Hello, it’s me, your selectively friendly neighborhood preteen, here to solicit some soft-earned pocket money. I’m either Jaden, Jalen, or Jason. You’re pretty sure it’s one of those three names, though probably not the last one because that name feels too 1980s for a kid these days, and, to be fair, you’re right… but also, it is indeed Jason.

Here’s the deal: It snowed last night, as you and I can plainly see. And your walkway has yet to be shoveled, as you and I can plainly see. It’s only a matter of hours, at best, before the HOA comes by to cite you for failure to abide by their ordinances for snow removal. And you’re still in your pajama pants and mismatched grippy socks, as you and I can plainly see.

So go ahead: say no to my offer. I dare you.

I’m only asking for thirty bucks. Is that a scam or a steal? Hey, that’s for you to decide. I’m just an unlicensed, nonprofessional youngster with an inadequate shovel, a mom who says she doesn’t want me sitting around inside all day, and a dream.

So, what do you say? Can I haphazardly shift some snow drifts around your front yard?

Sure, you’ve got plenty of reasons to decline my proposition outright. Remember just a few weeks ago when I raked a mere plurality of your fallen leaves for some extra cash?

And a few months before that, when I started a lawn-mowing business with cute little business cards and everything, then lost interest and shuttered the entire operation after I started soccer camp, and you came back from vacation to three-foot-high tufts of crabgrass?

And last spring break, when I offered to weed your garden with no understanding of which plants are weeds and which aren’t, making my best guesses and leaving giant invasive creepers because I thought their flowers looked pretty?

And then there was the whole dog-walking debacle. How’s her paw healing, by the way?

Anyway, that was all in the distant recent past.

Let’s focus on why you have no choice but to hire me, a legal child, to perform manual labor in somewhat inclement wintry conditions:

First, you’re the one who forgot to buy a snow blower when they went on clearance last year. And you’re the one who forgot to sign up for a plowing service this year. And here I am, an unsupervised kid ready and willing to make my fair-at-best attempt at looking like I’m shoveling. Otherwise, you’re the one who’s going to have to change into sweatpants.

Second, it will only cost you one-third as much as a professional with only twice the effort. Will I miss spots? Sure. Will my underdeveloped arm muscles fail to chisel away the packed-down patches that will eventually freeze over and into place, thus creating a season-long slip hazard? You bet. Will the path I shovel be straight at least? Not a chance. But the job will be completed to the barest minimum of satisfaction. And all you’ll have to do is re-shovel everything when I’m done.

Oh, did I mention my add-on services? Like sprinkling ice melt granules sparingly along the path after dumping a heaping pile onto my un-velcroed boots because I couldn’t figure out how to use the shaker thing you gave me. I can also whack some enticingly large icicles off your eaves at no extra charge, though wholly at my distracted discretion.

Look, you don’t have to say yes. There’s no downside to declining my services other than the fact that doing so will make you feel guilty every time you see me aimlessly riding my scooter up and down the block until I turn eighteen and go to college—or longer if I choose to commute to a local university or take a gap year.

So go ahead and do the mental math. You have about ten seconds to decide before you let the chill in, and your partner asks why the door is open.

But who are we kidding? I’m a kid. I’m your neighbor. And I know you can’t say no.