Jerry's Charge Account
by Hazel Hutchins Wilson
by Hazel Wilson
1. Charge It,
2. Change for a
3. P. T. A.
4. No Safe
5. New Neighbors
6. “The Stars
7. Working on
8. The Auction
9. As Good as a
10. May Day
Jerry Martin asked for it. If the candy in Mr. Bartlett's store
hadn't looked so good to him, he wouldn't have started the charge
account and he would have escaped all that worry and trouble.
The worst thing about it was that it was sort of fun, too. It was
fun keeping his twin sister Cathy guessing, fun trying to keep his
secret from the family, especially his little brother Andy.
So Jerry kept getting deeper and deeper into his predicament, like a
man in quicksand. The plain fact was, Jerry's father didn't approve of
charge accounts, and Jerry wasn't likely to change his mind for him,
candy or no candy. Then, when somebody broke into Mr. Bullfinch's house
next door, the trouble became serious.
There is laughter and suspense, and a hidden lesson in this story of
an impulsive boy and his true-to-life family.
1. Charge It, Please
Jerry tried to be quiet, but he bumped into the one chair in the
kitchen on his way to the kitchen cupboard. And it was not his fault
that the cream pitcher fell when he took the sugarbowl from the shelf.
Jerry made a quick and nice southpaw catch. Pretty good, he thought,
for a right-hander. He hadn't been able to use his right because it was
holding the sugarbowl. He had dumped the sugar into a cereal dish and
was busily pouring salt into the sugarbowl when his mother entered the
What on earth are you doing up so early on Saturday? Mrs. Martin
asked sleepily. It's only half-past six.
Jerry's blue eyes begged his mother to share a joke with him. I
woke up and remembered it's April Fools' Day, he said and chuckled.
Can't you just see Dad's face when he tastes his coffee with two
spoonfuls of salt in it instead of sugar?
No, Jerry, said his mother. No. It wouldn't be at all funny to
spoil your father's morning coffee. It would be tragic. Put the salt
back, rinse out the sugarbowl, and refill it with sugar. And no more
April-fooling with your father's breakfast.
Aw, I never can have any fun around here, Jerry complained. Salt
spilled on the floor when he poured it from the sugarbowl back into the
spout of the salt box.
Sweep it up, ordered his mother, and Jerry had to get out the
brush and dustpan.
When he went to the sink to rinse the sugarbowl, Jerry turned on the
hot water so hard that he had to draw his hand back quickly or it would
have been scalded. The sugarbowl fell in the sink and broke.
Oh, dear! I need cast-iron dishes instead of china if you're to
handle them, scolded Mrs. Martin.
It just slipped out of my hands. I can mend it. That new glue I
bought last week will mend china, glass, woodanything. It says so on
Jerry looked so sorry for having broken the sugarbowl that his
mother stopped being cross. It was cracked anyway, she said
consolingly. Now go get dressed. As long as you're up you may as well
stay up. Maybe I can get a little work out of you since you've got such
an early start on the day.
Jerry groaned. What a dreary wordwork! Just hearing it made him
I'll have pancakes ready in fifteen minutes, said his mother
brightly. With real maple syrup, she added.
Jerry could tell that she was tempting his appetite so he would not
be tempted to go back to bed again. He did not mind. He was wide awake.
It would be a novelty to have breakfast so early on a Saturday. Almost
an April Fool joke on his mother.
And to think that last Saturday I could hardly get you out of bed
at ten, said his mother as he left the kitchen.
At a little before nine Jerry had a broom in his hand. His orders
were to sweep off the front steps. He went at it in a very leisurely
manner. The sooner he finished the sooner his mother might give him
some other chore to do. Even though Laura, the pleasant
three-times-a-week maid, did most of the cleaning, Mrs. Martin believed
her children should have a few household chores. Cathy, Jerry's twin
sister, had to do the breakfast dishes on Saturdays, and even
five-year-old Andy, the youngest member of the Martin family, was
supposed to empty the wastebaskets.
Jerry's lazy broom finished the top step and began on the second.
Then it occurred to him that it had been some time since he had
investigated what was under the steps. He put down his broom while he
knelt and applied one eye to one of the holes bored in the steps. The
hole was big enough so if somebody dropped a dime just right it would
go through. No dimes down there today.
As Jerry got to his feet he looked with approval at the big white
clapboarded house where he lived. The morning sun made the small-paned
windows shine. The Martin house was on the very edge of northwest
Washington, D. C. It had been one of the original farmhouses when that
part of Washington had been country, not city. Now there were houses
all around, and it had been remodeled long before the Martins had
bought it. Jerry's father and mother were proud of the old floorboards
and wide fireplaces. Jerry especially liked the house because it had an
attic and a big garage that had been a barn.
As he picked up his broom again, his twin sister came to the door to
shake a dustcloth. Also, he was sure, to check up on what he was doing.
Cathy! cried Jerry. There's a great big spider crawling up your
Cathy did not let a yip out of her. You can't April-fool me that
easy, she said in a superior-sounding way that irritated Jerry.
Lately he and his twin often irritated each other. For one thing
Cathy had recently developed an intense interest in how she looked,
which seemed silly to Jerry.
Better wipe that black off your left cheek, he said, and laughed
when Cathy raised her hand to her cheek. April Fool! Got you that
time, he exulted.
Think you're smart, don't you? grumbled Cathy. Half the time you
don't even notice it when your face is dirty. To say nothing of your
Jerry swushed dirt off a step and changed the subject. Have you
fooled anybody yet this morning? he asked.
Just Andy. I asked him if he knew that Bibsy had grown another head
during the night, and he almost cried when he found I was April-fooling
him. He said he had always wanted a two-headed cat. Then when I asked
him if he had seen the alligator under the dining room table, he
wouldn't look. He just said, 'What's a nalligator?' I told him it was
like Mummy's handbag only much, much bigger, and he wants to see a real
one. Mummy says we must take him to the zoo someday soon. But I can't
remember seeing an alligator there, can you?
Cathy tossed her head, giving her pony tail a little exercise.
Too bad you didn't say seal instead of alligator. There are
seals at the zoo. Say, I wouldn't mind going to the zoo this forenoon.
Even if we have to take Andy. Want to?
Nope. Mummy's taking me to town to buy a new dress for Easter.
Cathy's eyes were bright with expectation.
It was beyond Jerry why Cathy should be pleased to waste good
playing time in town buying a dress. She didn't used to be that way.
She used to complain bitterly about having to change from blue jeans
into a dress. She still liked wearing jeans, yet there came a shine in
her eyes at even the mention of buying a new dress. Mummy said that
eleven-going-on-twelve was getting to be a young lady. Rats! thought
Jerry. It was silly for Cathy to begin to be young-lady-like when she
could throw a baseball just about as well as a boy and sometimes
Jerry! called his mother from a front window. I want you to run
to the store for me. Right away.
Can't Cathy go? Jerry really did not mind running (though he
usually walked or rode his bike to the store) but it was a matter of
principle with him to make a try at getting out of work.
I have other things for Cathy to do, said Mrs. Martin and shut the
There were two steps still unswept but Jerry left them untouched by
his lazy broom. After all, how could he be expected to do two things at
once? He wished, not for the first time, that his mother would do her
grocery shopping at the supermarket, which was far enough away so she
would have to take the car. Instead, she mostly traded at Bartlett's, a
small old-fashioned store three blocks from where the Martin family
There aren't many small grocery stores left and since we have one
right in the neighborhood I like to patronize it, Jerry had heard his
mother say. She liked stores where the owner came to wait on you. But
Jerry suspected that one reason she traded at Bartlett's was because
she thought it was good for a boy to run errands.
Going to the store was Jerry's chief chore. Just because her
grandfather had to chop wood and milk cows before breakfast when he was
a boy, she thinks she should keep me busy, he grumbled to
himself as he went in the house. Why do I have to go to the store?
Bartlett delivers. Why can't she telephone her order and have it
He knew that the answer to that was more than his mother's desire to
keep him busy. It was partly because she did not like to plan meals
ahead. A brisk cold day might make her feel like having pork chops and
hot applesauce for dinner. Or for a warm day, a platter of cold cuts
and deviled eggs.
It's just the day for calves' liver and bacon, she might say when
Jerry got home from school in the afternoon. And she would send him to
the store for a pound and a half of fresh calves' liver cut thin, the
way Mr. Bartlett knows I like it. A meal, his mother thought, should
match her mood or the weather. She kept a few frozen vegetables on hand
in case of need, but she much preferred fresh vegetables, freshly cut
steaks and chopsfresh almost anything which could be bought fresh.
I know it's a frozen food age but I still prefer my meat and
vegetables fresh, Mrs. Martin often said. That meant a lot of trips to
the store. Too many, Jerry thought. Especially on Saturdays, when she
needed a lot of things.
His mother was in the kitchen mixing dough for doughnuts. Jerry was
glad she made doughnuts instead of buying bakery ones. How good
doughnuts tasted hot out of the fat! He wished a few of them were done
so he could have two or three to eat on his way to the store.
Want me to fry 'em for you and then go to the store? he offered.
No. I need a carton of sour cream right away for my chocolate cake.
And, let me seefive pounds of Idaho potatoes, two pounds of ground
round steakI feel like having meat loaf tonightand two acorn
squash, an avocado, a dozen oranges, and one loaf of white bread and
one of whole wheat. Oh, and I've already telephoned and told Mr.
Bartlett that you would be in to pick up a leg of lamb. He has spring
lamb just in. You'll have to take your cart. There'll be too much for
you to carry in your bicycle basket.
Jerry had felt lately that he was too old to be dragging home a cart
filled with groceries. How long will it be before Andy can take that
old cart to the store? He can have it to keep any old time he'll take
it to the store after groceries.
You've only had it a year. Said you would be sure to use it for
years. And you know Andy isn't nearly old enough to take a big cart out
of the yard. Now run along. And don't stop to play on the way home.
Jerry got his cart out of the garage. The wheels squeaked but that
didn't bother him. He met a couple of boys in his grade at school on
his way to the store and arranged for baseball later.
Bartlett's store was on a street zoned only for houses, yet because
the store had been there before the zoning law was passed it had been
allowed to remain. The present proprietor was the third generation of
Bartletts who had sold groceries there. He was a stout, pink-faced man,
quite bald in front. Jerry said that Mr. Bartlett's forehead went way
to the back of his head. When Jerry went in the store, Mr. Bartlett was
waiting on a tall woman with a blue scarf over her head, and Bill, the
clerk who put up orders, was tossing groceries into cartons, each
carton for a customer.
Jerry had to wait while the woman with the blue scarf decided what
she would have for Sunday dinner. It seemed to take her a long time to
make up her mind. After trying without much success to engage Bill in
conversation, Jerry stood in front of the candy showcase next to the
cash register and wished he had money with him besides the ten-dollar
bill his mother had given him to pay for the groceries.
My, but the candy looked yummy! There were glass trays of round
mints, pink, white, green, and yellow. And caramels, chocolate-covered
nuts, coconut bonbons, chocolate nougatsnothing there Jerry didn't
like. He looked at the candy yearningly.
Now the lady had decided on a sirloin steak, thank goodness. Another
customer came in but Jerry would be next to be waited on. He would
speak right up and say he was next if Mr. Bartlett started to wait on
somebody else first, he decided.
The lady wearing the blue scarf reached into her handbag and got out
her billfold. I want to pay my March grocery bill, she said. She
stood beside Jerry near the cash register while Mr. Bartlett was behind
the counter giving her change.
Don't go off without your little bonus, said Mr. Bartlett. My
daddy and my granddaddy before him always gave folks a little bonus
when they paid their bills.
Jerry saw Mr. Bartlett get out a half-pound pasteboard box. Saw him
reach in the showcase and bring out enough candy to fill two rows in
the box. Jerry had heard that Mr. Bartlett gave candy to charge
customers when they paid their bills, but he had never before been in
the store and seen it happen. The sight saddened him. For he knew that
never for him would Mr. Bartlett fill a half-pound box of candy as a
gift. The Martin family never charged groceries. They never charged
anything. Mr. Martin believed in paying cash for everything. Even for a
new car. He was funny that way. Jerry had never much minded until this
minute when he saw a charge customer rewarded for being a charge
Wish we had a charge account. I wouldn't have to worry about losing
money on the way home, if we did, thought Jerry, remembering the
tendency of loose change to fall out of his pocket when he jumped over
hedges. Besides, Mr. Bartlett must want people to have charge accounts
or he wouldn't give them a bonus when they pay their bills. Stands to
reason. He likes to have folks charge their groceries instead of paying
cash, so a charge account must be a good thing. Wish my father thought
so. If he were here and saw Mr. Bartlett hand over that free candy,
he'd be bound to see it pays to charge your groceries.
Now, young man, what can I do for you? asked Mr. Bartlett. Jerry
had been thinking so hard about the advantages of having a charge
account that he had hard work remembering what his mother had sent him
to the store for. But he managed to recollect all but the avocado.
Jerry didn't like avocados so it was easy for him to forget that. It
was while Mr. Bartlett was counting out a dozen oranges that Jerry had
what he considered a very bright idea. There was a way he could
convince his father that Bartlett's store was the one place where it
didn't pay to pay cash.
It won't be dishonest, Jerry argued to himself. I won't be
getting a cent out of it. Only a box of candy at the end of the month.
And if we eat an awful lot and the bill is nice and big for April,
maybe Mr. Bartlett will give me a pound box of candy instead of a half
The plan that had popped into Jerry's mind was thishe would not
pay for groceries for the month of April but charge them. He would keep
in a safe place the money his mother gave him to pay for them. And the
first day of May he would come in with it and pay the bill and be given
a box of candy.
When I take the candy home and pass the box to Dad, he'll see it's
a good thing to charge our groceries, thought Jerry. The scene was so
vivid in his mind that he could almost see his father taking a
I said that will be eight dollars and twenty-one cents, said Mr.
Bartlett, a bit impatiently.
Jerry reached in his pocket and got out his mother's coin purse. He
preferred carrying money loose in his pocket but she had said he could
risk losing his own money that way, not hers. It was while he was
opening the purse that he suddenly decided to try out his bright idea.
Charge it, please, he said huskily.
You folks opening a charge account? asked Mr. Bartlett.
Isn't that all right with you?
Sure. Sure. You've been trading with me for years. And your
father's credit is good as gold, which is more than I can say for
some. Mr. Bartlett made out a slip, which he put in the bag of
He knows me and can tell I'm honest, thought Jerry happily, as he
put the heavy bag of groceries in his cart. The grocery slip he took
out of the bag and put in his pocket. I must remember to save all the
slips, he thought.
Jerry was almost home when he remembered that his ten-dollar bill
was still unbroken. And that he had to have change to give his mother
before he could put the eight dollars and twenty-one cents the
groceries cost in a safe hiding place. It was Mr. Bartlett's money,
Jerry thought. Jerry would just be keeping the money for him until a
month was up.
Jerry was reluctant to go back to Bartlett's store and ask to have
his bill changed. He was sure Mr. Bartlett would think it odd, after he
had charged the groceries.
I'll have to walk way down to the shopping center, thought Jerry.
Thinking about all the streets he would have to cross, with the trouble
of getting the heavy cart up and down the curbs, Jerry was not so sure
that starting a charge account had been such a good idea after all. He
had a feeling that in a way he might have played sort of an April Fool
joke on himself. But it was too late now to undo what he had done. He
would feel like a ninny going back and telling Mr. Bartlett that he had
decided to pay cash, that he had changed his mind about opening a
charge account for the Martin family.
I'll get my bill changed at the A &P, Jerry decided. And went so
fast in that direction that the bag holding the potatoes fell out of
the cart and broke and Jerry lost two of them down a sewer. After that
he went more slowly, though he found it hard to make the heavy cart go
downhill slowly. It made his arms ache holding it back.
2. Change for a Ten-Dollar Bill
Having to drag a heavy cart with a big bag of groceries in it nearly
a mile to the shopping center became considerable of a chore even
before Jerry was halfway there.
Lemme see, he thought as he bumped the cart down a curb. I know I
have to put away eight dollars and twenty-one cents for Mr. Bartlett.
How much is that from ten dollars? That's the right change for Mummy.
Jerry had a pained look on his face as he tried to do the
subtraction in his head. He was never any good in mental arithmetic.
Give him a pencil in his hand and he could do pretty well at figuring.
But his mind seemed to go blank when he had to carry and all that in
his head. He reached in all his pockets but did not have a pencil. And
he knew he had to ask for the right change.
Just then Jerry saw Carl Weston coming up the street. He was a
classmate of Jerry's in the sixth grade. He wore thick-lensed glasses
and was quite a brain. He'd be almost sure to have a pencil or a
ballpoint pen. But Jerry asked him and he didn't, so Jerry gave him a
line about being a whiz at arithmetic and said he bet Carl could say
right off how much money you'd have left if you subtracted eight
dollars and twenty-one cents from ten dollars.
For a few seconds Jerry saw a human adding-machine at work. Then
Carl said, One dollar and seventy-nine cents, of course. He didn't
add Stupid, but he looked as if that were what he was thinking. Jerry
didn't care. He knew a lot of important things Carl didn't know, such
as baseball averages and who were the home-run kings for the past five
Thanks, Carl. See you. And Jerry hurried off before Carl could ask
just why he wanted to know the answer to that particular sum in
subtraction. One dollar and seventy-nine cents, Jerry kept saying to
himself so he wouldn't forget.
There were long lines of shoppers at the checking-out counters at
the A &P. Jerry had left his cart outside the store, thinking it not
tactful to bring in a big bag of groceries he had bought in another
store. He took his place in what he thought was the shortest line. Some
woman had forgotten to have her bag of bananas weighed and that held up
the line. The next woman wanted to cash a check and that had to be
okayed by the manager. Jerry fidgeted. He saw that the woman ahead of
the woman ahead of him had a cart so piled with groceries that she must
be feeding a boardinghouse, or an awfully big family.
It was all of fifteen minutes, but seemed twice as long, before
Jerry reached the clerk behind the counter and asked for change.
Sorry, but I'm short of change, said the young man behind the
A wave of discouragement swept over Jerry. Perhaps storekeepers
wouldn't give change to anybody who wasn't buying anything. But he had
to get his ten-dollar bill changed. He didn't have the heart to wait in
another line to see if another clerk might give him change. He went
out. He would have to try another store.
He opened the door of the florist shop and backed out. The woman in
charge there looked just too elegant to approach. At the hardware store
he was told that he could have two fives for a ten if that would help
him. It wouldn't, so Jerry still had his ten-dollar bill unchanged.
Here was the barbershop. One particular barber usually cut Jerry's
hair. Jerry was glad to find that George was not busy.
Thought I gave you a haircut less than a week ago, George greeted
him. Did you come in to get your head shaved? Be cooler, warm weather
Jerry explained that he was satisfied with the state of his crew
cut. Rather timidly he asked to have his ten-dollar bill changed, told
the exact change he had to have.
Guess I can oblige you, but Saturday's a bad day for change, with
the banks closed all day, said George. He went to the cash register
and counted out the change Jerry needed.
Thank you, said Jerry with great heartiness.
Now to get home in a hurry. He went out to get his cart, which he
had left outside the barbershop. A big red setter dog was pawing the
bag of groceries. Red! Get away from there! Jerry yelled. With horror
he saw that the dog had the leg of lamb in his strong jaws.
Drop that, Red! shouted Jerry. He ran and grabbed the other end of
the leg of lamb and tried to get it away from the dog.
Red was a good-natured animal who often seemed to forget he was a
dog, he so much wanted to be one of the boys. He especially enjoyed
taking part in baseball games. He ran bases and barked as loud as any
of the players could shout. Last Saturday Jerry might have made a home
run if Red had not dashed in front of him so Jerry fell over him. Now
Red thought a tug of war with a leg of lamb was a fine game.
Jerry pulled. The red setter braced his legs and pulled.
You mean dog! Leggo! Leggo! screamed Jerry.
The desperation in his voice finally had an effect on Red's tender
heart. He let go of his end of the leg of lamb so suddenly that Jerry
sat down hard. The leg of lamb fell in the dirt.
Jerry brushed off bits of gravel from his Sunday dinner. Red's teeth
marks didn't show unless you looked very closely. Jerry wrapped the leg
of lamb in the torn paper bag. It was a lucky thing he had come out of
the barbershop before Red had run off with it. That dog is getting to
be a nuisance, he thought. But he really liked Red and had often
wished he were one of the Martin family instead of belonging to a
It was uphill most of the way home. Jerry got pretty tired of
pulling his heavy cart. He wished he could think up a way of motorizing
it, fix it up like sort of a four-wheeled motor scooter. Maybe put an
engine on the back like an outboard motor. Such speculations helped
pass the time, but he was tired before he got home.
It was disappointing to find that the doughnuts had been fried and
put away. And Mrs. Martin, dressed for town, scolded Jerry soundly for
being over an hour going to the store.
I had to postpone making my cake, she said sharply, for if Cathy
and I are to get any shopping done and get back in time for lunch, we
have to start. You'll have to look after Andy. Take him with you but
keep an eye on him if you go out with the boys.
Other boys don't have to have their little brothers tagging along,
Don't try my patience too far or you won't go out at all.
Jerry saw a look in his mother's eyes that made him wary of making
her any more displeased with him than she already was.
All right, I'll take him. If Red follows us to the park Andy can
play with him and keep that big nuisance from trying to play ball with
Jerry was relieved when his mother unpacked the groceries and did
not notice that anything unusual had happened to the leg of lamb.
Where's my change? she asked.
Jerry almost got out Mr. Bartlett's eight dollars and twenty-one
cents. Hastily he switched his hand to another pocket for the one
dollar and seventy-nine cents due his mother. He handed it over, his
eyes downcast. For some reason he did not want to meet his mother's eye
just then. Whenever she looked him straight in the eye, Jerry had
always found it next to impossible to keep anything from her.
Thank you for going to the store for me. But honestly, Jerry,
you're too old for me to have to tell you every time not to stop and
play on the way home, she said.
Play! So that was what she thought he had been doing. Little did she
know how little like play it was. Jerry had to stifle the impulse to
tell her all he had been through in the past hour and a half.
Saturday's a busy time at the grocery stores, he said.
His mother let that pass for an excuse. She was in a hurry to be
off. And Jerry could tell that his twin sister was pleased with his
being stuck with looking after Andy while she was off admiring herself
in store mirrors.
Don't let Andy lose his windbreaker, she warned in an almost
grownup manner. Trying to button her jacket and hold on to her red
patent leather handbag at the same time, she dropped the bag and its
contents spilled on the floor.
With horror Jerry saw that Cathy had been carrying a lipstick of
shiny gold-colored metal. Don't tell me you've taken to using
lipstick! You trying to look like a clown?
It's just from the dime store. To use if my lips get chapped. Take
your foot off that, Jerry Martin. Oh, you've bent it, she cried.
Want me to wipe away your tears? taunted Jerry. That was his
latest favorite remark. He said it whether it was appropriate or not,
liking the sound of it and the reaction it drew from family and
playmates. Now Cathy tossed her head and glared at him.
I was sorry that Andy broke your model satellite but now I'm
Make Jerry stop being so aggravating, Cathy begged her mother.
Come on. We haven't time to try to reform your brother this
morning. Be a good boy, Andy. Mind Jerry. Don't let your little brother
out of your sight, Jerry.
Jerry was relieved when his mother and sister had gone. It gave him
a chance to find a good hiding place for Mr. Bartlett's eight dollars
and twenty-one cents. Somewhere up attic would be the best place, he
You play with your blocks. I have to go up attic for a minute,
Jerry told Andy.
I'll go with you.
No, you don't.
It took several minutes to get Andy so interested in his toys that
he consented to be left while Jerry went up attic. Then he dashed up
two flights of stairs. Now where should he hide the money? In the
drawer of that old chest? No, his mother was forever cleaning out
drawers. In one of the garment bags in which were hung out-of-season
clothes? That might do. He would need the hiding place only for the
month of Aprilbefore warm weather. Because it was a cool day it
seemed to Jerry that it would be ages before anybody needed summer
clothes. He put Mr. Bartlett's money in one of his mother's shoes, a
white one he found in the bottom of one of the garment bags.
Jerry felt that he had been engaged in quite an enterprise. And
I've not gone to all this work just for myself, he argued in his mind
as he zipped up the garment bag. I'm doing it for the whole family.
For I'm not going to hog the candy for myself. Course I may help myself
to a piece or two when I get it. No, I'll bring the whole box home and
pass it around, he decided generously. And if Dad is convinced, and
that box of free candy should convince him that it is a good
thing to charge groceries at Bartlett's, we'll go on charging them.
Every month. At the end of a year I bet we'll have gotten more than
five pounds of free candy. Oh, boy!
Small footsteps sounded and there was Andy.
Downstairs was lonesome, he said plaintively.
Okay, I'm all through with what I was doing up here. I'll get my
bat and ball and we'll go out.
I'll play ball with you.
Tell you what you can do, Andy. I'll let you hold my catcher's mitt
when I'm not using it. And I'll throw you a few easy ones. You're old
enough to begin to learn to play baseball.
Andy looked so pleased that Jerry's heart warmed to him. He decided
that when Mr. Bartlett presented that box of candy, Andy should have
the first pick.
He can have his choice of any piece in the box, thought Jerry
benevolently. And waited quite patiently while Andy came down the
stairs slowly all the way like a grownup and not two feet on the same
step like a baby. Sometimes Jerry did not mind having Andy tag along as
much as he made out.
3. P. T. A. Meeting
Why did it have to be pleasant all week and then rain on Saturday?
thought Jerry unhappily the following Saturday. He watched the rain
slant against the front windows for a while and then picked up the
morning paper to reread the comics. April showers may bring May
flowers, but it's tough on baseball, he said to himself.
Andy came in the living room. He had a much folded and unfolded
sheet of paper in his hand. Help me learn my piece, will you, Jerry? I
can read pictures but not hard words. But I know most of my piece.
Cathy teached me.
Andy was to make his first public appearance at the P. T. A. meeting
Monday evening. His kindergarten class was to perform a short play
about Goldilocks and the three bears. Once a year the Oakhurst
elementary school put on a program by the pupils for the parents. This
year Cathy was to sing in a girls' chorus and Jerry, one of a rhythm
band, was to shake bells during the playing of The Stars and Stripes
Forever by John Philip Sousa. Andy had an important part on the
program. He was to speak a poem to introduce the play about Goldilocks.
Miss Prouty, his teacher, called it the prologue. Andy called it his
Jerry took the grimy piece of paper. Let's hear it, he told Andy.
Andy stood with his legs far apart, his head tilted upward as if he
were reading his piece from the ceiling. His usually merry face
looked solemn, his dark eyes worried. Hardly above a whisper he
We welcome you, dear parents,
And hope you'll like our play.
'Twas written by Miss Prouty's class
Just for the P. T. A.
How could your class write a play when you don't even know how to
write? asked Jerry.
I can print all my name, said Andy in his normal voice. Miss
Prouty says that part of writing is thinking and saying. So she read
'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' to us three times. Then our class said
it to her and she wrote it down. But she wrote my log piece by
You'd better say the first verse again and a lot louder, Jerry
suggested. Nobody will hear you if you don't speak good and loud.
So Andy said the first verse again good and loud. He made the phrase
Just for the P. T. A. sound like a football yell.
Good! That ought to wow 'em. Now say the next verse.
Again Andy's eyes sought the ceiling.
You may have heard the story
Of this girl with golden hair,
Who lost her way in a dark wood
Andy could not remember what came next.
Belonging to a bear, Jerry prompted. I don't remember that the
story said anything about Papa Bear owning the woods, but maybe he did.
Go on, Andy.
Andy could not remember any of the last verse, so Jerry read it to
I won't go on with the story,
For our play will now portray
What happened to little Goldilocks
The day she lost her way.
Say it, Andy, urged Jerry.
Andy pouted. I don't want to. I hate my log piece, he said
fiercely. I wanted to be the great big bear. I wanted to say, 'Who's
been eating my porridge?' I can talk the loudest. But Ned Brooks is
going to be the great big bear. Andy's lower lip quivered. He looked
ready to bawl.
Want to hear some keen poetry? asked Jerry, hoping to cheer Andy.
Andy showed no sign of wanting to but Jerry did not wait for
encouragement. With a lilt of enjoyment in his voice he said a rhyme he
had learned sometimehe could not remember when or where.
Gene, Genehad a machine.
Joe, Joemade it go.
Frank, Frankturned the crank.
His mother came out and gave him a spank,
And threw him over a sandbank.
The last two lines Jerry said very rapidly, coming out good and
strong on the word sandbank.
Like April weather Andy's stormy face turned sunny. Say it again,
he said delightedly.
Say it again, Andy begged when Jerry had finished the second time.
Say, what do you think I am, a phonograph record? asked Jerry. But
he good-naturedly recited the rhyme a third time.
I can say it, cried Andy. And he recited the rhyme without
forgetting a word.
Say, you can learn like a shot when you really want to, said Jerry
I don't think that's a nice poem to teach to Andy, said Cathy, who
had come in and listened to her small brother.
I'd like to know why not? asked Jerry.
Poetry should be beautiful, said Cathy dreamily. Like that poem
Miss Kitteridge read us day before yesterday.
Life has loveliness to sell, quoted Cathy.
Blah! That stinks, said Jerry. But I liked it when Miss
Kitteridge read us 'Casey at the Bat.' That's good poetry.
Not as good as poetry by Sara Teasdale.
It is, too.
It is not.
There's no law that says that everybody has to like the same kind
of poetry, said Mrs. Martin from the doorway. You twins don't have to
show dispositions to match the weather. Just because it's unpleasant
you don't need to be. I want you to run to the store, Jerry, and get
two pounds or a little over of haddock. I had intended to have cold
roast beef for dinner but it's such a chilly day I think a good New
England fish chowder will just hit the spot.
But I went to the store this morning, protested Jerry.
And you took time enough getting home with them to have grown the
vegetables and slaughtered the meat.
Jerry looked at the floor. I'll go, he said in a dull voice as if
the burden of life was heavy.
With leaden feet Jerry went out to the garage for his bike. He had a
five-dollar bill in his mother's coin purse and he was worrying about
how he was going to get it changed. Every time his mother had asked him
to go to the store all week Jerry had worried about getting the right
change. This morning had been the worst. He had had to take his cart
again and that had slowed him up. Then when he had walked in the rain
all the long way to the shopping centre, George, the barber, had not
been a bit obliging.
George had been busy when Jerry had come in the barbershop. Nor did
he look up when Jerry spoke to him, giving him a pleasant Good
morning. Of course Jerry had waited until George was not busy before
asking him for change for a ten. Jerry needed only forty cents to take
back to his mother this time. George had been very reluctant to change
You're getting to be a nuisance, running in to get bills changed,
George had complained. But he had given Jerry nine dollars in bills and
a dollar in change for his ten.
Jerry dreaded to have to ask George for change twice the same day.
He had never had to do that before. But where else could he get change?
All the way to the store he worried.
Jerry was the only customer in Bartlett's store. And Mr. Bartlett
did have some nice haddock. Jerry had hoped he would be out of fish but
no such luck.
Nasty day, said Mr. Bartlett, as he weighed the fish.
Jerry agreed. It seemed to him to be a particularly nasty day. He
put the grocery slip in his pocket and hurried out of the store. Even
the sight of the candy in the showcase had not lifted his spirits. The
half pound of candy he might get when he paid the bill at the end of
the month seemed a small reward for all he was going through to earn
it. Only three weeks to go, he told himself, putting the package of
fish in his bicycle basket. But three weeks seemed a long time.
Maybe it hadn't been a good idea, this charging business. But it was
no good time to stop now. He would have no candy to present to his
parents to prove the advantage of charging groceries at Bartlett's. No,
having begun, Jerry had to see it through.
Might as well get killed for a sheep as a lamb, Jerry thought,
riding through a puddle on his way to the shopping center. It was a
remark he had heard his father make, and seemed somehow appropriate.
Jerry had to wait and wait before George would notice him.
Don't tell me you've come again for change! George cried. I won't
give it to you.
Please, just this one time, Jerry pleaded. I have to have it.
Grumbling, George went to the cash register and changed the bill.
Then he took Jerry firmly by the shoulder. Out you go and stay out. I
don't want to see hide nor hair of you again until you need your next
Jerry understood. He realized that getting bills changed at the
barbershop was over.
Jerry was not his usual buoyant self over the weekend. His mother
thought he might be getting a cold and gave him vitamin pills and made
him drink extra orange juice. She knew something was troubling him but
could not get out of him what it was. Jerry shut a door of
communication between them. He found it lonely, having to be on his
guard against blurting out his secret.
At a little after seven on Monday evening, the whole Martin family
piled in the car to go to the P. T. A. meeting. It was unusual for the
children to go to a P. T. A. but not for Mr. and Mrs. Martin. Jerry and
Cathy insisted that their parents go to the meetings, for a count was
made and the class represented by the most parents got an award. Now
that Andy was in kindergarten both parents stood up when the count was
for Miss Prouty's room. And Mr. and Mrs. Martin stood up to be counted
twice for the sixth grade.
All the Martins but Andy took seats near the front of the
auditorium. He had to go immediately behind scenes on the stage, since
the play he was to be in was to come first on the program. That was in
order to allow the parents of the kindergartners to take them home
early if they so wished.
Andy had looked a bit pale when he left his family.
I hope he's not so excited he'll throw up, Cathy said worriedly.
He looks pretty scared.
Scared? Andy scared? Of course he's not scared, said Jerry
stoutly, though he knew very well that Andy really was scared and was
only defending him.
Anyway, he knows his piece, said Cathy. He said it over to me
three times before dinner and didn't make a mistake.
Before the curtain went up, Miss Kurtz, the principal, made a short
speech about giving parents an opportunity to share in the school
activities of their children. She spoke about the importance of
creativity, a long word Jerry did not quite understand, but thought
meant making up things. Then the curtain rose and there was the bears'
house. Only it didn't have any upstairs. Goldilocks wasn't there yet
but the porridge was on the table in a big, a medium, and a tiny bowl.
And here came Andy, walking stiffly to the front of the stage. He
looked very small.
Jerry saw that his father and mother looked anxious, as anxious as
Jerry felt. Come on, Andy. Say it and get it over with, Jerry
Sh-sh, said Cathy.
The audience looked at Andy and Andy looked at them. Seconds passed.
Andy did not utter a word.
From behind scenes Miss Prouty prompted him.
We welcome you, dear parents, she said in a voice barely audible
to the audience.
Andy's lips did not move. His face looked frozen in fright. He just
Miss Prouty prompted him again. Still Andy did not open his mouth.
Some boy near the back of the hall clapped. That sound seemed to wake
Andy from his trance of fear. He raised his head and gave the audience
a large, beaming smile. Then Andy spoke his piece.
Gene, Genehad a machine.
Joe, Joemade it go.
Frank, Frankturned the crank.
His mother came out and gave him a spank
And threw him over a sandbank.
Andy spoke up nice and loud and then made a bow. Apparently he did
not realize that he had spoken the wrong piece.
The auditorium suddenly rocked with laughter. Miss Prouty shooed
Andy off the stage and apologized for him. Then she spoke the Dear
parents poem herself.
Cathy just had time to whisper angrily to Jerry, It's all your
faultyou taught him that awful rhyme, before Andy came to sit with
his family. He did not seem at all upset and apparently enjoyed the
program, though he yawned a few times before it was over.
Everybody said it had been a good program. In the car going home,
Mr. Martin said he could hear Cathy's voice above the other girls',
sweet as a bird. And Mrs. Martin said that Jerry had rung his bells
exactly on time and very nicely. They carefully avoided mentioning
anything about Andy's piece.
They were just getting out of the car when Andy broke into loud
wails of extreme sorrow.
I said the wrong piece, he sobbed. I said the wrong piece and
everybody laughed at me.
Never you mind, son. Folks enjoy a good laugh, said Mr. Martin.
There, there! Andy's mother soothed him. We all make mistakes.
He's getting a delayed reaction, she told the others. And it's long
past his bedtime.
Jerry really felt sorry for Andy. Tell you what, Andy, I promise
I'll take you to the zoo next Saturday. You'll like that, won't you?
I don't want to see the loud animals. I want to go see the quiet
ones, said Andy, sniffing though his sobs had ceased.
Okay, I'll take you to the Museum of Natural History, agreed
Jerry, understanding that by loud Andy meant alive and by quiet he
meant stuffed animals.
Ned Brooks hollered so loud my ears hurt. He sounded like this.
'Who's been eating my porridge?' Andy bellowed the words so
loud that his mother put her hands over her ears.
Sometimes I think I would prefer quiet children, she said.
Andy began speaking for Baby Bear, his voice tiny. He was in high
spirits again. Jerry wished that all his fret and worry about the
charge account and getting change could disappear as easily as Andy's
sorrow. During the P. T. A. meeting Jerry had pushed his worries to the
background of his thoughts. Now he found them right up front again. The
next time his mother sent him to the store, where was he to go to get
change now that George the barber had failed him?
The family drank hot chocolate and ate cookies in the kitchen before
going to bed. The half-melted marshmallows on top gave Andy a white
mustache before his mother wiped his face with a napkin. He got in her
lap and snuggled against her while she sipped her chocolate. When you
were little like Andy you were easily forgiven for almost anything,
Jerry thought, his conscience troubled about the charge account.
Jerry was finishing his second cup of hot chocolate when an easy
solution to the change problem dawned on him. He had made several trips
to the store this week and each time put away Mr. Bartlett's money in
bills and small change. There must be money enough up attic in that
white shoe to change a five and probably a ten. Yes, Jerry was sure he
could change a ten. I can make my own change, he thought happily. And
suddenly the charge account seemed a good scheme again.
You look mighty pleased with yourself, Jerry, said his mother.
I just thought of something.
What? asked Cathy.
I'll tell you sometime, Jerry promised.
Why does Jerry have to act so darned mysterious lately? Cathy
complained to her mother.
A boy has a right to keep a few things to himself, said Mrs.
Jerry was grateful to his mother for taking his part. When I get
that candy from Bartlett's, he thought, I won't forget that I've
promised the first piece to Andy. But my mother will get the next
Jerry thought of his mother reaching in the box for a pink mint and
You're up to something. I can tell it by the way you look,
He would have to be on his guard against Cathy, Jerry realized. Up
till now he had found it almost impossible to keep a secret from his
Want me to wipe away your tears? he jibed. It seemed mean to say
something on purpose to make Cathy mad but that would take her mind off
4. No Safe Hiding Place
The next week was not as trying to Jerry as the week before, now
that he was able to make change up attic. Yet it grew increasingly
difficult to dodge Cathy. Time after time she caught up with him either
coming up or going down the attic stairs.
What are you doing up attic? she kept asking.
Nothing, he would say. Or, Don't you wish you knew? He even told
her that she would know all there was to know about it in less than a
month, that is, if there were anything to know. This last statement was
the truth, though Cathy did not believe him. She kept hounding him.
On Saturday, though it was a good day for baseball, Jerry remembered
his promise to take Andy to see the quiet animals. Since their mother
did not have time to drive them to town, they took a bus. It was a
short walk from the bus stop to the Museum of Natural History, one of
the buildings of the Smithsonian Institution, but Jerry knew the way.
Although the Smithsonian had just opened, there were already two big
buses unloading at the front door. East Liverpool, the signs on
the buses said. That was in Ohio, Jerry told his small brother. And the
big boys and girls getting out of the buses were doubtless members of a
high school graduating class on a tour of Washington.
People come from all over the United States to see Washington,
especially this time of year when the cherry blossoms are out, said
Jerry. Guess they wish they were like us and lived here. It suddenly
seemed pretty nice to Jerry to live in a city so important that it was
visited by people from all parts of the country.
I'd rather live out West with the cowboys, said Andy. He never
would believe that ever so many people out West were not cowboys or
Before going to see the stuffed animals Andy wanted to take a look
at his favorite dinosaur. There were other dinosaurs in the exhibit but
Andy always devoted himself to the one nearest the entrance. Dip, he
called the enormous skeleton, though its full name was Diplodocus. Jerry was interested in reading that the bones of this dinosaur had
been found out in Utah and that it was seventy feet long and twelve
feet high. Andy did not care about details.
Good old Dip! said Andy, and gazed at his bony friend with great
The boys lingered a long time looking at the quiet animals. Andy
wished that he could have one of the two bear cubs to take home with
him, now that he was too old to play with Teddy bears. He also thought
it would be fun to learn to ride a tame buffalo.
You can't tame a buffalo, said Jerry.
I could, said Andy with complete confidence. Now I want to
see the Indians.
The boys looked at displays of Indians doing a snake dance, Indians
weaving baskets, grinding corn, weaving rugs, playing gamesor just
standing, being Indians.
Where did they find so many Indians to stuff? asked Andy.
Jerry barely stopped himself from giving a loud ha-ha. He decided
not to laugh at his little brother. After seeing so many stuffed
animals it was a natural thing for Andy to think the Indians were also
stuffed. They certainly looked real.
They don't stuff people, Jerry explained kindly. The Indians are
sort of statues, only some of them have more clothes on.
Andy seemed a bit disappointed that they were not real Indians.
After a quick trip upstairs to see an enormous whale, Jerry and Andy
were through with the museum. Having had nothing to eat since
breakfast, they were naturally half-starved, so, although it was now
only eleven-thirty, they decided to have lunch. Their mother had given
them lunch money. There was no lunchroom near the museum. They had to
walk way up to Pennsylvania Avenue before they found a cafeteria. Then
they had a satisfying lunch of hamburgers, milk, lemon pie, and
chocolate layer cake.
Being downtown gave both boys a sort of holiday feeling and they
were in no hurry to go home. For Jerry it was a reprieve from his worry
about the charge account, which by now had become a burden. Once having
picked it up, he had to go on carrying it. Here in town with Andy, the
weight seemed less heavy.
While we're so near, we may as well go take a look at the cherry
blossoms, suggested Jerry.
Andy did not much care about flowers he was not allowed to pick but
he let himself be persuaded. On their way to the Tidal Basin, where the
cherry blossoms were, they were not far from the Washington Monument,
with its circle of flags blowing in the breeze. Andy teased to go up in
the Monument but Jerry said there were too many people waiting in line.
We'll do it some other time, he promised.
It pleased Andy that he was doing something with Jerry again. He
took big steps to match Jerry's.
Near the Tidal Basin there were people taking pictures of each other
under the flowering trees. Along the path close to the water, men,
women, and young people were walking. There, the cherry trees bent over
the basin to see themselves reflected in the quiet depths.
Andy sniffed the air. Smells nice, he said.
Jerry could understand why so many people came to Washington to see
the cherry blossoms. They're really something, he said.
The pinky trees look like strawberry ice cream cones, said Andy,
which for him was high praise. Strawberry was his favorite ice cream.
It was nearly four before Jerry and Andy got home. The house next
door to theirs had been vacant so long that they were surprised to see
a moving van in front of it.
Well, what do you know? Somebody must have bought the house. Wonder
what they'll be like, mused Jerry.
They stood and watched the movers take in a long green sofa, a
table, and several cartons.
I want something to eat, said Andy.
So did Jerry. It was a long time since lunch. What can we have to
eat? he called to his mother just as soon as he was in the back door.
He and Andy went looking for their mother and found her sitting by a
window in the living room, which overlooked the house next door. She
was watching the moving.
We saw all the quiet animals and Dip and the pretend Indians, Andy
informed his mother. I'm hungry.
You can have cookies and a glass of milk but don't touch the cake.
That's for dessert tonight.
Where's Cathy? Jerry thought to ask.
Seems as if she said something about looking for something up
attic, said Mrs. Martin.
Jerry forgot his hunger. It seemed to him a sneaky thing for Cathy
to do, to go searching the attic while he was out of the house. Had she
found Mr. Bartlett's money? If she had she would have been downstairs
with it. But any second she might find it. Jerry rushed for the stairs.
Breathless, he arrived at the top of the second flight.
The attic was unfinishedlow under the two gables. Against one of
the high walls hung a row of garment bags. Mr. Bartlett's money was in
the third one. Jerry tried to keep from looking at it. Cathy was smart
enough to watch where he was looking. She was busy tossing stuff out of
the bottom drawer of an old chest of drawers.
What do you think you're doing? Jerry asked her.
Mummy's going to house-clean up here Monday. I'm helping by
clearing out drawers.
You mean you're snooping around to see what you can find.
Cathy stopped pawing in the drawer. So you are hiding
something up here. I knew it. I knew it.
Too late Jerry realized he had said too much. He had made Cathy more
suspicious of him than ever.
Cathy picked the stuff up off the floorit was mostly cloth saved
for mending and for ragsand crammed it in the drawer, shutting it
crookedly. She blinked her blue eyes at Jerry. Tell me what you're
hiding up here. Cross my heart I won't tell on you.
It irritated Jerry to have Cathy blink her eyes at him.
Whatever gave you the idea I was hiding anything up here or
I'd tell you if I had something to hide.
Yeah! You would not.
I would, too. You're mean. You're the meanest boy I ever knew.
I'd a darn sight rather be mean than snoopy. You're just a sneaky
snooper, that's what you are.
I hate you.
See if I care.
Cathy's eyes blazed with blue fire. Then Jerry was surprised to see
them fill with tears. She got to her feet and rushed toward the stairs.
Want me to wipe away your tears? called Jerry, as she clattered
down the stairs. The instant the words were out, he was a little
ashamed of them. He had not meant to make her cry. Why did she have to
cry so easy? She hadn't used to.
Jerry couldn't figure out what had gotten into Cathy lately. All
this caring about how she looked. All this fussing about clothes. And
the way she blinked her eyes at boys. It was enough to make a person
sick. Less than a year ago he had heard Cathy say that girls who used
powder and lipstick were dopes. Now she herself was carrying a lipstick
in her handbag. Jerry guessed she had not sunk so low she used eye
makeup but he wouldn't put it past her almost any time. Not long ago he
and Cathy had liked to do the same things, liked the same things. Now
they didn't even agree about movies. Cathy actually didn't mind love in
a picture. She even liked pictures in which the hero kissed a girl, and
Jerry could hardly bear to see a cowboy kiss a horse. Jerry missed the
Cathy he used to know. The way she was now made him mad.
One thing was sure. The attic was no longer a safe place for Mr.
Bartlett's money. Not with Cathy snooping around, for she was a good
finder. Jerry went to the garment bag, got the money out of the white
shoemy but there was getting to be a lotand put the bills in one
pants pocket and crammed the silver into another. He would have to find
another hiding place. But where?
Jerry went downstairs. Cathy had joined her mother and Andy at the
window. They were watching the movers.
Usually you can get an idea about what people are like by their
furniture, Jerry heard his mother say, but I never saw such a
conglomeration go into any house. Our new neighbor's name is Bullfinch
and he's a retired college professor. His having a lot of books I can
understand but why a jungle gym? He doesn't have any children. There
are just he and his wife.
Jerry would have avoided being near the family until he had found a
new hiding place for Mr. Bartlett's money if Cathy had not exclaimed,
Look at that! Assorted sizes of cages.
Jerry had to come and look, too, then. He saw one of the movers
going in the house next door with a small gilded cage in one hand and a
picture frame in the other. After him came the other moving man with a
cage so large it was all he could carry.
The smaller one could be for a bird but what on earth could the big
one be for? Mrs. Martin was puzzled.
Maybe he has a chimp for a pet, Jerry contributed.
Heaven forbid! gasped his mother.
But chimps are wonderful pets. Remember reading about that chimp
that does finger painting? Her owner sells the pictures. Actually gets
real money for them. That's more than old Andy gets for his
finger painting, said Jerry.
Not if I wanted to, said Andy.
Several large oil paintings were carried into the house next door,
but they were too far away for Jerry to judge if they had been painted
by a chimp. He guessed not. Pictures painted by chimps weren't usually
put in heavy gold frames. In went a tall grandfather clock, a
full-length mirror with a gold eagle on top, an immense old-fashioned
I never saw such a mixture of good antiques and trash, said Mrs.
Say, said Jerry, if Mr. Bullfinch does have a chimp for a pet,
maybe Andy and I can teach him finger painting. Then if we sold the
pictures Mr. Bullfinch would give us part of the money.
Cathy made a noise that showed what she thought of that idea.
You and your schemes! said Mrs. Martin. She turned away from the
window and smiled at Jerry. Then one of those especially noticing looks
came over her face. What on earth do you have in your pants pocket
that drags it down? You shouldn't stuff heavy things in your pockets.
You'll tear them and they're hard to mend.
The next thing would be to ask him to take out whatever was weighing
down his pocket. Jerry could sense it coming. I just thought of
something, he cried, and rushed from the living room. A few seconds
later the back door slammed behind him. He had made it safely outdoors.
Whew, that was a narrow escape! he thought. But he felt Mr.
Bartlett's money as not only a heavy weight in his pocket but on his
mind. I won't dare take it back in the house, with Cathy sniffing all
over the place. Even if she wasn't, the money wouldn't be safe up
attic, not after my mother gets to house-cleaning up there. She doesn't
miss a thing. And the cellar would be no good. My father is always
hunting around down there for screws and paint and stuff he's put away
and can't remember where. But what the heck am I going to do with Mr.
Bartlett's money now?
5. New Neighbors
Jerry thought of burying Mr. Bartlett's money somewhere in the yard.
He gave up that idea when he considered the complication of digging it
up every time he came back from the store and had to make change.
Besides, this time of year his mother was likely to be planting flowers
all over the place.
Jerry decided he might as well watch the moving in next door while
he was trying to think of a safe hiding place for Mr. Bartlett's money.
Better keep out of sight from the front window of his house, though.
Jerry climbed the picket fence that separated his yard from Mr.
Bullfinch's. Then, crouching low, he ran from bush to bush and took his
stand in front of a weigela bush that screened him from being seen by
The movers were big, brawny men. Jerry saw them lift a huge wardrobe
as if it were light as a feather. Nearly as light, anyway. As they took
it in the house, a man came out. He was tall and thin and slightly
stooped, with a thatch of silver-gray hair. Must be Mr. Bullfinch,
Jerry thought, and wondered if he shouldn't leave before being asked
to. Jerry had learned that you never can tell about people wanting you
or not wanting you in their yards.
Mr. Bullfinch saw Jerry and walked toward him. He smiled with his
whole face, especially his eyes, and Jerry smiled back a bit shyly. I
like to watch people moving in, Jerry said.
So do I except when I'm the one being moved. Live around here, do
you? Seems a pleasant neighborhood.
Next door. It is a nice neighborhood. A few cranky people on
this street but not many. Say, what a whopper of a chair!
The movers had taken an enormous brown leather chair out of the van
and were taking it in the front door.
I have to tell them where I want it put. Come on in, Mr. Bullfinch
Jerry always enjoyed going in a strange house. He tagged after Mr.
Bullfinch as he directed the movers to deposit the big chair in front
of the fireplace in the den.
Some chair! Is it for you to sit in? asked Jerry.
It's a remarkable chair. It does tricks. Runs by electricity, said
Mr. Bullfinch, taking an electric cord from the seat and unwinding it.
He looked around and found an outlet and put in the plug. Want to try
it out? he asked Jerry. Sit down in the chair and press the button on
the right arm and see what happens.
Jerry was not at all sure he wanted to try out the tricks of the
chair. I don't know if I have time right now, he said. Mr. Bullfinch
did not look like the sort of man who would install an electric chair,
the kind they have in penitentiaries, in his house and begin to execute
his neighbors the first day he moved in. Still, better be safe than
sorry, Jerry reasoned.
I'll show you how it works, said Mr. Bullfinch, sitting down in
the chair. He pressed a button to the right, and the back of the chair
went down and the part that hung down in front came up, making what
looked like a narrow cot.
That's not half of it, said Mr. Bullfinch, punching another
Jerry gasped as the right arm of the chair swung over and began to
rub Mr. Bullfinch's stomach while the whole contraption jerked up and
Takes plenty of power to do that, said Mr. Bullfinch from his
reclining position. I shudder to think of what my electric bill will
be if I use it often. He laughed heartily. It tickles. Then he
pushed the button that stopped the jerking and massaging and the one
that made the chair regain its chair-like appearance. And there was Mr.
Bullfinch sitting up again, looking just the same except that his hair
was a little rumpled.
It's supposed to reduce you if you're too fat and build you up if
you're too thin. It's an exerciser and health builder. Trade name for
it is the Excello. Believe I'll call it the Bumper. It does thump and
bump a bit, you know. Now do you want to try it?
It was nice of Mr. Bullfinch to forget that Jerry had just said he
didn't have time to try it out. Jerry warmed to his new neighbor. So
now he sat in the big chair and pushed the buttons, roaring with
laughter when the right arm of the chair began to massage his stomach.
You have hardly enough middle to rub, said Mr. Bullfinch. He
didn't hurry Jerry. He let him try out the chair for as long as he
When Jerry got up out of the chair the paper bag containing all of
Mr. Bartlett's change fell from his pocket. The bag broke and the money
rolled in all directions.
Mr. Bullfinch helped Jerry pick up the money. Not having another
paper bag at hand, Mr. Bullfinch gave Jerry a worn tobacco pouch to put
the money in. He did not ask why Jerry happened to be carrying so much
money in his pocket.
Ever go to auctions? asked Mr. Bullfinch, as Jerry crammed the
tobacco pouch in his pants pocket. The pocket tore slightly. His mother
would be after him for that, Jerry thought worriedly.
Double darn! said Jerry. I'm not talking to youI'm just sorry I
tore my pocket, Jerry said to Mr. Bullfinch.
Well, 'double darn' seems an appropriate remark for a torn pocket,
said Mr. Bullfinch. Did you say you'd ever been to an auction?
Jerry hadn't and said so.
Auctions are my hobby, said Mr. Bullfinch. People need to have a
hobby when they retire and mine is auctions. Greatest sport I know of.
Course you're likely to pick up a few things you haven't any immediate
need for but at least you get something for your money. Mrs. Bullfinch
scolds me sometimes for what I buy but I can't resist the fun of
bidding. Up to a point, that is. I set myself a limit on what I'll
spend at an auction. Guess I do get stuck with some strange objects
once in a while. You should have seen Mrs. Bullfinch's face when I
brought home a job lot of empty cages.
Don't you have pets to put in any of them? Jerry's face showed his
disappointment. If not a chimp he had hoped for a parrot or at least a
Not a one, said Mr. Bullfinch. Guess I'll have to wait till they
auction off some of the animals in the Washington zoo.
They'll never do that.
I was only joking. Do you have any pets?
Just a cat named Bibsy because she has a white front. Like a bib,
Well, if I see a mouse around here I hope you'll lend me Bibsy.
I will. Jerry sensed that Mr. Bullfinch thought it was time for
him to be leaving. And Jerry was about to when a woman screamed loud as
a fire siren.
My wife! cried Mr. Bullfinch and rushed toward the back of the
house, Jerry following him.
Out in the kitchen, standing on a high stool, was Mrs. Bullfinch.
She was a small plump woman wearing a pink apron. She looked terrified.
A spider! she gasped. I had a broom and was making sure there
were no spiders around the ceiling when the biggest spider I've ever
seen in my life ran down the broom handle. It ran right across my arm.
She shuddered till the stool she was standing on shook. I brushed it
off. It was horrible. I didn't see where it went but it's in this room
somewhere. And I won't get off this stool until it's found and killed.
Better get down, dear, said her husband. There are two of us here
to protect you. He looked around the room for the spider, opening
cupboard doors to see if it had run in a cupboard. It's taken off for
parts unknown by this time, he said soothingly. Come on, get down.
You'll want to tell the movers where to put the piano.
It's still in this room. I know it. If I get down it might run up
my leg. Oh, dear! Oh, dear!
She was pretty heavy for that stool, Jerry thought, expecting one of
its legs to crack any minute. She's like Little Miss Muffett, afraid of
spidersonly she climbed a stool instead of being frightened away. He
glanced down at the broom on the floor where Mrs. Bullfinch had thrown
it. A large hairy spider was just crawling out of the broomstraws.
Jerry had never moved more quickly. Three steps and he had brought
his foot down hard. Jerry did not enjoy killing even a spider but this
time it seemed necessary, though he carefully refrained from looking at
the dead insect.
Good boy! said Mr. Bullfinch.
Mrs. Bullfinch, with a little help from her husband, got down from
the stool. She thanked Jerry earnestly and effusively.
I'll not forget this. Someday I hope to do something for you. You
don't know how obliged to you I am. That spider might have killed me.
Jerry did not think that the spider had been the kind that would
have a bite that killed. Being thought a hero was pleasant, however.
Think nothing of it, he said, looking more cocky than modest in spite
of his words.
Where you want the pianer? shouted one of the movers, and Mrs.
Bullfinch bustled off to the living room.
There did not seem to be any reason for Jerry to stay any longer. He
had a feeling that Mr. Bullfinch, though still very polite, had things
he wanted to see to. So Jerry murmured something about having to get
home and Mr. Bullfinch told him again that he was indebted to him for
killing the spider.
I never knew anybody as afraid of spiders as Mrs. Bullfinch, he
said. Everybody has something he's afraid of, I guess. With Mrs.
Bullfinch it's spiders.
Jerry didn't know if he should leave by the back or the front door
but Mr. Bullfinch led the way to the front. Jerry admired the
grandfather clock in the front hall. On the glass above its face there
was a painted globe in pale green and yellow. Jerry had almost reached
the front door when the clock struck fivelong, solemn sounds of great
That sure is a big clock, said Jerry.
I didn't buy that at an auction, it was in the family, said Mr.
Bullfinch. When I was a little boy I once hid inside when we were
playing hide and seek. That was the time I stopped the clock, he
Suddenly Jerry thought of a safe hiding place for Mr. Bartlett's
money. What Mr. Bullfinch had said about hiding in the clock had given
him the idea.
Say, he said with barely controlled excitement, would you mind if
I kept the money I have on me in your clock?
Mr. Bartlett gave Jerry a long appraising look. Then his eyes lit up
in one of his nice smiles. Not at all. Not at all, he said cordially.
I may need to come and get some out or put some in now and then. If
that would not be making too much trouble.
Not at all. Not at all. Come any time you like. I've never run a
bank before. New experience for me.
Jerry could tell that Mr. Bullfinch was almost making fun of him.
Never mind, he was letting him keep Mr. Bartlett's money in the bottom
of the clock. And how grateful Jerry was to Mr. Bullfinch for not
asking any embarrassing questions about the money! Even before he had
shut the clock door on Mr. Bartlett's money and had started for home,
Jerry had decided that he liked his new neighbor, Mr. Bullfinch. He
liked him a lot.
6. The Stars and Stripes Forever
Jerry found it a relief not to have to worry about Cathy's snooping,
now that he was keeping Mr. Bartlett's money next door in the
grandfather clock. The only trouble was that stopping off at the
Bullfinches' on his way home often took considerable time. If Mr.
Bullfinch had been to an auctionand besides attending a weekly
auction in town he now and then went to one in nearby Maryland or
VirginiaJerry always had to be shown what treasure Mr. Bullfinch had
acquired. One day it was a worn Oriental rug, another, an incomplete
set of fine English porcelain. The prize purchase as far as Jerry was
concerned was an old-fashioned phonograph with a horn like a big blue
morning glory flower. Jerry's father had a hi-fi which made records
sound as if the musicians were right in the same room with you, but
Jerry enjoyed the faintly mechanical sound that accompanied music
played on the old phonograph. It was like preferring canned peaches to
fresh ones. Nice for a change anyway.
Jerry liked to stay at the Bullfinches' long enough to listen to a
record or two. He was not so happy about being delayed by Mrs.
Bullfinch. She was a great talker. She told Jerry very much more than
he cared to know about her family, Mr. Bullfinch's family, and every
college town they had lived in while Mr. Bullfinch was teaching. He
had, it seemed, been a Latin teacher until the demand for Latin had
grown so small that he had thought best to switch to teaching English.
It was teaching Freshman English that turned his hair gray, said
Mrs. Bullfinch. Having so many students come to college without
knowing how to write a grammatical sentence was a great sorrow to him.
Jerry's opinion was that Mr. Bullfinch's hair had turned gray from
old age. Mrs. Bullfinch's hair was gray, too, and she hadn't taught
Freshman English. Jerry would have asked her what had turned her hair
gray if he had not been afraid it would have been too long a story. Not
that Jerry disliked Mrs. Bullfinch even though she was long-winded. She
was kind and she made good cookies. Jerry usually went home from the
Bullfinch house munching an oatmeal cookie.
You took long enough getting back from the store to have gone and
come back twice, scolded Jerry's mother an afternoon when he had
stopped to play The Stars and Stripes Forever on Mr. Bullfinch's
phonograph on his way home from the store. It was Jerry's favorite
record, with John Philip Sousa leading his own band. One reason Jerry
liked this particular march was because he had shaken bells to it in
the rhythm band at school. Next summer Jerry was going to take lessons
playing a horn. He had already picked out the instrument he wanted to
learn to play, a giant tuba in Kitt's music store downtown. By fall he
would be ready to play in the junior high band.
Jerry was thinking of playing in a band and was not paying much
attention to his mother's scolding, when she said something that
shocked him into alertness.
Next time I want something from the store in a hurry, I'll send
Cathy, she said.
Honest, next time I'll come home like the wind, Jerry promised. It
wouldn't do at all to have Cathy go to the store. Mr. Bartlett knew
her. He might ask her if she wanted the groceries charged before she
got the money out to pay for them. And good-by then to Jerry's secret
charge account. You said running errands was my chore, he reminded
his mother. You haven't heard me gripe about having to go to the
store, have you?
Not recently, his mother acknowledged. It's something to have you
so willing. But why can't you come right home with the groceries? Now I
was going to make Bavarian cream for dessert tonight but you're too
late getting back with the whipping cream.
I'm sorry. Jerry really was. He was very fond of Bavarian cream.
Let's see. I have a box of gingerbread mix. And I can make
applesauce while it's baking.
That will be swell, said Jerry.
Go find Cathy, will you, Jerry? I wouldn't be surprised if you
found her somewhere with her nose in a book. Tell her to come and peel
the apples for me.
Jerry was glad to get away from his mother just then. It was not
hard to find Cathy. She was on the window seat in the living room.
Jerry could see the book jacket of the book she was reading. It was
Going Steady and had a picture of a boy and a girl gazing fondly at
each other while skating. Cathy was not old enough to go steadyJerry
had heard his mother say soand it made Jerry sick that his twin
sister liked to read all that guff about having dates with boys and
things like that. Now a horse story, or a dog storythey were good
reading. So were books about rockets, planets, dinosaurs, Abraham
Lincoln, and ever so many other interesting subjects. Cathy liked to
read good books like that, too, Jerry had to acknowledge, but she also
had developed an interest in books that had falling in love in them, an
interest Jerry not only did not share but despised.
Lift your big blue eyes from that lousy book, said Jerry in a
mocking voice. Mummy wants you to come out in the kitchen and peel
Cathy put down her book reluctantly. Her eyes were dreamy. She
sighed. I suppose it's a girl's duty to help her mother, she said.
She got to her feet and glided out of the room, walking as nearly as
she could like a movie star whose latest picture she had seen at the
neighborhood theater the previous Saturday afternoon.
Jerry picked up Going Steady and examined the cover more
closely. He threw it down. Cathy must have rocks in her head to like a
book like that, he thought.
The clock on the living room mantel struck the half hour.
Five-thirty. Jerry had an hour to kill before time for dinner. What was
there to do? A wave of irritation against Cathy swept over him. She
ought to be sharing all this work and worry about the charge account. A
year ago he could have confided in her safely. She could have been
counted on both to keep the secret and to help him. They always stuck
together, he and Cathy, until she had changed. Now half the time she
acted as if she were against him. Look at the way she had snooped
around the attic like a bum detective. If she had found the money she
would have very likely said it was her duty to tell on him. Jerry
almost never could know in advance how she was going to act. Almost he
did not like her any more.
Jerry went down to the recreation room and turned on the television.
Send two box tops and twenty-five cents and you will receive
Nuts! cried Jerry, turning it off. He didn't want to listen to kid
stuff. It seemed long ago that he had sent box tops and money away for
secret rings and pasteboard telescopes.
He went to the bookshelves and took down Black Beauty. He had
read it before but he didn't mind reading it again. He liked the book
because he felt it showed just how a horse thought. He read until he
was called to dinner.
Two days later Jerry ran into real trouble. It was nearly six and he
had just come home from playing ball, when his mother said he had
barely time to run to the store for a pound of cheddar cheese before
the store closed. And the smallest she had was a five-dollar bill.
Jerry took his bike and determined to get back in a hurry. No stopping
to listen to a record this time, even if Mr. Bullfinch had bought some
new old ones Jerry would like to hear.
Not more than ten minutes after leaving the house, Jerry was ringing
the Bullfinch doorbell. He would rush in, get his change, and be home
in a jiffy. But nobody answered the bell. Jerry rang again, with his
finger pressed on the bell hard. He could hear the bell ring inside.
Still nobody came to the door.
But they're always home this time of day, Jerry worried. He
decided it was no use to keep on ringing the bell. They should have
told me they weren't going to be home, he thought, yet he really knew
there was no reason why they should. But he had to get in to change his
five-dollar bill. He just had to.
They'll probably be here any minute now, Jerry tried to reassure
himself. It's past time for Mrs. Bullfinch to be getting dinner. But
what if the Bullfinches had been invited out to dinner? Jerry groaned
at the thought. What could he do?
I have to get in. That was the thought that kept repeating itself
in his mind, the thought that sent him around the house testing every
window he could reach to see if he could find one unlocked. They told
me to come in any time, didn't they? Jerry argued with himself.
At last Jerry found a cellar window unlocked. He pushed and it swung
in over an empty coalbin. The Bullfinches had an oil furnace but Jerry
could see by the coal dust that there had once been coal in that bin.
I'll be bound to get my pants dirty but I guess it will brush off.
Jerry was half in and half out of the window before he realized that
he could not go on with it. He could not make himself break in the
Bullfinch house. He needed to get in. He kept telling himself that
probably the Bullfinches would not mind a bit, yet he still couldn't
bring himself to going in a neighbor's house like a burglar.
Don't be a sissy. What are you scared of? Nobody's going to find
out. And if they did. I'm not going to hurt a thing.
It was no use. Jerry could not argue himself into even innocent
housebreaking. As he was swinging his legs off the windowsill, he heard
music, familiar music, The Stars and Stripes Forever. While he had
been fussing and fretting at the cellar window, the Bullfinches must
have come home and Mr. Bullfinch had put on the Sousa record.
Jerry carefully pulled the cellar window shut and ran to the front
door again. Again he pushed the bell. Again he listened. No footsteps
coming toward the door. And the music had stopped. But Jerry had heard
it. He knew he had heard it. Somebody must be there. Then why didn't
somebody come to let him in? Giving up ringing the bell, Jerry knocked.
He even kicked the door. No response to that either. If they're there
they've decided not to let me in, Jerry reasoned.
But they like me. They wouldn't do a thing like that. I'll go and
see if their car is in the garage and then I'll know for sure if
they're home. I might not have heard the car come in while I was on the
other side of the house.
Jerry hurried out to the garage. The garage door was open. No car.
It was obvious that the Bullfinches were still not home.
But I could have sworn I heard somebody inside playing 'The Stars
and Stripes Forever.' Jerry wondered if he had imagined he had heard
the band music.
Nobody's home, said a small voice. And there was Andy just outside
the Bullfinch yard.
Don't you suppose I know it? barked Jerry.
Andy ran off as a car came up the street and stopped with a screech
of brakes in front of the Bullfinch house. Here were Mr. and Mrs.
Bullfinch home at last.
They were sorry to have kept Jerry waiting for them to get home. Mr.
Bullfinch showed Jerry where he kept an extra key behind the mailbox,
so if Jerry needed to get in again when they were not home, he could.
It isn't every boy I would trust, said Mr. Bullfinch.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Bullfinch had been to an auction in Georgetown.
They had bought a pair of hand-wrought andirons shaped like little
lighthouses, but Jerry did not stop to admire them. As soon as he had
changed the five-dollar bill he was off like a shot.
Mrs. Martin had the electric mixer going but she could scold above
the noise. Now you're home with the cheese too late for me to make
cheese sauce for the broccoli. I'm at the end of my patience. Where on
earth have you been? Why didn't you come straight home from the store?
He stops off on his way home to see the Bullfinches, said Cathy,
getting ice cubes out of the refrigerator to put in the water pitcher.
I've seen him go in.
Tattletale! snarled Jerry.
Just saying where you've seen a person isn't tattling, is it,
You shoot off your mouth too much, accused Jerry.
Well, what do you do over at the Bullfinches'?
None of your business.
Mrs. Martin shut off the mixer. I wish you two could be in the same
room without starting a cat and dog fight. Go get Andy out of the
bathroom, Jerry. He came home looking as if he'd been in a coal mine
and I sent him in to take a shower. Help him get dressed in a hurry.
Dinner is about ready to dish up.
Jerry was glad his mother had her mind partly on dinner or she might
have insisted on knowing what he did over at the Bullfinches'. He
sighed. It was all getting too complicated. He certainly would be
thankful when the month of the charge account was over.
The Martins were eating dessertit was lemon pudding with meringue
on top, one of Jerry's favorite dessertswhen the doorbell rang.
I'll go, said Jerry, pushing back his chair.
It was Mr. Bullfinch at the door. And the way he looked at Jerry
made him feel all shriveled up inside. Mr. Bullfinch looked taller to
Jerry than usual. His gray eyes were like steel. He had the tobacco
pouch in his hand.
Mrs. Bullfinch and I don't want you to keep this at our house any
longer, he said coldly. I'm unpleasantly surprised at you, Jerry. I
didn't size you up as a boy who would break into a neighbor's house.
It's not that I mind having you go in. It's the sneaky way you went in
through the cellar window.
But I didn't
Oh, yes, you did. There was coal dust on the rug in my den. Though
that I might not have noticed if you hadn't broken the record.
What record? I tell you I didn't break any record.
I would be willing to overlook it if you'd told me when I got home.
You might have known I would put two and two together. I'm not sure
it's not my duty to report you to the police. I won't this time, for
the sake of your parents if nothing more. And you won't find the key to
the house behind the mailbox. I gave permission to use the key to a boy
I thought I could trust.
Jerry rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes as Mr. Bullfinch
went down the steps and the walk. Never had he felt so unjustly
accused. Nor so helpless about defending himself. Mr. Bullfinch was so
sure Jerry had been in the house and didn't dare say so because of the
broken record. Record! Now Jerry was sure he had not been imagining
hearing music while he had been sitting on the sill of the cellar
window. Somebody had been in there playing The Stars and
Stripes Forever on the phonograph. But who? And where had he gone to
so quickly before the Bullfinches got home? It was almost enough to
make Jerry believe in spirits.
On his way back to the dining room, Jerry slipped the tobacco pouch
under the cushion of a big chair in the living room. No time for now to
find a safer hiding place.
Who was it? asked Mr. Martin, as Jerry took his place at the table
Mr. Bullfinch. He returned something I'd left at his house.
Jerry's eyes were on his plate.
What did you leave over there?
Count on Cathy to want to know all of his business. Ask me no
questions and I'll tell you no lies, Jerry told her.
I can whistle, Andy suddenly boasted. I can whistle real good.
Want to hear me?
Without waiting for the wishes of his family to be expressed, Andy
pursed up his lips and whistled. He still was not much of a whistler,
yet from the shrill piping emerged a faint resemblance to a few bars of
The Stars and Stripes Forever.
A great light dawned on Jerry. Andy at the scene of the crime. Coal
dust on Andy. And now the clincher, his whistling The Stars and
Stripes Forever. It had been Andy in the Bullfinch house. Jerry was as
sure of it as of the nose on his face. While I was out looking in the
garage he would have just had time to get out of the house, Jerry
thought. I'll make him tell. It's not fair for me to be blamed for
something he did. Mr. Bullfinch won't be hard on Andy. He'll think he's
too little to know better.
I guess we won't have any more whistling at the dinner table, Mr.
Martin reproved Andy gently.
Andy looked as well-scrubbed and innocent as a perfect angel. Or a
nearly perfect angel, Jerry thought. Jerry remembered how Andy would
shut up like a clam about something he knew he should not have done.
He can be like a can of sardines. You can't get a thing out of him
unless you have a key, thought Jerry. And he wondered how he was going
to pry the truth out of his little brother.
7. Working on Andy
Jerry wanted to shake the truth out of Andy before the little boy's
bedtime. But Andy followed his mother and Cathy to the kitchen after
dinner and conversed with them all the time they were doing the dinner
dishes. He had a long story about how a boy had been so bad that
morning in kindergarten that the teacher made him sit in a chair all
the time the others were playing a hopping and singing game.
I could have hopped the highest. I'm a good hopper. Not a
grasshopper, just a hopper. Want to see me hop?
So it was you who were the bad boy. What did you do that was
naughty? asked his mother.
Nothing. I didn't say it was me. Anyway, Tommy Jenks joggled my arm
or I wouldn't have thrown a crayon at him. I didn't mean to hit him in
the eye. Lots of times I throw things and they don't hit anybody.
And that's the truth, remarked Jerry, who had stalked Andy to the
kitchen. Andy's confession encouraged Jerry. If he owned up so easy
about throwing a crayon, it would be a cinch to get him to acknowledge
that he had been inside the Bullfinch house before dinner. Come on up
to my room, Jerry invited him. I've got something to show you.
But it seemed that Andy didn't want to be shown anything just then.
Usually Jerry tried to keep Andy out of his room instead of inviting
him in. He's not so dumb, thought Jerry.
Andy proved very hard to corner. Jerry could not get him alone until
Andy was in the bathroom, brushing his teeth before going to bed. Then
Andy tried to get rid of him.
It's not polite to come in the bathroom when somebody's here. Mummy
Listen, said Jerry. You listen to me, Andy Martin.
What you want?
I want you to own up to breaking that record over at the Bullfinch
What record? Andy's voice was slightly muffled by toothpaste.
You know as well as I do. 'The Stars and Stripes Forever.'
Andy spit in the sink. There was a trace of toothpaste at the left
corner of his mouth. His eyes were innocent. A bit puzzled maybe but
unclouded by guilt. I can't read the names on records.
But you were whistling it at dinner.
Andy hung up his toothbrush. He tried to get past Jerry but Jerry
grabbed him. It was like holding a small wild animal but Jerry held on.
Nobody's going to be hard on you, Andy. I know you were in the
Bullfinch house playing that record.
Nobody knows where I am but me, said Andy.
How did you get all that coal dust on you? You got it crawling in
the window into the Bullfinch coalbin, didn't you?
I have a mineral collection that has a piece of coal in it. Some of
the black must have rubbed off on me. That must have been it. I'm a
very dirty boy. Every speck of dirt sticks to me. Mummy said so. She
says I'm as dirty as a pig. Is a pig dirtier than a skunk, Jerry?
Jerry said he thought that skunks weren't usually dirty.
Remember that time we were out in the car and Daddy said he smelled
skunk? Phew! It was an awful smell.
Andy, called his mother from the foot of the stairs. You get to
bed. Double quick now.
Jerry won't let me.
Stop bothering your little brother, Jerry. Come on down. I'm sure
you have homework to do.
Andy slid out of Jerry's hold and ran down the hall. You can't
catch me, he yelled.
Jerry didn't try. Sometimes Andy was more slippery than an eel, he
thought dolefully. Getting him to confess that he had been in the
Bullfinch house would have to wait till tomorrow.
The next morning Jerry woke up feeling heavy in spirit. He still had
the secret of the charge account on his mind and now there was the
added weight of Mr. Bullfinch's disappointment in him. Jerry had not
realized how much he had valued Mr. Bullfinch's approval until he had
I'll just have to make Andy tell, thought Jerry, as he dressed in
a hurry after his mother had called him twice.
When Jerry came downstairs, his father was just leaving for work.
Jerry heard the front door close. Cathy was alone in the dining room
eating her cereal. She looked so cheerful Jerry could hardly stand it.
Don't sit down, you might hurt your head, she greeted him.
Ridiculous remarks were popular with the sixth grade right now and she
was trying out one she had heard recently.
Think that's funny? It stinks.
I was just trying to be pleasant. Mummy especially asked me to try
to be pleasant to you even when you were aggravating. And you certainly
Well, you needn't take my head off.
You might be better-looking if I could.
Jerry! Cathy! Mrs. Martin came in from the kitchen with a platter
of scrambled eggs and bacon. I'm glad your father left before he had
to hear such bickering. He wouldn't stand for it, and neither will I.
Either be civil to each other or don't speak.
Suits me, said Jerry. I'll be tickled to death if Cathy stops
He's just awful. Cathy's blue eyes appealed to her mother for
Want me to wipe away your tears? jibed her twin brother.
Eat your bacon and eggs. I trust and hope you'll both feel better
when you've had your breakfast, said their mother. I don't know
what's gotten into you two lately. Always at each other and you used to
be as close to each other as the two sides of a pair of shears.
Bet I always had the sharpest edge, mumbled Jerry.
That's enough from you, young man.
When his mother spoke in that tone of voice, Jerry thought it best
to keep still and tend to what he was doing. He took a large mouthful
of scrambled eggs. They were good scrambled eggs. His mother sure knew
how to fix them.
Mrs. Martin looked at Andy's vacant chair. Oh, dear, that child's
not down yet. He dawdles so getting dressed.
He's coming, said Jerry, as they heard a thump that was Andy
jumping down the last two steps of the front stairs.
In came Andy, an imaginary pistol in each hand. Bang! he cried,
shooting his mother. Bang! Bang! You're all dead. Aren't there any
Come eat your cereal. I'm keeping your eggs and bacon hot for you
out in the kitchen, said his mother. Tuck your napkin under your
chin. I don't want you to spill milk on your clean shirt. You should be
thankful you have such a good breakfast. Plenty of children would be
glad to have less.
I'm not plenty of children. I'm me. Andy looked up and met Jerry's
accusing gaze with a wide smile. Andy never remembered yesterday's
mischief. Each day was brand-new to Andy.
It will be harder than ever to get him to own up to what he did
over at the Bullfinches', thought Jerry.
Andy knew the way to school and usually Jerry walked to school with
boys his own age while Andy poked along alone or with one of his fellow
kindergartners. But today when Andy had kissed his mother good-by and
had come out the back door, Jerry was waiting for him.
I've got to hurry. I don't want to be late, said Andy, whose
lateness had seldom worried him before.
We've got loads of time. Now, look here, Andy. I'm in a jam and
you're the only one who can help me.
Being talked to as his big brother's equal pleased Andy. What you
want me to do?
Jerry described vividly how unjustly Mr. Bullfinch had blamed him
for getting into his house and breaking the Sousa record. He's awfully
down on me now, said Jerry. Do you think it's fair for me to be
blamed for something I didn't do?
Just tell him somebody else must have done it, suggested Andy.
I did but he didn't believe me.
Then he's a bad, bad man.
It burns me up to be blamed for something I didn't do. You wouldn't
like to be blamed for breaking a window if Tommy Jenks did it, would
Tommy and I can't throw a ball hard enough to break a window.
I give up, cried Jerry. I might have known you wouldn't lift a
finger to get me out of trouble. Save your own skin, that's all you
care about. And I was meaning to give you something nice when I get
it, said Jerry, thinking of the candy he would receive from Bartlett's
What were you going to give me?
Never you mind. Whatever it is, you won't get any.
I didn't mean to break that old record. It wasn't my fault. It
slipped right out of my hand, remarked Andy.
Jerry breathed a sigh of relief. Andy's resolution not to tell had
begun to give. I'll go right to the door with you if you'll fess up to
Mr. Bullfinch what you did, he offered.
Andy was not in the mood for an early morning call on Mr. Bullfinch.
It took a lot of persuasion and the gift of two large rubber bands, an
old campaign button, and two feet or so of good string before Andy let
Jerry take him by the hand and lead him to the Bullfinch front door.
You ring the bell, said Jerry. He knew Andy liked to ring
Andy did not care to ring Mr. Bullfinch's bell just then. Jerry
pressed it hard. He hoped Mr. Bullfinch would answer the bell in a
hurry before Andy changed his mind about telling.
I'll tell him I'll help you pay for the record, said Jerry.
I don't want to pay money for an old broken record. It's no good,
said Andy, trying to pull away from Jerry.
Just then Mr. Bullfinch opened the front door. He was wearing a dark
blue bathrobe with a red plaid collar. He looked sleepy and not at all
pleased to see his visitors.
Did you have to come so early? he inquired.
It's almost time for school. Andy has something he wants to tell
No, I don't, said Andy.
Come on, Andy, you promised you'd tell.
I've changed my mind.
I wish you'd say whatever you came to say and be off. I find small
boys hard to take before I have a cup of coffee, said Mr. Bullfinch.
I'll give you the first nickel I find rolling uphill. Or downhill
either, Jerry promised Andy. Go on, tell him. Jerry gave Andy a
gentle poke in the back.
Andy looked up at Mr. Bullfinch. You shouldn't leave your cellar
window unlocked. A real burglar might have gotten in instead of me. And
that record must have been cracked. I dropped it very easy, honest,
said Andy in a rush of words. It wasn't Jerry, it was me, he added.
Mr. Bullfinch stopped looking displeased. Well, he said, not
sounding at all cross with Andy, I must say I admire a young fellow
who will step right up and confess he's been into a little mischief.
Little mischief! thought Jerry. Last night at the door Mr.
Bullfinch had sounded as if he had considered getting into his house a
real crime. Still, Jerry was glad Mr. Bullfinch was not being hard on
Good-by, said Andy.
Just a minute, said Mr. Bullfinch. When something is broken it
has to be paid for. I think you owe me something for that record, even
if you think it was cracked.
I'll help pay for it, offered Jerry, without great enthusiasm.
I'm saving my money to buy a space helmet, said Andy.
Let's see, mused Mr. Bullfinch. How are you boys at mowing
Not bad, said Jerry, not remembering that his mother often
remarked that it was like pulling teeth to get him to mow their lawn.
I can't mow but I can rake real good, said Andy.
Then if you'll come over after school this afternoon and take care
of my lawn, we'll call it quits, said Mr. Bullfinch. And I owe you an
apology, Jerry, for misjudging you. Sorry I had the wrong Martin boy by
the ear. I hope you'll bring back that little something you've been
keeping over here.
I may at that, said Jerry.
Mr. Bullfinch looked at Andy sternly. It's wrong to go into a house
when nobody's home. Don't you let me hear of your doing that again.
I won't, promised Andy, giving Mr. Bullfinch one of his beaming
smiles that showed his dimple.
Come on, Andy, we can't stand here all day or we'll be late for
school. I'll be seeing you, Jerry told Mr. Bullfinch, glad that they
were friends again.
Andy chattered happily on the way to school. Nothing got Andy down,
Jerry thought, envying his carefree little brother. He should be
feeling relieved about getting his guilt off his chest. But Andy had
not seemed at all downhearted before. Anyway, I got it out of him,
Jerry thought with satisfaction. Yet Jerry was grateful to Andy. He had
known him to be far more stubborn.
Only nine more days before I get that candy from Bartlett's, Jerry
thought. And when I do, Andy not only gets the first piece; I don't
care if he takes a whole handful.
Jerry noticed that Andy almost had to run to keep up with him. He
slowed down. Jerry felt like being very nice to Andy even if it meant
that they would be late for school.
8. The Auction
School going all right, Jerry? asked his father.
Jerry was at the dining room table after dinner doing homework. He
had a list of geography questions and was supposed to write down the
answers. That meant either looking them up in the book or asking his
father. Jerry's dad knew a good deal about geography, yet after
answering a few questions he was likely to say, How can you expect to
learn if you don't find out for yourself? He seemed to be in a good
humor tonight. Jerry thought he might be good for answers to at least
three questions of the ten.
I'm pretty sure I'm not failing anything at school, said Jerry.
Glad to hear it. I thought you've looked lately as if something
were worrying you. If your arithmetic is giving you trouble again,
maybe I can give you a little help.
Arithmetic's not so hard after you get the hang of it. I got a
hundred in an arithmetic test day before yesterday.
Good for you. Keep up the good work. I expect you to be good
college material, you know, and that's not too many years ahead.
The words college material weighed Jerry's spirits. It seemed such
a long stretch of school before he would be ready for college. And all
that time he would be expected to do good work, good the rest of this
term in order to be good in junior high, even better in junior high to
be good in high school, and then you had to be a regular whiz on wheels
in senior high to be good college material. So much excellence expected
of him made Jerry feel tired.
Guess I'll do the rest of this tomorrow morning before school, he
Finish it now, ordered his father. You know you never have time
to do homework before school.
Could be a first time, said Jerry, but he bent over his paper
again. What are the chief products of Central America? he asked.
That's rather a large question, said Mr. Martin. Let's see.
While his father was calling to mind the products of Central
America, Jerry was thinking of the pleasant fact that there were only a
few more days before he could settle the bill at Bartlett's store. And
what a relief it would be to have that charge account off his mind!
Jerry thought how surprised his father would be if he knew the cause of
his improvement in arithmetic. Jerry had not realized at first that all
that adding and subtracting when he made change was helping his
arithmetic, but now he could tell that he could add and subtract much
faster. After bringing his mother the wrong change just once and having
to pretend to go back to the store when he went only as far as Mr.
Bullfinch's, Jerry had learned that it paid to be accurate.
Bananas, coffee, and some silver, said Mr. Martin.
With difficulty Jerry's mind came back to geography. But he had
forgotten which question he had asked his father. Is that the answer
to number four? he asked.
If you can't keep your mind on your work I'm not going to help you.
Look up your own answers. How can you expect to learn if you don't find
out for yourself? Mr. Martin took the evening paper into the living
Cathy, who was sitting at the other end of the dining room table
reading, looked up and laughed. You didn't get much out of Daddy this
time, did you?
Jerry saw that the jacket of the book Cathy was reading had a
picture of a girl and a boy walking together, with the boy carrying a
lot of books. Hers as well as his, Jerry guessed. Catch him carrying a
girl's books. I suppose you have your homework all done, he snarled
Of course, bird-brain.
Bird-brain! If I have the brains of a bird you haven't any more
than athan a cockroach, said Jerry, which was the worst he could
think of to say just then.
Boys aren't supposed to be so rude to girls. You're the limit. The
utter, utter limit.
Who says so?
I say so.
You! Jerry packed so much scorn into the word that Cathy looked at
him in surprise.
What's eating you lately? she asked.
Jerry gathered his books and papers together. If Cathy began being
nice to him for a change he might find himself confiding to her. It had
made him uneasy to be alone with her ever since he had started that
charge account business. He would be safer now up in his own room.
I can't study here where you keep jawing at me, he complained.
Well, I like that. I hardly opened my mouth and now you
Like it or lump it, cried Jerry from the doorway. Today is
Thursday, thought Jerry, as he ran upstairs. Monday will be the
first. That will be the day. All I have to do is hold out till the
first of the week.
On Friday, Mrs. Martin for once did not need anything at the store.
Of course she had a big order for Saturday morning. So much that she
thought of taking the car, with Jerry going along to help with the
carrying, but Jerry said he could manage perfectly well with his cart.
No sense wasting gas when you have me to go to the store for you,
Are you sure you're feeling all right? asked his mother. I can't
think what has gotten in to you to be so obliging. But it's nice to
have a boy so willing to run errands, she said, giving Jerry the
grocery list. Sure you can manage?
Jerry was sure.
When he stopped by at the Bullfinches' on his way back from the
storehe had to get change from a twenty this timeMr. Bullfinch was
getting ready to go to an auction out in Rockville.
How'd you like to come with me? he invited Jerry. Mr. Bullfinch
had been especially cordial to him lately as if to make up for having
suspected him of housebreaking. If you've never been to an auction you
might find it interesting.
Jerry liked the idea. He said he would be right back as soon as he
took the groceries home and asked his mother if he could go.
Fine. Hope you can go. I'll be glad of your company, said Mr.
Ten minutes later Jerry and Mr. Bullfinch were on their way to
Rockville. Jerry had never ridden in Mr. Bullfinch's car before. It was
not the car that was jerky, Jerry discovered, but Mr. Bullfinch. Still,
he was a careful driver except when he got to talking. Then he seemed
to forget his was not the only car on the road and the other cars
honked at him. Yet Mr. Bullfinch was good at missing the other cars. At
the very edge of collision he was a marvelous driver. Jerry held on to
the door pull most of the time.
It was not a long drive to Rockville. They made it by five after
ten, Jerry noticed by a clock over a bank near where Mr. Bullfinch
parked the car.
This is one of the smaller auction houses, explained Mr.
Bullfinch, as he led the way into a place that looked to Jerry like a
secondhand furniture store. But sometimes the most interesting items
are put up at small auctions.
Jerry jingled the small change in his pocket. His entire wealth at
the moment was forty-seven cents, hardly enough to buy either a usual
or unusual item. He noticed that Mr. Bullfinch looked less calm and
dignified than usual. There was a gleam of excitement in his eyes, an
intensity in his voice. Jerry could tell that Mr. Bullfinch felt the
same about auctions as Jerry did about going to baseball games out at
Folding chairs had been set up in the middle of the big room where
the auction was being held. Furniture and stuff was jammed all around,
even at the back of the platform where the auctioneer stood. He was a
thick-set, big-mouthed man wearing a blue and red plaid sport shirt.
That's Jim Bean. He always puts on a good show, said Mr.
As Mr. Bullfinch and Jerry took seats in the back row, the
auctioneer was holding up a table lamp.
Now here is something really beautiful, he was saying in a
slightly hoarse yet persuasive voice. This lamp has a base of real
Chinese porcelain. Old Chinese porcelain and that's the most valuable,
as all of you here know. Probably should be in a museum. Shade's a bit
worn but it's easy enough to get one of those. Now I hope I'm going to
hear a starting bid of ten for this exquisite piece of antique Chinese
porcelain. Worth every cent of fifty or more but I'm willing to start
it at ten.
One dollar, said Mr. Bullfinch.
That bid, said the auctioneer, was too low for me to hear.
Two, snapped a lady in the front row.
A man two seats to the left of Jerry held up a finger.
Three I'm bid. Who will make it five? said Mr. Bean.
Three-fifty, said Mr. Bullfinch.
Come, come, said Mr. Bean, I can't accept bids of peanuts.
Three-fifty I'm offered. We're just starting, folks. Do I hear five?
Jerry could not tell for sure but somebody in the front row must
have indicated a bid of five, for now Mr. Bean was droning, Five I
have. Who will make it ten? Worth many times more. Five I have for this
museum piece. Five I have.
The lamp was going to be sold for five, Jerry thought, when Mr.
Bullfinch sat up straight and snapped, Six! His eyes shone. He was
really enjoying himself.
It was like a game, Jerry thought, and wished he dared risk a bid.
Better not, he decided, for there was always the chance that nobody
would bid higher and he would be stuck with something he did not want
and could not pay for. Better be on the safe side and let Mr. Bullfinch
do the bidding. That was almost as much fun as doing it himself.
The lamp was finally sold to the lady in the front row who had first
bid against Mr. Bullfinch. Sold to her for nine dollars, which Mr. Bean
said was giving it away.
Glad I didn't get it. We already have too many lamps, Mr.
Bullfinch said in a low voice to Jerry, which proved that he had been
bidding for the sport of it.
Mr. Bullfinch did not open his mouth when the next few items were
sold. After starting the ball rolling he was content to let others keep
it rolling for a while. Besides, a bed, two French chairs, and a worn
oriental rug were not unusual enough to interest him. Such items came
up, he explained to Jerry, at nearly every auction held in Washington
or its suburbs. But when Mr. Bean was handed a large cage with a large
bird in it by one of his helpers, Mr. Bullfinch sat up straight on the
edge of his chair again.
Never knew a parrot to be auctioned off before, he told Jerry.
Diplomat leaving the country says, 'Sell everything,' and that
included this handsome bird. Speaks Spanish, they tell me. Wish Polly
would oblige us by saying something in Spanish, but heI understand
it's a maleis too shy to speak before strangers. He's been well taken
care of. Wonderful gloss to his feathers, praised Mr. Bean. Beautiful
color. Give an accent to any décor, modern or traditional, besides
being a wonderful pet. Now who is going to be the lucky owner of this
Jerry was surprised that Mr. Bullfinch did not begin the bidding,
which started at a disgusting low of fifty cents. Mr. Bullfinch did not
speak until the bidding rose to three dollars. Then, Five dollars, he
said in a firm voice that dared anybody to bid higher. Since nobody
did, the parrot was Mr. Bullfinch's for five dollars.
Guess I could have had it for four, Mr. Bullfinch said to Jerry.
Thought it would go to seven.
Jerry was very glad that Mr. Bullfinch's had been the winning bid.
It would be interesting to have a Spanish-speaking parrot next door,
though Jerry would have bid for the parrot himself if he had had the
money. The only pet the Martin family had was Bibsy. Wish we had a
parrot, thought Jerry.
Jerry rather lost interest in the auction after the high spot of
selling the parrot. Mr. Bullfinch put in a bid once in a while but let
his bid be topped.
Since Mr. Bullfinch already had a parrot cage, he could keep one
cage in the house and the other out in the yard, Jerry was thinking, as
a mahogany sewing table was lifted to the auctioneer's platform.
Neither Jerry nor Mr. Bullfinch was interested in mahogany sewing
tables. Jerry's eyes wandered. He hardly heard Mr. Bean praise the
sewing table and accept the first bid. Jerry turned his head and looked
around and there was Bill Ellis, a classmate of Jerry's in the sixth.
The man beside him was his father. Jerry had seen him enough times to
Bill saw Jerry and grinned and Jerry put up a hand in greeting.
Sold for three dollars to the young man in the red jacket in the
back row, said the auctioneer.
Horrified, Jerry realized that his raised arm had been interpreted
as a bid and that he had just bought a mahogany sewing table. I don't
want it. It was a mistake, he wanted to say, but before he could get
the words out, Mr. Bean was extolling the beauties of a large oil
painting. Jerry had missed his chance to speak up.
Be a nice present for your mother, said Mr. Bullfinch.
Jerry was sunk in despair. He thought that if you bought something
at an auction you had to keep it. What was he going to do when he and
Mr. Bullfinch went up to the desk near the door where you paid and what
you had bought was brought out to you?
Forty-seven cents isn't any three dollars, thought Jerry dismally.
Nor did he have any more at home.
Suddenly Jerry thought of a place where there was plenty of ready
money. In Mr. Bullfinch's grandfather clock. Suppose he told the man at
the desk that he did not have enough money on him but would be right
back with some. Then he could borrow enough to pay for the sewing
tableminus forty-seven cents. Of course it was Mr. Bartlett's money,
not his, but as soon as he got back from paying for the sewing table
Jerry could go around the neighborhood and get a lawn or two to mow and
get money to pay back to Mr. Bartlett. But suppose nobody wanted a lawn
mowed? And how would he get back and forth between Rockville and
Washington? On a bus, maybe.
I believe I've had about enough of this, said Mr. Bullfinch, and
he led the way to the desk where the paying for and delivery of goods
Jerry did a lot of thinking as he followed Mr. Bullfinch. He
remembered reading a story about a man who worked in a bank and took
money, expecting to pay it back, only he couldn't. If Jerry borrowed
some of Mr. Bartlett's money, that wouldn't be much different from what
the man in the bank did. And he had gone to jail.
Anyway, it wouldn't be honest, thought Jerry, and knew he couldn't
get money to pay for the sewing table that way. What the man at the
desk would say to him when he had to confess he couldn't pay, Jerry
dreaded to find out.
Mr. Bullfinch paid for his parrot. Jerry moved up toward the desk.
He was pale behind his freckles. He could see a man bringing over the
mahogany sewing table. Just then, somebody touched Jerry's arm.
I'll give you a dollar more than you paid for that sewing table,
said a woman in a red hat.
Color rushed back into Jerry's face. He beamed at the woman. Pay
the man three dollars and you can have it, he said.
On their way out to the carand Mr. Bullfinch very kindly let Jerry
carry the cage with the parrot in itMr. Bullfinch explained that it
would have been quite all right for Jerry to have made a dollar on the
sewing table. If somebody offers you more than you have paid it's all
right to take it. But what made you decide you didn't want the little
My mother has a sewing table, said Jerry.
Good thing then you got rid of it, said Mr. Bullfinch. Sometimes
I'm not so lucky at getting rid of something I've bought and don't
need. I get a bit carried away when I get to bidding.
Mr. Bullfinch looked calm and dignified again, but Jerry remembered
how thrilled he had looked at the auction.
Did you enjoy going to an auction? asked Mr. Bullfinch.
I enjoyed most of it, said Jerry. But nobody would ever know, he
thought, slightly swinging the heavy cage, how relieved he had been to
get rid of that mahogany sewing table. He rather wished now, though,
that he had accepted that extra dollar.
9. As Good as a Watchdog
It was time for lunch when Jerry got back from the auction. He was
eating his second big waffle and his fourth sausagethe Martins always
had an especially good lunch on Saturdays since it was the one weekday
they were all home to lunchwhen there was a knock at the back door.
Mr. Martin went to the door, and the family heard him say cordially,
Come right in.
Into the dining room came Mr. Bullfinch, parrot cage in hand. The
parrot was head-down, holding onto the perch with his feet.
He speaks Spanish, Jerry said, although he had already informed
his family of that fact. Make him say something in Spanish, Mr.
Mr. Bullfinch refused to sit down but he did put the parrot cage on
a chair. Say 'Buenos días,' he urged the parrot. That is
'Good day' or 'How do you do' in Spanish, he explained. But the parrot
said nothing in any language.
By this time Jerry and Andy were kneeling on the floor by the cage.
Pretty Polly. Polly want a cracker? crooned Andy.
He's not a she, he's a he, said Jerry.
Don't put your finger near the cage. He might bite, Mrs. Martin
He wouldn't bite me. Parrots like me, said Andy.
Where did you ever get acquainted with a parrot? asked Cathy, who
had come over to admire the big green bird.
You just dreamed you did. Cathy gave her small brother a hug,
against which he pretended to struggle. He bumped into the cage and the
parrot gave a loud squawk.
Look out, cried Mrs. Martin.
I've come to ask a big favor, said Mr. Bullfinch in his polite
voice. I didn't realize until I got home that my wife is violently
allergic to parrots. She had a severe sneezing fit when it had not been
in the house more than five minutes. So, I'll have to dispose of the
bird. Fine specimen it is, too. Well, it's too late now to get a 'for
sale' notice in the paper before Monday, and if I keep the bird in the
house until then my wife might have an asthma attack. Would it be too
much of an imposition for me to ask you to keep the parrot over here
until Monday? he asked.
Not at all, said Mr. Martin heartily.
I'm not sure we could trust Bibsy to let the parrot alone. You know
how it is with birds and cats, Mr. Bullfinch, said Mrs. Martin.
Say, do you think any cat could get the best of a bird with a beak
on him like that? cried Jerry. Anyway, Bibsy is good about leaving
birds alone. You know she is. Besides, having a parrot who can speak
Spanish in the house will teach us a little Spanish. I heard you say
that the reason people in the United States are so poor at speaking
foreign languages is because they don't start young enough to learn
one. Here's our chance.
The amount of Spanish you'd learn from a parrot over a week end
won't be likely to make you very proficient in the language, said Mrs.
Martin. Then she turned to Mr. Bullfinch and told him she would be glad
to keep the parrot until Monday. But only till Monday, she said,
looking at Jerry.
After Mr. Bullfinch had expressed his thanks and left, all three of
the Martin children begged their mother to buy the parrot from Mr.
Bullfinch. Jerry rashly promised all his allowance for May. Cathy
wouldn't go as far as that but she would spare a dollar. And Andy
trotted off for his piggy bank to contribute his pennies.
I better run after Mr. Bullfinch and tell him he needn't phone in
that ad for the newspaper, said Jerry.
You'll do no such thing, said his mother. I agreed to keep the
parrot over the week end. I meant over the week end and no longer.
When their mother spoke in that tone of voice, her children had
learned it was no use to argue.
I've always wanted a parrot for a pet and here is a good chance to
get one and you turn it down, grumbled Jerry.
What's the parrot's name? asked Mr. Martin.
Jerry didn't know. Can you ask him what his name is in Spanish? he
asked his father.
Mr. Martin didn't think that would do much good but he could and did
ask the parrot in Spanish what his name was.
There was no response from the parrot.
Guess you'll have to give him a name, said Mr. Martin.
Let's call him Pete, suggested Andy.
Pete's not a Spanish name. He ought to have a Spanish name, said
I think Pedro's the Spanish for Pete, said Jerry, remembering a
story he had read about a Spanish donkey.
They agreed on Pedro. They all addressed the parrot by name but he
only glared at them with his beady eyes and kept silent.
Maybe he's dumb, said Andy.
Maybe he's too young to know how to talk, said Cathy.
He's not that young, said Jerry.
They were eating dessertpineapple upside-down cakewhen the
parrot beat his wings and said in a strong, hoarse voice, Caramba!
What does that mean? Jerry asked his father.
It's a Spanish word that they use the same way we say 'Gosh!'
Caramba! repeated Jerry.
Caramba! Andy tried to say, only it came out more like
Carimba! The way he said it made it sound like a swear word.
Oh, dear, I hope that bird won't teach the children any bad
language, said Mrs. Martin.
I somehow doubt if he'll teach them to swear in Spanish over the
week end, said Mr. Martin, with a twinkle in his eye.
Then there began an argument about where the parrot's cage should be
hung. Cathy said it should be in her room because the parrot's color
would go so well with her bedspread and curtains. Jerry said that
naturally the cage should be in his room. He had known the parrot
longest, hadn't he?
He likes me best. I know he does, declared Andy. I want him to
sleep with me.
Maybe the recreation room would be more appropriate, suggested Mr.
Mrs. Martin knew where there was a big hook which could be screwed
in over one of the windows. You can spend as much time down there with
him as you want to, she told the children.
If we turn the TV on good and loud, that might teach him a little
English, said Jerry. We teach him English. He teaches us Spanish.
Fair enough, said Mr. Martin.
Later in the afternoon Jerry was taking his time about mowing the
lawn, and wishing there was stuff to put on grass to make it stop
growing instead of all that fertilizer his father put on to make it
grow, when his mother called and asked him to run to the store for a
package of raisins. She wanted to make raisin sauce for the ham they
were having for dinner that night.
Jerry never minded having to stop mowing the lawn. Now if his father
had a power mower that would be different. But Jerry's father refused
to buy a power mower until he decided that Jerry was old enough to run
it. In Jerry's opinion, he was old enough now. He threw down the
despised hand lawn mower and started for the store, walking, not taking
his bike this time. His mother was in no immediate hurry for the
raisins and Jerry was certainly in no hurry to finish mowing the lawn.
This probably would be his last trip to the store before the happy
time of going to pay the bill on Monday, Jerry thought, making a slight
detour in order to jump two low hedges in a neighbor's yard. Over
without touching, he was pleased to note. May Day would mean the end of
all that rigmarole of the secret charge account. And what a relief that
would be! In his thoughts Jerry had shied away from applying the word
deceit to his charging groceries and keeping Mr. Bartlett's money over
at the Bullfinches', but he had not been able to get away from an
uneasy feeling about what he had been doing. It was his nature to be
open and aboveboard. The past month had been a strain.
Now it's all over but the payoff, thought Jerry, waiting for Mr.
Bartlett to make out the grocery slip. The candy in the showcase next
to the cash register looked luscious. Jerry wondered how many pieces
there were in a half pound and thought of asking but decided against
it. Jerry was still hopeful that Mr. Bartlett would at least make it a
heavy half pound when the bill was paid.
This time Jerry had to get only change for half a dollar from the
grandfather clock. He stopped to visit a few minutes with Mr.
Bullfinch, who had a fireplace fire burning in his den.
Had a man here last week to give the furnace its summer hookup,
said Mr. Bullfinch. Should have had more sense. I forgot that it's
possible to half roast and half freeze on the same day. This morning
felt like June and this afternoon's more like March. That's Washington
spring weather for you.
Jerry agreed that the weather had turned chilly. He watched the
flames lick the charcoal briquets in the fireplace.
Mr. Bullfinch had a grate shaped like a cradle in his fireplace and
burned charcoal or coal instead of logs. It would be a wonderful fire
for a cook-out, Jerry thought. Only he guessed that if you cooked a
meal over an open fire indoors, it should be called a cook-in.
Mr. Bullfinch inquired after the parrot's health, and Jerry said
that as far as he could tell, it was good. Jerry said he had wheeled
the television set over so the parrot could watch the ball game.
I would have been looking at it, too, if I hadn't had to mow the
lawn and then go to the store.
I can see that you are a busy lad, sympathized Mr. Bullfinch.
I probably won't be over here so often after Monday, said Jerry,
after replacing the tobacco pouch in the grandfather clock.
That so? We shall miss having you run in every day or so. Hope you
won't be too much of a stranger.
Mr. Bullfinch did not ask why Jerry's visits would be less frequent
after Monday. That was one of the nice things about Mr. Bullfinch, his
showing no curiosity about Jerry's affairs. Jerry was so grateful to
him for not asking embarrassing questions that he found it hard not to
break down and tell him all about the charge account. But that was a
temptation Jerry had already successfully resisted several times and he
now did again.
After I get the candy Monday I'll give him some and tell him all
about it, Jerry vowed.
Jerry was pleased to find his father finishing mowing the lawn.
At the rate you were going I thought you might not get it done
before dark, his father greeted him.
That was the way parents were. Instead of being grateful for what
you had done, they bawled you out for not finishing the last bit. I
would have done it, said Jerry.
Jerry raked up the grass clippings before he took the box of raisins
in to his mother. Where's Cathy? he asked.
I think she's down looking at TV.
Jerry ran down to the recreation room. The TV had been turned off.
Cathy was standing close to Pedro's cage.
Cathy. Cathy. Cathy, she repeated. Say Cathy.
Jerry was indignant. While he had been hard at work on the lawn and
then running to the store, Cathy had been trying to teach the parrot to
say her name.
You quit that, ordered Jerry.
I'd like to know why.
Jerry did not come right out and say that he wanted Pedro to say
his name first.
Seems pretty conceited for you to think your name is the most
important word in the English language, he said. Pretty conceited.
Naturally Pedro should learn the most important words first.
What is the most important word in the English language?
Depends on what?
If you could answer as many questions as you can ask, you'd be more
than half bright.
Jerry Martin, are you calling me a moron? You know I get better
grades in school than you do.
Who called you a moron?
I did not. I didn't say how much more than half bright you'd be if
you could answer as many questions as you ask.
Jerry turned the television on. As a singing commercial came on, the
parrot laughed a raucous laugh.
Say, he may not know how to speak English but that parrot's got
sense, said Jerry admiringly.
A door above opened. Jerry, called his mother from upstairs, you
come right up here and get that snake off the hall table.
It's only a little green snake I found when I was cutting the
grass, grumbled Jerry. I was going to catch flies for it. It's a
perfectly harmless snake.
Snakesugh! said Cathy.
Say, what's got into you? I've seen you let a little green garter
snake wind around your wrist like a bracelet.
I did, didn't I? Cathy was suddenly on Jerry's level again. Then
she looked up at her reflection in a mirror over the television set and
smoothed her hair at the sides. I used to do a lot of silly things
when I was young, she said.
She seemed to be insinuating that she was more grownup than Jerry,
even though they were twins. Jerry was furious with her. He was angry
because they were no longer the companions they used to be, though he
did not realize it. He missed the old Cathy, who reappeared only now
and then. They were so seldom really together nowadays and it had not
been long ago that they had been two against anything or anybody which
threatened one of them.
I wouldn't be a girl for a million dollars, he said. Little pats
of powder, Little daubs of paint, Make a little girly Look like what
she ain't, he quoted.
Why Jerry Martin, I wouldn't think of using rouge. Mummy wouldn't
let me if I wanted to.
Cathy, called her mother from upstairs. Come set the table for
Cathy, with one of her movie-queen looks, sailed past Jerry and went
Girls are nuts, Jerry said.
Ha, ha! laughed Pedro.
You are a smart bird, said Jerry and tried in vain to teach
the parrot to say Jerry. Pedro said Caramba again and a few
Spanish words Jerry did not understand, but that was all.
He certainly was a handsome bird. Jerry looked at him with
affection. Give you time and you'll learn to speak English, said
Jerry. And, Gosh, I wish you really belonged to me. Then, having been
called twice, Jerry went up to dinner.
Jerry went to the neighborhood movie that night with his mother and
Cathy, so he was later getting to bed than usual. He was dropping off
to sleep when he heard what he thought was a car backfiring outside.
Then, at the very edge of sleep again, Jerry smelled smoke. He rushed
to the window. By moonlight he could see the Bullfinch house almost as
plain as day. There was smoke coming out of the chimney. There was also
smoke rising from the roof.
Fire! bawled Jerry. Fire! he shouted all the way down the
The Bullfinch house is on fire! he yelled at the door of the
living room where his father and mother were sitting.
What? cried his father.
Is this one of your ideas of a joke? asked his mother.
Jerry did not stop. The front door slammed behind him. Fire! he
kept shouting all the way to the Bullfinch house, as if a phonograph
needle had been stuck at that word in a record.
I've got to get that grocery money out of there. I've got to,
Jerry thought, so excited and driven that he did not know he was
shivering with cold.
Jerry rang the Bullfinch doorbell hard with one hand while he
pounded on the door with the other.
Mr. Bullfinch came to the door. He looked only a little excited.
Your house is on fire! cried Jerry.
I know. I know. I've called the fire department, said Mr.
Bullfinch. Won't you come in? he asked politely, as if it were not
strange to invite a person to come in a burning house.
Jerry was glad to get Mr. Bartlett's money safe in two pockets of
his pajamas. There was too much of it for one.
Want me to help carry out things? he asked Mr. Bullfinch.
Mrs. Bullfinch was fluttering about, wondering what should be saved
first, when sirens screeched and fire engines arrived on the scene.
By this time a small crowd had gathered to watch the fire. Jerry's
mother brought out a jacket for him to put on over his pajamas. He was
glad of its warmth and also because he could transfer Mr. Bartlett's
money into larger pockets where bulges would not be so conspicuous.
It was not much of a fire. It was soon out. All that had burned was
part of the eaves near the chimney. Jerry heard his father ask Mr.
Bullfinch if he knew how the fire had started. And Mr. Bullfinch seemed
slightly embarrassed as he explained what he thought must have
I have only my own carelessness to blame, said Mr. Bullfinch. You
see, I burn charcoal in the fireplace in my den. I keep a big sack of
charcoal briquets out in the garage. Well, soon after I put fresh
charcoal on the fireI often read late you knowthere was a sharp
series of bangs and I realized what had happened.
Then all that banging hadn't been a car backfiring, thought Jerry.
There is a shelf in the garage over the sack of charcoal, Mr.
Bullfinch continued, and there was a box of cartridges on the shelf.
It must be that a few cartridges spilled into the charcoal and they
went off when I put them on the fire. Lucky they fired up the chimney
instead of in the room. Loosened a few bricks in the chimney and burned
a bit of the eaves. No great damage, I'm thankful to say.
That's the most unusual cause of a fire I ever heard of, said Mr.
I don't want the fire to be out so soon, mourned Andy, who had
been waked up to come to the fire.
I'd better get that child to bed, said Mr. Martin.
Jerry would have followed his father but Mr. Bullfinch wanted to
thank him for coming over to rescue them, even though they had not
needed to be rescued. But if I hadn't still been up you might have
saved our lives, he told Jerry. Then he told Jerry something else that
filled Jerry's heart with joy. Jerry was so grateful he could hardly
Jerry kept his cause of gratitude to himself until the family were
in the kitchen having a bite to eat.
Mr. Bullfinch has given Pedro to me, he said, putting a thick
layer of grape marmalade and peanut butter on a slice of bread. A
five-dollar parrot and he's worth much more than that and Mr. Bullfinch
gave him to me for almost saving his life.
Oh, no! said Mrs. Martin.
Fire! bawled a loud hoarse voice from the cellar.
It's Pedro. He's said his first English word. Jerry was beaming
with pride. He'll be as good as a watchdog. Don't miners sometimes
take parrots into mines with them to warn them against poisonous
A canary I've heard ofnot a parrot, said Mr. Martin. And we're
really in very little danger from poisonous fumes. But I guess we can't
risk offending a neighbor by refusing a gift.
Taking care of a parrot can be a lot of work, said Mrs. Martin.
I'll help, offered Cathy. And Jerry was grateful to her.
Fire! the parrot kept bawling. Fire!
Go down and put something over his cage or we'll not get any
sleep, Jerry's mother told him. Yes, you can keep him. I might have
known when I saw that parrot come into the house that he would stay.
As Jerry galloped down the stairs to the recreation room with a
scarf to put over Pedro's cage, he wondered if he would have hurried
quite as fast over to the Bullfinch house if it had not been for the
money in the grandfather clock. He had slipped in and put it back there
before coming home. Fire was not likely to strike twice in the same
house, he had thought.
Pedro was making gentle, clucking noises.
Good night, old bird, said Jerry, after he had put the scarf over
the cage. I wonder if parrots eat candy, he thought on his way
upstairs to bed. When I get that candy from Mr. Bartlett tomorrow I'm
going to try Pedro on a piece of a lime mint. They're almost the same
color as the feathers near his throat.
Joy of ownership of a handsome green parrot made Jerry's steps light
on the stairs. He went to bed by moonlight. There seemed to be a glow
10. May Day
How nice that today is pleasant, so you can have your May Day
exercises outdoors, Mrs. Martin said, as she bustled about getting her
children's breakfast on the table.
Did you finish hemming my dress? asked Cathy. She was to be
crowned May Queen and was so worried about looking exactly right that
she could hardly eat her breakfast.
It's all packed in a suit box, said Mrs. Martin. I put in Andy's
costume under it. Be surer of getting there if you carry it.
Do I have to wear that silly sash? Andy was to help wind the
Maypole and was to wear yellow cambric shorts, a white blouse, and a
yellow sash around his middle.
You must dress as your teacher told you to, said his mother. Be
careful with that glass of milk, Andy.
Jerry was thankful that his only part in the May Day festival was to
help seat the parents. And that all he had to wear different from usual
was an armband. Jerry's mind was not on the May Day exercises. He had
something far more important to think about. Today was the day he had
so long looked forward to. Today he would pay the bill at Bartlett's
store. The store wouldn't be open early enough so he could tend to it
before school, but the minute he could get away from the May Day
exercises that afternoon he would race to Mr. Bullfinch's, get the
money from the grandfather clock, and go pay the bill. Thinking of the
candy that would then be presented to him made Jerry grin.
You're looking mighty pleased with yourself this morning, Jerry,
said his mother, passing him the bacon.
Who? Me? It's Cathy who's the big shot today. Hi, Queenie! You
feeling squeamy? he teased his sister. Won't you look like
somethingall dressed up like a circus horse, with a tinfoil crown on
your head? Yes, your majesty. No, your majesty. After this you'll
expect everybody to bow down to you. Not me. I'm not forgetting this is
All I hope is that you won't do anything at the exercises that will
disgrace the family, said Cathy.
Call me a disgrace to the family, do you? Well, I like that.
There isn't time for you two to squabble. You should be leaving for
school in less than five minutes, said Mrs. Martin.
I won't say a word if Cathy'll leave me alone, said Jerry.
I leave you alone! Why it was you who started
I don't care who started what. It's finished, said Mrs. Martin
Jerry gave Cathy a mocking smile. He was really proud that she had
been chosen May Queen. He would never let on to her all the votes he
had rounded up for her. Not Jerry. He kept it a dark secret that he
thought her the prettiest girl in their class. No need of making her
more stuck on her looks than she already was.
Lessons at school were brief that day. By ten-thirty, four boys from
the sixth grade were helping the custodian put up the Maypole. Then
there were two chairs from the principal's office to be draped with
gold-colored cambric, throne chairs for the King and Queen. As soon as
lunch period was over, Jerry helped carry chairs from the cafeteria out
to the yard, where they were arranged in rows facing the throne. The
exercises were to begin at one, but a few parents came before all the
chairs were in place.
A phonograph on a table behind a tree furnished music for winding
the Maypole. Jerry, standing with his classmates behind the
chairsthere were chairs only for the parentssaw that Andy looked
very earnest and a little scared. He got to going the wrong way once
but was quickly turned around by his kindergarten teacher. Jerry was
glad for Andy's sake when the Maypole dance was over.
Now came the crowning of the King and Queen. Cathy wore a white
billowy dress and her mother's pearl necklace. She was flushed and her
What a little charmer she will be in a few years, Jerry heard one
of the mothers say.
Yeah! A snake charmer, Jerry thought. He knew though that that was
not the kind of charmer meant. Jerry did not want Cathy to charm
anybody, especially boys. It made him mad if he saw her look moony at a
boy. Mush was what Jerry called a certain way some of the girls and
boys looked at each other. It was definitely not for him.
Jerry managed to slip away before the exercises were quite over. A
spring song by the combined fourth and fifth grades rang in his ears as
he left the schoolyard. Everybody would be free to go home at the end
of the song, but Jerry wanted to get a head start. He wanted to
surprise the family with the box of candy the minute they got home.
He ran all the way to the Bullfinches'. In an awful hurry. See you
later, he said, rushing in and grabbing the tobacco pouch of money
from the grandfather clock. Then he was off for the store, running as
Mr. Bartlett, for once, was alone in the store.
I came to pay the bill, gasped Jerry, and he emptied the contents
of the tobacco pouch on the counter.
Bring the bill with you? asked Mr. Bartlett.
What bill? Jerry did not know anything about a bill. But he had
saved all the grocery slips. He had gone over to the Bullfinches' the
night before and added and added. He was sure the money was the right
Mr. Bartlett looked up the amount due in a ledger. He was a bit
grumpy about having to count so much chicken feed, as he called it, as
he counted the change. It's all here, he said finally.
For an awful moment Jerry was afraid he was not going to get a bonus
for paying the bill. It was with enormous relief that he saw Mr.
Bartlett reach for a half-pound pasteboard box.
It was a fair-sized bill and I'll give you a full half pound, said
Mr. Bartlett. Anything you prefer?
Jerry said he would like a few pink and green mints. With pleasure
he watched Mr. Bartlett arrange a row of varicolored mints and fill up
the rest of the box with chocolatesso full that the cover would
hardly go down.
Jerry thanked Mr. Bartlett with great heartiness. Fond though he was
of candy, Jerry didn't take even as much as a taste on the way home. He
would show it to his mother and Cathy and Andy but he would save it
untouched until his father got home from work.
I wanted to prove to you that having a charge account pays off, he
would tell his father, offering him the open box, after Andy had had
the first pieceJerry remembered that Andy was to have the first
piece. Where else can you get something for nothing except by charging
your groceries at Bartlett's store? That was what Jerry would say to
his father. Or something else that might occur to him later. His father
would be sure to see the advantage of charging groceries as soon as he
cast an eye on all that free candy.
Jerry whistled gaily most of the way back from the store. Bet you
can't guess what I have, he cried, as he opened the kitchen door and
saw his mother and Cathy sitting at the kitchen table. Further cheerful
words died in his throat when he saw that both his mother and Cathy had
What's the matter? Could something terrible have happened to his
father? Or to Andy? What awful thing could make his mother and Cathy
look so sad? There were envelopes and letters on the table. His mother
had been opening her mail. The bad news must have come in a letter,
Is Grandma Martin sick again? Jerry asked.
His mother sobbed, and Jerry couldn't remember ever seeing his
mother cry. How could you, Jerry? How could you do such a dreadful
He didn't do it. I know he didn't to it! cried Cathy. Tell her
you didn't do it, Jerry. Tell her it must be a mistake.
To think that a son of mine would be a thief! said Jerry's mother.
And the face she turned toward him was full of hurt and disappointment.
It tore Jerry inside.
I haven't done anything. Anything wrong, he said.
You stand there and tell me that you haven't been charging
groceries at Bartlett's store for a month?
Sure I did but
Oh, Jerry! Cathy burst into tears.
What did you do with the money? demanded Jerry's mother. Mischief
can be forgiven but stealing is a crime. When I opened an envelope and
found a bill for the month of April from Bartlett's store, I hoped
against hope that there must be a mistake. But now you confess you've
been deceiving me and charging the groceries that I gave you money to
pay for. I never thought I would be so ashamed of you, Jerry Martin.
The look she gave him was worse than a blow.
So she thought him a thiefwas ashamed of himbelieved the worst
of him before giving him a chance to explain. Jerry felt such a deep
hurt he felt like crying but he wasn't going to let anybody see him
cry. And if that was what his mother thought of him, he wasn't going to
stay around here. Not after she had looked at him as if she wished he
did not belong in her family.
Jerry slammed the box of candy so hard on the table that the cover
opened and some of the candy fell out.
I paid the bill with the money. Ask Mr. Bartlett if you don't
believe me. I was going to surprise you by showing you the bonus he
gives for charging a month's groceries. I didn't spend a cent of your
old money. I Jerry suddenly could not endure being there a second
longer. He rushed out, slamming the door behind him.
Rage sent Jerry hurrying down his street and out to Massachusetts
Avenue. He was so hurt and angry he could hardly see straight. He would
run away from home. He would leave Washington. He would go somewhere a
long way off. He would go where nobody would be likely to accuse him
unjustly of being a thief. He walked rapidly, almost running in his
hurry to leave home.
Where should he go? Jerry did not have even the bus fare to go to
town, let alone get out of the city. But he had two feet, didn't he?
Maybe after he decided where he was going he would hitchhike. Jerry
knew his mother disapproved of hitchhiking but why should he pay any
attention to that now, after she had believed him to be a thief? Jerry
made no effort, however, to hitch a ride. He walked and walked.
There were azaleas in bloom in some of the yards he passed. Bushes
of faded lilacs. Bright beds of tulips and pansies. Jerry did not
notice them. He was in no mood to enjoy flowers. He was about a mile
from home when he remembered hearing a guest say to his mother,
Florida is really delightful in the spring. And after the winter
visitors have left the prices go down.
Jerry thought it might be a good idea to go where the prices had
gone down. Be easier for him to earn enough to live on. A lot of people
went fishing off the coast of Florida. Maybe he could help out on some
fishing boat. Jerry liked to fish and he liked boats. That idea
appealed to him. But he realized that it was a long, long way to
Florida from Washington, D. C. It was even a long wayfive miles at
leastfrom Jerry's house to Memorial Bridge, over which he would cross
the Potomac into the state of Virginia.
As Jerry went along the part of Massachusetts Avenue which has many
foreign embassies, it occurred to him that he might be seeing
Washington for the last time. So he looked hard at the white Venezuelan
Embassy and at the red brick British Embassy. Those were his two
favorites, and he wanted to remember how they looked.
There were several circles to go around and a bridge to cross over
Rock Creek Park before Jerry was anywhere near Memorial Bridge. He
missed his direction a little when he left Massachusetts Avenue, but he
was finally in sight of the Lincoln Memorial and the bridge was near.
Jerry yielded to an impulse to take a last look at the Lincoln
Memorial. He climbed the steps and stood and gazed up at the seated
figure of Abraham Lincoln, with so much sadness and kindness in his
Having paid his respects to Abraham Lincoln, it didn't seem quite
right to be leaving town without doing the same by George Washington.
Weary though his legs were, Jerry trudged over to the Washington
There were not many people waiting in line to go up in the Monument.
Jerry was the only one who walked up instead of riding to the top in
the elevator. Jerry did not know why he wanted to climb all those eight
hundred and ninety-eight steps, but he did. He did a lot of thinking
and remembering on his way up. That was the way you did when you were
leaving home, he guessed. He thought of school and home and playing
baseballthings like that. And some about George Washington. Jerry
greatly admired all he had read about him. He was glad they had named
the capital of the United States for Washington.
Jerry had been at the top of the Monument many times, yet it was
always a thrill to go from window to window and see each scene below.
From this one he could see the Capitol and the greenish dome of the
Library of Congress. From another window he looked down on a crowded
part of the city. Jerry thought that if he knew just where to look, he
might see the hospital where he had been born.
The window that overlooked the White House was one of Jerry's
favorite views. He remembered Easter Mondays when he had gone to roll
eggs on the White House lawn. He remembered a time when he was five,
younger than Andya time when he had gotten separated from his
motherhad been lost. A Girl Scout had taken him to a place where lost
children waited to be claimed. A lady played games with them while they
waited, but a few of the children had cried. Jerry had not cried. He
somehow felt more like crying now. And even more lost.
Well, he must be on his way. He would take the elevator down, for he
felt his legs would not last for all of those steps going down. Yet he
was reluctant to leave the top of the Monument. Each window gave a
picture postcard view of the city he was leaving. It was up here that
he was really saying good-by to Washington, D. C.
Why did he have to think just then of the honesty of Lincoln? Or of
how Washington had stayed with his soldiers through the hardships of
the winter at Valley Forge? They were not men who had run away from the
hard things of life. Jerry tried to close his mind against thoughts of
Lincoln and Washington. They were dead and gone and had nothing to do
with him. It was no use. It had been a mistake, Jerry realized now, to
revisit the Memorial and the Monument. Something in both places had
pulled against his wanting to run away. Suddenly Jerry realized that he
couldn't do it. He no longer even wanted to run away. He wanted to go
11. Welcome Home!
It was growing dark by the time Jerry reached home. By now his
family would know for sure that he was no thief, but Jerry knew it was
possible that his father would be angry about the charge account, in
spite of the free box of candy. For a moment Jerry hesitated outside
the door. Then he squared his shoulders and went in.
The whole family were in the kitchen. Jerry saw every eye turned
toward himevery face light up with relief.
Hi, Jerry, where've you been? cried Andy.
I told you he'd come back, said Cathy.
Jerry was so grateful to Cathy for having believed in him even when
things looked bad that he thought he would never again tease her about
reading lovey-dovey books or admiring herself in mirrors.
Oh, Jerry! cried his mother.
Jerry read the relief and welcome in her facethe love for him. He
found that he was no longer angry with his mother. Somewhere on the
long, long walk, his anger had died. He could understand that it had
been no wonder she had believed the worst of himgetting that bill in
the mail and all.
Got anything to eat? he asked her.
We were too worried to eat. None of us has had a bite of dinner.
Mrs. Martin rushed to the stove and clattered pots and pans as she put
things on to reheat.
His father's clear blue eyes were on Jerry. After dinner, he said,
you and I will have a little talk.
Jerry did not look forward to that talk, yet it took more than dread
to spoil his appetite. His mother said that the onions and asparagus
were not as good as when they had been freshly cooked more than two
hours ago. But they tasted fine to Jerry. Nor did he mind that the pot
roast and rolls were reheated. He slathered butter on three rolls and
would have eaten a fourth if he had not seen the necessity of saving
room for a piece of apple pie.
Only Andy bothered Jerry with questions while he was eating. Where
did you go? he asked.
To the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, if you must
know, said Jerry. I walked up but I rode down in the Monument.
Is that all you did? asked Andy.
I just walked around.
Walking around gave you a good appetite, said Mr. Martin, as he
cut another slice of pot roast for Jerry's plate. A good thing you
don't walk around five or six hours every day or I might not be able to
pay the grocery bill.
Jerry winced. He knew his father meant paying cash for groceries,
not a grocery bill. His father did not have billsnever charged
things. Looking at his father's firm mouth and chin, Jerry wondered how
he could have expected to win his father over to having a charge
account. Parents were the way they were and stayed that way. Especially
his father. It would take much more than half a pound of candy to make
him change his mind about charge accounts, Jerry now fully realized.
Mr. Martin said he and Jerry would have their talk down in the
recreation room. Jerry noticed his mother and Cathy looked worried.
Maybe they expected his father to give him a beating. Jerry was a
little worried about that prospect himself.
Jerry saw Pedro watching them as he and his father sat down on the
Has Pedro talked any more? Jerry asked.
Stop gawking at that parrot and pay attention to me, said Jerry's
You had your mother worried sick.
Jerry said he was sorry.
Did you stay out so long on purpose to worry her?
Jerry said that had not been the reason at all. He confessed that he
had intended to run away to Florida but had changed his mind and come
Mr. Martin's sternness softened. A good many boys run away from
home, he said. The luckiest ones are those who come back before they
have run too far. It was this charge account business you were running
away from, wasn't it?
Partly. Jerry could not tell his father that his mother's lack of
belief in his honesty had had more to do with his running away. Jerry
did not want to remember how his mother had looked at him. He hoped
never to bring an expression like that to her face again.
The worst thing about your scheme for the charge account was that
you were handling money that belonged to somebody else without his
permission, said Jerry's father.
You mean Mr. Bartlett. It was his money but I don't see why
It was not then Mr. Bartlett's money but mine. You contracted a
debt in my name and withheld money that had been entrusted to you.
The way his father put it made Jerry feel that he had done something
nearly bad enough for him to be put in jail.
I was just trying to prove that it pays to have a charge account at
Bartlett's, said Jerry.
You knew very well that I don't have charge accounts or intend to
What's the sin about charging things?
No sin, of course. I didn't say it was. It's a person's right to
charge anything he wants to. And my right to pay cash, since I prefer
to do business that way.
I guess that wasn't a good idea of mine, said Jerry.
Mr. Bartlett is a little to blame for what you did, said Mr.
Martin. I went to his store and told him in no uncertain terms that I
did not think it fair for a storekeeper to reward credit customers and
do nothing for even better cash customers.
So is he going to stop giving candy to people when they pay their
No. He says he's sentimental about that old family custom. But he
saw the justice of my argument. He has decided to give the equivalent
of a two per cent discount in produce to any customer whose cash
receipts for a month are more than fifty dollars.
What does that meanin produce?
Well, it could be a bag of potatoes or a box of candy. That's
entirely up to your mother.
Not bad. Not bad at all, said Jerry.
You can wipe that self-satisfied expression right off your face,
young man, said Jerry's father. Taking things in your own hands and
deciding what I should do with my money was wrong and you know
it. You do know it, don't you?
Jerry said he could see now that it had not been the right thing to
When I think of all the time and effort you put in for half a pound
of candywell, I can only hope that someday you'll work as hard at
Jerry wished his father would hurry up and say what his punishment
was to be.
Considering that there are extenuating circumstances, I am letting
you off easy, said his father. No baseball games for you for the rest
of the season. Either at the ball park or on television.
Not even the World Series on television?
Not even the World Series.
The punishment did not seem light to Jerry. He was crushed. Can't I
even play baseball?
Jerry's father considered the question. Suppose we confine the
restriction to looking at professional baseball.
Jerry sighed in relief. That was not quite as bad. What are you
going to do with that box of candy? he dared ask.
I suppose you expected to gorge yourself on it.
I was going to pass it around, said Jerry. And take a few pieces
over to the Bullfinches. He's been awfully nice to me.
As long as you have it, you may as well pass the candy around,
said Mr. Martin. But remember. Don't you ever do such a deceitful
thing again, Jerry Martin.
I won't. Honest.
In the cage by the window, the big green parrot flapped his wings.
Sometimes he does that when he's getting ready to talk, said
The parrot remarked something in Spanish which Jerry did not
understand. Then he said Jerry quite clearly. Jerry! he called in
his loud, hoarse voice. Jerry!
The subdued look on Jerry's face was replaced by a broad smile. I'm
the first one in this family he's called by name, he said to his
It's a good name, said Mr. Martin. Your Grandfather Martin's
name. He made it a name to be proud of. See that you keep it that way.
Jerry said he certainly would try. He really meant to. He and his
father went back upstairs together. Weary though he was, Jerry felt the
relief of having that charge account business off his shoulders. In
spite of being deprived of his beloved ball games, he felt more
lighthearted than he had for weeks. First, he would pass the candy box
to Andy and then to the rest of the family. Then, before taking some
over to the Bullfinches', he would take a green mint down to Pedro.
If he doesn't like it, I'll eat it myself, thought Jerry.