CHAPTER TWO Tom Learns a Lesson about Desire

CHAPTER TWO Tom Learns a Lesson about Desire
Bedtime Stories


Tom Learns a Lesson about Desire

Saturday morning came and, like all Saturdays, it was bright and sunny. Perfect for going out to play. But Tom had other plans. He was to paint his aunt's fence. Just looking at all the work he had to do made him feel sad. The fence was huge in his eyes. It would take him all day to finish the work. He slowly began by wetting his brush and started moving it along one of the wooden boards. After doing this for a while, he became very bored. And just as he was about to give up, Jim, a boy who worked for the family, came through the gate. He was going to get water.

Tom stopped him, "Hey, Jim. Why don't you paint and I'll get the water?"

Jim said, "No. I can't do that."

"Oh, don't worry about Aunt Polly. She won't hurt you. I'll give you one of my toys. And I'll show you where I hurt my foot."

Jim took the toy and looked at Tom's foot, but just at that moment Aunt Polly was returning home. Jim ran off and Tom tried to look busy by painting as fast as possible.

But soon his hands started to move slower and slower as he thought about all of the fun he could be having if he weren't working. He knew that his friends would walk by soon and laugh at him. He wished that he had enough money to pay other boys to come and do the work for him, but he had nothing. Then, suddenly, he had a great idea and he began to work again.

The first of his friends to walk by was Ben Rogers. He was eating an apple and pretending to be a riverboat, imitating all kinds of riverboat sounds: a bell ("Ding! Ding! Ding!"), a riverboat worker ("OK boys, it's time to slow her down. We're getting near land!"). "Easy now. Turn her slowly!" he shouted. "Slow down! OK boys ... and stop!" He turned himself and came slowly to a stop near Tom.

Tom didn't pay any attention to the boat. He pretended to be interested in his work.

"Hi Tom! Did you get into trouble?"

Tom didn't reply. He just kept moving his brush up and down the board.

"Do you have to work all day?"

Tom turned suddenly. "Oh, hi there, Ben. I didn't see you!"

"I'm going swimming. It's too bad you can't go. You have to work."

Tom looked at him strangely. "Work? What work?"

"What you're doing now looks a lot like work. Hard work," Ben said pointing to the fence.

Tom returned to his painting. "Oh this? Well, I guess what's work for you is fun for Tom Sawyer."

"Are you saying that you like this?"

"Do I like it? I love it! I wish I could do this more often!"

Ben seemed surprised to hear this. He watched Tom for a little while. Tom pretended to be doing a very careful job: painting a little, then stepping back to look at what he had done to make sure it looked OK, making a few corrections and then continuing to the next board. The more Ben watched, the more interested he became.

"Tom, let me paint a little."

Tom thought for a moment and then said, "Sorry Ben. This fence has to be painted perfectly. It takes a special person to do it well."

"Please, Tom, let me try! I'll give you part of my apple."

"No, Ben. I'm sorry, but—"

"OK, you can have the whole apple!"

Hearing this, Tom gladly traded Ben the brush for the apple and sat down under a tree to think of other ways to get more help.

Soon, Tom had more and more boys painting for him. They had laughed when they first saw Ben painting, but soon realized how excited he was to be doing the work, so they became equally as excited and were soon asking Tom for a brush. But Tom had said "no" until they started to offer to pay him. At the end of the day he had been given a cat with one eye, a piece of broken glass, different kinds of toys, and many other things. Tom was rich! Soon the fence was finished, and Tom had painted none of it himself. This made him realize something very useful in life: Men will desire anything they think they can't easily have.