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Pea Soup for the Cynic's Soul


I met Kyle the summer I was ten years old. His parents bought the old Victorian house next to ours that had stood empty for several years. His father was an architect and wanted a "challenge" house to work on. I first saw Kyle when he came over to our house with his mother to get acquainted with their new neighbors. While our mothers talked, Kyle and I became fast friends in the way only ten year olds can. Within ten minutes we were inside Kyle's house, helping his dad rip down plaster to make way for sheet-rock.

Over the summer months, Kyle and I were best friends, and we did everything together. We fished, caught frogs, and swam in the creek; we helped his dad with the deconstruction of the house but got bored as soon as the deconstruction stopped and the reconstruction began. When school started in the fall, we were in the same class and studied together for all the tests.

Then one day Kyle didn't get on the bus to go to school. I asked my Mom where he was when I got home that day, and she said, "Joey, Kyle's sick."

"Oh," I said and thought nothing more about it. Until Kyle didn't show up for the rest of the week.

I went over to see him, but Kyle's Mom met me at the door, and I could see that she had been crying. "Kyle's still sick, Joey. We're taking him to the doctor on Monday." I asked if I could see him, but she declined, saying she didn't know if what Kyle had was catching.

After school on Monday, my mother met me at the door. Her face was pale, and her eyes were red. She took me into the den, and I was already crying by the time she told me the news, because I knew it was bad.

"Joey, Kyle has a disease called Leukemia," she said softly, as we both cried.

"Is he going to die?" I asked.

"I don't know, honey," she said. I knew what that meant. It meant "yes." I started to cry harder.

I went to see Kyle the next day. He was really skinny. I knew he had been getting skinnier for a while, but it was really bad now. His face was all pale, too. We talked for quite a bit, and when I left, I cried even harder.

Kyle was taken to the hospital again a week later. I called them up and asked if there was anything I could do to help my friend. They said there was a charity that I could collect money for, a foundation that was looking for a cure. So I set to work. I enlisted my little brother to carry the lemons from the store, and I carried the two big bags of sugar. Together, we set up a stand on the side of the road and sold lemonade. When we told people what we were doing, they would sometimes give more than the ten cents a cup we were asking for. One guy gave $20! People would go home, tell their friends, and all of their friends would come by and buy some lemonade. Even after we ran out of lemonade, they still kept coming. By the end of the day, we had $178!!! It was amazing!

My mom said she was really proud of me. Even my little brother thought I was cool. My mom drove me to the hospital where they collected the money for the charity. I had the money in my pocket when I walked in, but when I walked up to the big collection barrel, I felt a little twinge. $178 was more money than I'd ever seen in my life. I was thinking of all the things that money could buy me, not of my little buddy Kyle sitting in his hospital bed. When I walked up to the barrel, I put in the thirty-six cents in change I had in my pocket from the bubble gum I had bought that morning and walked back to my Mom, who was waiting in the car.

Kyle died a week later. I saw him one more time, and he thanked me for raising all that money for him with the lemonade stand. I smiled and told him it was no problem. He looked so old, lying there in that bed.

I bought a whole bunch of baseball cards and candy with that money. And hey, they still haven't found a cure for Leukemia, right? I'm so sure my $178 would have put them over the top.