Tag Archives: orioles

A Rocky Start: Chapter Six

AmberFriday morning, Amber checked the nest outside her window as usual. But instead of seeing five eggs, she saw five open mouths. The baby birds were crying in hunger, and Amber was certain that the parents were hunting for food nearby. She watched until the mother returned. Something passed from the mother’s mouth to a baby’s. As the mother was flying away, the father showed up to continue the feeding process.

A yell from Amber brought the rest of her family. They all watched the bird family enjoying their breakfast, until Mary said it was time for them to have their own breakfast. Today was the last day for Amber to sign up for the career she wanted to research. Any students who didn’t select a career by Friday would have one assigned by Ms. McGuire. After her talk with Betty Jenkins, Amber had thought a lot about art careers. She couldn’t quite decide which one to choose. Maybe while she walked to school, she could make up her mind.

Melissa and Laura were waiting for her on the playground when Amber arrived at school.

“What took you so long?” Melissa said. “We’ve been waiting for fifteen minutes.”

“I had some thinking to do,” Amber said. “And I had a stop to make on the way.”

Laura pressed an envelope into Amber’s hand. “It’s an invitation to my birthday party next Friday. It’s going to be a sleepover.”

“Thanks,” Amber said. “I can’t wait. I love sleepovers.”

Walking home from school, Amber thought about how glad she was that it was Friday. She was especially glad about this particular Friday because it was her turn to choose the game for game night. At dinner, as usual, her mother asked about her day at school.

“Did you decide what you are going to do for your career report?”

“Yes, I did,” Amber said with a sigh of relief.

“Well, Fred,” John asked, “what’s it going to be?”

“I can’t tell you yet,” Amber said. “I still have some details to work out.”

“I don’t understand,” her dad questioned further. “If you have a topic, why can’t you tell us?”

“I will,” Amber said, “when I’m ready.”

“You didn’t choose one,” Kyle taunted. “That’s why you won’t tell.”

“I did,” Amber insisted. “You’ll just have to wait and see what it is.”

“Whatever.” Kyle shrugged.

After dinner, Amber set up the game board for the Game of Life. Kyle looked disgusted when he saw it.

“Amber played Monopoly without complaining,” Mary reminded her son.

“I know,” Kyle said. “But there’s no skill involved in this game. It’s just a game of chance.”

“You could say that about Monopoly as well,” John added. “In fact, you can say that about real life too. We’re not in control of everything that happens in our lives. We have to deal with the unexpected and make adjustments all the time, just like in the Game of Life.”

When Amber landed on lawyer as her career, she was practically jumping up and down in her seat. But when Kyle landed on teacher, the lowest-paying job, Amber couldn’t contain her enthusiasm. “Hope you enjoy listening to noisy kids all day while I’m busy with my important clients.” Kyle leaned back in his chair as if to say, “I couldn’t care less.”

That seemed to set the tone for the entire game. When Amber won the lottery, Kyle inherited fifty cats from his aunt. If that wasn’t enough, later he inherited a skunk farm from his uncle. Amber sold her cattle ranch for $200,000, and Kyle had to pay $100,000 because a tornado hit his home and he didn’t have insurance.

When Amber landed on the Revenge space, Kyle didn’t have $200,000 to pay her.

“I’ll loan you some money,” Amber offered, grinning from ear to ear.

“Never mind,” Kyle said. “I’ll just go bankrupt.”

“Too bad for your wife and four children,” John pretended to be concerned.

“At least they have a rich aunt,” Mary added.

“And maybe another one with fifty cats.” Amber was holding her side with laughter.

 

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Four Continued

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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

A Rocky Start–Chapter Two

Image1-17_edited-1          Amber awoke to a beautiful spring morning with the sound of birds outside her window. She pulled back the curtain to look at the nest in the sycamore tree. Earlier in the spring, she had watched as two parents-to-be built their nest from pieces of dry grass and straw. The male bird was orange and black, and the female was black and yellow. Both birds had black wings with white stripes. Amber’s dad said that he thought they were orioles. But he took Amber to the library to get a bird book so they could find out for sure. After reading about all the different types, they decided the birds must be hooded orioles. The black face and orange head that looked like a hood kind of gave it away. In her sketchbook, Amber had drawn several pictures of the birds, some flying and some sitting on a branch.

In the nest, Amber could see five bluish-gray eggs with black specks. The male was sitting on the nest, but Amber knew that the two birds took turns. A few weeks after they had spotted the birds in the tree, Amber’s mom brought home an oriole feeder, which she hung in another tree in the backyard. Other birds used the feeder as well, but Amber could always pick out her pair.

The smell of pancakes brought Amber down to breakfast. Her mom made pancakes almost every Saturday. After breakfast, she would have to do her Saturday chores. This week, it was cleaning the bathrooms. Her mother always cleaned the kitchen and did the laundry. Amber, Kyle, and their dad rotated the other chores. Today Kyle had to vacuum, and Dad was dusting.

As Amber walked outside to begin pulling weeds in the front yard, she saw two girls on bikes, riding toward her house. As they came closer, she recognized her two best friends, Melissa Peterson and Laura Thomas. Both girls were dressed in jeans and T-shirts. Melissa was almost a foot taller than Laura and Amber. She had her long straight blond hair pulled back and held by a clip with a flower on it. Laura’s short brown hair was covered by a baseball cap.

Her friends left their bikes in the driveway and started across the grass to where Amber was. They were both pulling gloves out of their pockets and putting them on.

“We’re here to help you with the weeds,” Laura said. “Then maybe you can go with us to the pond.”

“I’ll have to ask my mom,” Amber said with a smile. “But I’m pretty sure she will let me.”

“What’s Kyle doing today?” Melissa wanted to know.

“He’s going to Fox Creek with some of his friends,” Amber told her. “He’s in there packing a lunch right now. I think he’s taking Domino with him.”

“Maybe we could go to Fox Creek too,” Melissa said hopefully.

“I know my mom would say no to that,” Amber shook her head.

“Mine too,” Laura chimed in. “Fox Creek is definitely out-of-bounds for me.”

About a half hour later, Amber pulled out the last weed from the front yard. She carried the bag of weeds over to the trash can.

“That didn’t take long at all,” Laura said.

“No, it didn’t,” Amber agreed. “I’ve got an idea. Yesterday, I met Mrs. Jenkins. She lives on Hope Street, and I was walking past her house when she asked me to get her newspaper out of the bushes.”

“She must have the same paperboy we have,” Melissa interrupted. “Derrick Carson. He always throws our paper in the bushes too.”

“Well, anyway,” Amber continued, “Mrs. Jenkins seems really nice, and I noticed she has some weeds in her yard. She couldn’t bend down to get her newspaper, so it’s probably hard for her to pull weeds. Maybe we could do that for her before we go down to the pond.”

Melissa and Laura both agreed that would be a good thing to do. After Amber checked in with her mom, the three girls got on their bikes and headed for Mrs. Jenkins’s house. They found her sitting in the glider on her front porch.

“Mrs. Jenkins,” Amber called out as she laid her bike down, “these are my friends, Melissa and Laura. We’ve been pulling weeds in my yard, and we thought you might like some help with your weeds.”

“That is a very nice offer, but are you sure that’s what you want to be doing on a fine Saturday morning?”

“It won’t take long,” Laura assured her. “And we love to help people.”

“In that case,” Mrs. Jenkins said, “I think I’ll take you up on your offer. That is, if you’ll have some lemonade and cookies with me when you’re done.”

“That’s a deal,” the girls responded with glee.

Amber, Melissa, and Laura started to work on the lawn, and Mrs. Jenkins went into the house. It hadn’t rained for quite a while, so there weren’t too many weeds. It didn’t take the girls long to finish. When Mrs. Jenkins returned, she was carrying a tray with a pitcher of lemonade, four glasses, and a plate of cookies. When Melissa saw her trying to get through the door with the tray, she ran over to help.

“Let me take that for you,” Melissa said. “Those cookies smell awfully good.”

“It’s my special recipe for chocolate chip cookies,” Mrs. Jenkins told her. “No one can ever guess my secret ingredient.” She told the girls to go inside and wash their hands. Then she poured the lemonade into glasses.

“These are the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had,” Amber said. “What is your secret ingredient?”

“I can’t tell you.” Mrs. Jenkins smiled a sly smile. “Or it wouldn’t be a secret, would it?”

“We wouldn’t tell anyone,” Laura pleaded.

“Sorry, you’ll just have to try guessing.”

“Is it cinnamon?” suggested Melissa.

“No, any other guesses?”

“What about nutmegan?” added Amber.

“You mean nutmeg,” Laura corrected. “I think it’s something exotic like cardamom.”

“Good guesses,” said Mrs. Jenkins, “but you’re all wrong.”

For a few moments, everyone ate the cookies in silence. Then Mrs. Jenkins said, “The yard looks much better. I don’t know how to thank you girls. When my husband, Paul, was alive, he always took such good care of our lawn. If a weed popped up, he would snatch it out of the ground right away. I think the weeds finally gave up and decided not to grow in our yard. Since I’ve had to use this cane, I haven’t been able to keep up like he did. I hire a neighbor boy to mow the lawn once a month. That’s about all I can manage.”

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon