Rebecca liked having family activity night on top of the cinder knoll, but getting there was scary. When Daddy drove the jeep up the steep hillside, the tires dug deeply into the cinders. Yet even so, Rebecca had the feeling they were going to tip over backward. When the family reached the top of the knoll, the smoke and flames shooting up from the campfire near the volcano’s crater seemed to make it come alive.
It’s so pretty up here, Rebecca thought, as she looked out over the countryside. She could see La Verkin and Hurricane snuggled against the hill to the east, their windows reflecting shafts of sunset gold. In the sky, gold-edged clouds turned redder and redder before the sun disappeared.
Eating dutch-oven spuds and burgers on top of a cinder cone was fun, but Rebecca was impatient for the lesson to begin. As she sat with the others, watching the campfire burn low, she asked, “Daddy, when are we going to have our lesson?”
“Tonight is activity night, and I haven’t prepared a lesson,” he replied. “But we can surely have one. What do you think a good subject would be?” he asked Grandma.
“We could talk about repentance,” she suggested.
“What’s repentance?” asked Rebecca.
“It’s when you’ve done something wrong that you’re sorry for,” Leon answered.
Later during the discussion, Rebecca cuddled against Mama, thoughtfully silent. Finally, she sighed and whispered, “Once I did something I’m sorry for. I took some bubble gum that I didn’t pay for.”
“When did you do that?” Mama asked quietly.
“Last winter when I was with you in Graff’s store,” she replied.
“Then you need to do something about it, don’t you?” Mama suggested. Rebecca nodded.
The next day Mama wasn’t feeling well so she let Rebecca do the dishes to earn a little money. Then Rebecca put on her prettiest dress and brushed her hair and ran to Grandma’s house. Slipping inside the kitchen door, she said, “Grandma, will you take me to Hurricane so I can pay for some gum I took?”
“Of course,” Grandma replied. “I’ll be ready in just a minute.”
As they rode to Hurricane, Rebecca said, “When I get to the store can I just run in and put my money on the counter and then come out?”
“No. That wouldn’t be right,” Grandma answered. “No one would know what the money was for”
“That’s what Mama said,” Rebecca told her. Then she added, “She said to tell Sister Graff about it, but I don’t want to. I’m afraid.”
They found the storekeeper in the back of the store when they arrived, going over her books. Grandma spoke first. “Rebecca would like to talk to you.”
“I’m happy to see both of you,” Sister Graff said. “Won’t you sit down?”
Rebecca sat on a chair next to Grandma. In her hand she had been clutching a nickel, but now she nervously turned it over and over in her fingers without speaking. Finally, Grandma said, “Rebecca, tell Sister Graff why we’re here.”
Rebecca’s eyes moistened. “I can’t remember just what I wanted to say,” she hedged.
“What is the nickel for?” Grandma prompted.
Rebecca quickly thrust the nickel into Sister Graff’s hand. “Here,” she said. “I took some bubble gum without paying for it.”
“You did right to come tell me about it,” Sister Graff said kindly.
“I was just this old when I did it,” Rebecca continued, holding up four fingers. “I wouldn’t do it now because I’m five.” Then impulsively she added, “I only took a penny’s worth, but I want you to have the whole nickel.”
“I can only take a penny for a penny’s worth of gum,” Sister Graff replied. “I will give you your change.” Taking one of Rebecca’s hands in hers, she patted it tenderly. “Remembering this day will help you always to do right. Thank you for coming.”
Rebecca breathed a sigh of relief. The telling was over and the gum paid for. She didn’t want to ever feel that bad again. Lighthearted, she skipped as she followed Sister Graff to the checkout counter. Sister Graff rang up a one-cent sale on the cash register and placed four pennies in Rebecca’s hand. “Thank you,” she said, and smiled.
Looking at Grandma, Rebecca declared, “I want to spend two of my pennies.” She picked out two pieces of bubble gum and paid for them. She gave one to Grandma and popped the other into her own mouth. As they drove home, she chattered between chewing and blowing little bubbles that plopped and popped.
“I like the paid-for gum the best, Grandma,” she said happily.