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I sat watching Miss Cherry, my third grade teacher, as she drew several large pictures on the blackboard.
“Okay class, today we are going to have the contest I told you about last week. The winner will receive a golden trophy,” she said, as she smiled and pulled the small trophy from her bottom desk drawer.
A hush fell over the entire classroom as she twisted the statue, back and forth, in the sunlight making it glitter as if it were made of real gold. Every child quickly rose from their seats and walked forward to see the wonderful prize close at hand.
“Okay children, let’s take out seats,” she ordered, swinging her arms outward across the room.
After everyone was seated, she began to explain the rules of the contest. Ten questions would be written on the blackboard relating to the two large pictures she had drawn. Anyone answering the most questions correctly would receive the golden prize.
“If I win my father said he will take me to the zoo. I’ve never been to the zoo before,” yelled out Jacob Johnson.
I was not excited about the contest. We orphaned kids were not allowed to own such things. It was against the rules to own anything that could not be shared with the other children in the orphanage; so even if I won it would have to be hidden in the azalea bushes or thrown in the trash can out behind the school; just like the pretty ribbons I had won in the foot-racing contest on May-Day.
As the contest was about at end, I had answered six questions correctly. Not being the brightest bulb on the tree, even I was astonished.
“Okay class, here is the last question.”
As Jacob and I were tird for the prize, I sat on the edge of my seat ready to bounce at the question.
“What famous person flew a kite with a key on it?”
“Abraham Lincoln,” yelled Jacob.
“Ben Franklin,” I screamed out, as loud as I could.
“Roger Dean Kiser, please come forward,” said the teacher, as she picked up the trophy.
I rose from my seat, watching Jacob’s face the entire time. He was not crying but his eyes were red and his nose was running. I said not a word as I passed his desk and walked to the front of the room. The class began to clap as Miss Cherry handed me the small prize.
When the bell rang, we cleared the room and walked outside. I stood waiting for the other children to walk out onto the baseball diamond so we could walk back to the orphanage in a group. I watched as Jacob walked passed me without saying a word; his head down, his eyes staring at the red dirt.
“Jacob,” I whispered.
He turned and looked in my direction.
“You can have this trophy. I cheated so really you won kinda like.” I told him.
“Yea, I saw the answers to the questions in Miss Cherry’s car when we were stealing cigarette butts yesterday.”
“Can I tell my dada I won so I can go to the zoo?”
“Sure you can. You won didn’t you?”
He smiled, reached out and took the trophy, said not a word and began walking away.
“You’re welcome,” I whispered, softly, as I headed toward the orphanage gates.
All weekend I thought about that trophy and how it sparkled in the sunlight. I wanted to tell the other boys that I had won the contest but they would not have believed me, so I just kept it to myself.
Monday morning when I returned to school, Miss Cherry called me into the cloak room.
“Roger where is your trophy?”
“I threw it away, Miss Cherry.”
“Roger, now don’t you lie to me.”
“I’m not lying, Miss Cherry.”
“Then how come Jacob told me you gave him the trophy because you cheated on the test?”
“Cause I cheated, Miss Cherry.”
“Jacob told me you saw the answers to the questions in my car. Is that correct?”
“Yes ma’am, Miss Cherry.
“Are you lying again, Roger?”
“No ma’am, Miss Cherry.”
“Roger I never wrote down the answers to the contest questions. So, how could you have seen them?”
“I just did, Miss Cherry.”
“Roger,” she said, as she reached out and placed her hand under my chin, raising my face so she could look into my eyes. “Why did you give the trophy to Jacob?’
“I can’t take anything pretty like that back to the orphanage home. They will break it and thrown it away. Then I feel all bad and stuff.”
“Roger that was a wonderful thing you did giving Jacob that trophy so he could go to the zoo.”
“I didn’t do because of that, Miss Cherry. I just didn’t want it to get all broke and stuff and then I would feel real sad inside.”
“Roger, you are a very special little boy. One day all this sadness you carry inside yourself is going to be your savior. You just mark my words.”
“What do you mean, Miss Cherry?”
She said not a word as she pulled me to here and hugged me as tightly as she could. “You yourself carry and invisible trophy Roger Dean.”
“I guess, Miss Cherry,” I whispered, having no idea what she was talking about.