No dinner tonightby Jonathan
The door banged open as first Jonathon, then Sniv dashed into the house.
"Aunt Celia! Iím home!!!" yelled Jonathon.
Jonathon and Sniv ran into the kitchen where Aunt Celia would normally have been found, but the room was empty and there was no reply to Jonathonís exuberant greeting (unless one counted the echoes which his yell awoke in the old house).
"Randy?" called Jonathon. Again, only the echoes replied.
"Where are they?" asked Sniv.
"Oh, I remember now," answered Jonathon, "Aunt Celia said she was going to some kind of parent-teacher thing, and Randy is roller-skating. Theyíll both be back later. Címon, letís get something to eat!"
Jonathon opened the refrigerator and grinned at what he saw. "Rolled lamb roast! Mmmm!" He carefully lifted the plate of roast lamb out of the fridge and placed it on the table, then went to get the bread and other things needed for making sandwiches.
Sniv looked anxious. "Uh, JonÖ are we supposed to eat this? What if your Aunt Celia is saving it for something?"
"Itís okay," Jonathon reassured him. "Aunt Celia always tells me if she doesnít want me to eat something. Anything else is fair game. The only rule is I have to clean up after."
There followed a long and very satisfying sandwich making (and sandwich eating) session. The roast was looking very thin by the time the two boys felt that their hunger had been sufficiently satisfied. It hadnít been a very big roast to begin with. Now there was almost nothing left of it. Jonathon put the meager remainder of the roast back into the fridge and with both boys helping, the cleanup was completed very quickly, then they headed for the door.
"Whatís that?" asked Sniv, pointing to an envelope lying on the hall table. They hadnít noticed the envelope when they came in.
Jonathon picked up the envelope. It had his name on it, so he opened it and read the note which had been inside. Sniv became worried by degrees as Jonathonís face first showed surprise, then shock, followed by a kind of horror.
"Wh-whatís wrong?" stammered Sniv.
Jonathon handed Sniv the note without speaking. Sniv read it.
Please do not eat the roast in the refrigerator. It is for tonightís dinner. See you then.
Sniv stared at the note, his tummy feeling like he had just dropped about 10 feet in a broken elevator. He looked up at Jonathon. There was a momentís uncomfortable silence.
It was Sniv who broke the silence, in a worried voice "What are we going to do?"
Jonathon sat down in the hallway and put his head in his hands "I donít know. Aunt Celia would have meant that roast for the main part of the meal. Without it, all weíll have is some vegetables. It looks like weíll have no dinner tonight, unless I can think of something!"
Sniv thought for a minute before suggesting "Could you buy another roast and cook it?"
Jonathon didnít move as he spoke, dolefully, "I could cook a roast okay; Aunt Celia taught me some cooking Ďcos I like food so much, but I donít have any money to buy another."
There was another uncomfortable silence, then Jonathon lifted his head, a look of hope on his face.
"Louieís Delicatessen gives us credit! I could get a roast on credit and pay Aunt Celia back later!"
"What are we waiting for?" asked Sniv. "Nothing!" replied Jonathon, jumping to his feet.
A surprise awaited the boys when they arrived at Louieís Delicatessen. There was a large sign in the window: "Under New Management" The word "Louieís" had been painted over on the storeís signboard. The boys looked at each other silently, the same uncomfortable thought in each mind. No words were needed. "Ö May as well go in" murmured Jonathon, unhappily.
Inside, a short, stocky man wearing a spotless white apron greeted them cheerfully in a German accent as they entered the store "Hallo young people! What can I do for you?"
"UhÖ" began Jonathon uncertainly, "whereís Louie?"
"Mr. Louie has wanted to retire himself, so he selled the store to me. I am the new owner!" announced the cheerful man. "I am Mister Schlueter. Johannes Schlueter! You may call me Mr. John if you want! How can I help you?"
It was exactly as Jonathon and Sniv had feared. Still, there was no harm in asking.
"I wanted to get a lamb roastÖ" began Jonathon, hesitatingly.
"Ah, I have good roasts!" answered "Mr. John" - as he had requested the boys to call him, turning towards the refrigerated display case.
"Ö On credit" finished Jonathon.
Mr. John turned back to face the boys and spoke in apologetic tones "I am sorry boys, but this doesn't go! I am new to this neighborhood. How can I give credit when I don't know you! It is not fair to others when I give credit to you und not to others!" He looked at the dismay on the boysí faces and continued "Why, is somesing wrong wis you?"
The boys looked at each other, then back at Mr. John and Jonathon quickly explained the fate of the lamb roast which had been meant for dinner. Mr. John beamed at them as Jonathon finished.
"You are goot boys! You try to make the right things! You try to undo your mistake." Mr. John looked thoughtful for a moment, both boys watching him anxiously.
Mr. John looked around at the store "Maybe you can do somesing for me. I think, Mr. Louie was a bit short-sighting, he couldn't see how his shop has gone a little bit dirty. The boards need to be scrubbed and the floors to be sweeped!" he turned to Jonathon "Will you do that work for me? I will giff you a nice roast then! Okay?" He looked at Jonathon and stretched out his hand for a handshake.
It took Jonathon only half a second to understand what was being offered and no time at all to decide on his answer. He shook Mr. Johnís outstretched hand. "Yes! What do you want me to do?"
"Ö Us to do!" chimed in Sniv. Jonathon looked sheepishly at him. "You donít have to help me you know. It was my mistake, so I should do the work."
Sniv grinned and snapped to attention, saluting Jonathon smartly "Sgt. Sniv reporting for duty, General Jonathon!" Jonathon grinned back, rather relieved that Sniv hadnít taken his offer. Jonathon didnít want to do all of the work by himself, in spite of what he had said to Sniv.
Mr. John smiled but then spoke in more serious tones to both boys. "This is not a child play! The work iss hard und maybe not fun. Are you sure you want to do it?"
This time there was no delay as both boys chorused "Yes!!" emphatically. Mr. John smiled and led the boys to a closet where he sorted out buckets and rags. He put a little washing powder into each bucket and half filled each bucket with warm water, then handed them and the wash rags to the boys.
"You wash the board bottoms, near the front. This place get most dirty and need urgently cleaning" instructed Mr. John. Jonathon took one side of the aisle and Sniv took the other.
Both boys quickly discovered that Mr. John had been correct: It was hard work and wasnít much fun, but having decided to do their best, they made a game out of it, each boy trying to get his shelves clean first. Sniv finished the first aisle before Jonathon and although Jonathon managed to catch up a bit, Sniv had too much of a lead and finished the last aisle a minute before Jonathon. Mr. John examined their work and pronounced himself pleased with the results of their labor. "You are really... aeh... fleissig --- doing goot work!" he announced "Now, it's time to sweeping the floors!"
With the buckets duly emptied and stored, each boy was handed a wide broom. Sniv promptly shouldered his like a rifle and gave a military salute, prompting a chuckle from Mr. John and a sigh of pretend exasperation from Jonathon. "Are you making that army theme todayís running gag?" enquired Jonathon. Sniv just grinned.
Sweeping the floors was more interesting than washing the shelves had been. Neither boy had used such a wide broom before, so it was rather fun to see how the dirt was quickly swept away from a wide area in just one pass. This time, Jonathon finished slightly before Sniv, but his triumph was somewhat spoiled when Mr. John had both boys go back and sweep the aisles again. They were surprised at the amount of dirt they had missed on their first pass. It was an education for them both.
When the floors were clean, Mr. John handed Jonathon a list of items. "This will be your last work, then you will become a roast as pay!" he said (since the boys did not want to offend their new friend, they tried not to smile at this rather peculiar expression). "Here ist a list of things I need out of the cellar to put on the boards. You fetch the things, bring them in the proper corridor to me and then I put them on the boards." Jonathon and Sniv looked at the list. It wasnít complicated, comprising just a product name, the number of boxes to get and the aisle number. Mr. John then showed them a small service elevator to the cellar which they could use instead of the stairs, to make the job easier.
Sniv grinned. "I know how to make this job even easier!" he announced, then dashed off, shouting "Be right back!!!" and leaving Jonathon and Mr. John both looking puzzled. They were enlightened in a few minutes when Jonathon returned, pushing a shopping trolley and grinning broadly. He stopped in front of Jonathon and, saluting again, announced "Transport Specialist Sgt. Sniv reporting, Gen. Jonathon!" Mr. John laughed as Jonathon, barely suppressing his own grin, continued to pretend that Sniv was trying his patience by putting one hand over his eyes and shaking his head in an "I give up on you" gesture. "Youíre impossible!" Jonathon announced.
Sniv instantly saluted again "Sgt. Impossible reporting, Gen. Jonathon!"
The joke was, by itself, as lame as they come, but the unexpectedness of Snivís reply caused both Jonathon and Mr. John to break into a fit of laughter, in which Sniv joined them.
When Jonathon could control his laughter, he gestured towards the elevator and growled "Just drive!" Sniv began moving the trolley into the elevator, making "brrrmm, brrruuummmm" noises at the same time, to simulate a large and heavy truck ponderously accelerating from a standstill. Jonathon, grinning, followed him in.
Getting the correct boxes and taking them to the right aisle wasnít complicated and didnít take as long as either boy thought it would, although Sniv insisted on being a large, military truck (complete with driver) throughout the job.
All their tasks complete, Sniv returned the trolley to wherever he had acquired it and both boys presented themselves to Mr. John, who greeted them with a smile and a large package wrapped in white paper. He handed the package to Jonathon. "There you are! Payment for a well done job!" said Mr. John. "Und if you ever want to become pocket-money, come to me and sweep the floors! I will always have work to do here. You help out and I will pay you!" Jonathon grinned back at Mr. John. "I sure will! Thanks!"
"You are welcome, little Jon" said Mr. John. "Now, you boys should better run, or the dinner will be late tonight, eh?" The boys left, calling back further thanks to Mr. John as he waved goodbye.
On the way home, Jonathon looked at the package under his arm and exclaimed "Wow! This roast must be at least twice the size of the one we ate!"
"Yeah!" Agreed Sniv, looking at the package with interest. "Might even be three times the size, unless thatís all the paper wrapped around it."
It wasnít all wrapping paper!
When Jonathon and Sniv finally unwrapped the package on the kitchen table, the roast was, indeed, almost three times the size of the one which had been so sadly depleted by the boysí sandwich feast earlier in the day.
They spent little time in admiring the roast, however. Mr. John had been right. There was no time to waste, so Jonathon quickly set it to roast in the oven, with the timer set to warn them at the right time to take it out.
The boys played various table games while waiting for the roast to finish cooking. They were nearly finished their third game of checkers when Aunt Celia arrived home and the boysí adventures that day were explained to her. When she had the full story, Aunt Celia smiled at both of them.
"Iím a little disappointed that you didnít check more thoroughly for a note before eating the roast, but Iím proud of you for going to so much trouble to make it right again, Jonathon" Aunt Celia said. Jonathon blushed at his auntís praise as she turned to Sniv. "And thank you, Sniv, for helping him."
Sniv intoned "No Problemo!" in an attempt at an imitation of Arnold Schwarzenegger, prompting a smile from Aunt Celia and a murmur from Jonathon which sounded like "Heíll be back."
"As a reward for helping," added Aunt Celia, "why donít you stay to dinner? You can ring your mother. Iím sure sheíll say itís okay."
She did, and dinner that night was a happier occasion than usual as both boys related the story of their day to Randy, who was at least as happy as the other three that they had not, after all, ended up with No Dinner Tonight.