This short story begins with a telephone dialogue between the narrator and Mrs. Whitman. He tells her that he has her lost dog, Gloria. He tells Mrs. Whitman that he'll return the dog to her, but first, she will need to pay him a ransom.
The narrator then tells the reader that this is not just some money-making scheme. Rather, he is attempting to extort Mrs. Whitman in revenge for a failing grade that he once received in her class. What's more, the narrator does not even have the dog. He's just seen missing signs and decided to take advantage of the situation. He demands one thousand dollars for Gloria's return. Mrs. Whitman suspects that the narrator is one of her students, but the narrator refuses to admit it one way or the other.
The narrator, who we learn is named Scott, tells the reader that he is missing a trip to Yellowstone because he has to attend summer school as a result of his failing math grade. He is also missing out on his allowance and TV and computer privileges.
After Scott abruptly ends the conversation, his dad orders him to accompany him on an errand to get the car's oil changed. On the way, the two have a heart-to-heart conversation. Scott's dad does his best to communicate the importance of making up the math grade. Scott suggests that Mrs. Whitman deliberately gave him a failing grade because she doesn't like him. Scott's dad does his best to explain the importance of taking personal responsibility for one's mistakes. To help make his point, Scott's dad then apologizes for the times that he lost his temper with his son. They then discuss the reasons why Scott failed math class. Scott eventually admits that he was responsible for his failing grade, not the teacher.
While at the auto center, Scott begins to feel bad about the ransom request. He calls Mrs. Whitman from a payphone to confess. She tells him that she knows he does not have her dog. In fact, the dog was just returned by the animal warden. Scott apologizes. Mrs. Whitman calls Scott out by name, indicating that she knows it was he who called her.
In the car on the way home, Scott's dad expresses his frustration in Scott's obstinacy. Scott admits that he screws up sometimes. This honesty pleases his dad, who smiles. At home, Scott's mom says that Mrs. Whitman called and said she'd see Scott in summer school.