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A Wee Bit O' Penance

Since I played skunk at the picnic over at the agent's blog earlier, I'll do a bit of penance. Here's the winner of his contest for Essential First Page. I assume it's a kid's book and I happen to know that a Big Deal Kidlit Editor (and good guy, amazingly,) at a Certain Major Publisher, reads this blog.

And now, unless he quickly averts his august gaze, he's read the first graphs of the winning entry:

He was carrying a can of soup and needed to make change for a nickel.

I told him if I had a nickel, or five pennies amounting to a nickel, I’d be out behind the old school house with my brother’s friends, gambling on dice. You need two nickels for a Coca-Cola and a Clark Bar, and one really ain’t worth having with out the other.

He chuckled in that old man way, which seemed inviting enough, so I asked him what the heck he was doing with that can of soup anyway. He said, “Oh, nothin’,” and went on his way.

Over dinner I asked if anybody’d seen an old man wandering around town with a can of soup. My daddy said, “You ought to try reading a book some time instead of sitting outside Mitchell’s Pharmacy all day, staring at folks.” My mama said, “Sarah Beth, I told you not to talk to strangers.” And Tim, my older brother, he said, “You owe me ten cents. Don’t be spending any more money at Micthell’s ‘till you pay me back.”

I was quiet for a while, mulling it over in my head, wondering about that soup can a little bit but also about the five pennies that would have made nickel-change. Who needs pennies? They make your hands stink like copper. (Although if I’d had ten pennies, I could have paid Tim so he’d get off my back about that loan.)

Mama must have noticed I was quiet, which she called an ‘abnormality,’ so she said to my daddy, “Thomas, why don’t you tell Sarah Beth to leave it alone? There’s no need for her to be off chasin’ a strange man.”

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“A Wee Bit O' Penance”