learned that correlation.)

The misfits did their thing. I was very happy in some other world. But not quite enough to ignore the noises happening in my world. Something was definitely going on in the front yard. I peeked out.

My brother was hard at work. Bricks from the random pile in the back yard were laid out. Toys and sticks were arranged as obstacles. Cups were put out to catch the golf balls. It really was a miniature golf course. The neighbor kids were already watching. There was a buzz in the air. I felt a little bit like I was missing out on something great, but not quite enough to do anything about it. I was needed elsewhere. The misfits were on the verge of a breakthrough.

Another half hour. Now there was laughing and shouting coming from out front. I peeked out again. The neighbor kids were playing the course, putting around with my dad’s old golf clubs while my brother stood on and watched…and collected the money. He was charging them a dollar each to play the course. (He was always brilliant like that.) Now I knew for sure I had missed my window. No way he would let me play for free. No way I was paying a dollar to putt around some bricks. It sure did look like a good time in the front yard, though. There was nothing I hated more than missing out on a good time.

I rejoined my misfits with much less enthusiasm. 

That’s when my brother came back. He couldn’t have picked his moment better if he had planned it. (He may have planned it. More likely he had just gotten bored…because he literally has the ability to become bored by how easy it is to make money.) 

“Want to make some money?” He asked, waving the stack of ones in his hand.

I did, in fact, want to earn money, mostly because you can buy books with money.

“How?” I said as casually as I could.

“I built the golf course like I said, and the kids are all playing. They’re paying a dollar per game. I’m kind of tired from standing out there, though. If you go collect the money and watch over the game, I’ll give you a quarter of each dollar they pay.”

“Only a quarter?” I’m a little sister, which is undeniably synonymous with sucker, but I do have some standards.

“Well, it is my golf course. It was my idea. I put all the work into building it. But I guess I could give you fifty cents.”

Ha. Half the money and an excuse to go join the fun. Who’s the sucker now? (It’s still me, but I’m 11. Give me a break.)

I took the deal. I stood in the heat for an hour or so, until the neighbor kids slowly lost interest or ran out of money or both. I made about three dollars. It wasn’t all that much fun, either. These were my brother’s friends, and I wasn’t a part of their game. I got bit by a lot of mosquitos.

This is what happens when you don’t get in on the ground floor of a new enterprise.  

Also, this: my mom came home with the groceries. “Kids, clean up that mess in the front yard before dinner.”

“We will, Mom,” my brother called, appearing from out of nowhere. “It won’t take us long,” he reassured me. There was no more mention of it being his golf course. Fifty-fifty was now the name of the game.

We carried bricks to the back yard. We stacked cups and returned clubs to the garage. The golf course was just a pile of old junk again. 

“Sweet. Made $15 dollars on that,” my brother said, pocketing the cash. 

I looked down at my three and scratched my mosquito bites and reflected that some of us were born to make money and laugh with the neighbor kids and some of us were born to miss out. I shrugged off the blip of resentment and went back inside. It’s all right. This is how misfits are made and why they end up banding together. 

And it’s a good thing they do, or who would save the world from evil sorcerers?

Thanks for the lesson in economics, big brother, and for helping me know who I am.

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