Dimes in a Jar
The sixth grade class sat at their desks. Frog and Jessie were assigned seats next to each other because Mrs. Apple needed to keep them in the front where she could watch them. It seemed that they could communicate from across the room anyway.
She began the day with a count of hand. She was collecting money for the orphans. Friday was the day she had chosen for this ritual.
The church ladies had all decided over tea several Saturdays before that she needed to teach the children about charity and giving. They had collected ten dimes that day from the twenty women present. But more was needed for them to take to conference meeting next summer and Oona knew that they needed a new source of income. She didn’t want to look cheap when she made the presentation.
“But can I do that? Aren’t we suppose to keep the church out of the school?” Miss Apple had asked.
The women all looked at their cups of tea sitting in their laps. Silence settled in to stay.
“Oh,” Mrs. Wood whispered, “I’m sure that Mr. Wood would approve. Why last week the school board approved a new water heater in the teacherage apartment house. That’s just charity too isn’t it?” Miss Apple could see no way out.
“Boys and girls, how many dimes do we have today?”
Several hands had gone up and dimes were collected in the “Orphan Jar”. The silver coins covered the bottom now. She was encouraged when she realized that the sound of the dime falling did not ring like a glass bell anymore. Fifteen Fridays of school and they had gathered seven dime. She knew the ladies would be pleased considering the amount they had relinquished to the cause. After all Africa was a long way away they had all reasoned.
Then Frog’s hand flew into the air as he stood to make his announcement.
“Miss Apple, I just wanted to let you know that my dad says that I ain’t gonna git any money to bring to school for the orphans in Africa.”
Miss Apple scratched the bun on the back of her head.
“Why ever not Frog?”
“Well, he said if you wanted to feed the orphan in Africa you should send your own dimes. He didn’t think you should make us gift money and you git all the credit.”
Miss. Apple pulled at her earring. She pursed her lips and put her tongue between her teeth to keep it from saying things it shouldn’t. Miss. Apple was no stranger to swearing and Frog’s dad had always irked her.
“Frog, would you please tell your daddy that I am not getting any credit. I am just trying to help.”
“My dad says that you oughtn’t take our money when we are paying you to give to the orphans and stuff. He said you is just plain stingy and you shouldn’t ought to make us help you.”
Miss Apple’s bun drooped on her neck, one earring hung by a thread and the other lay on the floor. The broach at her neck had come unclasped. Frog just smiled. He knew his dad would be proud of him.
But he was not finished. “And Mom ain’t makin’ a cake neither. She said Dad wouldn’t let her.”
Miss Apple just sighed. She did not want to ask but she knew there was no choice. The children were leaning forward in their seats now. They knew Frog was on a roll. When their parents asked about school tonight they weren’t going to say “nothin”. They needed to hear every word.
“Okay Frog, why won’t your dad let your mother make a cake?”
Frog wiped his nose on his sleeve and leaned a hand on Jessie’s desk. “He says it’s just plain silly…that Carnival Cake Walk business. You send a free cake. Then you spend money to try to win it back. He said he’d rather just find a cake on the kitchen table. He says it tastes better when you know what’s in it and who fixed it.”
Miss Apple’s blouse was partly unbuttoned now and her left stocking sagged at the ankle. She could feel the corset nylon clasp hanging loose under her slip. She just looked at the top of her desk and shook her head.
“Open your arithmetic books to page 89 children. Do rows one through 35 and then read a book when you are finished.” Miss Apple needed a cigarette and she was going to the furnace room. She didn’t really care if Frog burned the school down…not now anyway. Job or no, job this boy was going to be the end of her.
Frog did that to people.