Kansas – 1860
“It’s just plain dumb.”
Two boys shuffled their way home from school, down a dusty lane toward their respective farm homes.
“Jed, Miss Bixby don’t give assignments just to give ’em. She gives ’em hopin’ her students will learn somethin’.”
“Still say it’s dumb.”
There was a roll of dark eyes. “Look, all you have to do is take the list of words you copied from the blackboard, look ’em up in the dictionary she loaned ya, an’ then use each one of ’em in a sentence.”
“That’s my point.”
“What’s your point?”
“It’s HER dictionary. How come she don’t look ’em up herself?”
“‘Cause SHE already knows what they mean! She wants you to know too! Here, sit down. I’ll help ya.” Han directed Jed to a shady spot under a tree near the Miller farm, a neighbor of the Heyes and Curry families. “It’s not as hard as you think. What’s the first word on the list?”
“Okay, consequence. You know what that means?”
“Yeah. A trip to the woodshed with Pa,” Jed began.
“No. That might BE a consequence, but it ain’t what the word means.”
“What’s it mean then?”
“That’s what the dictionary is for. Look it up.”
Jed searched. “Here it is. Consequence. Noun. 1. a result or effect of some previous occurrence 2. an unpleasant result,” he read.
“There ya go. That’s the definition. Now, use consequence in a sentence.”
“Okay. How ’bout…,” A seven-year-old brow wrinkled. “When my sister put the dough in the oven, biscuits was the consequence.”
“Well, biscuits may have been the result, I suppose, but hardly a consequence.”
“Did you taste ’em?”
“Trust me, Han. They was an unpleasant result.”
“Trust ME, Jed, that’s not the kind of sentence Miss Bixby is looking for. Try again and this time, think of a consequence as being…” Hannibal brought a finger to his chin. “A consequence is more like, reaping the fruits of your actions or getting your just deserts. Understand?”
The younger boy nodded, distractedly. Then, he tipped his head in the direction of Miller’s pond. “I don’t wanna do this now. Let’s go for a swim! Wanna?”
An hour later, two half-nekkid boys lay drying in the grass, munching on strawberries they had picked from a bush near the swimming hole.
“Try again, Jed,” Han suggested, licking juicy fingers. “Try makin’ a sentence with consequence in it.”
“When you eat strawberries, your tongue turns red.”
“Right! That’s a consequence, but you didn’t use the word in your sentence.”
“I wasn’t doin’ homework, I was statin’ a fact. Your tongue’s red. I can see it when ya talk.”
“Sheesh! Forget it. You can do your own homework.”
“Sorry, Han. I’ll try again.”
“No. I don’t feel like it anymore.” The older boy yawned and closed his eyes, enjoying the feel of sun on his face. Soon, its cozy warmth had him dozing.
When he finally woke, Han was alone. Next to him, his books were stacked neatly, and on top was a note, two strawberries and a freshly baked cookie.
Dear Han, the note read.
Had to go home and do chores. You was sleeping so I didn’t want to wake you. Here’s some fruits I reaped for you and a just dessert I swiped out of Mrs. Miller’s kitchen window. The consequences of her baking is better than my sister’s.
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