The narrative is conducted on behalf of an eleven-year-old boy who finds himself face to face with a harsh life. His mother had three children, and he was the eldest. After the end of the fifth grade, he is sent to the district center, to continue his studies. He lives with a friend of his mother.
In the village the boy was considered literate. He wrote for the old women and read them letters. In addition, the village believed that he had a happy eye: collective farmers carried him their bonds, and sometimes the boy found a number of bonds in the table of winnings of one of his acquaintances. Because of this, the neighbors told the mother that her son was brainy, we must teach him. His mother collected him and, contrary to all the misfortunes, she sent to the district school. The boy also studied well there, because he did not yet know how to relate to the task entrusted to him through his sleeves, and he had no other business. But only French he was not given at all. And in everything was guilty pronunciation – the words he uttered in the manner of village tongue twisters. Lydia Mikhailovna, a French teacher, listened helplessly and closed her eyes.
The worst thing for a boy started when he returned from school. Because of homesickness and constant malnutrition, he lost a lot of weight, so that his mother, once coming, was frightened for him. She once a week sent with a driver, Uncle Vanya, potatoes for her son, but the good half of her somewhere disappeared. The child guessed that he was being dragged, but who was doing this, the landlady or one of her children, was afraid to even think.
In the village from the famine rescued the forest, fishing. And here all the other’s vegetable gardens, another’s land. And all I could do was wait until Mom’s messenger, Uncle Vanya, knocked on the door.
Once Fedka, the son of the hostess, asked the boy if he could play “chiku”. And he explained that this is a game for money. But since there was no money for either one or the other, they went to see how others play. In a flock of boys stood out Vadik, a strong guy with a big red bangs. The boy remembered that he was in seventh grade.
The game did not represent anything complicated. It was necessary to throw a stone washer on a pile of coins so as to turn the coins upside down with an eagle. Turned – your, keep on, no – give this right to the next one. But the most important thing was considered even at the throw to cover the puck coin, and if at least one of them was on the eagle, the whole cash register passed into the pocket of the thrower, and the game began again.
Of course, Vadik was cunning in the game, but no one dared to tell him about it.
The boy did not have money. And only sometimes the mother put a five on the milk in his letter. The next five he exchanged for small change and went to the dump, where they played. At first, he let down a lot of money, but felt that he was adjusting to the game.
At last the boy began to win constantly, he played until he got a ruble. He bought himself milk for this ruble. Vadik treated his winnings calmly – he himself did not remain vnaklade, but somehow stopped the boy, saying that he too quickly leaves the game. Now he was allowed to throw the coin in the last place, but he still won and soon beat better than Vadik. To be better than a leader is not forgiven. Once Vadik began to cheat, a fight started. Beaten, barely moving his legs, the hero got home.
The next day he looked with fear at himself in the mirror: his face was bruised and bruised. And the first lesson, as luck would have it, was French. Lydia Mikhailovna, as a class teacher, was interested in children much longer than other teachers. “There... are wounded among us today,” she said. The class chuckled and Tishkin said treacherously: “This is Vadik from the seventh class who brought him money, and he started arguing and earned money, I saw him.” And he says he fell. ” The narrator understood perfectly well that they could be kicked out of school for such words. But Lydia Mikhailovna only called Tishkin to talk to the board, and told the hero to stay after the lessons.
Most of all the schoolboy was afraid that he would be taken to the director. This meant that the next day on the line Vasily Andreevich before all will ask: “What prompted him to such dirty business?”
But the meeting with Lidia Mikhailovna was not so terrible. She did not complain to the director, but only asked the boy why he was playing.
In the autumn, the driver, Uncle Vanya, stopped going to the regional center, and there was no one to carry parcels with food from his mother. The boy was starving. I had to go back to Vadik and Ptah. Several times he won, but only a little. And when he wanted to leave with the ruble, he was beaten again. In the lesson of the French, Lydia Mikhailovna called him to the blackboard and made him read French words that he hated, and then decided to study with him separately.
The boy was waiting longingly for those hours when he had to be alone with Lidia Mikhailovna. And he felt very uncomfortable.
Soon the teacher decided that at school they had too little time for classes – the second shift came. So she began to force the boy to come to her house, where he was so embarrassed that at first he could hardly breathe, he “had to move like a thing and almost forcefully extract” words from it.
One day the boy was informed that a parcel had come to him, a man had brought her. “Probably, Uncle Vanya,” he decided. The parcel was a box. Inside it were pasta, hematogen. Well, where could the mother get pasta? The boy at once guessed that this was the work of his class teacher. He immediately took the parcel of Lydia Mikhailovna and did not agree to take it, despite her persuasions.
Since that time, the teacher really took up his job. Also was sense. French began to be given easier and easier, all hard-spoken words did not seem so terrible.
One day, Lidia Mikhailovna told the student how in her childhood she had played money with other children in the “wall”, and offered to play with her. The boy agreed. First, Lydia Mikhailovna always won, but then the hero noticed that she was giving in to him. He was offended at first and left. But the next day they played again. Now the boy was watching that the teacher did not give in to him, and he won for real. Since then, money began to appear for milk again.
But one day, when Lydia Mikhailovna and her student argued about the account, the director suddenly appeared at the door. The teacher boldly and calmly told him that she was playing with her student for money.
“Do you play for money with this?” Vasily Andreevich pointed at me with a finger, and I crawled over the partition with fear to hide in the room. “Do you play with the pupil?” “Did I understand you correctly?” “That’s right.” “Well, you know… “The director was panting, he did not have enough air.” “I’m losing my name at once, it’s a crime.” “Growing up.” “Seduction.” And yet… I’ve been working in school for twenty years, I’ve seen everything, but this… “
Soon Lydia Mikhailovna went to the Kuban, to her home. And the narrator never saw her again.
“In the winter, after the January holidays, a parcel came to school by mail, when I opened it, bringing again the ax from under the stairs, – neat tubes of macaroni lay neat, dense rows in it. And down in a thick wadded wrapper I found three of red apples.
I used to see apples only in pictures, but I guessed that they were “!”