Ana bounded through the apartment door, slamming it shut behind her.

“Mama, Mama! Will you buy me a bigger bicycle?”  Ana jumped up and down, clapping her hands. “Please! Por favor! Emilia has a big one, and I want one, too,” Ana said.  “My old bike is much too small for me.  My friends laugh when I ride it.

Just Enough

by Stephanie V. Moody

“Whoa! Slow down.” Ana’s mother placed her shopping list on the kitchen table.  “What’s this all about?”

“A bicycle, mi Madre -- una bicicleta para me,” Ana said, dimples framing her wide smile, “A big one like mis amigas.”

Ana’s mother shook her head. “I’m sorry, mi hija. Our budget doesn’t have any new bicycle money in it.”

Ana’s shoulders sagged. “Not even a little bit?  Un poquito?”

“No carino.  Not right now. We’ve got just enough to get by until your father returns from overseas,” Mama said. “Just enough. No mas.”

Ana’s bottom lip quivered. “Luis, will you help me?” she asked her older brother.

Luis turned his pants pockets inside out. “No tango dinero aqui, hermanita.”

“Then I’ll get a job myself,” Ana crossed her arms and cocked her head to think.

Luis ruffled Ana’s curly hair. “My help is enough for our family now,” he said. “You don’t need to add to our family’s money jar until you’re older.”

Ana’s mother nodded and squeezed Ana’s hand. “Working together, we have enough -- just enough until your father gets home from the National Guard. But if we get any extra, we’ll put it aside in a special jar, just for you and tu bicicleta.”

Ana’s mother tucked the shopping list into her pocket. “Before we go to the market, do your homework, por favor, Ana.”

Ana scrunched up her nose as she opened her backpack. Doing homework couldn’t help her get a big bicycle, she wanted to argue, especially one she’d be proud to ride with her new friends. “There’s got to be a way to get a new bicycle.” She scratched her head.

Ana made a list in her mind of how Luis earned extra money.

Mowing lawns.

Walking dogs.

Baby sitting.

Washing cars.

One by one, she crossed them off. She knew she was too little for jobs like these.  Still there had to be a job she could do. If only her father were home, Ana knew he would help her. Ana smiled at the memory of Papa’s kind face.  Closing her eyes, she said a prayer for his safety and she asked God for ideas about how to earn a new bike. Then she took out her homework.

In school, she was learning how to add and subtract numbers in two columns.  When adding numbers, she remembered sometimes she had to carry a number over to the other column to get the right answer. When subtracting, sometimes she had to borrow from another number to get the right answer.

Ana tapped her pencil on the paper. She wished she had someone to borrow money from now, like when she borrowed a number in subtraction to get the right answer.  Then she could get a new bike.  That was the best answer.

Ana looked at the rest of her school assignments.  Cutting out pictures of things she liked best was next.  That was muy facile, very easy. Right away she found a picture of a happy family in the newspaper and cut it out. Then she saw a picture of a big bicycle and cut it out, too.  Grocery ads for chocolate chip cookies and her favorite cereal caught her attention. She cut them out. Next to the cereal was a coupon worth 75 cents.  There was also a coupon for the cookies, one for bread, one for toilet paper, and one for milk, things her mother bought often.  Two coupons were worth 50 cents each.  Ana opened and closed her scissors. She had an idea. She knew what job she could do.

“Mama, Mama,” Ana called, holding up the coupons. “If I can’t add to the money jar, can I make it stretch?”

“Whatever do you mean, Ana? No comprendo.”

“See this coupon?” Ana pointed. “It’s worth 75 cents. And this one can be doubled for more than a dollar. If we use them at the market, can we put the saved money into my bicycle jar?”

Ana’s mother looked surprised, then thoughtful. “What a fine idea,” she said. “We’ll still have enough for us and could be saving for your bicycle, too.”

Ana nodded.  “Some coupons even let us buy two things for the price of one, so I would be helping the family, too.  It will be my job to find coupons we all can use.”

Ana’s mom smiled.  “Doing homework set your brain on fire, es verdad, my Ana?”

“Does that mean we can do it?”  Ana grasped her mother’s hand, remembering her prayer for guidance.

“Si, it does,” her mother agreed.

Luis pulled his mother and sister into a bear hug. “And I know where we can find even more coupons on the internet.”

Mama laughed, giving Ana an extra hug. “Papa will be so proud when he comes home and sees the new bicycle you helped buy all by yourself.”

    Ana’s eyes sparkled. “But he will be even more proud of how we all worked together while he was gone.”

The end