“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