This is a story of Alex Gregory, his jazz guitar, his best friend Laurie, an angry judge, and a feisty old man dying of emphysema, and how the combination changes all of them.
It sounded like a good plan when I thought of it, even brilliant. I'd drink one more pint of Dad's vodka, swipe my mother's car keys and drive over to my dad's house and tell him what I thought of his getting it on with my third grade teacher and breaking up with my mom.
But I was more smashed than I thought I was, and I ended up in the middle of Mrs. Wilson's lawn, with the lawn gnome I'd just decapitated. Mom wasn't happy to have her first date since Dad moved out interrupted to bail me out, the cops who arrested me weren't happy about the fact that I threw up all over them, and my best friend Laurie wasn't happy with me because I hadn't called so she could talk me out of doing such a dumb thing. But what really reeked was the fact that the judge absolutely hated drunk drivers, especially when they weren't willing to admit they'd done something wrong-and I wasn't. I mean I hadn't hurt anyone—it was just a lawn gnome, for crying out loud! But she sentenced me to a hundred hours of community service, anyway, and told me I had to pay to have the lawn gnome replaced and the car fixed.
I was supposed to go to this old folks home and talk to one of the men who lived there, like make friends with him or something. But the guy my mom picked out for me to visit was the meanest guy I've ever met! His name was Solomon Lewis, and he looked like an ancient, merciless old gargoyle, and was rude, angry, and verbally abusive. I tried every way I could to get out of the gig, but it was impossible. The judge was determined to make me serve each and every hour of my sentence with him. She wanted me to learn from him, and him to learn from me. Never mind that we didn't have anything in common, and he was bitter, old, and got his kicks from taunting the other residents. We still had to spend a hundred hours together.
This booktalk was written by university professor, librarian, and booktalking expert Joni Richards Bodart.