Tag Archives: The Handy Helpers books

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

Kindness is Contagious

no act of kindnessWe have all met people who, in spite of our best efforts, remain difficult to deal with. For the Handy Helpers, that person is Agnes Henry.

Laura and Amber are asked to help Mrs. Henry who is recovering from a broken hip. The girls have had previous experiences with Mrs. Henry and know what they are in for.

“‘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 housedress 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.”

When the girls return to help Mrs. Henry the following week, they take Beth Anne with them. Beth Anne has heard the horror stories about Mrs. Henry and she is reluctant to go, but finally decides that she will be brave.

“Beth Anne remained behind her friends as they knocked on the door at Mrs. Henry’s. Laura and Amber were surprised when the door was opened by a woman who looked like Mrs. Henry, only younger, with dark-brown hair cut in a short bob that framed her cheerful face.

‘We’re here to see Mrs. Henry,’ Laura explained. ‘We’re Handy Helpers. She asked us to come today.’

‘Who is it?’ they heard Mrs. Henry call from inside the house.

‘It’s some little girls, Mom,’ the other woman called back. ‘They said they’re Handy Helpers.’

‘Oh, I forgot I told them to come today.’ Mrs. Henry rolled up in her wheelchair. ‘My daughter Clara is here so I guess you can just go home.’

‘Mom!’ Clara sounded shocked. ‘At least invite them in.’

‘Why? I don’t need any help with you here.'”

Of course, the Handy Helpers do come in, along with Beth Anne. After a short visit, Mrs. Henry goes to her room, claiming to be tired. Laura and Amber remain in the kitchen, talking to Clara, who is concerned about her mother. No one notices that Beth Anne has left, but when they look for her, they find her sitting on Mrs. Henry’s bed, brushing her hair.

‘See,’ Beth Anne was saying, ‘your hair looks just like it did in your picture. It’s so beautiful.’

Mrs. Henry was holding an old photograph in one hand and a mirror in the other hand. ‘No it doesn’t,’ she said. ‘My hair used to be such a lovely dark brown. Mr. Henry loved my brown hair.’

‘But now it looks just like a cloud,’ Beth Anne said sweetly.”

The relationship between Beth Anne and Mrs. Henry continues to develop as Beth Anne encourages Mrs. Henry to get out of the wheelchair and walk. Beth Anne finds a walker that her grandfather used stored in the garage. She brings the walker to Mrs. Henry who after some struggles is able to use it.

Ironically, later in the book, Beth Anne falls and suffers a broken leg. Mrs. Henry sits by her bed every day while Beth Anne is in the hospital. When Beth Anne is home with a cast on her leg, Mrs. Henry shows up with the very same walker. It is Mrs. Henry’s encouragement that gets Beth Anne out of the wheelchair and back on her feet.

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

Amber

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

Good Advice from Gus

rheddens_order_delivered_jpgIn Red, White, and Bloopers!  Spike plans a prank to get even with his sister’s boyfriend Todd, who is a bully. Though Todd is the intended target of Spike’s prank, it is the mayor who becomes the victim. Spike is ordered to do community service. Fortunately for Spike, the judge assigns Gus to supervise his community service.

Spike knows that Gus is disappointed in him. He is prepared to receive what he calls “the big lecture,” like the one his parents gave him. To his surprise, Gus doesn’t give him a lecture. Here is their conversation:

“I told you I wasn’t going to give you a lecture”–Gus smiled–“and I’m not. But I would like to share something with you.” Gus took a small Bible from his back pocket and opened it. Then he handed it to Spike. “Read Romans twelve twenty-one. Read it out loud.”

Spike took the book from Gus’s outstretched hand and located the passage. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

“Do you have any thoughts on the meaning of that scripture?” Gus asked.

“Forgive instead of trying to get even. Is that what it means?”

“That’s pretty close,” Gus said.

“So you want me to forgive Todd and forget about revenge?”

“You’ll have to decide for yourself when you’re ready to forgive Todd. But I’m going to ask you to do something–something I think will make a big difference.”

“That’s the kind of thing my parents say just before they tell me to do something I don’t want to do.”

“I want you to promise to pray for Todd every day for a week. I’m not talking about a sissy prayer like ‘God bless Todd.’ I’m taking about a big-man prayer. I want you to ask God to bless Todd, to grant him good health and happiness. Ask God to look with favor on Todd and take care of all his needs.”

“Can I ask God to give Todd what he deserves?”

“Only if you’re asking God to give you what you deserve as well.”

“Okay,” Spike said after thinking about it for a while. “I’ll try what you said, but I don’t think it will make any difference. I don’t think Todd will ever change.”

“Let’s just wait and see what happens,” was all Gus said.

Of course, Gus wasn’t trying to change Todd. He was trying to change Spike. Later, Spike tells Gus that it is not easy to pray for someone and hate them at the same time. Spike begins to see Todd as a person, not as a bully. When he gives Todd a chance, Todd comes through to help in a tough situation. Through the process, Todd and Spike become friends.

Most of us realize that hatred and revenge are destructive behaviors–and yet, we engage in them anyway. We even justify what we are doing by saying, as Spike did, that the other person needs to be taught a lesson. When we spend hours ranting and raving or plotting against someone, we give that person great power over us. It is not they who are suffering, but us. We are the ones who are miserable, as the person we are angry with goes on in ignorant bliss.

Last week I had an amazing experience at the Prayer and Life workshop I’m in. For the week prior to our class, we were instructed to write down anyone or anything that was causing us distress or had ever caused us distress in our lives. I wrote pages and pages. At first I wrote the big things, but then I wrote about little things as well. For the entire week, I poured out my heart onto paper. At our class, we offered our pages of misery as a holocaust to our Lord. As the pages burned we sang: “Change my heart, Oh God, make it ever true. Change my heart, oh God, may I be like You.” Then we raised our hands and prayed the “Our Father.” Finally we hugged each other, singing, “Shalom.”

I don’t know what I expected to happen, but the next morning I felt what I can only describe as a profound silence. I had never experienced such quietness in my head. This must be what it means to be in total peace, I thought. This week is our Great Week of Peace. So far, the peace is continuing. Sometimes negative thoughts creep in, but they seem removed from me, like they happened to someone else. I don’t know how long the peace will last, but I’m becoming sort of addicted to it. I hope it will continue as long as I live.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Fourteen

Image1-17_edited-1          The Happy Helpers raced each other to the senior center after school on Monday. Just as they were parking their bikes, the Three Handy Guys came riding up.

“Are you here to check the work schedule?” Logan asked.

“That’s why we’re here,” Amber said. “How about you?”

“We do that every Monday,” Chris replied. “We like to know what we’ll be doing.”

The kids pushed around the bulletin board to see what they had been assigned.

“It looks like we’re doing the shredding this week,” Spike crowed. “I heard Mrs. Snow say that you girls are too slow at it.”

“We would have gotten more done if someone hadn’t made a mess in the copy room,” Amber accused.

“Is that what happened?” Spike asked innocently. “That’s too bad.”

“It looks like you’re doing KP this Saturday,” Chris groaned. “Too bad.”

“What’s KP?” Melissa asked.

“That’s kitchen police,” Logan told her. “It means you have to help clean the kitchen. It’s the job we don’t like.”

“Because it’s girl’s work?” Laura asked.

“Because it’s dirty work,” Chris groaned again. “You’ll see.”

“We’re washing the van,” Spike bragged. “That’s the most fun job ’cause you can get wet.”

Just as the junior volunteers were leaving, Walt came out of his office. “Can you girls come in here for a minute?” He motioned toward his office.

“Uh-oh.” Spike grinned. “It looks like someone’s in trouble.”

The girls walked slowly to Walt’s office and sat down in the chairs he pointed to.

“What happened on Saturday?” Walt asked. “Why didn’t you sweep the walkways?”

“We did,” Amber said, obviously concerned. “We swept all of them. They looked really nice when we left.”

“What did you use for brooms?” Walt wanted to know.

“We used the brooms we found in the shed,” Laura said.

“That’s strange,” Walt continued, “because we found the brooms stuck behind the vending machine.”

“We used three old brooms we found in the shed,” Melissa explained. “It took us a long time with those brooms, but every bit of the walkway was swept clean.”

“Let’s go look at the walkways,” Walt suggested. “And you tell me if they look swept.”

He led the girls outside where they were shocked to see the walkways littered with dirt, rocks, leaves, and other debris.

“Maybe there was a dust storm,” Melissa offered.

“There was hardly any wind Saturday or Sunday,” Walt said. “I don’t think there was a dust storm just here at the senior center.”

“We’re telling you the truth,” Amber pleaded. “We really did sweep it.”

“Well, I wanted to tell you girls we couldn’t use you as volunteers,” Walt said. “But Mrs. Snow defended you and asked me to let you have another chance. So if you can sweep the walkways this afternoon, we’ll forget about what happened. If you mess up again though, it’s three strikes and you’re out.”

“We can do that,” Laura said with assurance. “And if we have the push brooms, we can do it much faster.”

The Happy Helpers went to the shed where they quickly located the brooms. In no time, they had the sidewalks swept. Just to make sure there weren’t any more surprises, they brought Walt out to check over their work.

“Now that’s what I call a clean walkway!” Walt exclaimed. “Thanks for doing such a good job.”

Amber returned to the senior center after school on Tuesday. She wanted to talk to Mrs. Snow about what happened. When she walked by the copy room, she saw the Three Handy Guys busy with the shredding. They didn’t notice her, and she didn’t say anything.

“Hello there, Amber,” Mrs. Snow said as Amber walked into her office. “What can I do for you?”

“I just wanted to let you know that we really did sweep the walkways on Saturday. I think that Logan, Chris, and Spike threw rocks and dirt up on the sidewalk after we left.”

“That’s a serious accusation,” Mrs. Snow said. “Those boys have been helping out here for a long time, and they have never caused any trouble. I’m disappointed that you would try to blame them for your mistake.”

“I’m not blaming them for my mistake,” Amber defended. “But I don’t want to take the blame for something we didn’t do.”

“We all have to learn to take responsibility for our own actions. If you girls forgot to show up last Saturday, you should own up to it,” Mrs. Snow said seriously. “Why don’t you think about that for a while, and we’ll talk about it again later?”

“Bye,” Amber said with a sigh. She walked back down the hallway toward the copy room. The boys had finished their work and left the bags of shredding on the floor by the door. Amber noticed a pair of scissors on the table. Before she had time to talk herself out of it, Amber turned one of the bags over and cut a large hole in the bottom. She did the same thing with the other three bags. Then she left the bags upright, as she had found them.

Riding home on her bike, Amber thought about returning to the senior center and telling Mrs. Snow what she had done. But she didn’t think she could face having her say that she was disappointed again. Maybe she would even take her name off the list of volunteers. The knot in the pit of Amber’s stomach grew larger as she decided there was nothing she could do. It’s because of my ADHD, Amber reasoned to herself. Sometimes I act impulsively. I can’t help it. It’s not really my fault.

“You’re awfully quiet,” Mary said to Amber at dinner. “Are you feeling okay?”

“I’m fine,” Amber assured her. “I have a big math assignment that’s due on Friday. Can I be excused so I can get to work on it?”

“Doing your homework without being reminded.” Mary smiled, “That’s a pleasant surprise.”

At least Amber hadn’t lied to her mother about the homework. She did have an important math assignment. Ms. McGuire had told the class that the assignment would help them prepare for the fourth-grade math test they would be taking in a few weeks. Anyone who didn’t complete the assignment would face serious consequences, including several days of after-school detention to finish the work.

Amber did her best to concentrate on her homework, but it seemed like every noise distracted her—the television downstairs, her family talking, even the birds outside her window. After about twenty minutes, she realized she had only finished one problem. Amber remembered a trick her teacher taught her in third grade. Digging in her desk drawer, she found her timer. After setting the time for one hour, Amber went back to work. If she could make herself concentrate for one hour, she should be able to get at least two pages done.

Kyle walked by her room just as the timer went off. “How’s it going, sis?”

“Okay, I think,” Amber said, looking at the work she had finished. “I have three pages done! I can’t believe it!”

“Want me to check them for you?” Kyle asked. Without waiting for an answer, Kyle took the math pages from her and scanned them. “I don’t see any glaring errors. It looks like you are doing them right.”

“Thanks,” Amber said, pleased with herself. “I’m kind of tired. I think I’ll go to bed early.”

“Good night,” Kyle said.

“Good night.” Amber yawned. “Thanks for helping.”

As Amber got dressed for bed, she started thinking about what happened at the senior center. Before she turned out the light, she picked up the little spider plant she had brought home from Doris Duncan’s.

“You’re lucky you’re a plant,” she said. “All you do is sit here and grow. You can’t mess up like people do. I wish I could trade places with you right now.”

Amber was surprised to find Melissa at her front door as she was leaving for school on Friday morning. She had her hair piled up in curls on the top of her head. Amber couldn’t help but notice the boots that came to her knees and the six bracelets that sparkled on her arms. A wide silver belt went around her white flowing blouse, and a large necklace dangled around her neck over the top of a scarf.

“Did you stop by so we could ride to school together?” Amber asked.

“Yeah.” Melissa seemed distracted. “But first I need your help with something. Do you still have some of those fish we got out of the pond? I have a plastic container, and I need to put some fish in it.”

“I think so,” Amber said. “We can go out and look.”

The two girls went through the sliding door to Amber’s backyard. Swimming around in the pool were a few little fish. Melissa squatted down next to the pool and tried to scoop up some fish. At first all she got was water, but on her fourth try, she had a tiny fish in her container.

“That’ll have to do,” Melissa said.

“What do you need it for?” Amber asked.

“I have to give my report today,” Melissa reminded her. “I didn’t have much time to work on it. I had that big math assignment to do.”

“I’ve got mine right here.” Amber pointed to her book bag. “I didn’t leave it anywhere that Domino could get to it.”

The girls had to hurry to get to school. They arrived just as the first bell was ringing. As they took their seats in the classroom, Ms. McGuire started recapping some of the highlights of their career unit. She talked about the guests who had come to speak and some of the reports that had been given by students.

“Today is the last day for our career unit,” Ms. McGuire said. “We have two reports left. First we will hear from Chris Bishop and then from Melissa Peterson.”

When Ms. McGuire finished speaking, she motioned for Chris to come forward. He talked about different groups of people who work in construction, such as carpenters, bricklayers, and roofers. Then he talked about the job of the contractor and how he has to take the plans that have been drawn by the architect and build the house the way it was designed. “It is the contractor’s job to see that everyone else does what he is supposed to do,” Chris said.

Chris told the class about the different ways a person could be trained for construction jobs, such as learning on the job or going to college. At the end of his talk, he showed the class some of the buildings he had constructed from Popsicle sticks. Amber thought one of them would make a nice house for her bird family.

After Chris sat down, Ms. McGuire called on Melissa, who came forward somewhat hesitantly. “My report is on marine biology. Marine biologists study fish and other animals that live in water. They have to know a lot about science. The best part of their job is when they get to swim with the dolphins. Dolphins are mammals, not fish. That means they breathe air like we do. Some day I’m going to go to SeaWorld and swim with the dolphins. This is a fish I got out of the pond. I don’t really know what kind of fish it is.” Melissa held up the plastic container with the tiny fish inside. “That’s my report,” she said as she returned to her seat.

Amber saw Ms. McGuire write down a grade for Melissa. She was pretty sure it wasn’t an A or a B, or even a C.

“I shouldn’t have put it off until the last minute,” Melissa admitted at lunch. “It seemed like I had lots of time, and then all of a sudden it was here. Besides, I had all that math to do. Do you think Ms. McGuire will flunk me?”

“I think maybe you flunked yourself,” Laura said sadly.

“Maybe you should have spent more time on your report and less time planning your outfit,” Amber added with a sigh.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon