A Self-Cleaning Backpack?

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Trevor Paul Monroe sprawled across the bed on his stomach. He chewed the end of his stubby pencil while he read the story problem in his math book. Story problems! Trevor sighed. He wished story problems had never been invented. “If Tom sold his outgrown roller blades to Mitch, how many birthday cards did Jenny receive?”

Trevor closed his eyes and shook his head. What?!? He read the problem again. Oh, yeah. He’d read the first part of problem number 6 and the last part of problem number 7. No wonder it didn’t make sense!

Mom tapped on his half-opened bedroom door. “How’s the homework going?” she asked.

Trevor sighed and rolled over. “Did you have story problems when you were a kid in my grade?” he asked.

Mom laughed. “Yes, I did,” she answered. “I always liked those the best.”

“Probably because you’re a girl,” Trevor muttered.

Mom looked fondly at Trevor. “I always liked story problems because they seemed more like real life,” she said. “And did you ever stop to realize,” she added, “that there are usually fewer problems on the page when they’re story problems?”

Trevor rolled back over and looked at his book. “You’re right!” he exclaimed. “I never thought of that!”

Mom sniffed. She came farther into the room. “Something smells funny in here,” she said.

“It’s probably Trevor!” Brad commented as he passed through the hall. “He smells funny most of the time!”

Trevor grabbed his pillow and threw it out the door even though he knew he had no chance of hitting his big brother.

Mom walked across the room and opened Trevor’s closet door. She wrinkled her nose. “The smell’s coming from in here,” she said. She looked down at the mess on the bottom of the closet. “What do you have buried in there?”

Trevor scrambled up. “Nothing!” he protested.

Mom backed up and sat down on the bed. “I’ll just sit here and watch while you find out what it is,” she said.

Trevor groaned. He began to rummage around under the clothes that had somehow slipped off their hangers to visit the balls and games and shoes and remote-controlled trucks and Legos on the floor of the closet. “Oh!” he said. He held up a crumpled backpack.

“Hmm,” Mom murmured. She crossed her legs. “Isn’t that the backpack you lost about two weeks ago?” she asked.

Trevor looked sheepish. “Yeah,” he admitted.

“Didn’t you tell me you looked everywhere for it?” Mom asked.

Trevor nodded.

“What’s inside it?” Mom asked.

“Very old food, I think,” Trevor answered.

“I think you’ve probably located the funny smell,” Mom said. She studied Trevor who held his backpack at arm’s length. “You know, I’ve got an idea,” she continued. “Why don’t you just leave the backpack on your desk, and maybe it will clean itself up.”

Trevor looked at Mom as if she’d lost her mind. “What?” he asked. “The backpack can’t clean itself up!”

“Maybe,” Mom went on, “you could dress it up a bit. Set a baseball cap on it. Backwards, of course. And put one of Dad’s ties around it. Make it look good on the outside. That should clean it up.”

“What are you talking about?” Trevor asked, bewildered. “A backpack can’t clean itself up! It’s impossible!”

“Oh,” Mom said. She stood up, and stretched, and turned to leave.

“Aren’t you going to tell me to empty it out?” Trevor asked with a puzzled frown.

Mom smiled. “No,” she said. “I’m just going to tell you to read your memory verse for this week.”

Trevor plopped down on his bed. He dropped the backpack at his feet. Now that it was out of the closet, he realized it did smell funny. In fact, it would not be too much to say that his backpack had a definite stink about it!

Trevor looked disgustedly at the smelly thing. Why did Mom want him to read his memory verse? What did his memory verse have to do with his backpack? Where was his Sabbath School quarterly anyway? He looked around. There it was—on his desk underneath his Bible. Right where it belonged for once! He jumped up and thumbed through the pages to his lesson for the week. There was the memory verse. “Create in me a pure heart,” he read.

Trevor thought for a moment. His backpack needed him to clean it up. Just like he needed God to clean his own heart up. He grinned. He would have a story to tell Pastor Chuck and all the kids in class this week. Maybe he should save his smelly backpack and take it to church for a kind of memory verse show-and-tell. Nah! It needed to be cleaned up now!

Trevor headed for the kitchen—and the garbage can.

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