The Right Answers


“Tom? You got a minute?” Five-year-old Kevin stood outside his brother’s door.

“Sure, Kevin. Come on in,” Tom answered, looking up from his studies.

Kevin hurried to where Tom sat. “Tom, do you have to go to school tomorrow?”

“Sure. Why wouldn’t I?”

“Because tomorrow is your birthday!” Kevin protested.

“That doesn’t matter. Besides, I have a test.”

“Oh.” Kevin hesitated. “Tom, do you know any secrets?”

“No, I can’t say that I do,” Tom answered, his eyes lit with amusement.

“I do,” said Kevin smugly, “but I can’t tell you, ‘cause it’s a surprise!”

“Yeah?” Tom asked, eyeing Kevin with affection.

“Yeah,” Kevin answered. His eyes searched Tom’s. “Tom, if somebody made you a picture with lots of horses on it, do you think you would like it?”

“I sure would!”

“Better than a silver belt buckle with your initial on it?” Kevin asked hopefully.

“Lots better,” Tom replied vigorously.

“Better than a pair of real cowboy boots?”

“Yep,” Tom answered. He pointed at the wall facing his bed. “If I had a picture like that, I’d hang it right there so I could see it first thing every morning.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Tom said, ruffling Kevin’s hair.

“What’s your favorite kind of cake, Tom?”

“I don’t know, Kevin. Got any suggestions?”

“Chocolate! With fudge icing!”

“Is that your favorite?” Tom asked, still smiling.

“Yeah!”

“Then it’s mine too.”

“Tom?” Kevin rubbed his eyes sleepily.

“Yeah?”

“Do you think I’ll ever get as big as you?”

“Not if you don’t get to bed. It’s way past your bedtime.”

“Will you carry me piggyback, Tom?”

“Sure.”

After Kevin was tucked snugly into his bed, Tom turned to leave.

“Tom?” Kevin called.

“Yeah?”

“I love you,” Kevin said.

“I love you, too, Kev.”

“Night, Tom.”

“Good night, Kevin.”

Kevin was still sleeping when Tom left for school the next morning. When he returned home, Kevin was waiting for him on the front steps. He tugged at Tom’s hand. “Hurry, Tom!”

“What’s the rush?”

“Come and see!” Kevin skipped as he led Tom inside the house.

Fifteen candles burned brightly on a chocolate fudge cake resting in the center of the table. Tom and Kevin’s parents came from the kitchen singing “Happy Birthday.”

“Surprise! Surprise!” Kevin yelled, jumping up and down.

“Wow!” Tom said happily.

Kevin helped Tom blow out the candles on the cake; then Tom opened his packages. He was very happy to get cowboy boots and a silver belt buckle with his initial on it from his parents. He saved Kevin’s gift for last.

Inside the package was a large white poster board. Several pictures of horses, cut from magazines, were glued to it. “This is terrific, Kevin!” Tom said, smiling.

“I made it all by myself!”

“Will you help me hang it in my room?” Tom asked.

“Yeah! Are you going to hang it in front of your bed so that you can see it first thing every morning?” Kevin asked anxiously.

“You bet!”

“Surprises are a lot of fun, huh, Tom?”

“Yeah,” Tom said, picking Kevin up and swinging him through the air. “Surprises are great!”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Pat M. Hoggan