“Winners,” Friend, Apr. 1999, 9
“This is it, Mark,” I say as I gaze out at the field strewn with hundreds of colorful eggs. “Next year we’ll be too old, so we have to win the prize basket today.”
“I know, Emily,” Mark answers, his grip tight on our basket, his body poised to bolt onto the field.
At the community egg hunt, we’re allowed to work in teams of two. My friend Mark and I have come close to winning before, but this year we have to win the prize basket. Besides the chocolate eggs and stuffed animals in it, there are a gift certificate to a video store, a bunch of CDs, two passes to that new amusement park—all kinds of great stuff.
And we’re going to do it, because this year, Mark and I are among the oldest, tallest, and fastest kids here. I know we can scoop up more eggs than anyone else.
Behind me I hear a woman saying, “I just don’t know if it’s a good idea to let her try this, Mike.”
I glance back and catch a glimpse of a girl in a yellow skirt. She is with her parents and looks younger than me.
The flag goes down, and everyone goes tearing onto the field. Mark and I have planned out our strategy. We run past the kids stooping down to pick up the first eggs they come to. Instead, we head for the eggs beyond them. We grab eggs like crazy.
Mark and I have loaded our basket by the time the others have cleaned the front part of the field and start swarming into the area where we are. Even so, Mark and I continue to find a few eggs with the other children.
“You’re going to win,” one of the older boys groans when he sees our basket.
I smile. Yes, we’re going to win. I’m sure of it.
By now, the field has almost been picked clean of eggs. Mark and I start to recheck our chances of winning. We feel pretty confident.
Then I notice the girl in the yellow skirt walking slowly toward us. What is she doing? I wonder. She doesn’t have a partner, nor has she found a single egg. She holds her empty basket in one hand. Her other hand grips a long white stick tipped with red. She taps the stick to the ground and sweeps it in front of her as she walks as if she’s looking for something in the grass.
She can’t see! That’s why she has no eggs. Everyone ran out in front of her and grabbed every single egg, leaving none for her to find.
Why did she try this? I wonder. She couldn’t possibly beat us to eggs, let alone win.
Then I realize something. All I care about is finding the most eggs and winning the prize. But that girl doesn’t care a bit about the prize. She just wants to find eggs for the fun of it. And we’ve all taken that chance away from her.
I look over at Mark. He’s watching the girl, too. I can tell by the way he looks at me that he knows what I want to do. I can tell by the look in his eyes that he’s begging me not to do it. He wants to win.
But I step forward, lift an egg from our basket, and place it quietly in front of the girl. As her stick hits the egg with a satisfying clicking sound, she smiles. She bends over, gropes around for the egg, and finding it, places it in her basket.
I put down another egg. As she finds that one, Mark adds one to the grass. We both put out a couple more.
A little boy darts in front of me, heading for the eggs. I gently grab him before he can reach them. “No,” I whisper in his ear. “They’re hers.”
I know the girl will never have the most eggs—it takes her a long time to find them, and the hunt’s almost over. But at least she’ll have some. And the smile on her face shows how much fun she’s having.
The contest judge announces that the hunt is over, that we should bring all our baskets up to determine the winner. Mark and I go, but we know that we may have lost. We do lose by four eggs.
Suddenly I feel a hand on my shoulder and turn to see the woman who stood behind me earlier. Her eyes glisten with tears, and she mouths “Thank you” at me before she goes to admire the eggs in her daughter’s basket.
And then my mom’s there. “Emily, Mark,” she says. “I know how much you wanted that prize.”
I shrug. “It’s OK that we didn’t win.”
My mom puts her arms around our shoulders and squeezes. “But you two did win.”
She’s right. Even if our basket was totally empty right now, I think I would still feel like a winner, and I can tell that Mark feels that way, too. We wanted that prize basket. Instead, we’re taking home a wonderful feeling and the memory of a young girl’s smile. That’s the best prize of all.