from American Girl
Jo Ann and the Good Resolution
by Ellis Parker Butler
There never was a more beautiful morning than this New Year's day morning. The sun was glorious and the air crisp and clear, and the sky was so blue it hardly seemed possible. Jo Ann and her chum Wicky came down to breakfast in their knickers, all ready to get out into the gleaming outdoors without wasting time, for it was the last day of their Christmas holidays. The next day they had to go back to Wilmot School and lessons.
For breakfast Jo Ann and Wicky had country sausage and luscious pancakes drowned in maple syrup. They were about through when Jo Ann's mother came and sat at the table with them.
"Well, girls," she asked, smiling, "have you made your good resolutions for the year?"
"No, Mother," Jo Ann said. "I haven't. I don't think Wicky has."
Wicky had not. Jo Ann's mother still smiled but her eyes were more serious.
"I don't think it would do any harm if you made one or two, Jo Ann," she said. "I would be glad if you would resolve not to be such a tomboy this year. I don't know why you have to be so rough and boisterous, Jo Ann; Julia isn't."
"I'm not Wicky, Mother," Jo Ann said. "I'm myself. I've got to be myself, haven't I?"
"But you're growing older every day, Jo Ann," her mother said. "Isn't it almost time you stopped trying to do everything a boy can do? And mightn't you resolve to do a little better at school? I was quite shocked by the report Miss Bumpus sent me."
To this Jo Ann said nothing. She knew that the report had been pretty bad; in fact, Miss Bumpus had said that if Jo Ann did not improve quite a lot in nearly everything, including deportment, something quite serious was apt to happen to Jo Ann.
"Yes, I know; I've got to buck up, Mother," Jo Ann said now and, as if that settled everything, she asked Wicky, "Shall we coast or skate this morning, Wick?"
"Oh! Let's coast!" exclaimed Wicky. "We do get some skating at Wilmont, but the coasting here is so wonderful."
The town had set aside part of Shady Lake Park for winter sports and on High Hill had made a track for sled coasting, seven hundred yards long -- over a third of a mile. The snow had been packed and rolled until it was as glassy as ice, and the slide ended on the edge of Shady Lake so that the sleds could glide out onto the lake and far across it. It made thrilling sport. The track was so steep and swift that most of the girls did not venture to start at the top. But Jo Ann did.
So did Wicky, but not in the way Jo Ann and the boys started. At the top of the hill was a level place some thirty feet long. Here, at the beginning of the descent, Wicky would seat herself on her sled, with her feet on the steering bar, and start. Jo Ann would have none of this sissy way of starting. With the boys she went back to the end of the thirty-foot level, picked up her sled, ran the thirty feet to get impetus, and slammed down her sled, slamming herself on top of it. Then, as her shrill voice screamed "Clear! Clear!" the sled sped down the hill, faster and faster, until it was traveling at lightning speed.
"You could take your skates," Jo Ann's mother suggested, "and have lunch at the shelter, and skate this afternoon. I could come for you with the car at five."
"Oh! Suave!" exclaimed Jo Ann. "We'll do it, Mother. Who's that?"
From outside had come a couple of "Yoo-hoo!" calls, and Wicky turned and looked out of the window.
"Well!" she cried. "Would you ever believe it? It's Tommy Bassick and Ted Spence yoo-hooing for us, Jo Ann!"
"It is not!" exclaimed Jo Ann, but she went to the window. "It is!" she declared. "They've got their sleds -- and their skates, too."
Jo Ann's mother went to the door and greeted them.
"Come in a minute, boys," she said. "The girls are just this minute finishing breakfast."
"We'll wait out here, thank you," Tommy said. "We thought maybe they'd go over to the park; we're going."
"That's just where they're going," Jo Ann's mother said. "They'll be out in just a minute."
"Would you ever believe it!" Jo Ann asked Wicky. "Tommy Bassick coming for me! Oh!" she exclaimed suddenly, "I know! It's Ted Spence. He likes to play around with you, Wicky. He's got Tommy to come."
To this Wicky said nothing. She took a last bite and, with Jo Ann, hurried to get her beret and mittens and skates. Their two sleds were in the garage and the girls said "hello" to the boys and went to get their sleds.
The four sleds -- in fact, nearly all the sleds in town -- were almost identically alike. They were all the same make, with a steering bar across the front, but even in sleds that look exactly alike there are often slight differences that make one faster than another. It may be some variation in balance or some slight difference in the alignment of the runners. Jo Ann was sure her sled was the fastest of any, and Tommy Bassick was equally sure that his was the fastest in town. They had pulled each other's hair about that more than once in the past.
Now Jo Ann swung her skates over her shoulder and took her sled rope in her hand. She wanted her own sled, of course, and she knew it from Wicky's sled by the rope -- Jo Ann's sled had a white cotton rope into the strands of which a blue thread had been woven for purposes of identification
"Come on," she called to the boys, and the four started for the park. Before they were out on the street Tommy Bassick was beside Jo Ann, his skates thrown over his shoulder.
"Listen, Jo Ann," he said. "We're going to have lunch at the park shelter and stay all afternoon. Ask your mother if you can, why don't you?" He asked it eagerly.
"I don't have to ask her," Jo Ann said. "She already said we could, and we're going to stay there and skate."
"That's bully," Tommy declared. "We'll have a swell time. Let me carry your skates."
"What?" Jo Ann asked, looking at him in utter surprise.
"I said, let me carry your skates," Tommy repeated, reddening until his face was the color of his hair.
"What for?" Jo Ann asked.
"Well-why-uh-" Tommy stammered, not knowing just how to say that gentlemen usually carried ladies' skates when they went skating together. "Well, you're a girl."
"Oh! I am, am I?" said Jo Ann, tossing her head. "I guess I'm strong enough to carry my own skates."
"Yes-uh-I guess I know that, don't I?" Tommy asked, still red. "I just asked you. Ted's carrying Wicky's."
Jo Ann looked at Tommy as if he were some new and strange sort of animal she had never seen before, and her inspection made him blush more furiously than he had before.
"Do you mean you are asking me because you are being polite?" she asked in amazement. She could not believe it. It was something she had never imagined Tommy Bassick doing. If he had grabbed for the skates and then pushed her into the snow in the gutter, and then yelled "Yah! Yah! I got your skates!" while he ran down the street, she would have thought he was behaving naturally. She was used to that sort of attack when she met Tommy Bassick. It was what she did to him when she could. She took her skates from her shoulder and held them out to him. He swung them onto his shoulder with his own. "Well!" exclaimed Jo Ann.
Ted Spence and Wicky had gone on ahead, and now they turned and waited for Jo Ann and Tommy to catch up with them.
"What are you two kids scrapping about now?" Ted asked. "Cut out the cat-and-dog stuff for one day, can't you? Let's have one day's fun without a row, anyway. I should think you could."
"We weren't fussing," Tommy said.
"Well, don't," said Ted. "If you do, you can fuss it out by yourselves. Wicky and I are plenty fed up with it, aren't we, Wicky?"
"It's our last day before school," said Wicky wistfully. "It's such a lovely day, Jo Ann."
"We weren't quarreling," Jo Ann said. "Go ahead -- we don't want to stand here all day. Let's get to the park."
Ted Spence and Wicky went on ahead again, and Tommy and Jo Ann followed, each dragging a sled.
"Did you make any New Year's resolutions?" Tommy asked Jo Ann.
"No, not yet," Jo Ann said. "Have you?"
"No, I haven't made any," Tommy said. "Ted Spence says I ought to.
"What about?" Jo Ann asked.
"Aw, he's been ragging me about quarreling with you so much," Tommy said. "He said it might be all right for a couple of kindergarten kids to quarrel that way but that it was silly for you and me to." Tommy blushed again.
"He said we were getting too old to fuss like a couple of babies." He waited to hear what Jo Ann would say.
"Oh! He did, did he?" was what she said. "I'd like to know how it is any of his business!"
"Well, he's my chum," Tommy said. "We room together and all that. He says he doesn't want me to be left behind. Did your exams come out pretty good?"
"They weren't anything to write home about," Jo Ann admitted. "They were awfully poor, if you want to know it."
"Mine were fierce," said Tommy. "I'm liable to be chucked out of Spenceville if I don't buck up next semester. Math and Latin, mostly. Ted says it's because I spent more time trying to think up how to give you a slam than I spent studying. I guess he wasn't so far wrong about it, at that."
"Well, of all things!" cried Jo Ann, stopping short and staring at Tommy. "If that isn't just about what Wicky said to me! What did you get in math, Tommy?"
"F," said Tommy. "That's as low as they give."
"Yes -- F for Failure," said Jo Ann. "That's what I got. Did you get many F's?"
"Well, a good many," Tommy admitted. "Mostly F's. Did you?"
"Yes, I did," said Jo Ann frankly. "Bumpy -- Miss Bumpus, you know -- says I'll flunk out if I don't get a lot of A's and B's next semester. I'd hate to flunk out. Wicky would hate to have me."
They walked in silence for a minute or two.
"What would you say to this, Jo Ann?" Tommy asked suddenly, pretending with fair success that the idea had just come to him. "What do you say that we don't quarrel for a year? How'd it be if we let each other alone for a year? A sort of armistice -- no fussing and no quarreling. Because, look, Jo Ann, you don't want to get kicked out of Wilmot any more than I want to get kicked out of Spenceville. We don't want to be set back a year, either. How'd it be if we cut out the fighting for a year and were -- well -- say, friends?"
"For a year?"
"Yes -- this year. Beginning today. Say we resolve to be friends this year. I don't mean, of course, that we've got to be chummy or anything, but not quarrel."
Through Jo Ann's mind flashed the thought that Tommy Bassick must be afraid he would come out second-best if he tried any new schemes to get the better of her, and that that was why he was so willing to have a year's truce, but she kept still about that. She was glad enough herself to have a year of peace. Jo Ann never had any doubts about being able to do what she wanted to do, and she did not doubt that she could keep even with Tommy Bassick -- and score off him -- in any new wrangles, and also dig at her books hard enough to pass the year's final exams, but it would certainly be sweet not to have Tommy to worry about.
"Well, I suppose I ought to make a New Year's resolution of some sort," she said, "and it might as well be that as anything. I will if you will."
"That's what I mean," Tommy said. "We'll be friends for one whole year -- until January first of next year."
"Yes, friends," Jo Ann agreed. "And nor do anything for the other to quarrel about. Not think up slams or anything."
"That's it -- not quarrel at all," said Tommy.
"All right, then," said Jo Ann. "I'll resolve if you'll resolve. You go ahead and resolve first -- you suggested it. Say it."
"I resolve that I'll be friends with Jo Ann this year," said Tommy.
"And not quarrel with her or anything," Jo Ann prompted.
"And not quarrel with her or anything," Tommy repeated. "Now you do it, Jo Ann."
"I resolve to be friends with Tommy Bassick this year and not to quarrel with him or anything," said Jo Ann, and she said it heartily and started forward at a brisker pace. "Come on," she said, "let's tell Wicky and Ted. They'll be glad to know it."
Wicky and Ted did seem to be glad. "That's great!" Ted said, and Wicky said, "Oh! Jo Ann! I'm so glad! I think it's just lovely. Ted, can you visit Tommy again at Easter vacation? Jo Ann, we'll have the spiffiest times together, all four of us! How did you ever think of it?"
"Well, we're not quite idiots," Jo Ann said scornfully. "We're not babies. When a thing is the best thing to do, I guess we can see that it is. You needn't act as if you thought it was the end of the world, Wicky. Tommy and I don't have to quarrel if we don't want to. We quarreled because we wanted to; didn't we, Tommy?"
"It was a feud, sort of," grinned Tommy. "We can be friends all right."
"Of course, we can!" declared Jo Ann. "And we're going to be."
"I'm just awfully glad," said Wicky, but they were in the park now. They left their skates at the shelter and climbed eagerly up High Hill, taking the path beside the long slide.
"Did you ever see it more perfect?" Jo Ann asked Tommy, referring to the slide. "It's like glass. I like it when it's fast, like that, don't you?"
"When a fellow's got a sled like mine," said Tommy, "the faster the track is the better it is."
"Shall we have a race?" Jo Ann asked him. "I think I can beat you."
Never had Jo Ann challenged Tommy Bassick to a race in any such friendly words. "Yah!" she was more apt to say, "I dare you to race -- I dare you, you 'fraidy cat!" but they were friends now. Tommy did not answer -- as he might have answered the day before -- "Huh! Beat me, you poor joop! I'd like to see you do it!"
"Well, I think my sled is better than yours," he said quite politely. "I'll race if you want to, Jo Ann."
"Just to have some fun," agreed Jo Ann. "I think racing is lots more fun than just coasting, don't you?"
"Yes; it's a lot more exciting," Tommy agreed.
"You ought to win, of course," Jo Ann said. "You're a boy, and boys coast and do such things better than girls, mostly, I guess." Her tone was amiable, almost humble.
Ordinarily Tommy would have fallen over backward in a faint at hearing Jo Ann make such an admission. It was almost more than his ears could believe, but the year of friendliness and good will had begun, and so he was not too much surprised by it.
"I wouldn't say that any boy could coast better than you can, Jo Ann," he said. "You're a dandy at it; you're a dandy at 'most anything you try. Of course, I've got to beat you if I can."
"Well, I should think so!" exclaimed Jo Ann. "I wouldn't race with anybody who didn't try to win. I like people who try to win. I'll say that for you, Tommy -- you always try to win."
"Yes, and so do you," Tommy said, and his tone was almost one of admiration. "Nobody'd ever say you haven't got pep."
"Look at them," Ted said to Wicky. "They'll be holding hands the next thing you know."
They had reached the top of the hill now. Not many coasters had reached the park.
"Do you want Jo Ann and me to go first?" Tommy asked Ted and Wicky. "We're going to race."
"You go first then," Ted said, and he stepped back to one side with Wicky.
"How do you want to race?" Tommy asked Jo Ann. "Do you want a running start or a start from the line?"
"Well, of course, if you want to coast sitting, like the little girls, I'm willing, Tommy," Jo Ann said teasingly.
"That's one on me!" Tommy laughed. "Running start, then. Ted, you give us the 'Go!', will you?"
Ted handed his sled rope to Wicky to hold. Jo Ann and Tommy picked up their sleds. Both knew the best method of getting a good running start, grasping the steering bar of the sled at its exact middle, in front, with the left hand, and the rear of the seat with the right hand.
"I'll say 'One-two-ready-go!'" Ted said, giving the starter's instructions. "When I say 'Go!' you can start. You can run as far as you want to. Oh, wait a minute!"
"What's the matter?" asked Jo Ann.
"I want somebody to be down there at the finish line. You slide down there, Wicky, and see the finish. We've got to have this right. This is going to be a hot race."
"Where shall I be, Ted?" Wicky asked.
"I'll tell you," Ted said. "This is a fast track. Tommy and Jo Ann will go like sixty with running starts. You sit on your sled and I'll give you a push and, wherever you stop, take fifty steps farther -- and that will be the line. Whoever crosses the line first wins. That all right, Jo Ann?"
"It suits me if it suits Tommy," Jo Ann said still very amiable about everything.
"It's all right with me if it is all right with Jo Ann," Tommy said, showing how completely the era of friendliness was established, and Ted sent Wicky speeding down the hill, crying "Clear! Clear!" as she went. Her sled went far out onto the ice of the lake, and they saw her get off the sled and walk a short distance and wave her hand.
"Get set!" Ted ordered. "One! Two! Ready! GO!"
Side by side, equal in speed, Tommy and Jo Ann rushed at the edge of the hill, and their sleds whanged on the hard surface of the slide simultaneously.
"Clear! Clear! Clear!" Tommy shouted his caution to warn any little kids who might get on the track, and Jo Ann's higher voice sounded a long and resonant "Cle-e-e-e-ar!" Both coasters lay low on their sleds, only their heads raised that they might see. Faster and faster the sleds flew; Ted could not see that either was an inch ahead of the other, and nose to nose they shot from the snow track onto the ice of the lake. And then, although even Wicky could not yet see it, Jo Ann crept inch by inch ahead of Tommy. Inch by inch until Jo Ann was a full sled-length ahead as the two sleds crossed the finish line. Jo Ann had finished first!
She wanted to jump up and down and shout her triumph and crow over Tommy Bassick, but she remembered the resolution she had so recently made. Wicky was hurrying toward them, careful not to slip on the glassy ice, and as she reached them Ted Spence came coasting down. He scrambled off his sled and hurried to where Tommy and Jo Ann were now getting off their sleds.
"Well, I guess that proves it," Tommy said. "My sled is the fastest sled."
Jo Ann whirled and stared at him.
"What do you mean?" she demanded. "I was a whole sled-length ahead of you. I was three feet ahead -- more than three feet."
"That's what I said, wasn't it?" Tommy grinned. "Of course, you were first. On my sled."
Jo Ann looked down at the sled, puzzled. She saw the white rope with the blue thread woven into it, but suddenly she turned the sled over. It was not her sled. On the underside was written "Tommy from Father, Merry Christmas." It was Tommy's sled.
"We changed the rope," Ted said. "We saw your sled in your garage and we switched ropes. I bet him --"
Jo Ann's breath was coming fast. They saw the battle look in her eyes.
"No -- wait! Jo Ann!" Ted said. "I bet him you could beat him and he said maybe you could -- he said you had the best sled. So I bet him you could beat him no matter what sled you had. So we changed the ropes --"
But Jo Ann was not hearing Teddy. She was hearing nothing but what Tommy had said -- "My sled is the fastest sled." She was thinking nothing but that Tommy had played a trick on her. She was holding the sled rope and, suddenly, she sent the sled skittering across the ice.
"You mean thing!" she cried, breathing hard as she glared at Tommy. "You think that's smart. That's the kind of smarty you are! But it's cheating -- you can't play fair -- you can't even win when you cheat!"
"I don't cheat! I didn't cheat!" Tommy sputtered. "It was a bet. It was a bet with Ted. You needn't be so smart, either; if I had my own sled I could beat you. Take your old sled!"
He swung the sled toward her by the rope and it was unfortunate that the sled struck Wicky's feet. She swayed and grasped at the air and screamed and went down, and that was too much for Jo Ann. She reached for Tommy and clutched his shoulder. Her hand grasped his sweater there and his feet went from under him. The sweater stretched and Jo Ann swung her arm and let go and Tommy went skittering over the ice as the sled had gone, sliding on his back, unable to stop himself.
"Aw, say!" Ted Spence exclaimed, "is that the way to treat a fellow?" and then he ducked, for he thought Jo Ann was going to attend to him next, but she dropped on her knees beside Wicky. Wicky was sitting flat on the ice rubbing the back of her head.
"Wicky!" Jo Ann cried. "Wicky, is anything broken?"
"No, I guess not," Wicky said, but she was wrong. Two perfectly good New Year's resolutions had been broken all to pieces.