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The Scholarship Jacket Summary
The Scholarship Jacket in English
1. I attended a small Texas school. It had a tradition. Every year during the 8th grade passing out function a beautiful gold and green jacket was awarded to the student who had maintained the highest grades for 8 years. The jacket had a big gold ‘S’ on the left front side and your name written in gold letters on the pocket.
2. My eldest sister Rosie had won the jacket a few years back. I also expected it. I was 14 and in the 8th grade. I had been an ‘A’ student from the first grade. My father was a farm labourer. He could hardly earn enough to feed his 8 children. So when I was six, I was given to my grandparents to be looked after.
3. We could not participate in sports at school as there were registration fees, uniform fees and trips out of town. So we would never have a school sports jacket in our home. The scholarship jacket was our only chance.
In May, close to the passing out day, spring fever struck as usual. No one paid any attention in class. We stared out of the window and at one another. We wanted to finish the classes. I was unhappy whenever I looked in the mirror. I was pencil thin. Not a curve anywhere. I was called ‘beanpole’ and ‘string bean’. I knew I looked like that. I was thinking like this when I walked from the history class to the gym. Another hour of sweating in basket ball, and showing my toothpick leg. I remembered that my PE shorts were in a bag under my desk where I had forgotten them. I had to walk all the way back to get them. Coach Thomson was strict with the PE shorts. She had said that I was a good forward. She even tried to persuade Grandma to let me join the team. Grandma refused.
5. I was almost back at the classroom when I heard angry voices. I stopped. I did not know what to do. I needed those shoes. I was getting late. But I did not want to interrupt an argument between my teachers. The voices I recognized: Mr. Schmidt, my history teacher and Mr. Boone, my maths teacher. They were arguing about me. I could not believe it. I stood flat against the wall as if I were trying to blend with the graffiti.
Theard Mr. Schmidt. He sounded very angry: “I refuse to do it! I don’t care who her father is. Her grades don’t even begin to compare to Martha’s. I won’t lie or falsify records. Martha has a straight A-plus average and you know it.” Mr. Boone’s voice was calm and quiet. “Look, Joanne’s father is on the Board. He owns the only store in town. We could say it was a close tie and …”
6. I could not hear the rest of what he said clearly. But I could hear some words here and there. “Martha is Mexican …. resign … won’t do it…” Mr. Schmidt rushed down the opposite way and went into the auditorium. He did not see me.
I was shaking. I waited a few minutes and ran into the room and collected my bag. Mr Boone saw me, but did not say anything. To this day I don’t remember how I got through the PE. I went home very sad. I cried into the pillow so that Grandmother would not hear me.
7. It was a cruel coincidence that I heard that conversation. When the Principal called me to his office the next day, I knew what it was for. He looked unhappy and uncomfortable. I looked him straight in the eyes. He looked away and pretended to be looking at some papers.
He told me that there was a change in the policy regarding the scholarship jacket. It used to be free. But this year the Board has decided to charge 15 dollars which will not even cover the cost of the jacket.
8. I stared at him in shock. A sound of surprise came from my throat. He still avoided looking in my eyes. “He said that if I could not pay 15 dollars, it would be given to the next one in line. I knew who it was.
9. I told him that I would speak to my grandfather and let him know the next day. I cried as I was returning home from the bus stop. By the time I got home my eyes were red and puffy.
I asked Grandmother where Grandpa was. He was working in the bean, field at the back of the house.
10. I met him there. He was walking between the rows of plants with a hoe in his hand. I went to him thinking how I could present my demand. There was a cool breeze and sweet smell of mesquite fruit in the air. I wanted that jacket so much. It represented 8 years of hard work and expectation. I knew I had to be honest with Grandpa. He saw my shadow and looked up.
11. I cleared my throat. I held my hands behind my back so that he would not see them shaking. I told him that I wanted to get a big favour from him. I spoke in Spanish. He knew only Spanish.
12. I explained to him that this year the scholarship jacket was not free. It would cost 15 dollars. If I didn’t pay the money tomorrow it would be given to somebody else. Grandpa looked up and leaned his chin on the hoe handle. He looked at the field and finally asked, “What does a scholarship jacket mean?”
13. I answered quickly: “It means you’ve earned it by having the highest grades for 8 years and that’s why they are giving it to you.” I realized the significance of the words too late. Grandpa said nothing and went back to weeding the field. Finally he spoke as I turned to leave, crying.
“If you pay for it, Martha, it is not a scholarship jacket, is it? Tell your principal that I will not pay the 15 dollars.”
I walked back and locked myself in the bathroom for a long time. I was angry with Grandpa although knew he was right. I was angry with the Board. Why did they change the rule when it was my turn to get the jacket?
Those were days of belief and innocence. The next day I went to the Principal’s office very sad. This time he looked me in the eyes. When he asked what my grandfather said, I told him he would not pay the 15 dollars.
15. The Principal muttered something. He walked to the window and looked outside. He looked bigger than usual. He was a tall, thin and bony man with gray hair. Finally he asked, “Why won’t your grandfather pay? He.has a two-hundred acre ranch.”
16. I looked at him forcing my eyes to stay dry. Then I told him the reason grandfather gave for not paying. I stood up to leave. I told him: “I think you’ll have to give it to Joann.” It had just slipped out of my mouth. I was near the door when he called me, “Martha, wait.”
17. I tumed and looked at him, waiting. What did he want now? My heart was pounding and something bitter tasting was in my mouth. I thought I would vomit. I did not want any sympathy speeches. He sighed loudly and went back to his desk. Then he told me that they would make an exception and give me the jacket.
18. I could hardly believe my ears. I thanked him. I felt great. I did not know about adrenalin then but I knew something was pumping inside me. I wanted to yell, jump, run, do something. I ran out so I could cry in the hall where nobody would see me. At the end of the day, Mr. Schmidt winked at me and said that he heard that I was getting the jacket.
19. His face looked happy. I gave him a quick hug and ran to the bus. I cried on the walk home again. This time I cried as I was happy. I ran into the field to tell Grandpa. I started pulling weeds. Grandpa worked alongside me for a few minutes. He did not ask what had happened. After collecting a pile of weeds I faced him. Then I told him what happened.
20. Grandpa said nothing. He gave me a pat on my shoulder and a smile. He wiped his sweat with the crumpled red handkerchief he always carried in his back pocket. He asked me to see if Grandma wanted any help with supper.
Iran back to the house whistling some silly tune.