By Rick Kaempfer
When I was a youngster I met a boy named Sammy. Sammy was the younger brother of my friend, but he was much more than that. He was an artist.
A scam artist.
While the rest of us wasted our time and effort going to school and doing our homework, Sammy spent his time devising ingenious ways to get out of doing it.
I remember distinctly the first time I saw him in action. When I came over to pick up my friend, Sammy was resting on the couch in their living room. He had a thermometer in his mouth, and a washcloth on his forehead. His mother left to fetch my friend, and as soon as she was out of the room, Sammy leaned over to the light and stuck the end of the thermometer right onto the hot bulb.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm getting sick," he answered, matter of factly.
When his mother returned to the room and took the thermometer out of his mouth, she was alarmed.
"Oh dear, you better stay home from school today," she said.
"No Mom!" Sammy protested. "Please don't make me!"
"That's the end of this discussion," she said.
When she left the room again, Sammy smiled at me.
"Have fun at school," he said.
Over the next few years I saw Sammy pull all sorts of tricks. I saw him gently patting flour on his face to appear more pale. I saw him putting his homework on the street to be run over by cars. I saw him actually feeding his homework to the dog.
He truly was an artist.
That was forty years ago, and I've since lost track of Sammy, but I suspect he's working on Wall Street these days.
I bring him up because I've begun to notice a disturbing trend with my nine year old son Sean. He has a little Sammy in him, and as he gets older, he's getting better and better.
At church on Sunday he was groaning during the sermon.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Nothing," he said, groaning further. "I might make it home in time."
"In time for what?"
"In time to avoid being dehydrated. Fluids. Must have fluids."
He was smacking his dry lips, lips that looked like he had just crossed the Sahara. His strained gulping noise let me know he wasn't producing any saliva. His eyes looked like he was about to cry but couldn't, because he simply didn't have any bodily fluids. Even though I suspected he was pulling a Sammy, I let him get a drink of water.
Sure enough, as he reached the end of the pew and took a left, I saw the smile on his face. It was a Sammy smile. He didn't know that I saw it. He also didn't know that I saw that little dehydrated kid walking to the church bathroom with a bounce in his step.
That was the moment I made a mental note to turn up my Sammy radar.
The next morning we were getting ready for school. Sean was on the other side of the bathroom door. As usual we were running late.
"Hurry up!" I yelled.
I could barely make out his response. It sounded like "I'm brushing my teeth" might sound if you were actually brushing your teeth. Sort of a mush-mouth response. It was perfectly delivered. There was even a mush-mouth toothpaste-filled sense of urgency to it.
But when I opened the door to check, he was just standing there. No toothbrush. No toothpaste. Nothing but a running faucet, and an embarrassed smile on his face.
The Sammy is strong in this one.
I'm going to have to keep a very close eye on him.