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cont. Mind Your Own Business
by running their businesses ethically and well. This grade
will constitute twenty-five percent of your final math grade
for the semester."
Stunned silence filled the room as the boys stopped turn-
ing the pages of their booklets. Twenty-five percent of their
final grade was certainly something to be reckoned with.
Suddenly, it became gravely important to each boy that he
Sruly looked down at the neatly stapled sheets on his
desk. He never did well on these major projects. Even a simple
and straightforward task tended to overwhelm Sruly. There
were always so many details to remember, so many rules to
get straight, so much information to absorb in even the small-
est of assignments. Just the thought of starting a project of
such major proportions made his head start reeling. Feeling
that putting the end in sight before the beginning might help
calm his nerves, Sruly turned to the last page.
"Uh, Mr. Brody," Sruly called, waving his hand uncer-
tainly in the air. "My last page didn't come out too well. I
can only read a few words."
"The last page," Mr. Brody said, "for those of you who
aren't speed-readers like Sruly, was intentionally left mostly
blank. It contains a sample page for use by your future cus-
tomers. This page is crucial for my records and for your final
grade. You should cut out the four sample copies here on
this page and hand them in as they get filled out by each
customer. These will help me monitor your business's de-
velopment. As you can see, all that is required is that you fill
in the name of your business and the date of service. Your
customer must sign his name, and simply check the box, yes
or no, to indicate if he was a previous customer of yours or if
he came because your business was recommended to him by
someone else. If you don't hand these customer service slips
in correctly filled out, your final grade will suffer, no matter
how successful your business is. I will give you the rest of
class time to read over the rules and begin thinking up a
business suitable for yourselves."
"But what kind of business can we start?" asked Sruly
desperately, feeling his throat constrict with nervousness at
the vastness of the project.
"I want each of you to be doing something original," Mr.
Brody answered. "It can be any kind of practical business
you feel you would like to do."
"Anything?" asked Yoni and Asher in one voice, the
minds of the two best friends already beginning to work on
the multitude of possibilities suddenly open to them.
"Anything," answered Mr. Brody. "Anything that is hon-
est and legitimate, that is," he amended, thinking about the
reputation Yoni and Asher had earned as mischief-makers.
"When are we supposed to have time for this?" asked
Chezky. He visualized long hours and late nights, all being
spent on Mr. Brody's latest pet project.
"I will be giving you plenty of class time," Mr. Brody
said. "You will use it to work on your business charts and
graphs. There will be bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts,
spreadsheets, all kinds of bookkeeping and data to record.
The class time I will be allowing should cover the time you
will need to keep these records. The rest, though, is up to
you. Obviously, as with any project, the more extra time you
put into it, the more you will get out of it."
"But " began Sruly.
"But what?" Mr. Brody asked, getting fed up with Sruly's
barrage of questions which were inevitable with any new
"But how ?" Sruly stuttered.
"I will be explaining it all in class as we go along, Sruly,"
Mr. Brody said.
"No," said Sruly, almost in a whisper now. "How long
will we be doing this new unit?"
"Oh," said Mr. Brody, realizing with a start that he had
left out this rather crucial point. "We will be doing this project
for the next four weeks. This should give me plenty of time
to judge just how well you are faring in the real world of
business. And boys, you must have me approve your ideas
for your businesses by Monday at the very latest. That will
give you the entire weekend to come up with a good idea."
Chezky pulled out his calendar planner. It had been a
present from his mother in a rather vain attempt to help him
become more organized. Organization was not something
Chezky excelled in. Even when he did remember to write
things down, as his mother was always suggesting, he never
remembered to look and see what he had written. And even
if he did manage to recall that he had written down an as-
signment, he couldn't always remember where he had writ-
His mother had thought to solve this problem by pre-
senting Chezky with a calendar in the beginning of his sev-
enth-grade year. The calendar contained one page for every
day in the year, perfect for writing down his assignments.
Though the calendar didn't always work out quite as his
mother had hoped, it had actually helped on more than a
few occasions, so Chezky usually tried to write his assign-
ments in it. The next, and much more difficult, step, was
remembering to look in the calendar once he got home. His
mother was helpful in reminding him about that. Often she
was a little too helpful.
Chezky flipped the page to Monday to write down that
the new business assignment was due. The calendar was al-
ready full on that page. There was the Chumash test that day,
a blatt of Gemara to prepare, a halachah quiz and some science
homework to do. There were also quite a few pictures
doodled here and there along the margins and between as-
"Now what?" Chezky mumbled to himself, seeing that
there wasn't any space left anywhere on his calendar for that
Seeing that there wasn't any other choice, Chezky de-
cided to do the next best thing. He tore off the corner of the
piece of loose-leaf paper he had been doodling on while Mr.
Brody was making his speech to the class and scribbled him-
self a note on the other side. He stuck it inside his calendar
on top of Monday's page. That should do it, he thought with
a satisfied air. This was one project he couldn't afford to flub
up on. Twenty-five percent of your grade was no laughing
Across the aisle, Menachem didn't bother writing this
assignment down. He knew there was no way he would for-
get about it. His mind was already feverishly working on
coming up with the most brilliant idea possible, something
befitting a student of his capabilities.
Menachem was every teacher's delight. In school he
achieved the highest results in his studies. He was consis-
tently on time with all of his work, and he was always on
time to class. Actually, he was on time to everything he ever
did. He prided himself on his timeliness and couldn't un-
derstand why others couldn't be the same way. In short,
Menachem was a perfectionist.
Menachem's whole body was tingling with exhilaration
his classmates, "but I have one question."
"What's that?" asked Asher.
"What do you do?" Noach asked.
"What do we do?" asked Asher. "A better question would
be, what don't we do."
"Okay," said Noach. "What don't you do?"
"Wise guy," muttered Yoni.
"Segal and Schwartz's Shlepping Service," said Asher,
"refuses no job. We shlep, carry, deliver, run all of your er-
rands for you and are willing to carry out any service you
may require. No job will be considered too menial or too
small for us, and our prices well, you'll just have to wait
and see the sensational rates in store for you."
"Sounds exciting," said Noach without too much enthu-
"You never know," said Chezky, who was standing be-
side Noach, his best friend. "I wouldn't mind having some-
one carry home my backpack for the right price. It seems to
get heavier every day."
"I know exactly what you mean," said Noach with a sigh.
"Starting tomorrow," said Yoni, "we will be at your ser-
vice. What about you, Sruly? What business are you going
"Me?" asked Sruly. "I have the greatest idea."
"Oh, yeah?" said Asher, sounding doubtful. "What is it?"
"I'm going into the pencil business," said Sruly proudly.
"The what?" the boys chorused in astonishment.
"Pencil business," said Sruly. "You know how guys are
always forgetting their pencils and having to scrounge around
"Sounds like someone I know," Yoni muttered to Asher,
nodding in Sruly's direction.
"Right," continued Sruly self-consciously. "Well, some-
times people get tired of loaning out pencils."
"You should know about that," said Menachem, think-
ing back to the pencils he had loaned out to Sruly over the
course of the school year.
"So," Sruly said, ignoring the comments, "I thought I
would buy a supply of pencils and sell them at a profit. A
fellow can get really desperate if he can't find a pencil for
class, so I'm going to take care of all that. I can't wait to get
started. I know it's going to be a big success. So don't forget,
guys. If you need a pencil, come to me."
"Sure thing," said Menachem, trying to remember when
the last time was that he had been without a pencil.
"And what are you doing, Menachem?" asked Sruly ea-
"I can't say," said Menachem mysteriously. "You will all
have to wait until Monday to hear my secret unveiled."
Chezky rolled his eyes. Menachem was such a show-off
sometimes. Did it ever cross his mind that maybe some people
didn't even care what his idea was? Chezky sure didn't. Right
now, he was too busy wondering what his own business
would be. He still hadn't come up with any ideas, though it
seemed that most of the rest of the class had. What was the
big deal anyway? He still had until class time tomorrow af-
He went off to join a game of ball with the sixth-graders.
If this was all his own classmates wanted to discuss, Chezky
could find something better to do with his precious recess
time. Tonight he would deal with this big business issue at
"Chezky!" Mrs. Hellman called into the den where
Chezky was bent over the keyboard of the Hellman's latest
acquisition, a new computer. "Did you finish all of your
"Sure, Mom," Chezky replied without looking up as he
managed a rather tricky maneuver for the computer game
he was playing. "I finished it ages ago."
"Are you sure?" Mrs. Hellman pressed.
"I'm sure, Mom," Chezky replied.
"Positive?" Mrs. Hellman asked. "Last Sunday night
when I asked you, you gave me the same story, and in the
end you had forgotten all about a math quiz and a vocabu-
lary test. What have you forgotten this time?"
"Nothing, Mom, really," Chezky said, looking up after
putting his game on hold with a flick of a button.
His mother was giving him a long, doubtful stare. He
knew there was only one way to get her off his back. He got
up with a sigh and went to his room to produce his weekly
planner. He flipped it open to the right page and scanned
"Chumash test," he mumbled. "Yep, I've got that."
He didn't notice his mother bending down to pick up
the scrap of torn paper that had fluttered down to the floor.
She glanced at it briefly and, noticing that it was covered
with Chezky's ever-present doodles, tossed it into the waste-
"The blatt Gemara, I've prepared already," he continued.
"The halachah quiz is nothing, and the science homework I
finished on Friday. See, Mom? I was right. Nothing doing.
Now can I get back to my computer game?"
"Sure, Chezky," Mrs. Hellman said with a laugh. "Sorry
to have interrupted. I am glad, though, that I bought you
that calendar. It has proved a lifesaver, time and time again."
Chezky felt vaguely uncomfortable as he went back to
his computer game. Had he forgotten an assignment? Some-
thing pricked at his memory. The feeling only lasted a sec-
ond, though. As soon as his hands touched the keys of the
computer, he was lost to his surroundings, involved in a game
of skill and intrigue in a world where timeliness and pro-
crastination didn't matter as much as they seemed to in real
It wasn't until Monday morning that Chezky was forced
to realize his mistake.
"What are you doing for your business?" Noach asked
Chezky as the two friends met in the hallway before class
"Oh, no," moaned Chezky, stopping in his tracks and
dropping his backpack with a thud at his feet. "I forgot all
"Are you kidding?" Noach asked, peering closely at his
friend. No, Chezky was for real. Noach could tell by the
stunned expression on his friend's face. "What's Mr. Brody
going to say when he hears you don't have any idea for a
"I was kind of wondering the same thing," said Chezky,
hoisting up his backpack and resuming his walk through the
"I'd take you in as a partner in my business," said Noach,
"but I don't think that Mr. Brody would go for it. You re-
member what he told us when we worked on the Math Fair
"Yeah," said Chezky, "that we should branch out and
find new friends. What's it to him, anyway?"
"Who knows?" said Noach with a shrug. "Some teachers
just like to interfere. Don't worry, though. I'm sure you'll
come up with something. You've got all morning to think
"What are you doing?" asked Chezky, hoping he could
get some idea from Noach.
"Noach's Nosh," said Noach with a grin. "I'm going to
sell all kinds of great nosh during recess and before and after
school. I can't wait. I went shopping on Sunday just to check
out all the different things available. You should see the stuff
I came home with."
"Sounds great," said Chezky, jingling some spare change
he had in his pocket. "But why did you go and buy things
already? How do you know Mr. Brody will okay it?"
"What could be wrong with a business like Noach's
Nosh?" asked Noach. "I think it's a super idea, just right for
a school business unit."
"Well, it is," said Chezky. "But you never know with these
teachers. I just wouldn't have gone and bought all the stuff
until Mr. Brody gave the go-ahead."
"I'm not worried," said Noach. "It's you who should be
worried. At least I have a business idea all picked out."
"True," said Chezky glumly.
"Cheer up," said Noach. "I'm sure you'll be able to come
up with something between now and class time this after-
"I don't know about that," said Chezky. "Rebbi said he's
starting a new blatt Gemara today, and you know what that
"On your toes every second," said Noach sympatheti-
cally. "You're right. There's no way you'll be able to think of
anything else but Gemara this morning. If you don't pay at-
tention from the start of the blatt, you'll just be in for it later.
What about recess?"
"No way," said Chezky. "We left off in the middle of a
great game on Sunday. I promised I'd be there today to help
finish it off."
"Aw, come on, Chezky," said Noach. "Why don't you
get your priorities straight? They'll understand."
"No way!" said Chezky adamantly. "A promise is a prom-
"There's always lunch," said Noach hopefully.
"Given the decibel level of the lunch room," said Chezky,
"I seriously doubt that I'll be able to do any real thinking in
there, but I'll try. Thanks, Noach, and let me know when
you're opening so I can be your first customer."
"Sure thing, Chezky," said Noach, stopping at the drink-
ing fountain. "Good luck."
"Thanks," said Chezky. "Luck is what I'll need to come
up with an idea by class time this afternoon."
......end of sample
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