Hannah Needs Money

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Hannah Maria Estevez watched Mama open her purse. “I was sure I had everything I needed to fix supper,” Mama said. “But when I looked just now, I found out we don’t have enough rice. And I promised Papa I would make him Cuban rice tonight.”

Hannah grinned at the thought of having Cuban rice with no rice. Nope. That wouldn’t work, for sure.

Mama gave Hannah a $5.00 bill. “That should be more than enough money,” she said. “Be careful not to drop the change on your way home.”

Hannah skipped out of the house and down the street. She liked going to the market by herself. She liked living in a safe town like Jacksonville where she could walk some places by herself. Mama didn’t send her alone very often—usually only when Baby Paulo was taking a nap and Mama needed something right away. But going to the market all by herself made Hannah feel like she was truly growing up.

Hannah played imaginary games of hopscotch along the sidewalk. Hop, hop, hop on one foot. Jump on two feet. A one-foot hop. A two-foot jump. And two more one-foot hops.

Very soon she was at the market. Hannah went in the automatic-opening door, and her nose was immediately filled with sweet bakery smells. Frosted cakes and fat cookies filled the glass-fronted counter. Too bad Mama hadn’t told her she could buy herself a cookie.

Hannah walked up and down the aisles and studied the shelves. She wasn’t exactly sure where the bags of rice were located. She could always ask a clerk, of course, but it was sort of like a treasure hunt to find things in the store all by herself.

The rice wasn’t with the cough medicine and aspirin. It wasn’t with the boxes of breakfast cereal either. If she were putting things on a grocery store’s shelves, where would she put rice? Hannah wondered. Next to the beans, of course! Wasn’t that what people ate together—rice and beans?

There they were! Plastic bags of dried beans. Little white navy beans. Streaky brown and white pinto beans. Shiny purplish black beans. Big, flat lima beans. And huge white bags of rice. Where were all the little bags?

“Hello, amiga!” a cheery voice said behind her.

Hannah looked around. It was Mrs. Henry, a friend from church, pushing her grocery cart along.

Hannah smiled. “Hi, Mrs. Henry!” she said. “Can you please help me? I can’t find the little bags of rice.”

Mrs. Henry pushed her glasses up on her nose and gazed through them at the shelves. “Well, now,” she said. “It looks as if they are out of all the small bags. The only rice in stock right now seems to be these 10 pound bags.”

“OK,” Hannah said. “I guess that’s what I’ll have to get then.”

“That much rice should last a while!” Mrs. Henry joked.

Hannah lugged the heavy bag of rice to the checkout line.

“Hey, Cutie!” Fred, the checker, said with a grin. He removed a toothpick from his mouth. “How are you? I haven’t seen you for a while. You haven’t been shopping at any other grocery store, have you?”

Hannah’s cheeks grew pink. “I’m fine,” she said. She did not add that sometimes she and Mama did go to other grocery stores. Fred always teased her when she came to the market. Mama said it was his special way of being friendly.

“That will be $5.98,” Fred announced.

Hannah’s cheeks grew pinker still. She didn’t have that much money in her pocket! What should she do? She bit her lip.

Out of the corner of her eye, Hannah saw Mrs. Henry’s shopping cart roll slowly by. Mrs. Henry peered up each aisle she passed.

“Just a minute!” Hannah whispered. She dashed over to Mrs. Henry and touched her arm. “Mama didn’t give me enough money for one of those big bags of rice,” she said anxiously. “I don’t know what to do.”

Mrs. Henry smiled. “That’s not a great problem,” she reassured Hannah. “How much more money do you need?”

“The bag costs $5.98,” Hannah answered. “I only have $5.00.”

Mrs. Henry unsnapped her big purse. She fished around inside for her wallet. “Here,” she said, “I’ll loan you a dollar. Your mama can pay me back sometime later.”

Hannah gave Mrs. Henry a grateful smile. She put the $5.00 bill and the $1.00 on the counter.

“Two whole pennies change!” Fred said, dropping the shiny copper coins in her hand. “Don’t spend it all in one place!”

Back home, Hannah put the two pennies on the kitchen counter and told Mama what had happened.

“How did you decide what to do when you didn’t have enough money?” Mama asked, busily chopping onions.

“I knew I could come home and get more money and then go back to the market,” Hannah explained. “But I didn’t know if you would have time then to cook the rice before Papa came home. And I knew it would be OK to tell Mrs. Henry my problem because we’ve been studying in Sabbath School about how the church is a place of refuge where we can be safe and cared for. And Mrs. Henry is a friend from church!” Hannah took a deep breath. “I did OK, right?”

Mama laughed. She leaned over and kissed Hannah’s forehead. “You did just the right thing,” she said.

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