“The Racing Set,” Friend, Mar. 1972, 36
Sam threw open the door of his room and stood there. He couldn’t see anything wrong with it. His ball and bat were in the corner right where they should be. His bird’s nest was on the dresser. His extra lumber was under the bed. The bag of nails, the saw, hammer, the screwdriver, the sandpaper, and the glue were all neatly stacked on the floor. Even the three cartons full of interesting bits and pieces of things he had collected were piled neatly along one wall. The sign saying Save More at Our Store that the grocer had given him was taped to the wall opposite the window.
He kept his flowerpots in cartons on Eddie’s bed during the day, because that was the only place the sun could reach them, and he kept his moon maps and unstrung guitar on Fred’s bed. Then at night he carefully put everything out of the way so that both Eddie and Fred could get into their beds.
But now Sam was puzzled. His mother had told him that he must get rid of some of his things. And the more he stood and looked into their room, the more he could not see one single thing that he could throw away.
“If you want to get a racing set,” she explained, “you must make room for it.”
“I can put the set on Fred’s bed in the daytime,” he said.
“Fred already has the guitar and moon maps on his bed,” his mother replied.
“Well, what about Eddie’s bed then?” Sam asked.
“Did you forget that your boxes of flowerpots cover Eddie’s bed?”
“Yes,” Sam said, “I guess I did.”
“The only place for the racing set is on your own bed during the day and under your bed at night. You’ll just have to get rid of some of your other things.”
Sam sighed. His paper route earnings had finally brought him enough money for the racing set pictured in the catalog. But sharing a room with two brothers had made space precious.
Sam started to work on the three cartons. He couldn’t remember what was in them, and he didn’t want to throw away anything that was important. In the cartons he found some little houses left over from a building block set, some old lead soldiers that had been his father’s, an umbrella with the cover gone, and more foil flowerpots.
“Those shiny pots,” he said. “I wish they were pits. Pits,” he said again. “That’s it! Pits!” And he began to work harder.
His mother came to the door and said, “It’s time for lunch, Sam.”
“I’ll be there in a minute,” Sam replied. But he went right on with his work and forgot all about lunch.
Soon Eddie and Fred came into the room. “What are you doing?” Eddie asked. “Why is that stuff all over my bed?”
“Don’t worry, Eddie. I’m going to take it all off your bed soon. But for now you two go out and play. I’m busy!”
Sam hammered and nailed and sawed and glued and tied. Before long the doorbell rang. Sam dropped everything and ran to answer it.
“Sam Harding?” the delivery man said.
“Thank you,” Sam told him. Then Sam took the box and headed down the hall toward his room.
“Wait,” Mother called. “Be sure there’s enough space in that room for everyone! I haven’t seen you make one single trip to the trash to throw out anything.”
“I’m not throwing anything out,” Sam said.
“I’m not having any old racing set on my bed!” Fred insisted.
“Don’t worry,” Sam replied. “When I get this finished, I’ll show you.” Then he went into their room with the box under his arm.
An hour later Sam called, “You may all come in now.”
On a platform made from the lumber that had been under Sam’s bed, the new racing set gleamed. Sam had nailed the small houses from the building blocks set to the planks. The soldiers stood guard at the gate.
“How did you make the gate, Sam?” Fred asked.
“I made it from the umbrella spokes.”
“What are these?” Eddie wanted to know, pointing to the flattened foil flowerpots.
“Those are racing pits for the mechanics,” Sam answered. “See the mountain? That’s that old mossy rock. The raspberry boxes are the grandstands—you know, for the spectators.”
“Why do you have those little bales of straw there near the curves?” Mother asked.
“To protect the people,” Sam answered. “I made them out of my bird’s nest and some string.”
The three cartons were arranged around the platform.
“Those are our seats,” Sam explained. “We sit on them to race the cars.”
“Even the moon maps are gone from my bed!” Fred exclaimed.
“Look up there,” Sam directed. He had taped the maps to the ceiling. “The moon belongs up in the sky anyway.”
“Let’s race!” Fred shouted as he sat on the carton with his name on it.
“You did a good job, Sam,” Mother laughed. “I didn’t think you could do it without throwing away some of your treasures.” She was quiet for a minute, then she continued. “I have a box on my closet shelf that I keep thinking I should throw away, but somehow I can’t do it.”
“I know just how you feel, Mom,” Sam sympathized. “If you ever need an expert to help you, let me know!”