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This was it. A job – or not.

Shoving his hands in his pockets, Derrick walked inside. He smelled garlic. Some people sat eating at tables with red-and-white checked tablecloths.

Craig carried in a platter of spaghetti. Had Craig said anything good about him to Joe? He better have. Craig began to set the platter down carefully in front of a customer.

Derrick grinned. What if he yelled, "Look out!" Craig'd jump. Maybe he'd even drop the spaghetti in the guy's lap! Derrick shook his head. Uh-uh. Not a good idea.

Joe, wearing a red-and-white apron, talked to some people at a table.

Derrick's stomach tightened. Was Joe going to give him the job?

Joe picked up the menus. He turned around. Joe walked over quickly. Derrick swallowed hard.

"You are Derrick," Joe said. He wiped his hands on his apron. He held out a hand.

Derrick shook it. "Uh-huh," he said.

Joe looked at him. "You are young." He frowned. "Your grades all right in school?" he asked.

Derrick's face turned warm. "Uh, yeah. They're okay," he fibbed.

"Good," Joe said. "You don't mind hard work?"

Derrick tried not to look down at the floor. "Uh-uh," he answered. He stopped the words that wanted to spill out – "But hard work minds me!" No smart mouth now, he warned himself.

"Hmmm," Joe said. He sighed. "You're definitely young," he repeated. "But because of Craig, I'll give you a chance," he said. "I need a bus boy now."

Thwack! He slapped the menus on his open hand. Derrick jumped a little.

"But, you have to work hard. We need to keep our old customers. And we need new ones."

Joe glanced around the half-empty restaurant. Derrick looked, too. Craig took plates into the kitchen.

Joe went on. "A bigger place means bigger bills." A frown crossed Joe's face. He slapped the menus again. "If business doesn't grow, I'll have to let you go."

"Okay," Derrick said. Then he'd be free again! He hesitated. Nope. No way. Mom and Dad would make him look for another job. Or no football, Dad said.

"All right," Joe said abruptly. "Can you work a few hours Tuesdays and Thursdays at dinner? And all day Saturdays?"

"Uh, um, uh, sure!" Derrick blurted. "I have football practice during the week. But I can be here at 5. Is that okay?"

Joe nodded. "You'll stay till 8."

He had the job! That wasn't too hard, he thought.

Joe looked intently at Derrick. "I'm counting on you," he warned. "Come tomorrow, Saturday, at 2:30 PM. There'll be time to train you before the dinner rush." He puffed his cheeks out with another sigh. "If we even have a dinner rush."

"Thanks, Joe," Derrick said. "See you tomorrow."

"Be on time," Joe said. Then he vanished into the kitchen.

Craig walked over to Derrick. Derrick gave Craig a half-salute. "Thanks, bro," he said.

Craig stared at Derrick. "You better be responsible," he said. Then he turned on his heel. The kitchen double doors whooshed behind him.

Jerk! Derrick wanted to yell back at him. But customers were watching. He'd get fired, before he even started.

Derrick left and walked home. He kicked some cans on the sidewalk. Right! he snapped silently. Be responsible! What about having fun in life?

"Good, Derrick," Mom said later that night, when Derrick told them he got the job. "You're on your way."

"You better not mess up, meathead," Craig said, looking up from his books. "Make me look bad." He frowned at Derrick.

You're the meathead serving meatballs, Derrick wanted to say.

But just then, Dad spoke up. "It's time to prove yourself," Dad said. "Your English grade, too. Bring it up."

"Yeah, bring it up—right," Derrick blustered. "I'll bring something up. English." He stuck his finger down his throat. "Aaaaaakkkk," he gagged.

"Derrick!" Mom complained. Craig rolled his eyes.

"Everything is not a joke," Dad said. "You won't think it's so funny getting kicked off the football team."

Derrick held back a sigh. There was always something.

Derrick punched his pillow that night. He'd like to punch Craig right in his fat face, he told himself. He could do the restaurant job. No problem.

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