“Hey, Charlie! Did you hear? They’re gonna raffle off a baby!” Josh came runnin’ up to me, out of breath, and red of face.
“Are you crazy? You can’t raffle off a baby.” I was disgusted. Josh was always spoutin’ off stories that he got only half right.
“Well, my mom and Mrs. Schneider are talkin’ all about it.” He pulled up his denim shorts that were threatenin’ to slide off his skinny hips and down over his scuffed up knees
I looked at him with scorn. “Even your mother knows you can’t do that.” I tried not to emphasize the words, your mother, cause criticizin’ someone’s mom’s a good way to get in a real fight. And as loopy as Charlie could be, he had a strong, fast punch that I didn’t want to meet.
“Yeah, well you don’t know nothin’, Charlie.” He sneered back at me.
“OK, OK, just whose baby are they gonna raffle?”
“This baby doesn’t belong to anyone. It’s the one they found outside St. Casmir’s.”
“Wait a minute. I thought they was gonna try and find its parents. The newspaper has a story about it every day, with pictures and everything.” I hated to admit it, but the little sucker had a cute face. And I did feel sorry for it. My parents drive me crazy but they try their best. Everybody needs at least a mom.
“Mrs. Schneider says no one says it’s their baby, but lots of people want it.” Josh screwed up his face, thinkin’. “So I guess they decided the fairest thing was to offer the baby to the highest bidder.”
“Something is seriously wrong here.” I shook my head. I may only be in the 4th grade, but I know wrong from wrong. “I gotta check this out. Catch you later.” I pushed and glided my scooter home, tryin’ to hit all the bumps in the road.
I shot the scooter into the back yard before I clambered up the steps into the mud room and kitchen. Mom was takin’ something good smellin’, cinnamon, I hope, out’a the oven.
“Hey Mom, are they really goin’ to raffle off that found baby.”
“Good gravy, Charles. Where are on earth did you hear that story?”
“Oh, that dumb Josh, he’s always makin’ up the craziest things. I didn’t believe him. I just wanted to know for sure.” I started sliding my hand across the counter to where she had some oatmeal cookies cooling off.
“Stop sneaking cookies.” She gave my hand a little slap. They’re for my coffee group tomorrow. “He must’ve just heard it wrong. They aren’t raffling off the baby. They’re raffling off chances to name the baby.”
I thought about this. “Why? Doesn’t the baby have a name?”
“I’m sure the baby has a perfectly nice name, but no one knows what it is. And the baby’s folks haven’t stepped forward to claim it yet. Too bad they didn’t pin a note to the pink blanket it was wrapped in.”
“Yuck. A pink blanket? Does that mean what I think it means?” I’d been thinkin’ it might be fun to have a little brother if we’d won the raffle, but no way did I want a baby girl in the family. Of course, it looked like there wasn’t going to be a baby raffle anyway.
“Yes, the baby’s a darling little girl, with dark brown hair and bright blue eyes. Of course lots of babies have blue eyes and then they change as they get older. Anyway a girl means you have to come up with a girl’s name to win.”
“Hey, I don’t want to win thinking up a girl’s name,” I muttered.
“Well, the prize is $100.” She knew money always moved me.
“Hmm, I guess I could always use $100.” I thought of the computer games I still didn’t have. “What are the rules?”
“The name, of course, is just a temporary one until we find her real parents, or until she is placed permanently in a new home. Auntie Rosie is taking care of the baby until then. And she hates to call it Baby No Name. The emergency baby care committee needs some new equipment and baby clothes and thought this could be a fund raiser.”
“What could be a fund raiser?” I didn’t get the connection.
“Everyone who wants to suggest a temporary name for baby girl unknown has to pay $5 to have an entry considered. All the names’ll be put in a big bowl, Auntie Rose will pull out a name and that person will win $100 and the rest of the money will go to the fund and…”
“And the poor sucker of a baby may be stuck with the worst name on earth!” I was horrified. Good gravy! At least I was blessed with a fairly decent name, Charlie, but what about my friend Mortimer. Nobody called a little baby or even a grown man that anymore.
“The baby’s name won’t be written in stone. It’s something to call her until a more permanent arrangement can be made.”
The wheels were churning in my brain. I didn’t even know the little sucker, but I had to at least give it a try. And winning $100 was a pretty good incentive, too.
All day and all night and all the next day whenever I had a moments’ peace I worked on the perfect little girl name. I thought of something frilly like a flower name, Daisy, Rose, Violet. Nah, too fussy. Then a more common name like Mary, Anne, Jane, or Nancy. I didn’t like any a'them either.
Finally, the absolutely perfect name came to me as I was walkin’ home from school. When I did my usual burstin’ into the kitchen lookin’ for somethun’ good to eat, I asked Mom for more contest details.
She said I just had to go over to the Public Library, pay my $5, fill out a name suggestion card, add my own name and phone number, and put it in the box. She had already put in a name--wouldn’t tell me what it was ‘cause she didn’t want to influence my choice.
Up in my room, I pried out the rubber plug from the bottom of my stupid, silver metal, piggy bank. I keep it hidden under my dirty clothes in the bottom of my closet. I didn’t want any of my friends to ever see it. I counted out two dollar bills and the rest in change. I told Mom where I was goin’ and scooted over to the library.
I paid my $5 and filled out the suggestion card. I was afraid someone might stop me as being too young to gamble. But no one paid attention to what I was doing. The librarians and volunteers were busy babysittin’ all the little kids who had workin’ parents and had to walk over to the library after school. I grinned to myself as I filled out the card, gave it a little crumble—I heard someplace that a little crumbling helped a card get picked—and dropped it in the bowl.
The raffle drawing was bein’ held Sunday afternoon at the library. They had such a crowd, they had to move it out to the front steps. I stood there with my mom waiting to see what name had won.
Auntie Rose made a little speech about how they’d collected $645 and after they gave the $100 prize, it still left a nice sum to buy equipment for the emergency care program.
Someone else was holdin’ the baby. Poor little sucker. I hope she likes her new name. Auntie Rose slowly moved her hand around in the large glass fishbowl, clutched a card, drew it out and squinted as she tried to read the name. I was too far back to see if it was crumbled, but I kept my fingers crossed. I sure wanted a new computer game.
“The winning name is Heather!” The crowd applauded again. I held my breath.
“And the person who submitted that name is Charlie Johnson.”
I grinned showin’ all my teeth, which I really hated to do, but I was so happy I couldn’t help myself.
My mom looked at me in surprise, “Why on earth did you pick that name?”
“I thought a long time about what was the best girl’s name, ‘cause I really wanted that money. And, a’course I wanted her to have a decent name. I finally realized I already knew the perfect girls’ name. Your name, Mom.”…
And whatever happened to baby girl Heather? Well, that’s another story.