Thursday, April 19, 2012

Busted! Flat Broke by Gary Paulsen

The Successful Person Has Vision That Others Lack

I got my first idea when my buddies and I were playing poker during lunch the other day in a corner of the cafeteria. We didn't play for money, but for points.

"Why don't we play for money instead of points?" I said.

"We can't bet money on school property," said JonPaul.

"We'll play off school property."

"You don't have money," he reminded me.

"I could do something about that. Start a poker game."

"We have a poker game."

JonPaul us a great friend, but he will never be business partner material.

Kevin is busted--in more ways than one. He's under house arrest since his parents discovered a tangled web of habitual lying--grounded, with all his schemes cut off at the knees. But he's also busted, flat broke, cut off even from his weekend job at his Auntie Buzz's decorating business. A guy needs some walking around money, he figures, so he borrows some start-up money from his sister Sarah ("a dark and mysterious person") who has jobs and can drive him around, "rents" an unused conference room from Aunt Buzz, and lines up three groups of poker players who need space and snacks for their games in return for a small kick-back to "the house," a.k.a. Kevin.

And when Kevin stumbles into a job bailing out a neighbor by cleaning his garage and promising to get rid of the junk that the city refuses to pick up, he sees the opportunity to pick up some big bucks from the harried weekend "honey-do" husbands all around. There's a convenient and mostly underutilized dumpster behind a Taco Bell where he can dump the junk, and soon Kev is booked well into the future for his junk-be-gone venture. Money is rolling in, and he has some free capital to invest.

Servicing his college-guy poker group, he realizes that late-night munchies at the dorm are a seriously unmet need, and "borrowing" a virtually scrapped golf-cart that can only make right turns from a local golf course, Kev and his "people," JonPaul and a hired go-getter girl Friday named Sam, concoct homemade goodies and make a killing hawking their wares up and down the college dorm halls. So far, Kevin has kept his entrepreneurial activities under the parental radar, but baking hundreds of cookies in the kitchen finally draws the attention of his business-obsessed father:

My dad, getting coffee on the way to the living room to read the Sunday papers with my mom, raised an eyebrow.

"I'm starting a business," I gestured to all the stuff on the counters.

"Looks like a lot of work," Dad said.

"Nah. I've got it covered. Nothing to worry about."

He looked doubtful but finally nodded. "I'm going to take your mother a cup of coffee and tell her there's a perfect example of capitalism in action in her kitchen."

With the parental imprimatur in place, prospects for Kevin's financial empire look golden. He's meeting unmet needs. He's banking capital. His customers are happy. What could go wrong now?

Well, in one of Gary Paulsen's trademark middle-school guy stories, lots of things can and do go down the proverbial tubes. Auntie Buzz discovers she's sheltering a gambling den and shuts down the casino; Taco Bell discovers that they are footing the bill with the waste removal corporation for a lot of junk that doesn't look like taco wrappers, and the police find a golf cart, laden with a load of cookies and a giant urn ("liberated" by Kevin from the back shelf of his church kitchen) and driven by eighth graders chugging circuitously through campus at 10:30 p.m., rather suspicious. As one capital venture after another is shut down, Kevin's financial empire comes down like well, a house of cards.

Flat Broke: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Greed (Wendy Lamb/Random House, 2011), sequel to his popular Liar, Liar: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Deception, takes go-getter Kevin through another hard-earned life lesson in business, with lots of snappy dialogue and laughs along the way. For readers who loved Andrew Clements' Lunch Money and Newbery author Paulsen's best-selling and hilarious Lawn Boy, Lawn Boy Returns,, and Masters of Disaster, his latest will have lots of up-market product appeal.

"A jocular, fast-paced voyage into the sometimes simple but never quiet mind of an ambitious eighth grader." says Kirkus Reviews.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home