Juanito Finds a Way


Juanito tried to brush the dirt off his torn shirt. “Why did I have to lose my temper again?” he muttered to himself.

As he made his way down the path, he could see his mother and sister gathering vegetables from the family garden behind the house. Nearby, his grandmother was sitting on a bench under an orange tree working busily on her nanduti (lace).

Hola, Juanito!” his mother said as she walked toward the house with a basket full of vegetables. “Why are you so late today?”

“I’m sorry, Mama, I’ll try not to be late again,” replied Juanito. He turned away quickly and hurried into the house to change his clothes before she noticed his torn and dirty shirt.

“Oh, Juanito, you’ve been fighting again!” his mother said crossly when she saw his swollen cheek. “When will you learn that fighting is not the way to settle your problems? Come into the house and let me put some salve on your face while you tell me what happened this time.”

“We were playing soccer after school,” Juanito began, “when some older boys came along and started pushing everyone out of the game. Carlos and Pablo left, but I decided I would not be a coward. So each time they knocked me down I got up again. Then one time when the ball was not even near me, Roberto tripped me and I fell into a puddle of mud.”

“Oh, Juanito, I’m sorry,” sighed his mother.

“Roberto just stood there laughing at me and calling me names, and before I knew it I hit him. Then all the others were after me,” Juanito explained.

Mama only frowned as she applied salve to Juanito’s face. “There,” she said at last. “I’m finished. Now Juanito, I want you to promise me that you will not fight again. Fighting is not the way to settle a problem.”

“I’ll try, Mama, but it won’t be easy,” Juanito replied softly.

Soon after the family turned their attention to preparing the vegetables to be taken to market the next morning. As he worked, Juanito thought about Señor Benet, the village baker, who had asked Juanito to sell his bread in the market for him.

Early the next morning Juanito dressed in clean white clothes. He combed his hair carefully and hurried to Señor Benet’s shop. The basket of round flat bread was still fragrant and warm.

“I know you will do well, Juanito,” said Señor Benet.

“Thank you,” Juanito answered. “I’ll see you this evening with an empty basket,” he called as he hurried to catch up with his family.

When they reached the plaza, everyone was setting out their wares, but Juanito decided that he would make better sales if he moved through the crowd.

Pan del dia (fresh bread)! Pan del dia!” he called as he walked along. By the time the sun had risen high in the sky, he had sold nearly half of the loaves.

It is hot, thought Juanito, wiping his forehead. I think I’ll rest in the shade for a few minutes.

Hola, Juanito!” came a voice from the crowd. “What are you doing and what have you got there in your basket?”

Juanito looked up into the face of Roberto.

“I’m selling this bread for Señor Benet,” Juanito replied.

“Bread! Is that bread?” asked Roberto, picking up a round flat loaf. “It does not look like bread. See how it flies through the air like a bird!”

With a quick twist of his wrist, Roberto tossed the bread so that it floated down the street.

“Stop!” cried Juanito. “You must not do that!”

Roberto was laughing so hard he could not hear. He reached for another loaf and sent it sailing.

Clenching his fists, Juanito stepped toward him. Then he seemed to hear again his mother’s words, “Fighting is not the way to settle a problem.”

When Roberto reached for another loaf, Juanito paused a moment and then stepped back and began to laugh. His laugh was soft at first and then it grew louder and louder, until all those nearby began to stop to see what was happening.

Looking toward the crowd, Juanito said in a loud voice, “See this Roberto! He buys bread to throw away. Watch how he does it.”

Juanito picked up a loaf and handed it to Roberto. “Go ahead! Throw as many as you like. I will keep count, and you may pay me when you have finished.”

“Pay you?” muttered Roberto. “I’ll not pay …” he began. Then he noticed all the people who had gathered around them. “Oh, yes, of course,” he stammered. “Let me see—I owe you for three loaves.”

Roberto reached into his pocket and opened his wallet.

“Here is your money,” he said gruffly. Then he turned and disappeared into the crowd.

“Pan del dia! Pan del dia!” Juanito began to call again. Soon all the bread was gone, and he made his way to where his mother and father were waiting to go home.

“Such a fine salesman,” said Señor Benet when Juanito handed him the money. “From now on you will take all my bread to market.”

Juanito whistled as he hurried down the trail, listening to the coins he had earned jingle in his pocket. “Mama was right,” he said to himself. “Fighting is not the way to settle a problem—especially if I can let my head work instead of my fists!”

[illustration] Illustrated by Dale Kilbourne