The Last Coin


“Here we are, girls.” Mrs. Johnson stopped the car in front of a large, weathered cabin.

Teresa hopped out and dashed to the cabin ahead of the others. “Hey!” she shouted. “We have Jeanne for a counselor again.”

Laura picked up her suitcase and started up the path as Jeanne appeared in the doorway.

“Hi, Laura. I’m glad you and Teresa are in my cabin again.”

“I just hope I don’t get homesick this year.” Laura smiled at her counselor.

“You won’t. The first year is always the hardest,” Jeanne told her. “Have you girls decided which classes you’re going to take?”

“Yes,” answered Teresa, “but the only one we’ll have together is swimming.”

The girls quickly settled in and were eager to start the week’s activities. After breakfast the next morning, they went their separate ways, agreeing to meet at the pool for swimming class. The class was a routine swimming lesson until the last twenty minutes, when the girls worked in pairs to complete their badge requirements. The first one required each person to drop ten coins onto the bottom of the pool and then pick them up one at a time by diving for them from the surface.

“I’ll be first,” Teresa volunteered. She took the coins and dropped them into the water. Diving into the pool, she quickly came to the surface, triumphantly holding her first coin. After ten dives, she had retrieved all ten coins.

“I’ll bet you can’t do it in ten dives,” she challenged Laura.

Laura dropped the coins into the water. Taking a deep breath, she dove for the bottom of the pool. A few seconds later her head popped out of the water, and she grabbed the side of the pool. “Missed by an inch,” she gasped.

Teresa sighed, “You’ll have to do better than that, or we’ll be here all day.”

“I’ll get one this time.” Laura’s second dive was successful, but after twelve dives, she had only nine coins.

“Only one more,” she puffed as she rested her head against the edge of the pool. “I’ll get it this time.” Laura dove for the bottom but came up empty-handed.

“Did you miss again? If we don’t hurry, we’ll be the last ones in the lunch line.” Teresa turned abruptly, dove to the bottom of the pool, and picked up the tenth coin. “Here,” she said, “you were close enough. Nobody will know the difference anyway. Let’s go eat.”

“Teresa! Wait a minute. We can’t do that!”

Laura’s objection dissolved in the breeze, for Teresa was already approaching the swimming teacher.

“Laura and I finished our first badge requirement,” Teresa said as she handed the coins to the instructor.

Laura slowly climbed out of the pool and followed Teresa, keeping her eyes down as she passed the instructor. She grabbed her towel and ran out the gate but slowed to a walk as Teresa disappeared around a bend in the trail. Reaching the swinging bridge, Laura leaned over the wooden railing and stared down at the clear stream. Her unhappy reflection stared back.

“What’s taking you so long?” Teresa stood at the end of the bridge.

“I’m coming.”

Later that day Laura went to the pool to practice her swimming. After standing beside the pool for several minutes, she suddenly squared her shoulders and approached the lifeguard’s chair. “This morning Teresa helped me with my diving,” she said. “I want to do it over again.”

The lifeguard looked up. “OK,” she said. “The coins are on the table.”

Laura picked up the coins and walked slowly back to the pool. Teresa’s probably right, she thought. Nobody cares anyway. But she threw the coins into the pool and began diving. Finally all ten coins lay beside her on the edge of the pool. The lifeguard nodded briefly as Laura returned the coins to the table and ran out the gate. When she reached the cabin, Teresa was there.

“How was swimming?” she asked.

“Just fine,” Laura answered. Smiling to herself, she thought, Teresa was wrong. It does make a difference to somebody. It makes a difference to me.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch