“You Know Me Better Than That”


It was kind of a ritual. Win or lose, after a football game we’d all pile into my old green car and head for our favorite pizza restaurant. The place was always crowded, especially after a victory. That night, everybody was there after we defeated our rival school team.

By the time the football team arrived, the room was crowded with people. I managed to find a seat in the corner and started looking for Dave, my older brother.

Dave always seemed to be in the center of the action. His easy-going personality made people want to be around him. In the short time we had lived in Colorado, he’d been elected student-body president of our high school.

I wasn’t as popular as Dave in high school, but he often let me tag along with him and his friends—especially when I grew to be bigger than he was. It made me proud to be called “Dave’s big little brother.” As the crowd grew at the restaurant, I finally spotted Dave at a table near the center of the room. Suddenly, somebody yelled, “Hey, everybody, it’s Dave’s eighteenth birthday. He’s a man now.”

“Yeah, now he’s legal,” someone else added. At the time, the law in Colorado stated that if you were eighteen, you could legally buy and drink beer. For the handful of Mormons in our school, turning eighteen was just another birthday. For most of our classmates, though, becoming “legal” was a big event.

Slowly, people began to crowd around Dave’s table, and soon everybody was joining in a rowdy chorus of “Happy Birthday to You.”

“Close your eyes, Dave,” somebody yelled out. A path was cleared as a huge glass of foamy, golden beer was brought forward and thrust into Dave’s hands. The whole place erupted into wild cheers. From off in the corner, I watched Dave and wondered what he would do. He had always been my example. He’d always been faithful. Of course, he’d never faced a situation like this before. I watched him look around the room at the crowd surrounding him. I don’t think he saw me watching him back in the corner.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Dave rose to his feet. He picked up the glass of beer and raised it slowly in the air. My heart was pounding with anticipation, and I imagined Dave’s was, too. Somebody yelled for quiet, and the place grew silent.

“I just want to thank everyone for thinking of me on my birthday,” Dave said, as he looked toward his raised glass. “But come on, you guys. You know me better than that. Thanks, anyway.” As Dave lowered the glass and sat down, a moan rumbled through the crowd. Somebody muttered something about Mormons not having any fun.

Later, I located Dave and we walked out into the crisp autumn air toward my car. “Dave, I was worried for a minute that you might crack under the pressure and do something stupid,” I said.

He just shrugged and said, “There wasn’t any big pressure because I didn’t have to make any decisions tonight. I’d already decided a long time ago that I was going to keep the Word of Wisdom. It’s a lot easier that way.”

I just smiled. As we drove home, I was as proud as ever to be Dave’s big little brother.

[illustration] Illustrated by Roger Motzkus