"And when I get back, I'm going to be inspecting what you've done." These were the last words the four brothers---oldest to youngest, Ralph, Phil, Robert, and Ronnie---heard before their father left on a long trip. For while he was gone, he gave them them a list of things to do, one complete copy for each. All total he had twenty-nine responsibilities he expected done. As the four looked at these, they could see that some of the jobs would take less time to finish and others were obviously larger tasks to fulfill. Dad emphasized that he wanted all twenty-nine completed before he got back.
After their father was gone and out of sight, Ronnie walked inside to lie on his bed and take a nap. Robert took his copy and sat at the kitchen table to read them again. Phil suggested to all of them that there really were five of the twenty-nine that were crucial as far as he could see and that some of them were less necessary than the others. Ralph insisted that he had spent more time with their father than the other three, and that their dad really did want for them to finish all twenty-nine and that they should all take them seriously. He read his list and started working right away, encouraging the other three to get busy immediately fulfilling their father's will. Ronnie didn't say anything; he just slept. Robert smiled, smirked, and then just wagged his head at his brother's words. Phil informed Ralph that there was no way their dad would expect them to do everything, and that the safe approach would be to widdle the list down to the five most important. Robert responded, "Yes!" when he heard this idea, but he felt a little conviction by Ralph's example. He hated feeling like this, but he didn't want to change either. He kept remembering the words of Phil and that made him feel better about not obeying his father's list.
When Ronnie woke up he was "juiced" about Phil's idea and laughed when he heard what Ralph was going to do. "It's not like dad's going to kick us out of the family. We didn't have to earn our way in anyway." They all smiled at that. Security was great! Robert had spent so much time reading his copy that he had it almost memorized. He quoted large portions and could tell his brothers were impressed, even Ralph. He already knew that he could talk on and on about each one on the list, disecting each of them grammatically.
While Ralph was busy working away to complete the father's will, Phil told the other two that Ralph was laboring so intensely only in order to impress the father and to show up his three brothers. They nodded in agreement and even threw out some well-worded ridicule that really made the three laugh. "Daddy's Pet!" "Papa's Prude!" "Little Ralph Fauntleroy!" Phil rewarded them with an affirming glance. He said Ralph also intended to put them on a "guilt trip." Phil sounded so intelligent in his evalution, so they all smiled and agreed. Given their situation, some of these twenty-nine weren't going to be very fun at all, and they all knew that dad would surely want them to enjoy themselves. Could anyone say that father didn't want them to have a good time? Ralph was the real reason they felt bad about their lack of work for dad, anyways. And Phil regularly assured them of that.
Robert laid out his ingenious plan of "majoring on the majors" and then only getting to the minors if any of them felt like it, but nobody had to. He called the minors, liberties. Nobody should feel guilty if they didn't do the minors and no one especially should judge anyone for not getting some of them done. When they looked at their new short list, they loved it. They knew it was a list that they could get done and truly enjoy without a burden. One special, major rule that Ronnie suggested, to the glee of the other two, was that no one would confront anyone for not finishing or even doing those jobs on the list of minors. All three nodded in affirmative at this great addition. The only one whom they really attacked was Ralph. He deserved it for being so sensitive to dad's words. If Ralph was really close to dad, he wouldn't feel as though he had to perform as he did. He could just feel free, like they did. Sometimes they made sure Ralph could hear their mockery, and when he inquired, they guaranteed him they were only kidding and that everything they said was meant in good humor.
So they began to work on the father's list, really their new revision of it that suited their lifestyles. Many of them were getting done because Ralph was working so hard. He loved his dad and knew his dad meant business when he said he wanted all of them done. Some jobs weren't being completed because the other three had decided they just were not that important. Ralph tried to tell them, but they would always shut him up with charges of judgmentalism. They knew the dad's fundamentals and those were something around which all four could unify; how dare Ralph restrict them with his fastidious conformity! Nobody was going to make them feel guilty. There's was a gracious father who would reward them for having the kind of heart that they were sure they had.
Time passed and eventually their father returned. As he neared the house he could see that a majority of his list was finished, but not all of it. All told, eight of the twenty-nine didn't get done by the sons. Ralph did a little of all of them and tried to get all of them done himself, and they all would have been completed if they all had been faithful. Their father wasn't happy about Ronnie, Robert, and especially Phil. Phil had been the worst influence of the three with his dangerous teaching. The father reminded them that the greatest of the four was he who would do the least of his commandments. None of what he told them was optional. If they loved him, none would have been grievous to do. And for his faithful service, to Ralph he said, "Well done."