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The Tattle Tails

“I’m going to tell Mama on you!” Carlos said angrily. He ran over the dusty yard toward the house, his sister on his heels.

“Well, you were the one who broke it!” Andrea screeched. “You’ll get in trouble more!” With hot, tear-stained faces the two made quite a sight as they burst through the back door.

“What is the matter?” asked Mama, looking up from the clothes washer.

“Andrea threw sand in my face and called me—” Carlos began.

“He broke the hose,” cut in Andrea, “and he said that—ouch!” Carlos had given her such a pinch that Andrea forgot what she was saying. She gave him an angry kick in return.

“Stop that fighting!” Mama said, taking each one by the arm. “I do not want to hear about what the other one did. I want to hear about what you were doing.”

“Carlos was making me do his work!” Andrea complained, giving her brother a hard look. Carlos glared back.

Mama looked at Andrea and shook her head. “I do think this tattletale needs a tail!” she said suddenly. “Ah, where can I find the rattles to make it with? There should be something in Papa’s tool chest. Yes, here are some washers and nuts, and here is some string!”

The children watched in surprised silence as Mama tied a metal nut to the end of a piece of white yarn. Clink, clink, clunk! Two smooth washers and a couple more nuts were added on top.

Clinkety-clink-clink! Mama shook the string and then turned to Andrea with a small smile. “I’m afraid my little girl has turned into a snake with a terrible bite! We must warn everyone that she is coming, so we know to stay out of her way.” Mama took the string and tied it around Andrea’s waist, so the rattle end hung down her back.

“Ha, ha!” said Carlos. “You look like that old rattlesnake I killed down in the ravine! Doesn’t she, Papa?” he asked, seeing Papa standing in the doorway.

“What? We have a rattlesnake in the house?” Papa said, pretending to be surprised. Andrea began to cry.

“Two tattle-snakes,” said Mama, grimly. “Carlos, I do believe I shall have to add more rattles to yours because you are older. Rattlesnakes have as many rattles as they are old, don’t they?” She was stringing another string with more nuts and washers as she talked. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight!” she counted. “What a shame for a big boy like you to set such a bad example!”

Carlos looked at the floor and didn’t say anything. His face turned deep red as Mama tied the clinking tail around him.

Andrea sobbed loudly and Carlos glared at her. “Waaah, aaaah! I don’t want a tail!” Andrea cried.

She tried to take it off, but Mama pulled her hands away. “What a noisy snake!” she said.

“It is strange,” said Papa, stroking his mustache. “I thought our children loved being tattle-snakes, they always tell on each other so much. Why are they so angry when they get their tails put on?”

“I don’t want to be a snake!” Andrea sobbed. She put her fists in her eyes and cried louder.

“Are you sorry for trying to get Carlos into trouble?” asked Mama, quietly. “Instead of crying you must think about how you have behaved. Are you ready to stop being a tattle-snake?” Andrea gulped and nodded her head. “Then you must say something to your brother,” said Mama.

Andrea rubbed her eyes and looked down. Everyone was quiet. Finally she looked up at Carlos. “I’m sorry for tattle-telling… and throwing dirt on you,” she whispered. Then she gave her brother a big hug.

Mama smiled and helped Andrea untie her tail. “How much better it is to care for one another than to be biting like snakes!” she said.

“I don’t want to wear a tail, either,” Carlos muttered.

Papa put his hand on his son’s shoulder. “You must show you are not going to be a tattletale,” he said.

“How?” asked Carlos with a frown.

“You must wear your tail until I can see that you don’t want to hurt your sister anymore.”

Carlos stood very still and didn’t say anything.

“Come, Andrea!” Mama said. “It is time to prepare dinner.” Papa put on his hat and went outside. Carlos still did not move.

A half hour passed and Andrea heard a small jingle sound. She poked her head around the doorway and saw Carlos and his rattle-tail disappear outside.

“Mama, Carlos is going—” Andrea began, and then stopped. “Oh, no. I don’t want to wear a tattle-tail again!” she said with a laugh. She hurried to set the plates on the table.

“I’m glad my girl has learned something today,” said Mama. “I would not want to be feeding snakes at the table tonight!”

“I hope Carlos will get his tail off,” Andrea said. “I don’t want him to be a tattle-snake forever.”

“You can pray for your brother,” Mama said. “It is hard for Carlos to be ashamed of himself, but we must be ashamed before we can change.”

“Was I being ’shamed when I said sorry?” Andrea asked.

“Yes, it was hard for you, too,” said Mama. “Set the glasses around, Andrea. It is almost time to eat.”

Stomp, stomp! Papa and Carlos were coming inside now. Andrea looked up curiously. She couldn’t see any white string around Carlos’ waist. Her brother smiled at her and she smiled back.

“I watered your plants,” he said quietly, as he slid into the seat next to her. “I’m sorry, Andrea, for being mean about the work—and telling on you.”

Papa bowed his head for prayer. “Thank you, O Father, for this food and all the good blessings You give us. Thank You for love in the home and for lessons we have learned today. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.”