Tag Archives: senior center

Hats Off to Spring

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The senior center was buzzing with activity when the Happy Helpers arrived. The Easter luncheon was one of the big events held at the senior center every year. Mrs. Snow was there, directing the volunteers. When she spotted the girls, she waved them over to where she was.

“We have to get these favors on the tables at each place.” She handed a boxful to each girl. They were tiny straw hats decorated with flowers and birds attached to tiny hat racks with even more flowers and birds.

“These are really cute,” Melissa said. “The ladies at our church made them.”

“That’s right,” Mrs. Snow responded. “They brought them here this morning. Now we need to get them on the tables.”

Amber noticed some of the ladies from the Community Church arranging larger hat decorations in the center of each table. Some other ladies were setting up the buffet tables and placing hat decorations there as well.

“The theme is ‘Hats Off to Spring,’” Mrs. Snow seemed to read Amber’s mind. “Wait until the other seniors start arriving. You’re going to see some crazy hats today.”

The Happy Helpers took their boxes of favors and started putting them out at each place. When they were finished, Mrs. Snow gave them boxes of silverware wrapped in pastel-colored napkins, each tied with a pink, green, or yellow ribbon. Plates had been placed at the beginning of the buffet line, and the glasses were on the beverage table.

“You did a lovely job,” Mrs. Snow said, surveying the room. “I knew my faith in you wasn’t misplaced.”

“Is there anything else we can do?” Laura asked.

“Would you like to be greeters at the door?” Mrs. Snow suggested.

“That sounds like fun,” Melissa said with enthusiasm.

“Yeah,” added Amber. “Then we can check out the crazy hats you mentioned.”

Mrs. Snow positioned the girls at the front door and handed them some programs to give out to each guest. The first couple through the door was Hank and Clarisse Anderson. Clarisse was wearing a fancy red hat with tiny roses and feathers around the brim. When Melissa told her how beautiful it was, Clarisse said that it was called the Titanic.

“It cost about as much as the Titanic,” Hank added. Clarisse shot him a dirty look.

“I see you have your video camera out already,” Amber said. “Are you going to make a movie of the Easter luncheon?”

“I want to catch everyone when they arrive in their hats,” Hank said.

“You have a nice hat,” Laura commented. “It looks like something from the Titanic movie too.” Hank wore a brown felt hat with creases in the front.

“It’s a fedora,” Hank said proudly.

“It’s a Stetson,” Clarisse added. “And it cost as much as mine.”

Gus was the next to arrive. The girls tried not to chuckle when they saw his hat. It was a black visor with black and gray hair sticking out of the top. This was especially funny since the girls knew that Gus had no hair at all underneath the hat.

“Like my hat?” Gus asked.

“It’s really you!” Melissa giggled.

“If there are prizes for the best hats,” Amber added, “you’ll win for sure.”

“Maybe the goofiest,” Melissa whispered to Amber.

Doris Duncan came in using a walker. Her hat was made of straw and was decorated with beautiful fresh flowers. Betty Jenkins wore a gray cowboy hat with a decorative band and black feather.

 

From The Handy Helpers: A Rocky Start

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 Fifteen Continued

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Sunday morning, Amber realized she hadn’t checked on the bird family for a while. When she looked out the window, she was disappointed to see that the nest was empty.

“I didn’t even get a chance to say good-bye,” she groaned to her family at breakfast.

“That’s the way children are,” her father said, pretending to be serious. “You dedicate yourself to feeding and sheltering them, and as soon as they get out on their own, they move away and forget all about you.”

“I’ll never do that.” Amber hugged her dad around the neck from behind his chair. “I’m going to stay right here in Bluesky for the rest of my life.”

“I wouldn’t plan so far ahead,” Mary warned. “Things change, even in Bluesky.”

Amber was wishing that she could avoid going to church that Sunday morning. She was convinced that the boys were responsible for everything that had happened at the senior center. After all, they started it. And she was feeling that her own actions were justified. She hadn’t told her friends that she was the one who cut the holes in the bags of shredding, and she didn’t see any reason why they needed to know. As far as they were concerned, it was them against the Three Handy Guys. Going to church might just cloud her thinking with talk about loving your enemies. She didn’t see how she could be expected to love those three guys after what they had done.

Pretending to be sick was an option Amber considered only briefly. She knew better than to try it. That was a lesson she learned when she was seven. Kyle had warned her to never try to fool their mother by pretending to be sick, but Amber still had to find out for herself the hard way. A book report was due, and Amber hadn’t even finished reading the book, let alone write the book report. She thought about asking her teacher, Mrs. Bennett, for more time, but she was afraid her teacher would figure out that she had put off reading the book until it was too late to finish it before the book report was due. Mrs. Bennett might even tell her mother. Then she’d be in more trouble. Staying home from school seemed like the perfect answer. It would give her time to finish reading and write her report. Her teacher would never know.

Amber stood in front of the mirror for ten minutes practicing her “sick face.” Finally, she thought she was convincing enough to go downstairs. Walking up to her mother in the kitchen, Amber held one hand over her mouth and gagged a little. With the other hand, she held her stomach. “I don’t feel good,” she said in a sad little voice.

Mary put her hand to Amber’s forehead. “You don’t feel hot,” Mary said. “Maybe you’ll feel better after you eat breakfast.”

At the words “eat breakfast,” Amber ran to the bathroom and made noises as if she was throwing up. “I don’t think I can eat breakfast,” she said when she came back into the kitchen. “I think I should stay home today.”

“Okay,” Mary said after a moment of thought. “Go upstairs and put on your pajamas. I’ll be right up.”

Amber was sitting on the edge of her bed in her pajamas when her mother came into the room. “I called the office to say I wouldn’t be in,” Mary said. “Let’s get you into bed.”

“I didn’t think you would have to miss work.” Amber sounded worried. “I . . . I can stay home by myself.”

“That’s not going to happen,” Mary assured her. “Now lie down. I’ll turn out the lights, and you just rest.”

“Can I read my book?” Amber asked.

“Oh, no, you’re sick,” Mary said seriously. “You need lots of sleep so you can get well. Now close your eyes. I’ll take your book so you won’t be tempted to read. You need complete rest.”

After a few hours, Amber was feeling very hungry. Much to her relief, her mom came in with a tray of food.

“Do you think you could eat a little now?” Mary asked.

“I think so,” Amber said weakly. “At least I can try. What is it?”

“Milk toast,” Mary announced. “It’s just what the doctor ordered.”

“He did?” Amber said, amazed.

“That’s just an expression,” Mary explained. “It means this is the perfect thing for you to eat while you’re sick.”

Amber stared at the soggy bread floating in warm milk. “Yuck,” she said after her mother left. She poked at it with her spoon and then put the spoon down on the tray. By the time her mother returned, the milk was cool and the bread had turned to mush.

“You didn’t eat much,” Mary said. “I guess you’re still not feeling well. A little more sleep will fix you up.”

An hour later, Mary returned with a glass of warm green Jell-O. “Still can’t eat?” Mary asked when Amber put the Jell-O down without taking a sip. “Not that,” Amber said, pointing toward the Jell-O.

Mary started out of the room. “Mom.” Amber’s voice shook. “I  . . . I have something to tell you.”

“Let me guess.” Mary laughed. “You’re not really sick.”

“How did you know?” Amber asked.

“Kyle tried the same thing when he was about your age. I was sure he had warned you.”

“He did,” Amber said. “But I thought I would be better at it than he was.”

“Why didn’t you want to go to school today?” Mary asked. “I’m sure you must have had a very good reason.”

“I have a book report that’s due today. I didn’t get it finished. I thought I could finish it while I was home sick. Then I could take it to school tomorrow.”

“I guess it didn’t exactly work out as you had planned.” Mary laughed.

“No, it didn’t,” Amber sighed. “I would still like to finish my book report, though.”

“I hope you learned something from this experience.” Mary laughed again.

“I sure did,” Amber said. “I learned that pretending to be sick doesn’t work with a mom like you.”

“I was hoping you learned something like ‘Honesty is the best policy,’” Mary pointed out.

“I did,” Amber said. “I really did. I’ll never try that again.”

“Here’s your book,” Mary said. “Happy reading.”

“Mom,” Amber called as her mother started out the door. “Can I have something to eat?”

“Of course,” Mary said. “You must be really hungry. How about a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”

“Thanks,” Amber said with a sigh of relief.

The next day, Amber proudly handed her book report to Mrs. Bennett.

“Wow,” Mrs. Bennett said. “You’re turning it in two days early.”

“What?” Amber asked, confused. “I thought the book reports were due yesterday.”

“Don’t you remember?” Mrs. Bennett reminded her. “I extended the deadline to Friday. You still have two more days. I hope that wasn’t why you were absent yesterday.”

Amber slid into her seat without saying another word.

 

Much to Amber’s relief, the topic of the day at church was stewardship. The Sunday sermon was the annual financial report and a plea for an increase in the weekly offerings. Pledge cards were passed out, and church members were asked to pray about how much to pledge. “Please be as generous as God has been to you,” Pastor Evans reminded them.

The Sunday school lesson had also been about stewardship. Their Sunday school teacher, Mr. Moore, told them that God gave us dominion over our environment. That meant that we have a responsibility to use God’s gifts wisely. It was obvious to Amber that even God agreed she was justified in being angry at the boys. She was thinking that she had been worrying for no reason until Mrs. Snow came in just as the class was ending.

“I have a little gift for each of you,” Mrs. Snow announced. Then she handed scripture cards to the members of the Sunday school class. She had hand-printed scriptures on the cards and stamped them with pictures of flowers and birds that she had colored with colored pencils. Everyone made comments about how beautiful the cards were and thanked Mrs. Snow.

Amber read the scripture written on her card. It was from Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” She looked across the table at Chris, who read his card and shoved it in his jacket pocket.

Elizabeth Sawyer, who was sitting on Amber’s right, handed her card to Amber. “Isn’t it gorgeous?” she gushed. “I’m going to keep it in my Bible.” The scripture read, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice in it and be glad. Psalms 118: 24.”

“What does your card say?” Elizabeth asked Melissa, who was seated on the other side of Amber.

“Here,” Melissa said, handing Elizabeth the card. “Read it yourself.”

Elizabeth read the card out loud. “‘And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through him. Colossians 3:17.’ Isn’t that beautiful? Don’t you just love it?”

“Yeah,” Melissa said. “It was really nice of Mrs. Snow to give me that card.”

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Fifteen

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For once, the Happy Helpers arrived at the senior center ahead of Three Handy Guys for their Saturday assignments. Bob showed the girls what needed to be done in the kitchen. Everything had to be wiped down and cleaned because a health inspector was coming on Monday. Bob explained that the senior center had to get a good rating from the Health Department in order to continue serving meals. He really needed the girls to do their best to get things especially spotless. He asked Laura to help him wipe down everything in the kitchen. Melissa and Amber were given the job of folding up the tables and chairs so that they could sweep and mop the entire floor.

The two girls had nearly finished getting the tables and chairs out of the way when the Three Handy Guys arrived. They were jostling each other and laughing at something as they made their way through the dining room to the door that went to the back side of the building.

“Having fun?” Spike laughed as he watched the girls struggling to fold up the last table. “Come outside when you’re done, and you can help us have some real fun.”

“That’s okay,” Melissa shot back. “We like doing this.”

“Sure you do.” Spike laughed again. “We can tell by the smiles on your faces.”

“Would you like some help with the tables?” Logan offered.

“We’ve almost got it done,” Amber said. “But thanks anyway.”

“Boys,” a man called from the doorway.

Everyone turned to see Walt walking toward them.

“I need to talk to you for a minute.” Walt had a serious look on his face.

“I wonder what they did.” Melissa watched the boys as they followed Walt through the doorway.

“No idea,” Amber mumbled as she folded up the last chair and put it on the storage rack.

“I’ll sweep, and you can mop,” Melissa suggested, returning from the storage closet with the broom and dustpan.

“That’s fine with me,” Amber said. She took a bucket out of the storage closet, added floor cleaner, and filled the bucket with water.

Melissa started sweeping the far section of the dining room. As she finished a section, Amber came in behind her and mopped the area. When she had finished sweeping the entire floor, Melissa walked toward the kitchen to empty the bucket she had been using to collect the dirt as she swept it up.

Amber continued to mop the rest of the floor. Behind her she heard boys talking and turned to see the Three Handy Guys walking across the clean floor. They were all dripping wet, and their shoes were leaving muddy footprints.

“What are you doing?” Amber shouted.

“You missed some over here.” Spike pointed to the muddy prints and laughed. “You sure don’t know how to mop a floor.”

“She’s a girl,” Chris chimed in. “What do you expect?”

“We’d show you how it’s done,” Logan added. “But you girls think you can do anything better than we can.”

“That floor was perfectly clean!” Melissa shrieked. “You messed it up on purpose!”

“Bingo!” Spike said snidely. “Give the girl a Kewpie doll.”

“That’s what you get for cutting holes in the plastic bags after we did all that shredding,” Logan said with anger in his voice.

“We know it was you,” Chris added. “No one else would have done it.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Melissa said. “Do you?” she asked Amber.

“No.” Amber shook her head. “No idea at all.”

“You’re trying to get us kicked out so you can take over,” Spike stormed. “But you won’t get away with it!”

The boys continued across the floor, leaving more footprints as they went and even shaking water and mud from their pants. Amber followed behind, mopping up as best as she could.

“You’d better go get some fresh water,” Melissa suggested. “You’re just smearing the mud around.”

Amber carried the bucket full of muddy water into the kitchen. Bob had the back door open so that he could take out the trash. Through the door, Amber saw the van, sparkling clean and white. She looked at the bucket in her hands and back at the van. Before she knew what she was doing, the muddy water was splashed all over the van.

“I can’t believe you did that!” Laura gasped.

“I can,” Melissa said. “You should have heard how those boys talked to us.”

“You mean Spike?” Laura asked.

“I mean all three of them,” Melissa continued. “They accused us of cutting holes in the bags with the shredded paper. Can you imagine?”

“Why would they think we would do that?” Laura looked from Melissa to Amber.

“They think we’re trying to take over,” Melissa told her. “That we’re intentionally trying to get them in trouble!”

“We’d better get the floor clean before Bob comes back,” Amber pointed out. “We might get in trouble if he sees this muddy floor. It would be our word against the boys. Bob might not believe us.”

Melissa and Laura grabbed mops and helped Amber clean up the mud. They were just closing the door on the storage room when Bob came into the dining area.

“Wow!” he exclaimed. “You girls did a really nice job. Everything is so clean and shiny. I’m sure we’ll get an A rating from the Health Department.”

The girls turned to look at him, but didn’t say anything. “Here,” he said, handing them each a paper bag. “I can’t do much to say thanks, but at least I can give you lunch. It’s a beautiful day. Why don’t you eat your lunch outside on a picnic table?”

Laura chose a picnic table in the shade and sat down. Amber and Melissa followed her and sat across the table. They started unpacking the lunch bags. Each one contained a turkey-and-cheese sandwich, some carrot sticks, a bag of chips, and two cookies. There was also a small container of juice.

“Can you believe those guys?” Melissa said between bites of her sandwich.

“I wonder what made them so mad,” Laura mused. “I can believe something like that from Spike, but Chris and Logan are usually pretty nice.”

“They probably cut holes in the bags themselves,” Melissa suggested, “and tried to blame it on us. When that didn’t work, they got mad.”

“Maybe,” Laura said, still doubtful. “What do you think, Amber?”

“That sounds logical,” Amber agreed with Melissa. “Logan and Chris would probably go along with any idea Spike came up with. They believe anything he says.”

“Do you think they planned it from the start?” Laura asked. “I mean hiding the spoons and the brooms?”

“I’m sure of it!” Melissa said firmly. “Then when we spoiled their fun by using those old brooms, they threw rocks and dirt all over the walkway so it looked like we didn’t sweep it at all.”

“They didn’t like it when we were assigned to do the shredding,” Amber pointed out, “so when they saw their chance, they spread the shredding all over the copy room.”

“We can’t let them get away with this!” Melissa smashed her juice carton with her fist. “We need to teach them a lesson.”

“I don’t know about that,” Laura said nervously, “We could get into more trouble.”

“Not if we’re careful,” Melissa assured her.

“What do you have in mind?” Amber leaned toward Melissa.

“I don’t exactly know, but give me time. I’ll come up with a perfect plan.”

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

 

 

 

A Rocky Start: Chapter Twelve

Image1-17_edited-1This ought to be good, Amber thought as Spike walked to the front of the class to give his career report. As usual, he had used plenty of gel in his hair. But instead of a spike, it was twisted around in a style she had seen on members of some boy bands. She wondered if one of Spike’s sisters had done it for him. On his T-shirt was a quote from Neil Armstrong that read, “We come in peace for all mankind.”

Amber hated to admit it, but Spike actually did a good job on his career report. He talked about some of the earlier astronauts, like John Glenn who was the first man to orbit the earth and Neil Armstrong who walked on the moon. Then he told about the space shuttle and the International Space Station. Spike said that to be an astronaut, you have to be good at math and science. You have to go to college and also get training as a pilot. You have to work for NASA for five years to be considered for the astronaut program. Finally, he showed some of the things he got on a trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, including a pen that can write upside down and at zero gravity.

At the end of his report, he took a bow, which brought applause from his classmates. Spike continued to bow, and the class continued to applaud until Ms. McGuire said, “Thank you, Michael. You can sit down now.”

After school on Monday, the Happy Helpers headed for the senior center to see what jobs Mrs. Snow had assigned them for the coming week. This time, their names did appear on the list for Tuesday and Saturday. On Tuesday, they were assigned to shred papers, and on Saturday, their job would be sweeping the walkways. Mrs. Snow came out of her office when she heard them talking.           “Hi, girls,” she said. “Are those work assignments all right?”

“They’re fine with us,” Amber answered for everyone.

“I was a little concerned about asking you to do something during the school week,” Mrs. Snow continued. “Are you sure your parents won’t mind?”

“We’ll be home in time to get our homework done,” Laura assured her. “We’re going to help Doris Duncan with her plants after school on Wednesday, so tomorrow is a perfect day to come and help out here.”

“Shredding sounds like fun,” Melissa said. “Do you have lots of papers that need shredding?”

“Actually, we do,” Mrs. Snow said. “Some of the businesses in town pay us to do their shredding. So you’ll be helping to raise money for the center.”

When the girls left Mrs. Snow’s office, they saw the Three Handy Guys checking the assignment list. Spike had his fingers on the Happy Helper flyer, but pulled them away quickly when he saw the girls.

“It looks like you’ll be working here two days this week,” Logan said. “We’re just working on Saturday.”

“We usually do the shredding.” Spike sounded upset.

Melissa glared at Spike, who looked away. “I guess Mrs. Snow knows quality when she sees it,” Melissa said.

“We’re mowing the lawns on Saturday,” Logan continued. “We usually start about eight o’clock, and we’re finished at about ten. You might as well wait until then to come and sweep the walkways.”

“Yeah,” Chris added. “There’s no sense sweeping them before we’ve finished mowing. We usually sweep them ourselves when we’re done.”

“Thanks for letting us know,” Laura said. “That way we won’t try to get here so early.”

“Yeah,” Spike added. “You can get some beauty sleep.” He glared back at Melissa.

Laura’s dad came to speak to the class on Tuesday. Amber was surprised that Laura hadn’t said anything about it. But when she looked at Laura, she realized that Laura was just as surprised as she was.

Mr. Thomas talked about the many career opportunities in banking. He said that some of the entry-level jobs didn’t require college, but having a degree in business or banking would be needed if you wanted to advance to a better job. When he was finished, Ms. McGuire asked if there were any questions.

“Do you own the bank, or do you just work there?” Melissa asked.

“I work for the bank,” Mr. Thomas responded. “I’m a personal banker. That means I help our customers with their financial needs. The bank is owned by a large corporation, not by one individual.”

“What do you do with the old, worn-out money?” Spike asked. “Do you ever give it away?”

“Very funny, Michael.” Ms. McGuire glared at Spike.

“No, that’s actually a good question,” Mr. Thomas said. “I’d like to answer it. The old worn-out money is collected by the banks and exchanged for new bills at the Federal Reserve Bank. Then the old money is shredded. If you visit a Federal Reserve Bank, for example the one in San Francisco, you can get a bag of shredded money as a souvenir. So in a way, Michael, it is given away. Which bills do you think wear out first?”

Several students raised their hands, but Mr. Thomas called on a boy name Steven.

“The one-dollar bill,” Steven said.

“That’s a good guess,” Mr. Thomas told him. “But that’s not it. Any other guesses?”

“The hundred-dollar bill,” a boy named Kenneth suggested.

“Not too many people carry those around with them.” Mr. Thomas smiled. “Actually, it’s the fives and tens. They are used the most and have to be replaced more often.”

Ms. McGuire thanked Mr. Thomas again. He touched Laura on the shoulder as he was leaving.

“Did you know your dad was coming here today?” Amber asked Laura at lunch.

“He never said a word. I was totally shocked.”

“He probably didn’t want you to get nervous,” Amber added. “That’s why he didn’t tell you.”

“He was really interesting,” Melissa said. “You’re lucky to have a rich dad.”

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon