“If you do this right, Darryl, they never know what hit them.” Jason paused to let the whole weight of his words sink in, then added, “Only don’t get too confident—Mr. Christensen came out of his house last summer and chased Kyle around a tree for ten minutes. Wasn’t that so, Kyle?”
Kyle rolled his eyes and looked miserable. Jason and Bret laughed until their stomachs ached.
I have to be honest—it sounded like incredible fun. A warm evening, just past sundown, people all settling down in their living rooms after supper. Then, totally unexpectedly, the doorbell rings.
“Of course, that’s why we call it R.A.D.A.R.—Ring A Doorbell And Run,” Jason continued. “While we’re hiding in the bushes or across the street, laughing our heads off, the neighbors are out searching around on their front porches for nothing!”
I was the new kid in the neighborhood, and I was still finding it hard to believe that they all seemed to like me and had included me in their group right away. Jason was the most popular boy in the sixth grade! Things like this just don’t happen to me. I didn’t even think to ask what for when Kyle told me to meet them about eight o’clock that night.
Only R.A.D.A.R. didn’t turn out to be all that great. Megan Andrews, a girl in our class, answered the first door. When she didn’t see anybody there, she yelled out really loud, “Jason, Bret, and Kyle, I know it’s you!”
And things went downhill after that.
In the first place, nobody told me how angry some of the people would be. I knew right away that if Mom and Dad ever found out about this, my new friends would be history. Even worse, R.A.D.A.R. was done to a lot of old people, and I could tell that it was hard for some of them to get to the door. Then they waited and waited there like they were really hoping that this time it wasn’t a joke.
I kept seeing Mrs. Bartholomew in my mind, long after we left her house. She crept along with a walker, and her hands were all gnarled up. My grandma has arthritis, and I’ve seen her in a lot of pain. Mrs. Bartholomew looked the same, like she was really hurting. She turned the porch light on and stood there for a long time, saying over and over, “Hello? Hello?”
I didn’t sleep well that night, mostly because I had a feeling that things weren’t ever going to be the same. I could try to Ring A Doorbell And Rationalize—that it was really important for me to be part of the group in this new school. (How could I ever convert them if they all got mad at me for refusing to carry on the neighborhood tradition?) I wished that I could Ring A Doorbell And Reappear—at my old school, with my old friends, who never knew anything about this crazy game.
In the end, though, my thoughts returned to Mrs. Bartholomew on the porch—and to an old CTR ring that didn’t fit my finger but still fit me just the same.
So the next night it was Ring A Doorbell And Repent. By myself, of course. Jason told me that I was the biggest jerk he ever saw. I went to every door, anyway, and told the people I was sorry and offered to do some chore for them to make it up. Nobody took me up on the offer except Mr. Christensen, who had me mow his lawn three weeks in a row.
Some good things happened, too, though—besides my feeling a whole lot better about myself. Megan Andrews’s parents invited our family over for a cookout. Jason and Kyle and Bret were afraid to Ring A Doorbell again—and they did simmer down after a while. And since we have the only decent basketball hoop in the neighborhood, I figure it will only be a matter of time before they come around.
But the very best thing happens every Tuesday and Thursday night. That’s when I go over to Mrs. Bartholomew’s. Sometimes I take her some of Mom’s biscuits, or some flowers from the backyard. I go over there and R.A.D.A.R.—Ring A Doorbell And Receive—lots and lots of good feelings!