The Happy Helpers raced each other to the senior center after school on Monday. Just as they were parking their bikes, the Three Handy Guys came riding up.
“Are you here to check the work schedule?” Logan asked.
“That’s why we’re here,” Amber said. “How about you?”
“We do that every Monday,” Chris replied. “We like to know what we’ll be doing.”
The kids pushed around the bulletin board to see what they had been assigned.
“It looks like we’re doing the shredding this week,” Spike crowed. “I heard Mrs. Snow say that you girls are too slow at it.”
“We would have gotten more done if someone hadn’t made a mess in the copy room,” Amber accused.
“Is that what happened?” Spike asked innocently. “That’s too bad.”
“It looks like you’re doing KP this Saturday,” Chris groaned. “Too bad.”
“What’s KP?” Melissa asked.
“That’s kitchen police,” Logan told her. “It means you have to help clean the kitchen. It’s the job we don’t like.”
“Because it’s girl’s work?” Laura asked.
“Because it’s dirty work,” Chris groaned again. “You’ll see.”
“We’re washing the van,” Spike bragged. “That’s the most fun job ’cause you can get wet.”
Just as the junior volunteers were leaving, Walt came out of his office. “Can you girls come in here for a minute?” He motioned toward his office.
“Uh-oh.” Spike grinned. “It looks like someone’s in trouble.”
The girls walked slowly to Walt’s office and sat down in the chairs he pointed to.
“What happened on Saturday?” Walt asked. “Why didn’t you sweep the walkways?”
“We did,” Amber said, obviously concerned. “We swept all of them. They looked really nice when we left.”
“What did you use for brooms?” Walt wanted to know.
“We used the brooms we found in the shed,” Laura said.
“That’s strange,” Walt continued, “because we found the brooms stuck behind the vending machine.”
“We used three old brooms we found in the shed,” Melissa explained. “It took us a long time with those brooms, but every bit of the walkway was swept clean.”
“Let’s go look at the walkways,” Walt suggested. “And you tell me if they look swept.”
He led the girls outside where they were shocked to see the walkways littered with dirt, rocks, leaves, and other debris.
“Maybe there was a dust storm,” Melissa offered.
“There was hardly any wind Saturday or Sunday,” Walt said. “I don’t think there was a dust storm just here at the senior center.”
“We’re telling you the truth,” Amber pleaded. “We really did sweep it.”
“Well, I wanted to tell you girls we couldn’t use you as volunteers,” Walt said. “But Mrs. Snow defended you and asked me to let you have another chance. So if you can sweep the walkways this afternoon, we’ll forget about what happened. If you mess up again though, it’s three strikes and you’re out.”
“We can do that,” Laura said with assurance. “And if we have the push brooms, we can do it much faster.”
The Happy Helpers went to the shed where they quickly located the brooms. In no time, they had the sidewalks swept. Just to make sure there weren’t any more surprises, they brought Walt out to check over their work.
“Now that’s what I call a clean walkway!” Walt exclaimed. “Thanks for doing such a good job.”
Amber returned to the senior center after school on Tuesday. She wanted to talk to Mrs. Snow about what happened. When she walked by the copy room, she saw the Three Handy Guys busy with the shredding. They didn’t notice her, and she didn’t say anything.
“Hello there, Amber,” Mrs. Snow said as Amber walked into her office. “What can I do for you?”
“I just wanted to let you know that we really did sweep the walkways on Saturday. I think that Logan, Chris, and Spike threw rocks and dirt up on the sidewalk after we left.”
“That’s a serious accusation,” Mrs. Snow said. “Those boys have been helping out here for a long time, and they have never caused any trouble. I’m disappointed that you would try to blame them for your mistake.”
“I’m not blaming them for my mistake,” Amber defended. “But I don’t want to take the blame for something we didn’t do.”
“We all have to learn to take responsibility for our own actions. If you girls forgot to show up last Saturday, you should own up to it,” Mrs. Snow said seriously. “Why don’t you think about that for a while, and we’ll talk about it again later?”
“Bye,” Amber said with a sigh. She walked back down the hallway toward the copy room. The boys had finished their work and left the bags of shredding on the floor by the door. Amber noticed a pair of scissors on the table. Before she had time to talk herself out of it, Amber turned one of the bags over and cut a large hole in the bottom. She did the same thing with the other three bags. Then she left the bags upright, as she had found them.
Riding home on her bike, Amber thought about returning to the senior center and telling Mrs. Snow what she had done. But she didn’t think she could face having her say that she was disappointed again. Maybe she would even take her name off the list of volunteers. The knot in the pit of Amber’s stomach grew larger as she decided there was nothing she could do. It’s because of my ADHD, Amber reasoned to herself. Sometimes I act impulsively. I can’t help it. It’s not really my fault.
“You’re awfully quiet,” Mary said to Amber at dinner. “Are you feeling okay?”
“I’m fine,” Amber assured her. “I have a big math assignment that’s due on Friday. Can I be excused so I can get to work on it?”
“Doing your homework without being reminded.” Mary smiled, “That’s a pleasant surprise.”
At least Amber hadn’t lied to her mother about the homework. She did have an important math assignment. Ms. McGuire had told the class that the assignment would help them prepare for the fourth-grade math test they would be taking in a few weeks. Anyone who didn’t complete the assignment would face serious consequences, including several days of after-school detention to finish the work.
Amber did her best to concentrate on her homework, but it seemed like every noise distracted her—the television downstairs, her family talking, even the birds outside her window. After about twenty minutes, she realized she had only finished one problem. Amber remembered a trick her teacher taught her in third grade. Digging in her desk drawer, she found her timer. After setting the time for one hour, Amber went back to work. If she could make herself concentrate for one hour, she should be able to get at least two pages done.
Kyle walked by her room just as the timer went off. “How’s it going, sis?”
“Okay, I think,” Amber said, looking at the work she had finished. “I have three pages done! I can’t believe it!”
“Want me to check them for you?” Kyle asked. Without waiting for an answer, Kyle took the math pages from her and scanned them. “I don’t see any glaring errors. It looks like you are doing them right.”
“Thanks,” Amber said, pleased with herself. “I’m kind of tired. I think I’ll go to bed early.”
“Good night,” Kyle said.
“Good night.” Amber yawned. “Thanks for helping.”
As Amber got dressed for bed, she started thinking about what happened at the senior center. Before she turned out the light, she picked up the little spider plant she had brought home from Doris Duncan’s.
“You’re lucky you’re a plant,” she said. “All you do is sit here and grow. You can’t mess up like people do. I wish I could trade places with you right now.”
Amber was surprised to find Melissa at her front door as she was leaving for school on Friday morning. She had her hair piled up in curls on the top of her head. Amber couldn’t help but notice the boots that came to her knees and the six bracelets that sparkled on her arms. A wide silver belt went around her white flowing blouse, and a large necklace dangled around her neck over the top of a scarf.
“Did you stop by so we could ride to school together?” Amber asked.
“Yeah.” Melissa seemed distracted. “But first I need your help with something. Do you still have some of those fish we got out of the pond? I have a plastic container, and I need to put some fish in it.”
“I think so,” Amber said. “We can go out and look.”
The two girls went through the sliding door to Amber’s backyard. Swimming around in the pool were a few little fish. Melissa squatted down next to the pool and tried to scoop up some fish. At first all she got was water, but on her fourth try, she had a tiny fish in her container.
“That’ll have to do,” Melissa said.
“What do you need it for?” Amber asked.
“I have to give my report today,” Melissa reminded her. “I didn’t have much time to work on it. I had that big math assignment to do.”
“I’ve got mine right here.” Amber pointed to her book bag. “I didn’t leave it anywhere that Domino could get to it.”
The girls had to hurry to get to school. They arrived just as the first bell was ringing. As they took their seats in the classroom, Ms. McGuire started recapping some of the highlights of their career unit. She talked about the guests who had come to speak and some of the reports that had been given by students.
“Today is the last day for our career unit,” Ms. McGuire said. “We have two reports left. First we will hear from Chris Bishop and then from Melissa Peterson.”
When Ms. McGuire finished speaking, she motioned for Chris to come forward. He talked about different groups of people who work in construction, such as carpenters, bricklayers, and roofers. Then he talked about the job of the contractor and how he has to take the plans that have been drawn by the architect and build the house the way it was designed. “It is the contractor’s job to see that everyone else does what he is supposed to do,” Chris said.
Chris told the class about the different ways a person could be trained for construction jobs, such as learning on the job or going to college. At the end of his talk, he showed the class some of the buildings he had constructed from Popsicle sticks. Amber thought one of them would make a nice house for her bird family.
After Chris sat down, Ms. McGuire called on Melissa, who came forward somewhat hesitantly. “My report is on marine biology. Marine biologists study fish and other animals that live in water. They have to know a lot about science. The best part of their job is when they get to swim with the dolphins. Dolphins are mammals, not fish. That means they breathe air like we do. Some day I’m going to go to SeaWorld and swim with the dolphins. This is a fish I got out of the pond. I don’t really know what kind of fish it is.” Melissa held up the plastic container with the tiny fish inside. “That’s my report,” she said as she returned to her seat.
Amber saw Ms. McGuire write down a grade for Melissa. She was pretty sure it wasn’t an A or a B, or even a C.
“I shouldn’t have put it off until the last minute,” Melissa admitted at lunch. “It seemed like I had lots of time, and then all of a sudden it was here. Besides, I had all that math to do. Do you think Ms. McGuire will flunk me?”
“I think maybe you flunked yourself,” Laura said sadly.
“Maybe you should have spent more time on your report and less time planning your outfit,” Amber added with a sigh.
The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon