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Authors: Rick Bundschuh

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Crunch (7 page)

BOOK: Crunch
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He grinned broadly as he kicked the ball in for a point.

“Little rascal,” Bethany laughed.

Eddie waved the boy over and acted as interpreter for Bethany.

“He says he is five, and he lives here with his mother, four brothers, and a sister. He usually has to work in the dump, but his mother said he could have the day off—to stay clean. He likes to play football (which means soccer in Mexico) and wants to be on the national team someday,” Eddie translated.

“Wow! Such ambition from such a young kid!” Sarah said, smiling down at the boy warmly.

“If he keeps playing like he did with me, he might make it,” Bethany grinned.

Eduardo said something that caused Eddie to croak out, “
Como?

Eddie listened to Eduardo repeat what he said. Then Eddie translated for Bethany. “He says he heard you speak about God at the orphanage,” Eddie said with a shake of his head. “He believes you will help him see the face of God.”

“But I never said anything like—“ Bethany felt Eduardo grab on to the edge of her sweatshirt.

“I think you have a fan,” Sarah observed.

“I think I'm Eduardo's fan,” Bethany replied, trying her best to blink back the tears that had formed in her eyes.

For the rest of the day, Bethany and Eduardo were inseparable. They played games of tag, played hopscotch in a course scratched out in the dirt, and ate snacks together from Bethany's backpack.

By mid-afternoon the last child had been bathed, and the team was busy dismantling the portable bathhouse and loading empty water containers into vehicles. Bethany strolled back to the slum with Eduardo and a few other children who had gathered around the tall blonde girl who was having so much fun with their friend.

As they walked, Eduardo grabbed Bethany's sleeve and pulled her toward one of the small houses with a blue tarp roof held in place by bricks and flat rocks.

“Mi casa
,” Eduardo said with a grin as he started pulling her toward the doorway.

Bethany wanted to stay outside the home, but Eduardo was having none of it.

As she stepped inside, she realized the home was even smaller than she had first imagined. It had only one window. Three sagging cots were pressed against the corner, and a small table with an old TV set was against the wall. Bethany noticed that the wires from the TV were connected to a car battery. A couple of beat-up chairs were wedged against the table, and next to it was a kerosene camp stove on a small stand with a few pots and pans underneath. The floor was merely layer upon layer of mismatched carpet laid on the bare ground.

A small, thick-waisted young woman, who Bethany took to be Eduardo's mother, was sitting on the edge of a cot when the pair entered, and she flushed with embarrassment. She ran to meet Bethany while saying something that sounded like a scold to the young boy.

Bethany, for her part, felt out of place standing there. She quickly introduced herself and then edged back toward the door.

She slipped outside and took a deep breath. It had only been a glimpse, but what she had seen shocked her more than anything she had witnessed in all of her travels.

Then the shock quickly melted into compassion as Eduardo appeared again with his pathetic-looking soccer ball in hand. He flashed a grin that persuaded Bethany to play another round with him.

They played on the plain of the dusty, seagullinfested landfill until Sarah called that they were getting ready to leave the site.

Bethany ran toward the caravan with Eduardo close at her heels. As the rest of her team wearily climbed into the vans, Bethany bent down and gave the boy a hug, trying to hold back the tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks as she told him good-bye.

Eduardo smiled, patted her cheek, and said something to her in Spanish.

“He says he knows he will see you again,” Eddie translated with a sad smile that said that it wasn't likely to happen.

She glanced back at Eduardo, waved, and hurried into the van before the little boy could notice how upset she was—or see the lone tear that had escaped down her cheek. She would've given anything to stay a little longer—to feel like she had helped him more.

Bethany sniffed loudly as she plopped onto the seat next to Kai. “I think I'm getting a cold or something,” she said, not looking at him.

“Must be catching,” Kai whispered as he motioned to the seats behind them.

Bethany glanced back.

Holly, Malia, Jenna, and Monica were all sniffling as they looked out their windows at the mob of kids that congregated around the van. It was like the whole Hanalei girl's surf team had suddenly developed allergies…to other's suffering.

An hour later, the grime of tramping around the dump with Eduardo had been scrubbed away, but the shower had done nothing about easing her troubled heart. Bethany sighed and sank down on one of the couches in the meeting room and waited for the other girls to finish their showers.

“Ready for another feast at the taco stand?” Eddie asked, rubbing his hands together as he entered the room.

Bethany shrugged. “I guess I don't have much of an appetite tonight.” She sighed again. “Isn't there some way we can help those people out—I mean help them
more?

“You did more today than you realize,” Maggie said with an understanding smile as she entered the room.

“Yeah, well it didn't feel like enough,” Bethany said as Maggie sat down beside her.

“We are not going to end poverty,” Eddie said soberly. “Even Jesus pointed out that ‘the poor you will have with you always.' But we
can
make a difference—one person at a time.”

“Have you ever heard the story of the starfish?” Maggie asked.

Bethany shook her head no.

Maggie smiled. “Imagine a huge tide coming in, washing up thousands of starfish all along the beach. When the tide goes out, thousands of starfish are left stranded. We all know what will happen once the sun comes up, right?”

“They'll dry up and die,” Bethany replied slowly, trying to figure out where Maggie was going with the story.

“So, this man decides to take a stroll on the beach and is startled to find thousands of starfish lying about everywhere. Then he notices a young boy picking them up one by one and hurling them with all his might back into the ocean.

“The man watches the boy for a short time before he finally decides to approach him, saying, ‘Son, you might as well give up. It's no use. There are just too many starfish. What you are trying to do makes no difference.'

“The young boy, holding a starfish in his hand, looks up at the man and then flings the starfish out into the water and says, ‘Well, it made a difference to that one!' “

Bethany grinned for the first time in hours.

“We can't change the problems of the whole world,” Eddie said gently, “but we can help change someone's world. If tonight a child goes to bed without hunger, without the itch of bugs, or with clean clothes, we have done something worthwhile.”

“Can I see Eduardo again?” Bethany asked suddenly.

Eddie frowned. “We aren't scheduled to go back to the homes at the dump again for another month.”

“My heart is telling me to buy Eduardo a new soccer ball—just something to let him know I believe in him,” Bethany said shyly. When she looked up, she saw Eddie and Maggie looking at each other.

“Well…, “ Eddie said with a slow smile spreading across his face. “Maybe we could swing by for a minute or two tomorrow.”

“Really? Thank you so much!” Bethany said excitedly. Then she thought for a moment and added, “Uh, can you tell me where I can buy a soccer ball around here?”

Eddie and Maggie smiled and hugged Bethany.

“How about this: after dinner, Maggie and I will take all of you to downtown Tijuana. You can buy a soccer ball at Woolworth's…and watch everyone get suckered by the guys selling tourist stuff.”

“Cool!” Bethany laughed.

After a hearty meal at the taco stand, the caravan wove through the packed streets of the tourist zone. As soon as they were parked, Sarah called them together.

“Listen up, guys, Eddie has some ground rules before you take off!”

“You have two hours to shop around. Remember, in this zone the first price is never the
real
price—unless you are a sucker.” Everyone laughed and Eddie grinned. “Bargaining is part of the game here.

“Also, it's going to be impossible to keep track of all of you in the maze of shops and alleyways, so here is the deal: be back here in two hours. I will give you five minutes of grace time, and then we're leaving. If you're late, you'll just have to take a taxi back to the dorm.” He then gave each student a business card with the address in Spanish.

“That's hard-core,” Holly whispered to Bethany. “Do you think he would actually leave us here?”

“Aw, I don't
think
so…, “ Bethany said, chewing on her lip thoughtfully. “But we better watch the time just in case.”

The teens swarmed into the dens of the vendors selling everything from sombreros to Mexican jumping beans, while Bethany dragged Holly, Malia, Jenna, and Monica with her to buy Eduardo's soccer ball.

“They won't bargain for things in a department store,” Monica lamented.

“Has that ever stopped you before?” Jenna asked, and Monica stuck her tongue out at her.

“Don't worry, Monica, you'll have your chance,” Bethany laughed. And true to her word they were back outside in a flash, plunging into the neighboring small shops and kiosks with all of the wide-eyed wonder of tourists.

“Hey, pretty girls, come on inside. I got what you need; take a look!” shouted one of the vendors as they walked by.

“Cheaper than Kmart!” shouted another.

“What about Wal-Mart?” Bethany whispered, and Holly laughed.

Most shops had similar wares: blankets, T-shirts, black velvet paintings, piñatas, jewelry, and colorful serapes.

The girls quickly got into “buy mode,” and each gave bargaining a try. It soon became apparent that Holly was the hardened deal-maker of the bunch, so each girl—when she saw something she thought she might be interested in—went to Holly and asked her to do the honors of bargaining for it.

Standing off to the side, they giggled to each other as Holly went through the motions of walking away from a price she thought was too high, only to have the shop vendor plead her back with another offer.

Soon their arms were loaded down. Monica, the whirlwind shopper of the bunch, held stacks of brightly patterned blankets, peasant tops, and skirts. Jenna had a tooled leather purse, and Malia bought a stuffed aardvark for her seventh-grade brother. Holly, true to her calling, had scored some lipstick and perfume—cheaper than Wal-Mart.

Bethany normally would've been right in the thick of it all, but instead she played the role of lookout for new bargains as she clutched the soccer ball tightly and merely looked. She didn't have the stomach for spending money on things she didn't truly need after today's brush with poverty.

The group walked farther and farther into the arcade of shops, chuckling as they were dragged into one after another by eager vendors.

“Uh, Holly, I hope you've been keeping track of the time,” Bethany said as they stepped out of yet another shop.

“Oh, my gosh!” Holly exclaimed, glancing at her watch. “We've got to head back…
now!

The girls burst into action, quickly weaving in and out of concession stands, crowded passageways, and kiosks.

“Are we lost?” Monica asked, sounding near hysteria. “Don't tell me we're lost! Oh, I DO NOT want to be lost in downtown Tijuana! Do any of you know where we are?”

“Relax,” Bethany grinned. “I've been keeping an eye out. We should pop out on the main drag right past this next shop.”

Sure enough, the girls turned the corner and found themselves once again on the noisy, touristpacked Revolution Boulevard.

“See? Plenty of time to spare!” Bethany said as the girls made their way past photo-op carts with their donkeys painted to look like zebras toward the crowd that had begun to gather around the vans.

Kai and Dano looked like they were going to pass out from excitement.

“Look what I got!” Kai whispered urgently as he walked up to Bethany.

“What?”

Kai glanced over his shoulder. Dano did the same, and Bethany rolled her eyes.

“It's a Rolex—fully waterproof!” Kai said pulling back the sleeve of his sweatshirt to display a shiny gold watch. “Do you have any idea how much these cost in the States? And I got it for thirty bucks!”

“A real Rolex?” Bethany asked, suddenly smelling a rat.

“It says Rolex, doesn't it?” Kai glanced at Dano with a “girls—what do they know?” look.

Then Jeff, one of the North Shore body board crew, strolled up and crowed about the great deal he got on a new watch.

Jeff held out his arm and showed off the identical watch that Kai had just purchased. “Ten bucks! Can you believe it? Ten bucks for a Rolex!”

Bethany bit her lip to keep from laughing. The look on Kai's face was payment enough—or so she thought—until Eddie arrived.

“Oh, I see you bought yourself a Rolex,” he said with a grin as he spotted the watches on the boys' wrists. “I hear they're guaranteed to run at least up to the border,” he said, suppressing a laugh.

“Whatd'ya mean?” Kai asked, looking between Eddie, Sarah, and Maggie. “Aren't they real?”

“Real fakes,” Eddie laughed again.

“But they say Rolex
,
” Kai argued.

“Made by Rip-Off,” Eddie quipped.

Kai groaned, and everyone laughed.

“Don't worry, Toto, we'll be back in Kansas before you know it,” Bethany grinned as she climbed into the van.

“Gee thanks, Dorothy,” Kai muttered somewhere behind her.

BOOK: Crunch
5.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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