The teacher of the first and second graders was Miss Annabelle Claassen, who lived with her father in a little shack at the edge of town.Aunt Lena called her Little Miss ABC because she was no bigger than a thimble and she talked baby talk but Dad said we should call her Miss Claassen, out of respect for our elders.
“Why are we happy?” asked Miss Claassen one day in her fresh, smiling way.
“’Cause it’s almost noon,” said Billy Bauman. Billy Bauman had just come out of the second grade but he was a whole year older than the other kids who had just come out of the second grade. Aunt Lena said this was because he was training to be the village idiot.
Miss Claassen paid no attention to Billy Bauman. She just kept right on smiling and asking, “Why are we happy?”
“Because Jesus wants us to be,” said Margaret Siebert. Margaret Siebert had just come out of the first grade, like Gary Albrecht and me.
“Ri-i-ight,” said Miss Claassen. “Boys and girls, did you hear what Margaret said?”
We knew we were supposed to say Yes, we heard what Margaret said. “What did Margaret say?”
We knew we were supposed to say Because Jesus wants us to be. So we said it.
“What does Jesus want us to be?”
We all said Happy. Everybody except Billy Bauman. He said Outside playing.
The next day Miss Claassen made Gary Albrecht very happy.
She was talking about things like God’s promise and Christ and faith when all of a sudden she reached into her ragged old purse and pulled out a dime. She held it up for the whole class to see. “I have here a shiny new dime,” she said.“I promise to give it to the first boy or girl who comes up and claims it. Now, who wants to claim this shiny new dime?”
I was sitting there trying to figure out what the catch was when Gary Albrecht bounced up from his seat and breezed down the aisle and snatched the dime from Miss Claassen and headed back to his seat, grinning like a coyote in a chicken coop.
“Boys and girls,” said Miss Claassen, “Gary has faith. He believed my promise that I would give him that dime, just for having faith. And he got his reward. Did you see that, children? He got his reward! Let Gary be an example to us.”
Gary Albrecht kept right on grinning.
“Who should be an example for us?” asked Miss Claassen.
“Jesus,” said Billy Bauman.
Miss Claassen paid no attention to Billy and repeated the question,
“Who should be an example for us?”
“Gary,” said the rest of the class.
“Ri-i-i-ght,” said Miss Claassen. Then she asked, “What does Gary have? Why should he be an example for us?”
Everybody said Gary has faith, and that’s why he should be an example to us. Everybody but Billy Bauman. He was busy looking out the window. For the rest of those three weeks I sat in the front row and waited for Miss Annabelle Claassen to reach into her purse and pull out another shiny new dime. But she never did. She’d probably run out of dimes, so I never got a chance to show that I also had faith.This didn’t bother me too much because after the last day of DVBS, Gary Albrecht took me down to the folks’ grocery story and treated us both to a candy bar with the dime he had won from Little Miss ABC.
I chose a Butterfinger and Gary chose a Snickers.