by Dao Pham

I had my head down trying to solve a really hard mathematical problem. I wanted to solve it before everyone else in the class. When I had solved the problem, I raised my arm to signal that I had finished and in that instant the bell rang. The teacher looked very pleased, as all the students noisily rushed out of the room. I left the building and waited for my best friend at the gate. I waited and waited and then thought that my friend had already left.

As I walked in the direction of the station, I heard someone calling behind me. "Kim! Where are you going? Want to leave me behind?" It was my friend Sam, who had caught up with me. Sam and I were best friends since Primary School. Sam was a very hard working student and lived in a happy family. We walked slowly to chat. When were had arrived at the busy station, Sam suddenly changed the subject. "Kim! I nearly forgot to tell you that on Saturday night, my family are having a celebration. My parents would like you to come." "Wow! What's it about? am I special." "Just to celebrate the new car."

I suddenly remembered that Sam had told me this story before. Sam's father had been promoted in a computer company. For that reason the boss invited Sam's parents to dinner. Afterwards they went to the Crown Casino to be entertained. He gave them some 'chips'. Even though they didn't like gambling, they went out of respect for their boss. In a few minutes Sam's father hit the 'jackpot' MG.

The next day Sam's father drove Sam in the new car to my house. "Kim! You coming or not?" "Let me see if I have any homework. Tell your parents I'm coming!" "Are there lots of people?" "You come and see!"

A week went by very quickly, it was Saturday, I drove to Sam's house at 7 pm. Outside a lot of cars were parked along the road and Sam's friends had all arrived. We happily shook hands and introduced ourselves. Later I came in to bow to Sam's parents and other people, there were lots of well known people in the community there. Everyone was very excited and Sam's parents were very busy.

Sam's family were migrants to Australia in the eighties. Sam's father had an engineering degree and worked in a large company and Sam's mum worked in a shoe factory. Looking at Sam's family, they were a very loving and caring family.

Sam hadn't been at school for a week. This sounded very strange. I knew Sam for a long time, he would never want to miss school. I tried to ring Sam, but no-one answered. On the weekend I drove to Sam's house. I was very surprised to see the weeds were growing everywhere in the yard. The beautiful roses that had been carefully tended were now withered and the MG wasn't there. I rang the bell for a long time, then Sam's sister opened the door.

"Hey! Is your brother home?" "Yes! Let me call him for you." The lounge room had changed a lot. Junk was everywhere and covered in dust. Sam appeared, his eyes were red, like he had been crying and there was a bruise on his face.

"Hi Sam!" "Hi Kim!" then in a very low voice, "Is there anything wrong?" "Yes," I replied. "You haven't attended school for a week. I was trying to ring you but no-one answered the phone. that's why I came to see if there was anything wrong. Why do you have those bruises on your face?" "They are nothing serious, we just had an accident." "Are your parents and your sisters OK?" "They are fine."

A moment later, Sam's father walked down the steps. "Hi Mr Do!" "Hello Kim!" He angrily looked at Sam and said "Sam you stay at home and look after the house. I won't be home until late." Sam didn't look at his father, but replied, "Yes." Mr Do hurriedly walked out. His friend had waited in the car. I could see tears in Sam's eyes. "Sam, why are you crying?" "It's nothing, since the accident my eyes look like red." "OK, I'm going home so you can rest." "Are you going to school next week?" "No, would you tell the school for me?" "Bye! I hope you get well soon."

A week later, I received the shocked news that Sam had quit school. I went to see Sam and I as astonished to see a large 'SOLD' sign in front of his house. I was about to ring the bell, but I saw all the doors were open. There was nothing left, all the beautiful furniture was gone. I called out "Hello, anybody home? It's me Kim!" Everything was silent. Then I heard a loud voice echo through the house. I walked in and saw Sam crying.

"What's happened? Where are your parents and what's going on, could you please tell me?" I gave Sam a cup of water to make him feel better. "I don't know Kim, now I don't have any parents." "What do you mean, you don't have any parents?"

He told me the story....since his parents won the car, they were different. From that day on, they always went to the Casino. At first they went on the weekend and then everyday till late. He and his sisters couldn't do anything but cry. They sold everything valuable in the house. Sometimes they didn't have enough food to eat. Last time Mr Do hit his mum, Sam jumped in to help but was hit too. then I remembered the bruise on Sam's face. It wasn't an accident. His family had fallen apart.

His parents were divorcing, Sam and his sisters didn't know where they were going to live. I felt very sorry for Sam's family. I never thought a happy family like their's would be destroyed.

Since Sam moved out we lost contact. A year later, I was in the city and I heard someone calling my name. I turned around, it was Sam. He was very different. At first I couldn't recognise him. Then I shook his hand really hard.

"Sam! How come you don't contact me? Where do you live now?" Sam told me he didn't want to bother me. His mum remarried and he couldn't get along well with his new dad. So he moved out. "Kim, could you get me a meal, I'm very hungry and I have no money. We went to a restaurant. Sam stayed at my house, but there was something really strange about him. He always stayed in the room, just going in and out to the toilet. He hardly spoke to me and I found him a very different person.

"Sam are you sick?" "I don't know, I feel like throwing up!" "OK I'll take you to a doctor tomorrow."

The next morning, I knocked on his door but no-one answered. I opened the door Sam was gone. Needles and syringes were everywhere. I went back to my room for my watch and wallet, but they were gone. Later I found out that Sam was a drug addict and committed robberies. I was sad that an intelligent boy like my friend Sam's life had gone to darkness because of his gambling parents.

This is a message that I had learnt, gambling never brings happiness to the family.


(Reprinted by kind permission of Dao Pham, an Australian female secondary school student with obvious writing talent.)




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