Teddy pounded up the stairs and right past Cecil. “What’s up?” yelled Cecil as his big brother ran by. Teddy didn’t answer, so Cecil followed him into the bedroom, where Teddy was already shaking his robot bank as hard as he could. A nickel fell out, and the rattling stopped.
“Rats,” said Teddy.
“Rats, what?” asked Cecil.
“A nickel’s no good.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” said Cecil. “I wouldn’t mind having a nickel. I’d give it to Freddy Jackson so he’d let me play with his toad. Did you know that toads don’t really give you warts?”
“I’m not interested in warts,” said Teddy. “Or toads. I’m interested in Mother’s Day.”
“Mother’s Day? I’d rather talk about toads. Did you know—”
“Listen a minute, will you?” interrupted Teddy. “Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. We need to get a present for Mom, and all I have is a crummy nickel!” Teddy looked at his brother. “Cecil, old pal,” he said, “you’ll help me out, won’t you? After all, who’s your best friend if it isn’t your own brother?”
“Freddy Jackson,” Cecil answered promptly. “He lets me play with his toad.”
“Listen, Cecil, this isn’t for me; it’s for Mom. Maybe I’m not your best friend, but she’s a good mom, isn’t she?”
“Yeah,” agreed Cecil. “She is. So what do you want?”
“Money for a present, of course,” said Teddy. “How much do you have?”
“None,” Cecil answered.
“None? What about that dollar you earned last week?”
“Already? What did you do with it?”
“Ten cents for tithing and fifty cents for ice cream that I just happened to share with my big brother.” Cecil looked hard at Teddy.
“Oh, yeah,” said Teddy, scuffing his toe on the carpet. “I forgot about that. But that still leaves forty cents.”
Cecil shook his head. “Twenty-five cents for a glider. The one you accidently stepped on.”
“Oh,” said Teddy, scuffing his toe harder. “Sorry about that. But what about the last fifteen cents?”
“Three turns with Freddy Jackson’s toad,” answered Cecil. “Have you ever seen a toad catch flies? He sticks out his tongue and—”
“So all we have is a lousy nickel,” interrupted Teddy. “What can we get Mom with a nickel?”
“Well …” Cecil said. Suddenly his face brightened. “Hey! Maybe she’d like to play with Freddy Jackson’s toad.”
“You have to be joking,” said Teddy. “Now think!” He paced around the room with his face all scrunched up, thinking.
After a minute Cecil said, “Maybe we could earn some money.”
“But it’s already Saturday afternoon,” Teddy pointed out. “By the time we earn any money, the stores will all be closed. And Mother’s Day is tomorrow.”
“Maybe we could cut some flowers from the garden,” suggested Cecil.
“Oh, great,” said Teddy. “I’m sure Mom would just love a present she grew herself. You’re full of wonderful ideas, aren’t you?”
“At least I’m trying,” said Cecil. “I don’t hear much coming from you.”
Now both boys were pacing the floor.
“Hey!” Teddy yelped a couple minutes later, stopping so suddenly that Cecil ran into him. “I do have an idea! Listen.” He bent over and whispered into Cecil’s ear.
Cecil’s forehead wrinkled while he thought. Finally he smiled. “Not bad,” he said, “but we’ll have to keep it a secret. A secret Mother’s Day present.”
The next morning Cecil woke up, hopped out of bed, and jumped on top of Teddy. “Good morning!” he said loudly, right in his brother’s ear.
“Good morning, yourself,” muttered Teddy as he tried to roll over to go back to sleep. Cecil hit him with a pillow. Teddy laughed, and the boys wrestled until all the covers were on the floor. When Teddy stopped laughing enough to talk, he said, “Do you remember our secret present for Mom?”
“Yup,” said Cecil.
“This is going to be fun,” said Teddy.
“Yup,” said Cecil.
“Is ‘Yup’ all you can say?” asked Teddy.
The boys washed, dressed for church, and straightened their room. They were making breakfast when Mom walked into the kitchen.
“What’s going on?” she asked. “Why are you boys up already? And washed and dressed and even making breakfast? What’s the occasion?”
“Why, nothing,” said Cecil, setting the table as casually as if he had done it every day of his life.
After breakfast the boys did the dishes. Then the family went to church. Teddy and Cecil sat quietly all through the meetings. Cecil didn’t even giggle when Freddy Jackson passed him a picture he had drawn of a toad that looked like Teddy.
On the way home Mom said to Dad, “Did you ever see two better-behaved boys in church?”
“Never,” agreed Dad.
Teddy and Cecil smiled at each other.
As soon as they got home, the boys changed into playclothes and put away their Sunday clothes. “Now,” said Teddy, “I’ll set the table while you help Mom in the kitchen.”
“OK,” said Cecil.
“And remember,” Teddy warned, “don’t give away our secret.”
“Who, me?” said Cecil as he ran downstairs.
During dinner, the boys were very polite. They said, “please” and “thank you” and ate all their vegetables. No one spilled anything or argued or teased. Finally Mom asked if they were feeling all right.
“Of course,” said Teddy.
“We’re fine,” said Cecil. “By the way, we’ll wash the dishes, Mom.”
“Now I know they’re sick!” Dad said with a laugh.
That evening Dad came into the family room, where Mom was reading. “I think you’d better look at something,” he said.
“What’s wrong?” asked Mom, jumping up quickly.
“Nothing, I just want you to see this. I think it’s a Mother’s Day present.”
Mom and Dad walked into the living room. In the middle of the floor was a bumpy-looking mound covered by a striped sheet with a bow on top.
“What on earth … ,” Mom began.
“I told you,” Dad said. “A Mother’s Day present.”
Just then something under the sheet squirmed.
“A squirmy Mother’s Day present,” said Mom.
Then something giggled.
“A squirmy, giggly Mother’s Day present,” said Dad.
Then something else went, “Sssh!”
“A squirmy, giggly, sssh-y Mother’s Day present,” said Mom. “This I must see.”
She pulled off the sheet. Teddy and Cecil were huddled together on the floor, grinning.
“Surprise!” they said together. “Happy Mother’s Day! We’re your Mother’s Day present,” said Teddy, “the two good boys you always want us to be. Today we did everything we could to be good and make you happy. Aren’t we a good present?”
“The best I’ve ever had,” said Mom, giving them both a hug.