Narration in the story is from the first person. The action takes place in 1948.
The protagonist is a boy who studies in the fifth grade in a regional center, located 50 kilometers from his native village. In the village there was only an elementary school, and all the teachers marked the boy’s abilities and advised his mother to give him to go to secondary school. At home they lived very poorly, there was not enough food, and the mother decided to send the boy to the district center, settling it with her friend. From time to time she sent parcels from the house with potatoes and bread, but these products quickly disappeared – apparently, or the mistress of the apartment where the hero lived, or one of her children, they were stolen. So in the city the hero was starving, often having only a mug of boiling water for dinner.
At school the boy studied well, but he was not given French. He easily remembered the words and phrases, but could not catch the pronunciation,
which worried his young teacher Lydia Mikhailovna.
In order to find money for himself for food and milk, the hero began to play “chiku” for money. The older players gathered in the company of the players, and there was only one of the classmates of the hero – Tishkin. The hero played very carefully, using for this money that sent his mother for milk, and dexterity helped him to win, but he never won more than a ruble a day, immediately leaving. This was very disliked by the other players who beat him when he caught in the scam of one of the guys.
The next day he came to school with a broken face, which attracted the attention of a teacher of French and class teacher Lydia Mikhailovna. She began to ask him what had happened, he did not want to answer, but Trishkin told her everything. Then she left him after the lessons, asked why he had money and heard that he bought milk for them, was very surprised. Promising her never to play again, the boy broke the word and was beaten again.
Seeing him, the teacher said that she had to work with him in addition to French. And since there
was little time left in school, she told him to come to her apartment in the evenings. The hero was very embarrassed, and the teacher also tried to feed him constantly, which he constantly refused. One day a parcel arrived at the school’s address and in his name, in which there were macaroni, sugar and tiles of the hematogen. He immediately realized who this package was from – his mother simply had nowhere to take the pasta. He took the parcel to Lydia Mikhailovna and demanded that she never try to hand over the food to him again.
Lydia Mikhailovna, seeing that the boy refuses to accept help, went on a new trick – she taught him a new game for money – “Pristenka.” For this game they spent evenings, trying to talk in a whisper, as the director of the school lived in the next apartment. But one day the hero, seeing that the teacher cheats, and, so that he constantly won, became angry, and they got into a loud argument, which was heard by the director who entered the room. Lydia Mikhailovna confessed to him that she was playing with the student for money, and a few days after that she quit her job and went to her home, to the Kuban. In winter, the hero received another parcel – a box full of pasta, under which lay three large red apples. He immediately guessed who sent him this parcel.