Saturday morning arrived at last, but Amber looked out her window at a sunless day. Clouds had moved in overnight and threatened to pour rain on her plans for the day. After breakfast, Amber made a quick phone call to Betty Jenkins to make sure the shuffleboard tournament was going to take place.
“Rain or shine,” Betty assured her. “The shuffleboard courts are covered, so we’ll stay dry. Anyway, I don’t think it will rain until this evening.”
Two hours later, Amber and her friends rode their bikes to the senior center. “Where’s Mrs. Jenkins?” Melissa asked.
“She likes to be called Betty,” Amber reminded her.
“Oh, I forgot. Well, is Betty here?”
“She’s right over there. I think they are choosing up sides or something,” Amber said.
Laura noticed a list of names posted on a wall. After looking down the list, she saw Betty Jenkins’s name in the singles column.
“Do you know anything about shuffleboard?” Laura asked Amber.
“No, not really. Maybe Betty will have time to fill us in before the tournament starts.”
“I can do that for you,” said a little man wearing Bermuda shorts and a straw hat. “Name’s Gus. And who would you lovely young ladies be?”
“I’m Amber, and these are my friends, Melissa and Laura. We’re here for our friend Betty Jenkins, but we don’t really know anything about shuffleboard. We won’t even know when it’s time to cheer for Betty.”
“Well,” Gus began, “if you take a look at the shuffleboard court, you’ll see triangles at both ends. Each shooter uses a stick called a tang to push a disk called a biscuit to the triangle at the other end of the court. You can see the point values in the triangle. Landing in the smallest space earns ten points. There are two seven-point spaces and two eight-point spaces. If the biscuit lands completely inside one of those zones without touching any of the lines, the shooter scores that many points. It takes a score of seventy-five points to win. ”
“That sounds pretty difficult,” Laura observed.
“Believe me, it is. Even if the shooter manages to put the biscuit in a zone, the opponent has a chance to knock it out.”
“Wow,” Melissa said. “Is Betty Jenkins a good shuffleboard player?”
“One of the best,” Gus told them.
“What is the ten-off space?” Amber asked.
“If the biscuit lands there, the shooter loses ten points.”
“Oh, dear,” Amber said, “I hope that doesn’t happen to Betty.”
“Even if it does,” Melissa added, “we’ll yell and cheer for her anyway.”
“I wouldn’t recommend that,” Gus warned. “We take shuffleboard very seriously. You’ll need to be quiet, just like the spectators at a golf tournament.”
“Thanks for letting us know that,” Laura said. “We wouldn’t want to get Betty disqualified or something.”
“You’ll be fine,” Gus assured them. “Just watch from over there.” He pointed to some chairs along the sidelines. Most of them were already occupied. “You better find a seat, it looks like we’re about ready to start.”
The girls found some seats on the sideline. On the shuffleboard court, they noticed some boys lining up yellow and black disks in the ten-off spaces. “Look who that is,” Amber said. “It’s Logan, Chris, and Spike.”
“It sure is,” Melissa said, surprised. “I wonder why they’re here.”
“Those boys help out around here all the time,” Gus informed them. “They’re our junior volunteers.”
As the tournament started, the girls watched Betty Jenkins push a yellow disk from her end of the court toward the triangle at the other end. The disk stopped on the line between the ten-point space and an eight-point space. That meant no points. The other player, a dark-haired woman a little taller than Betty, wearing bright-pink capris and a flowered shirt, took her shot with the black disk, which landed inside the seven-point space. Betty’s next disk pushed the black disk off the seven-point space, but once again, it landed on a line. A man with a movie camera seemed to be catching all the action on film. Amber wondered if he was from the television station in Marshallville.
“That’s Clarisse’s husband, Hank.” Gus seemed to be reading her thoughts. “He got a new video camera last Christmas. He hardly goes anywhere without it. Hank certainly wouldn’t miss Clarisse’s big moment if she finally beats Betty at shuffleboard.”
Play continued until each shooter had used her four disks. Betty had seven points. But Clarisse had fifteen. The two women walked to the opposite end of the court where Spike had lined up the disks again in the starting position.
When there was a break in the tournament play, the girls went over to talk to Betty. “It’s so nice to have you girls here today. You are sweet to give up your Saturday morning like this.”
“It’s been fun watching you play,” Amber said. “How is it going?”
“Clarisse Anderson is a very good shooter,” Betty said. “She has me by eight points, but I still have a chance to win.”
“We’re cheering for you,” Melissa said.
“Quietly,” Laura added.
“Yes, I should have warned you that spectators have to be quiet.”
The girls returned to their seats for the second half of the tournament. Logan, Chris, and Spike were busy putting the disks at the starting point. When they had finished, they walked over to where the girls were seated.
“How do you like watching shuffleboard?” Logan asked.
“It’s a little bit boring to watch,” Melissa said. “It might be more fun if we were helping like you guys.”
“Yeah,” Spike said. “We help out here a lot. In fact, we’re three handy guys.”
“You don’t have to brag about it,” Melissa scolded.
“He’s not bragging,” Chris told her. “That’s what we call ourselves. It’s on our flyer on the bulletin board inside the senior center. We’re Three Handy Guys. When a senior needs our help, he calls us up. We wash windows, mow lawns, and rake leaves. In the winter, we even shovel snow. We do the things that are hard for seniors to do for themselves.”
“Do they pay you?” Laura asked.
“No,” Chris responded. “We do it for free. We do it because we like helping.”
“It started as a Boy Scout project,” Logan explained. “Our troop did some work around the senior center. That was when we realized there are a lot of seniors living in Bluesky, and they need our help.”
“We do that too,” Amber said. “Last Saturday, we pulled weeds for Betty Jenkins.”
“Do you have a name and a flyer like we do?” Spike asked.
“Not yet,” Laura said, “but we’re going to.”
“You could call yourselves Three Useless Girls,” Spike laughed.
Just then, Gus came over and asked them to be quiet.
By the end of the tournament, Betty was still ten points behind. She congratulated her opponent on the win and came over to where the girls were waiting for her.
“You played a good game,” Amber said. “It was really close.”
“Clarisse is a good player,” Betty said. “I’ve been lucky before, but I think she’s been practicing a lot. She told me she was going to win, and she did.”
“Will you get a chance for a rematch?” Laura asked.
“We have one more tournament next month,” Betty said. “We’ll see what happens then.”
Betty headed into the senior center for lunch, and the girls walked to their bikes. Gus waved to them from across the lawn. “See you later, alligator,” he called to them.
“Bye, see you later,” the girls shouted back with a wave.
The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon