And the Winner Is …

by Irene Gorbahn

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    The car Derek won turned out to be far beyond his expectations. But the way he used it turned out to be far beyond the expectations people had of Derek.

    “Let’s enter,” Kristy urged her twin brother Derek. So after school they did.

    As an incentive to keep the youth out of trouble and off the streets on traditionally mischief-filled Halloween night, community merchants had donated a good used car as a prize for the one teenager contacted and found home before midnight.

    Not much was mentioned of the contest or the twins silent dreams until supper time October 31st, when Kristy expressed her distinct confidence and anticipation. A strong hunch that she would be the winner left her expectant all evening while at the door she met one “trick-or-treater” after another. Derek attended volleyball practice, returning home exhausted. By 10:30 he was fast asleep.

    Soon treats were depleted, porch lights extinguished, and younger brothers and sisters retired with mild stomach aches from overindulgence. Even Kristy relented and went to bed. Only Mother was still reading when at 11:45 the shrill ring of the telephone sent her flying in response. “This is radio station KPCS wishing to speak with … Derek,” she was told. As if by prearrangement the entire household flared alive. Father switched on the radio to listen in on the conversation. Several youngsters squealed into Derek’s bedroom, dragging their groggy brother to the downstairs extension phone. Suddenly realizing the implication of this late disturbance, he became fully alert. Incredulous as it seemed, his brain registered the fact that he had won the coveted automobile. Hundreds of teenagers must have put in their names. Yet he would be the one to drive home the prize the very next afternoon. Nothing this exciting had ever happened to him before.

    Understandably, the family had trouble settling down. Finally, having drifted off to dreamland, Derek visualized himself on gleaming hubcapped “wheels,” gliding noiselessly through throngs of cheering friends. Later he found himself whizzing breathlessly past open spaces in a fire-red machine, and before waking to reality, he was the one roaring down main street in a fabulous convertible, accompanied by several of the most gorgeous girls he had ever seen—the envy of all his peers.

    Indeed, the next day Derek was the center of attraction when word of his good fortune spread at seminary and at school. “What kind of a car is it?” he was asked repeatedly. No one knew. Some speculated on a late model; others, less optimistic, suspected an old “clunker.” But when at last classes had finished Derek was to find out.

    The vehicle his eyes beheld proved to be beyond his expectations, much nicer than those owned by anyone in his circle of friends. That purring beauty was his, all his. Was he ever going to have a ball!

    Delighted and proud he was greeted by his equally pleased family, all assembled on the front lawn. Neighbors soon joined them. Each was given a ride. Definitely this was Derek’s finest hour. Soon the dealer’s license plate had to be returned. Well, tomorrow insurance matters could be worked out.

    The subject did come up and was thoroughly considered and discussed with earnest efforts made to help Derek’s car get on the road. Yet it simply could not be done. The painful truth was that funds had been extremely limited with one brother in the mission field, another due to leave and depending on family assistance. Even Derek, a senior in high school, had been forced to drop out of basketball because he was unable to afford the tournament travel expenses. Scraping up nearly $400 for licensing and insurance was impossible under the circumstances.

    So there stood the apple of Derek’s eye, evoking a pronounced pounding of his heart every time he glanced at it and extracting each spare minute of his time with polishing and sprucing it up to top performance. Particular care was lavished on achieving the finest reproduction from its stereo system. How he yearned to drive it!

    Still, hope prevailed. Perhaps an after-school and Saturday job was the solution. Unfortunately, scores of jobless hopefuls saturated the market. Weeks of filling out applications, interviews, and callbacks produced no results.

    One blustery December day Derek noticed a vaguely familiar figure stomping through the deep snow. Seconds later he recognized it as belonging to Sister Taylor. Her family had been experiencing incredible hardships. First, their business had gone bankrupt. Then they had lost their home, recently also their car.

    Ever so subtly and ever so quietly a thought began creeping into Derek’s subconscious mind. On reaching awareness, he tried desperately to push it out. However, once conceived, it would not be suppressed. No matter how hard he fought the impulse, gradually a plan took shape, one which caused him to alternate between gladness and sadness. And so, at first reluctantly, but soon with stern determination, the young man made a difficult and noble decision.

    Christmas Sunday at priesthood meeting someone mentioned, “Did I see Brother Taylor driving your car today, Derek?” “I sold it to him,” was the reply.

    This prompted several priests into simultaneously responding, “But they have no money.”

    “They had enough,” answered Derek with a wistful grin. Audible only to himself he added, “They had one dollar.”

    Illustrated by Rob Magiera