Tag Archives: Amber Snyder

No good deed goes unpunished.

broken-eggs

When the girls rang the doorbell, they heard Mrs. Henry shout, “Go Away.”

“Mrs. Henry,” Amber yelled through the door. “It’s Laura and Amber. We came to see if you need any help.”

“Come on in,” She yelled back. As the girls opened the door, they heard her say, “Might as well. You already woke me up.” The wrinkled condition of Mrs. Henry’s house dress told Amber and Laura that she really had been sleeping.  Her thin white hair was piled up on her head so that it looked like a giant spider had woven its web there.

“How are you feeling?” Laura asked, trying not to react to her appearance.

“I have a broken hip. How do you think I feel?”

“We were very sorry to hear about your accident.” Amber hoped she sounded sincere. “How did it happen?”

“It’s a long story,” Mrs. Henry sighed. Amber and Laura were sure it would be.

“I was late for my Bridge game and I had my arms full of old clothes I was taking to the thrift store. The gravel in my driveway was loose. I wish I had a cement driveway, but Mr. Henry said we couldn’t afford cement so we had to have gravel. Anyway, the gravel was loose and my feet started slipping. I tried to grab a hold of my car door, but I kept slipping. The next thing I knew, I was down on the gravel. I probably would have lain there until I died, but Doris Duncan came by to check on me when I didn’t show up at the Bridge game. At least I have one person who cares a little about what happens to me. She called for an ambulance and they took me to the hospital. The doctor ordered an x-ray and said I have a broken hip. The next day, I had surgery. They put me in rehab for three weeks, and now I’m supposed to take care of myself. I can get around some in my wheelchair, but no one cares if I starve to death.”

“We care, “Laura assured her. “What can we do for you?”

“You can go to the store and buy me some things that I can cook myself from the wheelchair.”

“We’d be happy to do that,” Amber managed a smile. “Do you have a list?”

“I just need eggs, bread, milk and coffee. Can’t you remember that without a list?”

            “Of course we can,” Laura smiled. “We’ll go to the store right now and be back before you know it.”

            “Sure you will,” Mrs. Henry sounded doubtful. “Here’s some money. Don’t lose it.”

            Laura and Amber jumped on their bikes and raced down the street toward the market. Laura had tucked Mrs. Henry’s money safely in her pocket. After they located all of the items in the store, they went to the checkout counter where Margaret, the clerk, rang up their purchases.

Amber put the milk and bread in the basket of her bike. Laura took the eggs and coffee. They rode back as fast as they could, knowing that Mrs. Henry would be annoyed if they took too long. Just as they were turning the corner onto Hope Street, a large yellow dog ran out in front of them. Amber managed to miss the dog, but when Laura tried to swerve around him, she lost control of her bike. With a loud crash, she landed on the pavement, the back wheel of her bike still spinning around. Amber ran to help her up. That’s when she saw the raw egg spilled on the pavement.

“Are there any unbroken ones?” Laura asked as Amber opened the carton.

“Only two,” Amber said. “Are you all right?”

“I’ll be fine,” Laura sighed, “But what are we going to do about the eggs?”

Just then Amber realized they were on Betty Jenkins’ street. Amber and Laura knocked forcefully on Betty’s door.

            “What’s wrong?” Betty asked when she saw the panic on their faces.

            “We were shopping for Mrs. Henry, and we broke the eggs,” Laura explained.

            “It wasn’t our fault,” Amber added. “A dog ran out in front of us.”

            “Don’t worry,” Betty said, calmly. “It was just an accident. We’ll think of something. Let me see if I have a dozen eggs in my refrigerator.”

            “We just need ten,” Laura said. “Two of them didn’t break.”

            “I’ve only got six,” Betty told them after checking her refrigerator. “Let’s go across the street to Doris’s house and see if she can spare four eggs.”

            “What took you so long? Did you have to milk a cow?” Mrs. Henry fumed as the girls came through the door with her groceries.

            After they had put away Mrs. Henry’s groceries, Laura asked if there was anything else they could do for her.

            “Not today,” she said, “but come back on Wednesday. I’m going to need you then.”

            “You’re welcome,” Amber said when they got outside.

            “You didn’t expect her to thank us, did you?” Laura asked.

            “Of course not.” Amber laughed “Those words aren’t in her vocabulary.” 

From The Handy Helpers: Seven is a Perfect Number, available from Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Seventeen

Amber

It was Melissa’s idea to dress up for the luncheon at the senior center. Amber would have been happy to show up in jeans and a T-shirt like she usually wore, but Melissa suggested she wear her Easter outfit. That meant that instead of riding her bike to the senior center, her mother drove her there so she wouldn’t get her clothes dirty.

“You look very nice,” Mary said as Amber got out of the car. “I’ll be here at two o’clock to pick you up.”

Melissa and Laura were already inside when Amber arrived. Mrs. Snow greeted her and showed her to the table. “We’ll be starting in a few minutes,” she said. “You get to sit at the head table.”

Amber looked around the room. The junior volunteers were seated at a long table near the front—Three Handy Guys at one end and the Happy Helpers at the other. Walt and Mrs. Snow had places in the middle. There were vases of fresh flowers on the tables. The room was filled with chatter as the seniors were selecting seats at the round tables.

“You girls look very nice today,” Mrs. Snow said.

“Thanks,” they said all together.

“I thought you’d be wearing stripes by now,” Spike shouted out from his end of the table.

The Happy Helpers gave him a dirty look as Walt rose and picked up the microphone.

“We’re here today,” Walt began, “to thank our junior volunteers who do so many nice things for us.” Walt introduced the Happy Helpers seated on his right and the Three Handy Guys seated on his left. “Since they are the guests of honor today, we’re going to let them go through the line first. Then we’ll call the order of the tables to follow. Stick around after you eat. We have a special video prepared by our own Hank Anderson.”

Betty Jenkins was at the head of the serving line, handing out plates and directing the diners as they progressed through the line.

“This salad with the dark-green leaves looks really good,” Amber said as she scooped some onto her plate.

“I made that,” Betty told her proudly. “I hope you like it.”

“I’m sure I will,” Amber said as she moved on to the potato salad and pasta salad. The table was loaded with all kinds of casseroles and breads. On another table, she saw luscious pies, cakes, and cookies. Amber looked for Betty’s special chocolate chip cookies but didn’t see them there.

“I love this salad Betty made,” Amber said once she had begun eating.

“That’s a surprise.” Laura laughed.

“Why?” Amber asked. “I always like salad.”

“Even spinach salad?” Laura laughed again.

“These dark-green leaves are spinach?” Amber asked, surprised. “That’s not possible. Spinach is stringy and bitter. This salad is crisp and sweet.”

“Spinach from a can is stringy and bitter,” Laura pointed out. “But fresh spinach is really good.”

“Now I wish the grasshoppers hadn’t eaten the spinach in my mom’s garden. Maybe she’ll try again, and I’ll help her grow some spinach. Now that I know how good fresh spinach tastes.”

The guests had just finished their desserts when Walt stood up and grabbed the microphone again. “As I said before, Hank has been making a video of the things that we do at the senior center. Without further ado, I call your attention to the screen that we’ve set up on the north wall. Gus, could you please dim the lights.”

As the room grew dark, Amber noticed Hank turning on the projector. It took a few minutes to warm up, and then a picture of the front of the senior center was visible on the screen. The viewers were taken on a virtual tour of the senior center as Walt, the narrator, pointed out all the activities that happened there. In the exercise room, a tai chi class was going on. Amber watched as the instructor led the seniors in smooth, graceful movements. She was thinking she would like to try tai chi some day. In the recreation room, seniors were playing chess and checkers. Others were working on a community jigsaw puzzle. The next scene showed seniors playing bingo in the dining room. Then there were highlights from the shuffleboard tournament. The video made being a senior look like a lot of fun.

At last, the video showed what the Happy Helpers had been waiting for, the spring luncheon. They laughed as they saw themselves greeting the seniors who were wearing their funny hats. Walt continued to narrate as he explained how important it was to have good volunteers. He introduced the Three Handy Guys and talked about all the things they do. There was video of them mowing the lawn and washing the vans. Hank had even gone to Gus’s house and made a video of them painting his porch. Walt continued to talk about volunteers as the video showed the Happy Helpers shredding paper, setting the table, and cleaning the kitchen.

As the next part of the video started, a hush fell over the lunchroom. This part wasn’t narrated by Walt. It showed the lunchroom the day the spoons disappeared. Bob was frantically trying to find the spoons. In the meantime, seniors were doing their best to eat the pudding with forks. In the video, pudding was dropping all over the tables and into laps. Some seniors tried drinking the pudding with equally disastrous results. Some were slipping on pudding that had been spilled on the floor. It could have been a scene from Funniest Home Videos, except no one was laughing.

As the video continued, it showed the walkway in front of the senior center. Instead of being nicely swept, it was covered with rocks and clods of dirt. Seniors in wheelchairs and those with walkers were trying to navigate their way to the front door, but it was difficult with so much debris in their path.

Amber looked over at Spike, who had his head down. Her face turned red as she watched the next part of the video. It was taken in the shredding room where Mrs. Snow and Walt were picking up the bags of shredding that Amber had cut the bottoms out of. They had shocked looks on their faces as the shredding flew everywhere. The two were down on their hands and knees, scooping it out from under the table and desk and stuffing it into new bags.

Amber was wishing the video would end, but there was more. This time, it showed the van covered in muddy water. Bob was on his way to deliver lunches to the seniors who were homebound. Instead of taking nice, hot food to them, he was saying, he would have to take time to wash the van because the windshield was too muddy to see through.

That was all Amber could take. In the next second, she was out of her seat and bolting for the door. Just as she came racing down the walkway, her mom pulled up in front.

“What’s wrong?” Mary asked when she saw the disturbed look on her daughter’s face. “Didn’t you have a good time?”

“I just want to go home,” was all the explanation Amber gave her. She sat in silence for the rest of the trip.

Amber went straight to her room and closed the door. She turned her face to her pillow just as the tears started to come. After about fifteen minutes, she stopped crying, except for an occasional sniffle.

Mary knocked on her daughter’s door. “Amber, are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” Amber assured her. “I just have lots of homework.”

“Laura and Melissa are here. Come on down.”

Amber went to the bathroom and washed her face. She hoped that she looked like nothing was wrong. But her puffy red eyes gave away the fact that she’d been crying.

“Why did you run out like that?” Melissa asked.

“They were just trying to make a point,” Laura said. “Walt talked to the four of us afterwards. He said he likes having us as volunteers, but he doesn’t like the war that’s been going on between us and the Three Handy Guys. We all talked it out and decided to work together instead of fighting each other. Then we can be better helpers for the seniors. That’s what’s important, isn’t it?”

“Did you say ‘the four of you’?” Amber asked.

“Spike ran out right after you did,” Melissa explained. “Logan and Chris are going over to talk to him.”

“If Spike’s in it,” Amber snarled, “I don’t want to be. Actually, I don’t want to be in it anyway.”

“But you’re the one who got us started helping Betty Jenkins,” Laura reminded her. “We need you.”

“You don’t need me!” Amber said emphatically. “I just mess things up.”

“I did some things too,” Melissa pointed out. “I’m the one who locked the boys in the ladies’ room.”

“But no one was hurt by that. I didn’t tell you before, but I’m the one who cut holes in the bags of shredding. When I saw Mrs. Snow crawling under the table to try to get all that paper . . .” Amber’s voice trailed off.

“We figured that out after we talked to Chris and Logan,” Laura told her. “They’re not mad. They know Spike did things to us. Everyone wants to just forget about it and start over.”

“That’s easy for you to say.” Amber hung her head. “You’re not the ones who made a mess of everything. You’re better off without me.”

“That’s not true,” Melissa said. “We need you. You’re an important part of our team. Like Mrs. Snow said, just because we got off to a rocky start doesn’t mean we should quit trying. We have a chance to really help people who need our help. That’s what matters.”

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Sixteen Continued

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“Hurry up!” Melissa practically dragged her two friends to the bike rack after school on Tuesday.

“Slow down!” Laura insisted. “What’s the big hurry?”

“We have to get to the senior center before the boys do,” Melissa answered. “Hurry up!”

 

The girls had been in their hiding place for a few minutes before the Three Handy Guys showed up. They watched as Spike got the cleaning supplies out of the storage cabinet and headed to the men’s room with Chris and Logan. They could hear them talking in the men’s room but couldn’t quite make out what they were saying.

“They’ll be going in the ladies’ room next,” Melissa said in a hushed voice. “Then we’ll make our move.”

“What’s our move?” Amber asked, unsure about what they were doing there.

“You’ll see,” Melissa said, taking out a length of rope.

“What are you going to do with that?” Laura sounded worried. “We can’t tie them up.”

“We’re not going to tie them up.” Melissa laughed. “We’re going to tie them in.”

Just then, Logan and Spike came out of the men’s room and headed for the ladies’ room. As soon as they were inside with the door closed, Melissa made her move. Walking quickly, but quietly, she reached the restroom door. Wrapping part of the rope around the doorknob, she stretched it over to the copy room door and wrapped more of the rope around that doorknob. Then she tied the two ends of the rope together. Laura and Amber, who had remained in their hiding place, were beginning to understand what Melissa had in mind. The girls only had to wait about ten minutes before the boys tried to leave the ladies’ room. They thought the door was stuck. The girls could hear them pushing on it. When it wouldn’t open, they began pounding on the door and yelling for help.

The noise Spike and Logan were making brought Chris running from the men’s room. “What’s wrong?” Chris shouted through the door.

“We can’t get the door open.” It was Spike’s voice from inside the ladies’ room.

“I see the problem,” Chris said to Spike, “There’s a rope tied around the doorknob. Just a minute and I’ll untie it.”

Chris was still untying the rope when Walt and Mrs. Snow came on the scene. The girls, hidden behind the door, watched as the guys tried to explain what was going on.

“We needed some more supplies to clean the ladies’ room,” Spike began, “and I was trying to open the door. We thought it was stuck.”

“This rope was tied around it,” Chris continued. “I don’t know where it came from.”

“Why were you cleaning the ladies’ room?” Walt asked.

“That’s what it said on the assignment sheet.” Logan looked confused. “We’ve never had that job before, but we thought that was what you wanted us to do.”

“I didn’t assign you to clean the restrooms,” Mrs. Snow said. “I didn’t assign anyone to do it. I was planning on doing it myself.”

“Well, it’s right here on the assignment sheet,” Logan said again. “See for yourself.”

The girls were having trouble holding back their laughter. They could hardly wait for what was coming next. As the guys looked at the assignment sheet, the color drained from their faces, and they couldn’t even speak.

“So what do you have to say for yourselves?” Mrs. Snow wanted to know. “This is not a place to play. You’ve been warned before.”

“We weren’t playing around, Mrs. Snow.” Spike was the first to recover from the shock. “Honest.”

“We’ll talk about it after the luncheon on Saturday,” Walt told them. “But no more funny business, you hear?”

“There won’t be any,” Logan managed to say. “Not from us.”

Walt and Mrs. Snow went back into their offices. The girls watched as the guys returned the cleaning supplies to the supply closet and headed for the front door. Then the girls sneaked out the back door, got on their bikes, and rode away as fast as they could.

Fifteen minutes later, they were sitting in Melissa’s backyard.

“I can’t believe you got away with that!” Amber exclaimed.

“I was sure we were going to get caught,” Laura added. “I was shaking so hard I was afraid I’d give us away.”

“I never had a doubt,” Melissa assured them. “I told you I’d come up with the perfect plan.”

“You sure did,” Amber agreed. “The guys never saw it coming.”

 

Amber was sitting on her bed, working on a sketch of Domino. She was working from memory now. She had managed to get Domino to sit still for a few minutes, but then he wandered away downstairs.

“Amber, telephone,” she heard her mom call up the stairs.

“I’ll be right there,” Amber called back.

“Hello . . . Yes, this is Amber . . . Mrs. Henry? . . . You saw our flyer in the senior center? . . . Yes, we can do that . . . After school tomorrow? . . . No problem, we’ll be there . . . Just let me write down the address.”

“Who was that?” Mary asked after Amber hung up the phone. “And what about after school tomorrow?”

“It was Mrs. Henry’s grandson. She’s out of town and wants us to water the plants in her front yard. I said we could do it after school tomorrow.”

“Kyle has his big play-off game tomorrow,” Mary reminded her. “He expects us to be there.”

“I’ll have time,” Amber assured her. “It won’t take long with the three of us doing the watering. I’ll be home in plenty of time to go to Kyle’s game.”

 

The Happy Helpers were excited about the job at Mrs. Henry’s. This was the first response to the flyer they had put up on the bulletin board at the senior center. Of course, they had helped Doris Duncan when she hurt her back, but Betty Jenkins had gotten that job for them.

Mrs. Henry’s home was on Briar Street, just three blocks from Amber’s house. The girls left their bikes in the driveway and looked for the faucet and hose where her grandson said they would be. Laura grabbed a bucket she saw on the front porch and started filling it with water.

“I can use this to water some of the smaller plants,” Laura said.

“Drag the hose over to that tree,” Melissa told Amber. “I’ll turn the water on for you.”

Amber finished watering the first tree and was carrying the end of the hose to the next tree. Melissa was helping her by moving the rest of the hose so it wouldn’t get caught on anything. Just as Amber reached the next tree, she noticed that no water was coming out of the hose.

“What happ—”  She was staring at the end of the hose when Melissa let go of the crimp she had made in the hose. Now under greater pressure, the water gushed out, spraying Amber in the face.

“Why did you do that?” Amber yelled at her laughing friend. “Now I’m all wet!”

Amber used her finger to partly cover the end of the hose, making the water spray. Then she aimed the hose at Melissa. Expecting the counterattack, Melissa moved out of the way. But Laura, who turned around when she heard Amber yell, got it right in the face. Melissa, now bent over in laughter, didn’t see Amber fill Laura’s bucket. It was too late when she saw Laura coming toward her, flinging the water in Melissa’s direction.

Melissa picked up the hose and sprayed both of her friends, who ran over and pounced on her. Amber took the hose away from Melissa and made sure she was as wet as they were.

“What do you think you’re doing?” The three dripping girls looked up to see an elderly woman standing on the front porch. She was wearing a housedress, and knee-high stockings that didn’t quite make it to her knees. Her powder-white hair had been pinned up on her head, but was now tumbling down on her face. In her hand was a broom, which she was waving in their direction.

“Turn that water off and get out of here!” she was yelling at them. “I’ve called the police. They’re on their way!”

Laura, who was closest to the faucet, turned off the water as the other two ran for their bikes. A few minutes later, all three of them collapsed on Amber’s front lawn.

“Do you think that was Mrs. Henry?” Laura asked.

“Probably,” Melissa said. “I don’t think she knew we were coming to water her plants.”

“Well,” Amber added, “her grandson asked us to. Maybe he forgot to tell her.”

“But she obviously isn’t out of town,” Laura pointed out.

“What did her grandson sound like?” Melissa asked.

“What do you mean?” Amber was confused.

“Was he old, young? You know.”

“He was kind of young, I guess,” Amber said.

“I bet it was one of those handy guys,” Melissa said with disgust.

“Now that I think about it, he did sound kind of funny,” Amber said thoughtfully. “And there was some laughing in the background. I thought maybe they were having a party.”

Just then, three boys rode by on bikes. They were waving and yelling something.

“Was that Spike and company?” Amber asked sarcastically.

“It looks like them,” Laura said. “I wonder what they were saying.”

“They were probably watching us at Mrs. Henry’s. I bet they saw the whole thing,” Melissa said, irritated.

“Well, I guess they got even,” Amber pointed out.

“Bet we’ll never hear the end of it,” Laura added.

“Amber, get in here,” Mary called from the front door. “Why are you all wet?”

“I was just—” Amber started to explain.

“Get changed,” Mary interrupted. “We’re late for Kyle’s game.”

 

Amber looked at the scoreboard as she took her seat at the baseball game. It was the top of the second inning, and both teams were scoreless. She watched as the batter struck out for the third out, bringing Kyle’s team up to bat. The first two batters were out at first base, and the third batter hit a fly ball that resulted in out number three. The score remained nothing to nothing through two more innings. Kyle came to bat in the fifth inning and hit a single. At the end of the inning, he was stranded at third base, with no runs being scored during that inning. The first batter on the other team hit a lead-off home run at the top of the sixth inning. The Bulldog pitcher, obviously shaken, walked the next batter. Then a batter hit a single. A wild pitch allowed the two runners to steal. Now there were runners on second and third. The next batter hit a ground ball, and the runners both made it home. The final score was five to one. For once, Kyle hadn’t scored a single run. Amber was as shocked as the other fans when the Bulldogs lost.

After the game, Amber and her parents went out on the field to congratulate the team on a great season. Spirits were a little low, of course, but there was talk about next year and what they would do as junior varsity players. Kyle stayed behind for an end-of-the-season celebration in the locker room while Amber and her parents headed for home.

 

Amber had been home for about an hour when she heard Kyle come in the front door. On the way back from the bathroom after brushing her teeth, she saw the door to Kyle’s room was open and he was sitting on the bed.

“Sorry you didn’t win your game,” Amber said sincerely.

“Thanks, sis,” Kyle said. “We knew winning was a long shot. That was a really good team we were playing. Anyway, at least we made the play-offs, even if we didn’t get very far.”

“But you’re a great player,” Amber said. “You always win.”

“We don’t always win, and I’m a pretty good player,” Kyle corrected her. “I don’t think I’m a great player. There are lots of guys who are better than I am.”

“It just seems like you do everything right,” Amber went on, “and I mess up all the time.”

“I mess up plenty,” Kyle said. “And you do lots of things better than I do.”

“Like what?” Amber asked.

“Like drawing,” Kyle answered. “I have no artistic talent at all. You’re a very good artist.”

“Thanks.” Amber smiled. “It’s usually hard for me to concentrate. But when I’m working on a drawing, I don’t seem to have that problem.”

“Well, it shows,” Kyle said. “Maybe you’ll be a famous artist someday.”

“I doubt that.” Amber shook her head. “Good night.” Then she added, “I’m glad you’re my big brother.”

“So am I.” Kyle smiled back.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Sixteen

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Monday afternoon, the girls found Gus sitting in a chair in the lobby of the senior center. “Why did the elephant paint his toenails red?” he asked when he saw them come in.

“I don’t know,” Laura said, taking the bait. “Why did the elephant paint his toenails red?”

“So he could hide in the strawberry patch.” Gus laughed.

“That’s a good one, Gus,” Amber said, smiling.

“Yeah.” Melissa laughed. “Very funny.”

“What are you girls up to today?” Gus wanted to know.

“We’re here to check the schedule just like we do every Monday,” Laura explained.

“What are you doing hanging around here?” Amber asked Gus.

“Watching for pretty girls,” was Gus’s answer.

“Have you seen any?” Amber asked.

“Yeah.” Gus smiled. “Three beautiful girls just walked through the door.”

“Where?” Amber looked around.

“He means us, silly,” Melissa said, fluffing out her hair. “You’re sweet, Gus.”

“See you later,” Amber said, and then added, “alligator.”

“After ’while, crocodile,” Gus answered back.

 

Walt was just putting the schedule up on the bulletin board when the girls walked up. “We’re giving you a week off,” Walt announced. “You worked pretty hard last week. We think you deserve a break.”

“That’s really nice,” Laura said. “But we like working here.”

“There’s more,” Walt continued. “On Saturday, we’re having an appreciation lunch for you and the boys. Where are they, by the way?”

“Oh, they’ll be a little late,” Amber said. “They stayed after school for something.”

“Could you let them know about the luncheon? It’ll be at noon on Saturday.”

“Sure, we’ll let them know,” Laura assured him.

“Okay, spill the beans,” Laura turned to Amber after Walt left. “Why are the boys staying after school?”

“They’re probably waiting for Spike. He had to serve detention,” Amber said with a grin. “Ms. McGuire asked me to see her after school. When I walked in the room, I saw Spike sitting at his desk with his head down.”

“Why, what did he do?” Laura wanted to know more.

“What I heard was that he was pretending to be Ms. McGuire. You know that act he does,” Melissa chimed in.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him do that,” Laura said. “That’s why he got detention?”

“He was clapping his hands and saying, ‘Now class, settle down. Settle down. I have some great news. You’re going to get to do fifty pages of homework tonight. Isn’t that exciting?’ He didn’t see Ms. McGuire come in with two other teachers. She probably would have laughed it off, but I guess she didn’t want the other teachers to think she was a pushover, so she gave him detention.”

“What about Chris and Logan?” Laura asked. “Why aren’t they here?”

“They probably waited for Spike,” Amber said. “They’ll all show up together. They’re like the three musketeers.”

“Don’t you mean the three stooges?” Melissa laughed.

Even though they knew their names were not on the schedule, the girls walked over to the bulletin board and looked at it anyway. “I’ve got a great idea,” Melissa said excitedly as she looked down the list of jobs. “Watch this.” Melissa pulled a pencil out of her book bag and wrote something on one of the empty lines on the schedule. When she was finished, Amber and Laura saw that she had written “Three Handy Guys” next to the assignment to clean the restrooms, and then she had checked the box for Tuesday.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Laura said. “We’re going to get in trouble.”

“It’s just a joke, right?” Amber asked. “You’re going to erase it, aren’t you?”

“I am going to erase it after the guys see it,” Melissa said. “Don’t be chicken. This is going to be fun. Just wait and see what happens tomorrow.” Melissa pulled her two friends into a doorway where they wouldn’t be seen. “We’ll wait here until the boys come.”

A few minutes later, they watched from their hiding place as the Three Handy Guys came through the front door and headed for the bulletin board.

“Clean the restrooms?” Chris said with surprise. “We’ve never had that job before.”

“How hard could it be?” Spike reassured him. “We can handle that with no problem. I know where all the cleaning supplies are.”

Just then, Walt came out of his office. “Did the girls tell you about Saturday?” he asked.

“No, we haven’t seen them,” Logan said. “What’s happening Saturday?”

“We’re having an appreciation lunch for all of you,” Walt told them. “Be here at noon and enjoy a feast.”

“Thanks,” they all said. “We will.”

The girls watched as the boys left. Then Melissa took her pencil from her book bag again and carefully erased “Three Handy Guys” from the schedule.

 

“Ask me what happened in school today,” Amber said with excitement that night at the dinner table. “Go ahead, ask me. You aren’t going to believe it!”

“Okay, Fred, tell us what happened in school today,” John said with a chuckle. “You look like you’re about to explode.”

“You remember that big math assignment we had to do?” Amber asked her family.

“The one I helped you with?” Kyle said smugly. “Let me guess, you got a passing grade on it.”

“Well, I did,” Amber went on, “But that’s not it. In math today, Ms. McGuire told us what happened to that assignment. She took it home on Friday so she could grade the papers. On Sunday morning, she was looking out in her backyard. There was a lot of white stuff all over her yard. When she went to see what it was, she found our math papers in shreds. Her dog had dragged them out through his doggy door. He was in the backyard with some of our papers in his front paws. He was chewing on them like they were a T-bone steak. Ms. McGuire said that she never believed students who said their dog ate their homework, but now she does. After school, she told me she was giving me credit for the homework Domino ate.”

“Do you have to do the big assignment over again?” Mary asked with concern.

“No, I don’t.” Amber smiled proudly. “Fortunately, Ms. McGuire had already graded the papers and recorded the scores. She said that anyone who had at least 75 percent on the homework would not have to do it again. Anyone who had less than that was going to have to do it again anyway. I got an 88, so I’m fine.”

“Good going, sis.” Kyle patted her on the back.

“That’s quite a story,” John said. “I wonder if her dog is Domino’s brother.”

 

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Thirteen

Amber

Amber was feeling stressed when she went down to breakfast Friday morning. Her mother must have known she would be, because she was busy making chocolate chip pancakes, Amber’s favorite.

“Today’s the big day,” Mary said as Amber came into the kitchen.

“I know,” Amber said. “I’ll be glad when it’s over. Aren’t you going to work today?”

“No,” Mary said. “I’m taking today off.”

“Why?” Amber asked.

“I just want a day off,” Mary said cheerfully. “I’m entitled to a day off now and then.”

When she had finished her pancakes, Amber went back upstairs to get her book bag. She took a quick peek out the window to check on her bird family. Only two of the babies were in the nest. Amber was worried until she spotted another baby on a lower branch. “I guess you can fly now,” she said to the baby birds. “You’ll be flying away soon, won’t you?”

Amber arrived at school a little early. She went to her classroom and deposited a canvas bag in the back of the room. Then she went to meet Laura and Melissa on the playground.

“Are you ready for your career report?” Laura asked.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Amber said with a sigh. “I thought you were lucky, Melissa, because you get to give yours on the last day, but I don’t think I would want this hanging over my head until then.”

“I haven’t really started on mine yet,” Melissa admitted. “But I still have plenty of time.”

“Don’t wait until the last minute,” Laura warned.

“I won’t,” Melissa said. “I’ll be ready.”

When Ms. McGuire called Amber’s name, she went nervously to the back of the classroom. There she retrieved her canvas bag. On it were the words “US Mail.” As she walked up the isle, she removed envelopes from the canvas bag and handed them, randomly, to some of the students. When she reached the front of the class, she noticed that her mother had come into the classroom and had taken an empty seat near the door. Amber tried to relax a little before beginning her report. She asked the first student, Samantha, to open the envelope. From the envelope, Samantha took a piece of paper. Amber asked her to please read what it said on the paper.

“The US Post Office handles about 177 billion pieces of mail each year,” the student read.

Then she asked the next student, Derrick, who read, “The US Post Office employs about six hundred thousand workers.”

The next student, named Bobby, opened his envelope and read, “The US Post Office does not receive any money from taxes. It operates on the money collected from selling postage stamps.”

When all the envelopes had been opened and read, Amber began her report. “Mail carriers deliver mail by walking a route or by driving a vehicle. The longest route is 176 miles and has 174 mailboxes. The shortest route is only two miles long and has 640 mailboxes. Mail is even delivered to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

“To be a mail carrier, you have to be eighteen years old. You can apply at the post office. Then you will have to take a test. The better you do on the test, the closer you will be to the top of the list. When there is a job opening, three names are chosen from the top of the list. Those people have to pass a physical. One person will be chosen for the job.

“I wanted to bring something to show you, like everyone else did when they gave their reports. I decided to bring a real, live mail carrier. So here she is. This is my friend Betty Jenkins. She delivered the mail for thirty years in Kansas.”

With that, Betty came forward. “I’m glad Amber invited me to come here today, and I was so excited when she told me she was going to do her report on mail carriers. Some people call it snail mail because it is much slower than e-mail. But if you get a birthday card that has money or a gift card in it, you’ll be glad it came by US Mail. Amber asked me what I liked best about my job, and I told her it was meeting the people on my route. They were always glad to see me, even when I delivered bills or bad news.”

When Betty finished talking, she asked if anyone had questions. Students asked her about being chased by dogs and delivering mail in bad weather. As Betty was talking, Amber looked at Ms. McGuire, who gave her two thumbs-up to say she had done a good job.

As Amber took her seat and Betty left the classroom, Ms. McGuire introduced Amber’s mother.

“Mrs. Snyder is an insurance agent,” she said. “I asked her to speak to you today about her career.”

Amber’s mom smiled at her as she walked to the front of the classroom. “Selling insurance may not sound like a glamorous job,” she began, “but there is more to it than just a bunch of paperwork. Insurance agents help families prepare for emergencies and plan for the future. We work closely with our clients to show them ways to best meet their needs. In doing this, we build relationships that last for many years.”

Mary explained to the class about the requirements for becoming an insurance agent. She said that college was not necessary, but many agents have a business or finance degree. She told them that in order to be an agent, you had to pass a state test, just like a lawyer does.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to speak to my class today?” Amber asked her mom when she got home.

“Ms. McGuire asked me not to,” Mary said. “She thought it would make you nervous. I asked her to let me speak on the same day that you were giving your report so I could find out what your report was about. You did a very nice job.”

“Ms. McGuire told me later that I got an A on my report.”

“I’m not surprised,” Mary said. “It was a wonderful report, and having Betty Jenkins come to school was brilliant.”

“Betty helped me a lot,” Amber said. “But having her come was my idea.”

Even though the boys had told them not to come to the senior center until ten o’clock, the girls decided to show up at nine. It was a good thing they did because the Three Handy Guys were finished with the mowing and were planning to do the sweeping themselves. Spike was especially surprised to see the girls there so early and gave them a sheepish grin. Once again, Hank was there with his video camera. As the girls walked over, he began putting it away in its case.

“Hi, Hank,” Melissa called to him. “Did you get more video for your documentary?”

“Yes, I did,” Hank said. “I want to show what good work you kids do.”

The Happy Helpers went to the garden shed where Walt had told them they would find three push brooms. They looked around in the shed for about ten minutes without locating the brooms. Behind the door, they saw some lines of dirt that looked like they could have been left by brooms that had been leaning up against the wall. They also noticed a handprint on the wall behind the place where the brooms might have been.

“That handprint looks too small to be Walt’s,” Laura said.

“But it’s not too small to be Spike’s,” Amber added.

“He probably took the brooms so we couldn’t use them,” Melissa said. “There are three old brooms back there. We could use those.”

“It’ll take us longer,” Laura sighed. “But at least we’ll get the sweeping done.”

“That’ll be a shock for Spike,” Amber added. “He won’t get the best of us this time.”

The Happy Helpers carried their brooms out toward the walkways, just as the Three Handy Guys were pushing the mowers toward the garden shed.

“Nice brooms.” Spike laughed. “Did you fly in on those?”

“We wouldn’t have to use these if you hadn’t taken the push brooms,” Amber accused.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Spike said innocently. Chris and Logan looked at him, but he just shrugged.

The girls ignored them all and started sweeping the walkways. The edges of the brooms were uneven, and lots of the straw was missing. That meant that they had to sweep the same area over and over. It took them more than an hour to complete the job. But when they were finished, they stood back and admired their work.

“The walkways look great!” Laura said. “We swept away every rock and piece of grass.”

“Walt should be happy with what we did today,” Amber said proudly. “It was a lot of work with those old brooms, but we did it.”

“We can do anything those boys can do,” Melissa touted. “We just proved that.”

As they returned the brooms to the garden shed, the girls noticed Spike leaning against the wall.

“Do you think he heard us?” Laura asked as they got on their bikes.

“Who cares,” Melissa replied smugly.

The girls had to go to their own homes for lunch, but they agreed to meet at the pond at one o’clock. Laura was already there when Amber rode up on her bike.

“You gave a great report yesterday,” Laura said as they waited for Melissa.

“Thanks.” Amber smiled shyly. “I had a lot of help from Betty Jenkins.”

“She’s so nice,” Laura added. “I’m glad we met her.”

“She told me she misses her granddaughters,” Amber said. “We’re sort of taking their place, I think.”

“Anything interesting in the pond?” Melissa asked as she caught up with her friends.

“We just got here,” Laura told her. “We haven’t looked at the pond yet.”           In spite of the spring rain showers, the pond was smaller than it had been the last time they were there. The girls were able to stand on rocks that had been submerged before. Now they could look into deeper parts of the pond. Amber had brought some Ziploc bags to hold any life-forms they wanted to take home for “research.” They spotted some tadpoles that had grown legs and some that were already tiny frogs. There were some other small fish they couldn’t identify. The girls filled the bags with what they could catch.

“What’s that?” Melissa asked, pointing to a yellowish-brown insect that had two long, skinny legs.

“I don’t know,” Laura said. “It looks like it’s swimming on its back.”

“Maybe we can catch it.” Amber grabbed one of the bags and waded into the pond. She made several swipes at the bug, but it was too fast for her. Finally, she gave up and climbed out of the pond.

Back at Amber’s house, the girls deposited their specimens in Amber’s little swimming pool. Then they headed for home.

“I heard you did a great job on your report,” Kyle said at dinner. He had gotten home too late from his away baseball game to hear about it Friday night.

“She was spectacular!” Mary said. “I was so proud of you, Amber.”

“You were a good guest speaker,” Amber said. “I was proud of you too.”

“Then I didn’t embarrass you?” Mary asked.

“No, but I was a little worried when I saw you there.” Amber laughed. “I thought maybe I was in trouble or something.”

“Fred, you worry too much,” John told her. “We’re all proud of you.”

“Find anything interesting at the pond?” Kyle changed the subject.

“We did see this funny-looking bug,” Amber said. “It was sort of light brown with two long legs. I tried to catch it, but it was too fast.”

“Did it swim on its back?” Kyle asked.

“Yes, it did.”

“That’s a backswimmer,” Kyle told her. “It’s a good thing you didn’t catch it. It would sting you like a giant mosquito.”

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Twelve Continued

Image1-17_edited-1After school, the girls raced each other to the senior center. As usual, Melissa beat them, her longer legs giving her the advantage. Mrs. Snow showed the Happy Helpers the copy room where the shredder was located. She demonstrated how to use the shredder and stressed the importance of following the safety rules. Then she indicated several boxes that were stacked nearby.

“I don’t expect you to do all of this today,” Mrs. Snow said. “Just do what you can. When the shredder canister is full, the shredder will automatically shut off. Unplug the shredder, take out the full bag, and replace it with a new bag. Plug the shredder back in, and you’ll be ready to go again. You can stack the full bags over there.”

The girls took turns operating the shredder. One of them stacked the papers near the shredder. Another person would hand the papers a few at a time to the person feeding them into the shredder. When the container was full, they would open the door under the shredder and take out the full bag as Mrs. Snow had instructed.

“What if we were shredding money?” Melissa giggled. “Would you keep some?”

“Of course not,” Laura said, pretending to be shocked. “My dad’s a banker. Can you imagine if I was arrested for stealing from the Federal Reserve?”

“Well, it’s not money,” Amber said. “So I don’t think we have to worry about getting caught stealing money.”

“What if there are some secret documents?” Melissa continued. “Maybe we could be spies.”

“Well, we’re not,” Laura insisted. “Anyway, this just looks like a bunch of old invoices. They don’t even have names on them.”

“I’m only trying to make it more fun,” Melissa defended herself.

“Virtue is its own reward,” Laura said.

“What does that mean?” Amber asked.

“I’m not sure,” Laura told her. “I heard it in church. I think it means that doing what’s right makes you feel good, and that’s all the payment you need.”

Hank stuck his head in the door. “Mind if I videotape a little? I’m making a documentary about the senior center.”

“That’s fine with us,” the girls all said. Melissa fluffed out her hair and posed, but Amber and Laura just kept on shredding.

When the Happy Helpers had nearly finished with all the papers in one of the boxes and had two bags full of shredded paper, they decided to take a break and get some sodas from the machine.

They were only gone for about ten minutes, but when they returned, they found the shredded paper all over the copy room.

“What happened here?” Amber shrieked in shock.

“I don’t know!” Laura threw up her hands.

“It wasn’t like that when we left,” Melissa added. “It looks like the bags exploded all over the place!”

The girls went to work collecting up all the shredded paper and putting it back in the bags that were lying empty on the floor. It took them about a half hour to clean up the mess, which didn’t leave them any time to do more shredding.

“Mrs. Snow is going to think we messed around and didn’t get much done,” Amber said with worry in her voice.

“Do you think we should tell her?” Laura asked.

“I wouldn’t suggest that,” Melissa said. “She might think we did it ourselves. We’d better try to figure out who is doing this. Maybe we can catch them in the act.”

As the girls were passing the recreation room, they saw the Three Handy Guys. They were all doubled over in laughter.

“You’re the ones!” Amber said accusingly.

“We’re the ones what?” Logan asked innocently.

“You made the mess in the copy room while we were getting drinks.” Melissa pointed her finger at them. “That’s why you’re laughing.”

“We’re laughing because Gus told us a funny joke,” Chris said.

“Yeah, right,” Amber said with disgust.

“He did,” Logan assured them. “Want to hear it?”

“We’re not in a funny mood,” Laura fumed. “I don’t know why you’re trying to make us look bad, but leave us alone!”

With that, the girls stormed out of the recreation room.

“You probably didn’t know how to use the shredder and blew it up!” Spike yelled after them.

Wednesday, the Happy Helpers rode their bikes to Doris Duncan’s right after school. Doris was obviously feeling better, though she was still using her cane. They followed the same routine as the previous Wednesday, carrying the plants one by one to the sink and returning them to their places once they were watered. When they were finished, the girls reminded Doris that she had promised to help them take some cuttings.

“I have some jars here,” Doris said. “After you take cuttings from the plants you like, we’ll put them in some water in these jars. Then they’ll have to stay here for a few weeks until they have roots. After that we’ll plant them in some little pots that I have.”

“I was hoping I could take my plant home today,” Melissa said, disappointed.

“We could cut some babies off of this spider plant.” Doris pointed to a plant with long, skinny light-green leaves. There were thin shoots coming out of the plant, and at the end of the shoots were tiny plants that looked just like the big one.

“The plant had babies?” Amber said with surprise.

“That’s just what we call them,” Doris explained. “The mother plant grows stalks, and tiny new plants grow at the end of the stalks. That’s where the flowers grow.”

“Can we have a baby plant?” Laura asked.

“We can cut some babies off the stalks and put them in pots of soil,” Doris continued. “If you promise to keep the soil moist when you take them home, you’ll have a good chance of growing a spider plant of your own.”

Doris helped the girls choose their babies. She had them put three little plants in each pot, just in case one might not survive. Then she showed them how to mist the soil.

After that, Doris took cuttings from some of the other plants and showed the girls how to put them in the jars of water. Then they placed them on a shelf under a window in her laundry room.

“It will take a few weeks for them to root,” Doris explained. “Then you can plant them in pots as well.”

Doris invited the girls to sit down at the kitchen table. She brought out a tray with cut-up pieces of fruit and different kinds of cheeses. While they were enjoying their snack, they chatted about the Easter luncheon.

“What’s the deal with Gus?” Melissa asked.

“What do you mean?” Doris looked confused.

“Gus is always at the senior center when we go there,” Laura explained. “Doesn’t he have a family or other things to do?”

“That’s kind of a sad story,” Doris began. “Gus and his wife, Barbara, were one of the first couples to move to Bluesky. They moved here from Ohio, I think. Gus and Babs, as everyone called her, were very outgoing and made friends with everyone in town. Their only son had been killed in Vietnam, so it was just the two of them. They were really the ones who got the senior center started. Gus went to all the businesses and organizations in Bluesky and even some in Marshallville to talk about donating money for the senior center. Babs kind of worked behind the scenes, making phone calls and keeping records. It took three years, but finally, the senior center was a reality.”

“What happened to Babs?” Amber asked.

“She died of cancer two years ago,” Doris continued. “Gus was really lost without her. I guess the senior center is what keeps him going. That’s why he’s there so much.”

“He’s a great guy,” Melissa said. “He always makes us laugh.”

“Since he doesn’t have a family of his own,” Amber said. “Maybe we can be his family.”

“I’m sure he thinks of you that way,” Doris said. “Everyone he meets becomes his family.”

 

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

 

 

 

The Most Important Lesson, by Amber Nicole Snyder

AmberMy name is Amber Nicole Snyder. I’m in the fifth grade at Bluesky Elementary school. My teacher, Mr. Eller, asked our class to write about an important lesson we learned. This is my story.

Last year my friends and I started a group to help at the senior center. We called our group the Happy Helpers. I liked helping people and it was fun getting to know the seniors. We did what we were supposed to do at the senior center, but things kept going wrong. We were getting blamed for things we didn’t do. I thought it was because of the boys who also helped at the senior center. I thought they were making it look like we messed up. I started doing things to make them look bad. What I learned was that the things I did hurt the seniors I wanted to help. But that’s not the most important lesson I learned.

The people at the senior center gave me a second chance to do the right thing. They forgave me for what I did. I learned that people forgive each other because of love. I learned that God forgives us too because he loves us so much. But that is not the most important lesson  I learned.

Even though I was given a second chance, I still felt bad about what I did. My dad said that I had to forgive myself. That was what God wanted me to do. Everybody else forgave me and God forgave me, but I still had to forgive myself. Otherwise, that was like saying to my friends, “I don’t accept your forgiveness.” It was like saying to God, “I don’t accept your forgiveness.” That’s why I forgave myself and went back to being a helper at the senior center. That was the most important lesson I learned.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon