I slunk back into school, face aflame. The rest of that Friday crawled by. Finally the last bell rang. As I was pulling on my galoshes I felt a hand on my shoulder. "Is something wrong?" I looked up into Miss Heacock's emerald eyes. "You seemed awfully quiet this afternoon." "I'm okay," I stammered. My mind had been struggling with the Violet problem all afternoon. I had reached a possible solution; I wouldn't get Violet anything. Since we were maintaining secrecy, no one would know. "Maybe," I said, "i won't be able to get a present. My father makes me earn all of my spending money," I lied, "and might not have a quarter to buy a present." A look of concern came over Miss Heacock's face. "If you can't afford a quarter, I 'll give you one. It will be our secret."
I trudged home through the snow. No other brilliant escapes from the situation entered my mind. Christmas was the following Thursday, and the party would be on Tuesday. I had only three days to find a way out of my misery. Perhaps I could become sick, but that path was fraught with peril, since my mother made us stay in bed all day when we were sick, and i might be in bed Christmas Day if she suspected I was really not sick. At last I reached home. The house smelled wonderful. I could tell my mother had been baking bread. I hurried to the kitchen in hopes of melting gobs of butter on a slice of warm bread. My mother greeted me. " Miss Heacock phoned. I'm sure your father and I can come up with a quarter for a Christmas present." My heart sank into my galoshes. Now there was no way out.
Saturday morning it was snowing. My mother exulted about a white Christmas while I pulled on my snowsuit and galoshes and prepared for the four-block trek to the Economy Drug Store. My mother game me a quarter and a dime"just in case" and sent me off to do my Christmas shopping. I took time to investigate everything along the way, prolonging the inevitable as long as possible.
Since the previous evening, I had been contemplating what to buy for Violet. Nothing seemed really appropriate. As I wondered up and down the aisles of the Economy Drug, galoshes squeaking mournfully, I discovered my choices were somewhat narrowed by the twenty-five-cent limit. I considered purchasing five nickel candy bars but discarded that idea, since Violet probably liked candy bars. As I reached the end of the counter, I saw the gift, and a terrible plan exploded full-blown in my mind. Not only did I see the gift, but I knew how I would present it to Violet. There on the shelf were small, crown-shaped bottles of cologne. I selected one from the display and twisted off the lid. Years later when I read novels that used the phrase"she reeked of cheap perfume," my mind always flashed back to the first whiff of cologne from that bottle in the Economy Drug. It had only one redeeming feature. It cost a quarter.