Angie and Pen Have a New Problem
Mom was busy setting the table for supper as the girls raced through the door. After a minute, she looked up and studied the girls. "You have red leaves in your hair, Angie. And Pen, you have a red feather behind your ear."
Angie glanced at Pen. "We've been in the woods, Mom," she said, thinking, I haven't told a lie.
"Yeah," Pen piped up, tooting her whistle once.
"Red leaves at this time of year. How funny, they look like autumn leaves."
The girls looked at each other. Neither knew what to say. But their mom's attention was soon drawn to something else. "Spots!" she exclaimed. "Red spots on both your nice white shirts."
"Uh-oh," said Pen, looking down, seeing the remaining half-dozen or so silver-dollar sized red spots, a bit faded now.
"Isn't that weird, Mom?" Angie said, wishing she and Pen had remembered to wear their sweaters. "I noticed them, too. First on Pen, then on me."
"Like shirts with measles!" Pen said, trying to distract her mother with some humor.
Their mother wasn't amused. "Those shirts were expensive, girls. They're ruined. You should stay out of the woods if you're going to come back such a mess."
"I don't know, Mom," Angie said, looking down at the pale red spots on her shirt. "I think they're kind of pretty."
"Angie, swear you're becoming as silly as your sister."
The girls didn't mind their mother's temper. They were too glad she wasn't trying to explain their spotted shirts. What could they tell her? If they told her the truth, she'd never believe it. If they told their father such a wild story, he might even punish them for lying.
At dinner, Dad told Pen she'd received a late birthday gift from her great-aunt Beatrice, who lived in Philadelphia.
"Wherever that is," said Pen.
"It's true," Dad said, "you've never been there. In fact, you girls have never been on a trip to any place far away."
Angie looked at Pen and Pen tried not to giggle.
"Your great-aunt Bea sent you ten dollars," Dad said.
"With a note," Mom added, "that said, 'Dear Pen, Have some fun for your birthday.'"
"Hey! We can go uptown tomorrow, Ange, and buy me something neat."
"Sure," said Angie. "Think about what you want and tomorrow we'll go get it."
After dinner, when the dishes were washed, Mom said to the girls, "Why don't you two go up and get changed for bed. It's late and anyway I can't stand looking at those awful spotted shirts."
"Oh, Mom," Angie said. "That's rude, saying that. I like this shirt."
"Yeah, Mom," Pen said. "Me, too. You'd think you'd been to rudity land."
"What?" Mom said.
"She's just making a joke," said Angie. "We'll go change."
The girls flew up the stairs, giggling. "Why did you say that to Mom?" Angie chastised Pen in a whisper.
The next morning, the girls got up early and walked into town in order to be at The Surprise Shop, Pen's favorite store, soon after it opened. The store quickly filled with parents who were buying things for their kids. As soon as Pen started looking, she saw a sticker book with a great cover. Beside it were rolls and rolls of super-nice stickers of animals and rainbows and planets. "I'm getting this book and some stickers," she said.
Angie looked at the book. "This sticker book costs seven dollars and nineteen cents and the stickers are twelve cents each. That won't leave you any money."
"So what," Pen said. "I like this stuff."
"Are you sure you need so many stickers?" Angie asked. "You'll spend most of your money."
"They don't cost much," Pen said.
"Let's figure it out," Angie said.
"Forget it," said Pen. They're not expensive. I'm buying them. I want all of them. I like them. Then I want to go to the dime store for some candy."
Pen got in line behind one woman and one man. They both took a long time to buy their things. Just as her turn at the counter was coming, another woman came up beside her and set three yo-yos on the counter. "I'll charge these," she said to the salesgirl.
The salesgirl glanced at Pen, but turned to help the woman.
"Hey, hey," Pen said under her breath.
"I know," Angie said, standing beside her. "But don't make a scene."
By then a man was standing behind the woman with the yo-yos. The instant the woman finished, he said to the salesgirl, "I'm in a terrific rush. I've got a meeting across town in ten minutes."
The salesgirl started to ring up his purchases.
"That's not fair," Pen muttered.
"Forget it," Angie calmed her. "You'll be next."
"I've already been next twice. I'm gonna tell that salesgirl to get lost."
"Don't," said Angie.
"I don't know. It's rude, I guess."
Both girls heard the word Angie had used. Rude. The word made them remember and it made them think.
"I know what to do," said Pen.
No one came up to the counter after the man and the salesgirl finally took Pen's stickers and album. "You know," Pen said to her politely, but loud and clear, "I was in line before that man and before the woman with the yo-yos."
The salesgirl looked troubled. "I know," she said. "You're right. Totally. I should have waited on you first. Next time, I promise to do that and I'm going to give you five stickers for free to apologize."
Pen smiled and turned to Angie. "Wow," she said softly.
Angie nodded emphatically. "That was great," she said as the two of them walked away.
"C'mon," Pen said, putting away the few coins she'd gotten back. "Let's go across to the dime store. I like that store, too."
At the dime store, Angie saw a three-ring loose leaf notebook she liked. It had a beautiful green leather cover, the color of trees in early spring.
"Why don't you buy it," Pen asked. "You've got money."
"I don't know. I'm saving," Angie said, looking at the notebook with longing.
"What are you saving for?" Pen asked.
"I don't know," Angie said. "College I guess. I just shouldn't spend the money."
"That's silly," Pen said, scrunching up her eyes in puzzlement at her sister. "You've got a whole wallet full of money and nothing to save for. You should buy it."
Pen's eyes fell on a Barbie outfit, a dark-blue velvet dress and a pearl necklace. "That's sooo pretty," she said, her voice hushed with appreciation.
"You don't have the money," said Angie.
"I might," said Pen, digging in her pocket, but finding only the two quarters and a dime she'd gotten in change. "That's not enough, is it?" she said to Angie, knowing it wasn't.
Angie shook her head. "Not even close."
"Darn," said Pen. "I love that. It's so beautiful. I didn't really need the sticker book. My other one's not full. I like this better."
"You should've saved your money," said Angie.
"Oh, forget it," Pen said angrily. She put down the outfit and ran out of the store.
Angie found Pen sitting on the curb in front of the dime store, her chin resting on her hand. Angie sat down beside her.
"What would you have done?" Pen asked. But before her sister could answer, Pen answered for her. "I know, you would have saved your money, every penny. But doing that wouldn't have done me any good either. Then I wouldn't have the sticker book or the outfit. Just the dumb money."
"But then you would have the money later," Angie said weakly, not sure her argument made much more sense than Pen's.
"But what about now?" asked Pen. "I wouldn't have any fun now and Aunt Bea said the money was for fun for my birthday."
"That's true," said Angie, still thinking about the green notebook. "She did say that."
Neither girl knew the solution. They walked home sadly.