“Since my neighbor does not give her dogs a good, fresh meal, I decided to take the dog in for a little while, you know. Maybe, just maybe, dad would let me keep her.”
“JANET! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING? THIS IS NOT NAP TIME!”
My eyes slowly slid open. Ugh. It was still Monday, and I was still in English class.
“Mmmm… Sorry Ms. Brown. As you see, I had a hard time falling asleep last…”
“I DON’T CARE ABOUT THAT! NOW, CAN YOU TELL ME THE ANSWER TO MY QUESTION?”
I looked at the board. Uh-oh. It read: x-y=n (3/8+ 5/0.)=n. Ok, I admit, I fall asleep in class a lot. But I mean, hey! I missed half the lesson! A kid can’t just do that from the top of their head!
I said weakly, “Zero?”
My teacher’s voice softened. “I understand that you were most likely up late last night doing your homework, although I highly doubt that you really had that much. Anyway, you did have that project–”
Then, Ms. Brown raised her voice.
“–THAT WAS DUE LAST MONTH! ANYHOW, YOU STILL HAVE TO MAKE UP FOR THAT HOMEWORK THAT YOU ‘MISSED’ LAST WEEK, AND…”
My face turned a bright shade of red, and I probably looked like a tomato. By the time my teacher had finished her lecture, it was time for lunch, my favorite period. I grabbed my lunch and raced down to sit on my favorite bench in the school yard. It was the place to be if you just wanted some peace. For some reason, no one ever bothered to sit there and talk to their friends. Since I’m the new kid, I only have one friend and she was absent that day. Sprawling out on the bench and closing my eyes for a nap, I probably looked like a hobo. Before I knew it, the bell went off and I had to wake up, and walk to the school like a zombie. The next two periods were art class, which was my favorite too. I did not have to do everything perfect, and the teacher did not blab on and on and on about Freida Colo, and other famous artists*. I got to art class, and made one of those really good pictures that the teacher always brags about to the class.
After that, I decided to sculpt the same horse that I painted, and that was the rest of the period. I set my horse on a piece of paper to dry, got my book bag from the locker room that I was keeping it in, and left the school.
I was about one block away from my house, and I saw a dog on a park bench. I knew that it was Ms. Henderson’s. Ms. Henderson is a old lady who is our grumpy old neighbor, and she can barely hear anybody when they speak. She treats her dogs like she would a soccer ball. Now, I don’t want to offend anyone here, but she is super slow. She walks, like, not even one mile an hour. Here’s the bad part about all of this. She has tons of little puppies, and they need to run around, right? And Ms. Henderson is a really slow walker, right? Squish this information together, and you get that she pushes her puppies with her cane every so often to get them to wait up for her, even when the pups are not even moving a muscle, waiting for her. So, when I saw this little puppy, I thought, why in the world would Ms. Henderson let her puppy go around free? Ms. Henderson would NEVER let her dogs run free.
The puppy was brown, and her fur was nice and soft. Her eyes were big, and her nose was big and wet. The ears were so cute and dainty, so I couldn’t help but love her. I’m not Miss Little Perfect, but I do have a weakness for dogs. Since my neighbor does not give her dogs a good, fresh meal, I decided to take the dog in for a little while, you know. Maybe, just maybe, dad would let me keep her. While I was walking home, I tried to think of a name for her. Princess? No way. FluffBall? Nah, not really. Cutie Pie? Nuh uh. It had to be a real name… not a cutie poopsy name. Hmm… Hope. That was a perfect name.
Hope was following me, and I was glad. I’m not the type of person who wants to pick up a dog. I tested the name out. “How’s it goin’, Hope?”
She responded by rubbing her head on my leg, which I took to be a sign that she liked the name.
Finally, we reached my house. I entered. My dad was sitting at the table, doing his work. “Janet!” he said. “Hi.”
I looked at my dad. Something was troubling him, I could tell.
“What is it, dad?” I asked.
“Come here, Janet,” he said in his no-joking voice.
“What?” I knew that there was nothing to be afraid of, because dad always made a little molehill into a big mountain.
I put the dog under the table, and it was really easy, since she was really small. “Your grades.”
I groaned. Then, I plopped down in a chair. “You need to stop not paying attention.”
“Okay,” I said. Usually, he just tells me something and I say okay, and then it’s done. Not today.
“Listen. You need to get your grades up or else you are going to flunk out.”
I tried again, “Okay, dad.”
He sighed. “Honey, I really need you to focus.” That was the end of the conversation. I took a deep breath, ready to introduce Hope.
“Dad, this is Hope. I want to know if she can stay here for the night, because Ms. Henderson is so harsh.”
The immediate answer was, “No. Honey, you know that… um… it’s a school night…”
I picked the dog up from under the table. “Look at her, won’t you? She is adorable, and I just know that mom and the kids will love her.”
Dad sighed again. “Okay, fine. Just for today. Now make Timmy’s lunch, prepare Susie’s backpack, and clean out the dishwasher. Oh, also, remember Mark’s going to dance class tomorrow–”
I said it even before he did, “and I’m in charge of him. I know, I know, Dad.”
Being the oldest in the family, I had the most responsibilities. Mark was four, Timmy was three, and Sue was six, but she acted like the was ten.
“Here, Hope!” I said. Then, I walked up my stairs. They were carpeted, so I had to help Hope get her claws un-stuck from it. I tucked her in my bed, like a little kid would do to her dolly.
Now, as I said before, I had only one friend. She was my one and only single friend, but she was also the best friend one could have. In the worst times, she would do anything to save me, even if it meant that she had to get some cuts and bruises. One time, I climbed all the way up to the top of a tree (yes, I love to get myself stuck in trees). Well, it was nine in the night, and my parents and siblings had gone out to our country house for a night. They had insisted that I stay home to work on a month’s work of missed homework. And the moment I got up to the very top branch, I knew that I was stuck. Well, you can imagine how I felt, at nine in the night, with no one to get me down from the tree. But, with knowing that Claire had excellent hearing and lived right next door to me, I felt just a little bit better. Then, when I completely understood that I could not get down from the tree without help, I screamed at the top of my lungs, “CLAIRE! CLAIRE!” My friend stayed up until midnight, so of course she came out to help me. Since it was dark, we both got a couple scratches, but ended up fine.
I absentmindedly did the chores that I was asked to do, took a shower, put on my pajamas, brushed my teeth, and got in bed. I’m not the type of person who washes their hands, don’t ask me why. I picked Hope up, and plopped her down at the bottom of my bed. I would do anything for that dog, even if it meant giving up some of my meals for her lunch and dinner. I heard Mark crying for my mom to read him a story, Timmy whining for a snack, Susie complaining that she felt like she was going to puke because her pillow was not fluffy enough for her or something, and my parents scolding all if them.
“You kids have to just go to sleep! Janet is already in bed!” I knew that my mom was just using me as an example, I knew that she was not really that happy that I was in bed. That’s only because one time she caught me drawing when she thought that I was asleep. I thought that it was a pretty good time to fall asleep, just in case my mom said anything else about me.
The week whizzed by, and by the time I knew it, it was Saturday. The very first thing I did was walk over to Claire’s house, and left a note on the counter that said where I went. Claire was an only child, and she woke up at, like, 6. I wake up at, like, 9. Hope was following me, and that was fine because I needed to show her to Claire.
But of course, getting into Claire’s house with a dog was not going to be that easy. No, they do not have a cat. And no, no one is allergic to dogs. BUT, Carmina, Claire’s mom, HATES dogs. And when I say HATES, I mean HATES, HATES, HATES dogs. She, like, has a thing for cats. I have a thing for dogs. I have always wanted a dog. Claire says that me and her mom are total opposites. This is how she put it: “You are mellow. My mom is super strict. You love dogs, she hates dogs. You hate cats, she loves cats.”
She is Mark’s teacher, and believe me, I know what goes on in his classroom. So, I decided to go back to my house and grab a bag to put Hope in. It worked really well. Well, kind of. I walked in, and zipped up the bag to that Hope’s head was not showing. Then, Carmina lifted her head up and said, “Hello. put the bag on the table.” Then, Hope snorted, and sneezed. Yep, I had to pretend that it was me.
“Uh… I have a… cold. Sorry.” I sniffled to add to my act.
Carmina sighed and said, “Mhmm. I said, PLEASE PUT THE BAG ON THE TABLE, sweetie.”
“Um… yes, I know that. But umm… me and Claire–”
Carmina interrupted, “Claire and I, sweets.”
“Okay, okay. Claire and I are going to play with something in this bag, so I probably should take it upstairs with me.”
“ALRIGHT, I get it, sweets. Go upstairs and play whatever stupid thing you are going to play with. BYE, sweets. Go along now swee-”
Suddenly, Hope started to move. Carmina said, “What stupid toy do you have in there, sweets? Could it be a DOG that you are trying to hide from me, sweetie?”
It really gets on my nerves how she calls everyone sweetie or sweets, and she calls everything that. She doesn’t know that it’s stupid. “No, I’m just showing her my new… um… cat.”
Carmina looked delighted. “Why, I thought you would never learn! Good for you, hon!”
Arrh! I hate it when people call me hon! I ran up the stairs, glad that I could get away from Carmina, and got to Claire. I burst into Claire’s room. It had a green bed, green curtains, a green closet, and a green rug. Claire was writing in her diary.
“Hey, girl!” she said the moment I walked in.
“Hi, sweets! How are you doing, sweetie! What is that stupid thing that you are writing in?” I said, mimicking her mother.
“Hey, hon! What is that stupid thing in your bag, sweetie?” Claire replied. We do this quite often, because it really gets on both of our nerves. Claire’s dad works all the time. His shifts are 6:00 a.m to 11:00 p.m. He only gets two days off in the whole year, so Claire barely gets to see him unless he is sick and can not go into work. Even though I have never seen him, I can tell that he is the opposite of Carmina. I showed Claire Hope, and went home. My family just got home, and they were already unpacking. My mom stopped when I walked in the door, and said in a very stern voice, “Janet Eliza Mcnamara, come here this instant. I need to talk to you.” I slowly approached, trying to act like nothing strange was in my bag. “I got a call yesterday.”
“ Umm… That’s great. W-who was it from?” I said. My mother’s voice dropped dangerously low. She sure knows how to scare a kid.
“Well, who do you think?” Hope chose that moment to wiggle and sneeze. My mother prodded my bag. Then she said again, “Who do you think?”
Suddenly, it made sense. Ms. Henderson called, told my mother that one of her dogs were loose, said she was almost sure who had it, and that she was going to give that child such a beating. I couldn’t think about it anymore.
“I’m so sorry, don’t do anything. I was just trying to help her please,” I said in a voice that you just simply have to go, “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry, please don’t cry. Come, give me a hug.” And of course, that is just what my mother said, but without the give me a hug part. Just then, the doorbell rang, and Ms. Henderson walked in. Then, everything went black.
I woke up to the sound of Ms. Henderson saying that she loves her dogs so much, and she would do anything for them. She was wearing a purple dress and a big frown.
“There, she’s awake now! Oh! And the dog is in that bag! Hi, Ms. Sugar Bunch!” Ms. Henderson said in her crackly voice. My mother was sitting at the table, and my father was sitting next to her. Timmy and Mark were playing with dolls, and Susie was setting the table for dinner. She always loves to please mom and dad.
“What are you doing here? And her name is HOPE, not Ms. Sugar Bunch.” I said, as boldly as I could.
“Who are you to tell me what MY dogs name is?” Ms. Henderson snapped. My mother shot me a look saying, “I am so going to kill you,” but I honestly didn’t care.
Even though I knew that Hope was really Ms. Henderson’s dog, I said, “She is my dog now. Do you really think that she liked it with you? I mean, who in their right mind kicks their dogs for no reason?”
Ms. Henderson gasped. Hope now had gotten out of the bag, and was whimpering. She leaned on me, and her big sad eyes said it all. Don’t let me go with her, please! I’ll never pee on your bed again! Yes, last night Hope peed on my bed, but I was able to spray Febreeze and wipe the pee up, and my room was as good as new. Timmy and Mark stopped playing, and were staring, open mouthed at us. Susie finished setting the table, and was now filling glasses, totally oblivious to what was happening. I knew that I was going to get grounded, but I would do whatever it took to help my dog.
“I think you should go to your room for a couple minutes,” my mom said quietly. Even though she said it calmly, I could see the anger in her eyes. I walked upstairs, and took Hope with me. The truth was, I did not go upstairs, but I kind of stomped in place, so that mom thought that I was going up. I crouched down, so they could not see me. Hope ran upstairs and hid under my bed, and I was fine with that. My mother and Mrs. Henderson were talking in hushed tones, so I couldn’t hear them. Mark, who is my favorite sibling (don’t ask me why), ran up the stairs, and sat down next to me. He was only four, and was adorable. He opened his mouth, probably to ask me why I was there, but before he said anything, I clamped my hand over his mouth. He was very loud, and I did not want to be in more trouble than I was already in.
“I’m eavesdropping. Either sit down, or go to your room,” I whispered. He sat down.
“What’s evedropping?” he whispered.
“Its eavesdropping, stupid. It means to listen in when you are not supposed to.” I picked Mark up and put him on my lap. Okay, I admit it, I was nervous.
I overheard Mrs. Henderson say, “Yes, but there would be a price to pay.” And then I think my mom might have asked if it would be money or chores? Really, I just heard little snippets of the conversation, but it seemed that I would be paying quite a bit of money for Hope. At one point, Mark went back down to play with Timmy. Then, mom yelled up the stairs, “JANET! COME BACK DOWN HERE! WE NEED TO TALK TO YOU!”
I wished myself good luck, and walked down the stairs. As soon as I got halfway downstairs, I noticed that Hope was right behind me, and I was glad. I can always count on that dog.
Right then and there, I promised myself that whatever it took to win Hope, I would do it. I would do it for two reasons. The first one was that I really did not want to give Mrs. Henderson the pleasure of keeping her dog just to kick it around, when it was the sweetest dog in the world. The other is that all of my siblings have pets. Timmy has a fish, and Mark has a frog. Sue had a cat, but only because she got all A’s on her report card, and she spent one month working on an extra credit project for school. I was the only one without a pet, even though I was the oldest. I reached the bottom of the stairs, and saw a very perplexing sight. Mrs. Henderson looked as if she just just lost a war, but got $1,000,000 out of it. We were all quiet, and it was really awkward.
Mrs. Henderson finally broke the silence and said, “Sugar Bunch, come here! I know that stupid girl…” Mrs. Henderson turned to me and glared. Finally, she took her gaze off of me and continued to talk to Hope, “I know that stupid girl has taken terrible care of you.” Then, in a whisper, she said, “Don’t worry. I’ll get us out of here soon enough.”
Even though she said it so she thought that only Hope could hear, I heard every word of it. I guess mom did also, because she looked at Mrs. Henderson in a funny way, and then started to speak. “Well, Janet, we thought that if you could maybe give Mrs. Henderson some of your own money, because she needs it for her health, and her other dogs. Also, maybe you could do some chores around her house. We still have to talk about how much money it would be and how many hours you would be working for, but–”
Mrs. Henderson interrupted, “I think that she should work for at least 100 hours in all, and maybe 500 dollars. This dog was worth a million dollars, you know. You’re getting a big discount.”
“Well, Janet, does that seem fair to you?” My mom asked me. No, I said in my head, but out loud, I said, “Okay, sure.”
Mrs. Henderson sighed, like she thought that this big ordeal was just too much for her old bones. She was 81, and she was a hunchback. I think she had Parkinson’s also, but you can never be too sure. She slowly got up, and I shook her hand. She hugged a happy Hope, and left without another word. Mark, Tommy, Sue, and I celebrated by calling Claire and baking brownies.
I finally paid off the 500 dollars!!! Tomorrow I can finally stop working for old Mrs. Henderson! She is going to a nursing home in one month, and a girl who was my age is moving into her old house! YAY! Hope is in good health, and she found some doggie friends that lived across the street. Sue transferred to my school and I helped her with her homework, and it turns out that she is not so perfect after all! Timmy did everything he can to help out with Hope, and Mark decided that he would be a big boy, and do almost everything by himself. My life is good after all!!!
*Last year, my art teacher did that and I fell asleep in class half the time. Also, I got nightmares from all of the things she told us about the artists. She was probably the worst art teacher that I ever had!
I LOVE this story. You are so awesome.