Best friends Melanie Honeywell and Karen Aimee share adventures, hardships and heartaches, and the growing pains of Christian faith.
Karen’s mom has fallen in love with a veterinarian, and the wedding is scheduled for the end of summer. Instead of helping with the planning, Karen will be busy babysitting with her best friend Melanie Honeywell. Priscilla, a six-year-old better known as Pistol, broke both her arms in a skateboard accident, and her grandmother just can’t cope anymore. It’s up to Karen and Melanie to keep Pistol occupied and out of trouble all summer long.
Out of the blue, a letter from Karen’s father arrives, announcing the plans he’s made to take Karen and his current girlfriend camping in Yellowstone. With a string of broken promises behind him, he’s provided no date for the vacation nor asked whether his daughter is even interested in going. If this is like all the times before, Karen can be certain he’ll either not show up at all…or arrive on her mother’s wedding day!
“Ahh, summer!” sighed Karen as her black Lab, Rufus, dragged her down the sidewalk encircling the park. His leash pulled taut as the young dog strained to move faster. His mission this morning was to discover as many new smells as possible. Karen’s other hand held the limp leash of Sugar, an old collie willing to walk at a sedate pace. Beside Karen walked her best friend, Melanie. Melanie lugged a box.
“Summer.” Karen rolled the word over her tongue as if she were tasting it. “Just think, eight weeks of freedom. Eight weeks of complete laziness.”
Rufus lunged forward and almost made Karen break her leisurely stride. “Slow down, Roof,” she complained.
Melanie shifted the cardboard box in her arms. She turned her head and sneezed.
“Before we settle down to laziness, we have to find homes for these kittens.”
On cue, the four fuzzballs set up a miniature ruckus of discordant mews. Karen peeked over the edge of the box and made faces at the babies.
“I can’t believe my mom is making me give all of them away,” said Karen.
“You’ve got two dogs and a cat,” said practical Melanie. “If you kept Chang Lee’s kittens that would be five cats running around your house. That’s way too many cats.”
“Too many!” exclaimed Karen. “How can you have too many cats?”
“Kittens are cute, but cats…well…” Melanie hesitated.
“Don’t you dare say anything bad about them,” warned Karen.
“At least Samantha already took one kitten,” said Melanie brightly.
“I wish Samantha were still here. Her cat’s the father. She should be here to approve of the homes we find for the litter. It’s too bad your aunt, uncle, and Samantha had to move to Alaska.”
“I know,” agreed Melanie with a sigh. “Samantha turned out to be really cool.”
Melanie’s aunt and uncle had adopted Samantha. At first it had been hard for the girls to be friends, but over the school year they had worked things out.
“Rufus, can you PLEASE slow down,” said Karen. She yanked on his leash. “I guess your Uncle Mike couldn’t resist such a cool job.”
“Any job in Alaska would be cool if not downright cold, but yeah, being a policeman on the Fairbanks force is a dream come true. Uncle Mike grew up in Alaska so he was really excited when they offered him the job,” said Melanie.
“At least Samantha was happy about moving to Alaska,” said Karen. “But then Samantha is excited to have a family. She’d probably move to deepest, darkest Africa if her new mom and dad said that’s where they were going.”
Unhooking his lead, Karen told her dog to sit. Out of her backpack, she pulled a Frisbee. Rufus wiggled excitedly at the sight of his favorite toy. Karen laughed and threw it into the open field. Rufus took off and caught it in midair.
“Great catch,” said Karen.
The Lab pranced back to Karen and Melanie. Sugar settled down on the grass, evidently bored with the silly game. Melanie put down the box and sat cross-legged.
As Karen threw the Frisbee again, she spoke over her shoulder to Melanie. “I hope Sam is having a good time in Alaska. It must still be cold up there. I wonder when she’ll write us.”
“Oh, I meant to tell you! She wrote!” Melanie dug in the pocket of her shorts and brought out a crumpled paper. “I’ll read it to you.”
“Dear Melanie, Hi! We got to Fairbanks two nights ago. In Fairbanks there are no roads since there is lots of snow. We flew in. It’s very cold here. Too cold for a Southern Belle like me.”
Both girls laughed. When Samantha first came to live with Melanie’s aunt and uncle, before she was adopted, she talked with a fake Southern accent.
Melanie continued to read the letter while Karen threw Rufus’ Frisbee.
“Dad gets to ride a snowmobile when he works. Mom got a job in a bakery. They have NOT asked me to help bake cookies!”
Melanie and Karen laughed again, remembering the disaster they’d had when Samantha tried to help them make cookies for a fundraiser.
“D’Ogie’s son, Tomboy, is doing great. He loves snow! He plays with it, eats it, and brings clumps of it in on his fur. What a mess! I miss you and all the kittens. Read this to Karen. I’ll write her next. Love, Samantha.”
“That’s an idea,” said Melanie.
“We could ship the rest of these kittens to Alaska. Sam only took one. Don’t you think as the owner of the father cat, she deserves more?”
Karen rolled her eyes and threw the Frisbee yet another time. Rufus never got tired.
“So,” said Karen as Rufus sped away, “what are we going to do this summer?”
“For starters, we’re supposed to be getting rid of these kittens.”
Karen took the Frisbee out of Rufus’ mouth and tucked it into her backpack. With her hands on her hips she surveyed the park.
“The best place would be over there,” she pointed to a shaded pavilion by the playground equipment. Quickly she fastened the leash to Rufus and together they trooped over to the shade where children and mothers gathered.
As they approached, Karen began to cry out, “Free kittens, cute and cuddly! Don’t pass this opportunity by. They already have their shots.”
A boy they knew from their school zoomed along the sidewalk on his skateboard. He flipped it into the air and caught it when he got to the girls.
“I guess your last plea to keep the kittens failed,” he said with a smile.
“Yep, Andy,” said Karen. “Do you know anyone who wants a wonderful, adorable, cute and cuddly pet?”
“Sure I do,” he answered. “My mom said to ask for one for my little sister’s birthday.”
“Yes!” exclaimed Karen. “Pistol will love this white one.”
“We aren’t supposed to call her Pistol anymore.”
“Really?” said Karen with a frown. “I don’t even know her real name.”
“It’s Priscilla. Mom says she has to act more like a young lady, and if we call her by her real name, she might remember.”
Melanie and Karen exchanged a look of disbelief. Six-year-old Pistol had a reputation for being a clown.
“Okay,” said Melanie. “We’ll try to remember. Are you going to take the kitten now?”
Andy said sure and tucked the white kitten inside his shirt before he hopped on his skateboard and sped away.
“One down, three to go,” said Karen.
The next two kittens went to a grandmother who wanted them for her grandkids.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to buy them?” she asked. “What about their shots? You had to pay for them. I could give you enough to cover the cost of the shots.”
“No, really,” Karen protested. “Our friend’s a vet and he gave them the shots for free.”
“He must be a good friend,” said the friendly old woman.
Melanie and Karen tried to suppress their giggling until the lady had the kittens in her huge knitting bag and walked away.
“Karen,” said Melanie, suddenly serious. “Does it bother you about Dr. Griesh coming over to see your mom all the time?”
“No, I like it. This is the first time my mom has dated since my dad left.”
“They’re dating?” Melanie’s eyes got big.
“Not really. Mom says it’s more like old-fashioned courtship. They do lots of things together. Dr. Griesh is nice to me, too. I like him.”
Karen jumped to her feet.
“Let’s head home for lunch,” she said. “Mom wants me to make chicken salad. Today’s her half-day and she’ll be home by 12:30.”
“We’d better hurry, then,” said Mel, checking her wristwatch. “It’s 11:30 now.”
Rufus dragged Melanie, Karen, and Sugar back toward Karen’s house.
“We did pretty well,” said Melanie. “We gave three away. That just leaves the feisty gray kitty.”
Karen peered into the box at the tired kitten curled up asleep in the corner. He didn’t look like he could be any trouble at all.
“Seriously,” said Karen, “I don’t see why I have to get rid of all of them.”
“Two dogs, two cats, that’s way too many. One pet would drive me up the wall.”
“Just because you’re allergic. You could take shots or something.”
“No, thank you. You may be my best friend, but I’m not allowing you to volunteer me to be a pincushion. Needles!” Melanie gave an exaggerated shudder. “Protect me from well-meaning friends.”
Karen laughed. Then as she spotted her house, she stopped dead in her tracks.
“What’s wrong?” asked Melanie.
“My mom’s home and Dr. Griesh is there.”
“Karen, he’s always hanging around.”
“That’s not it. Mom shouldn’t be off work yet. It’s her half-day. She gets off at noon.”
As they approached the house, they could see Karen’s mom and Dr. Griesh sitting on the front steps talking.
“They sure look serious, do you think we should interrupt them?” asked Melanie. “Who knows what they could be talking about. It could be… private.” Melanie gave Karen a funny smile.
“Oh, come on,” said Karen as she bounced up the front walk.
“Hi, Mom. Hi, Dr. Griesh. Did you come to see the kittens?” asked Karen.
“Ah, yes,” said Dr. Griesh. “The kittens.” He grinned at Karen’s mom, and she smiled back with mischief in her eye. Nobody believed that Greg Griesh came over to the Aimee house just to see the litter of cats.
“Come on, Karen,” whispered Melanie. “Let’s go get the dogs some water. They’re hot.”
“Uh, Karen, just a minute,” said Mrs. Aimee. “May I talk to you for a minute?”
“Sure.” Karen’s eyes traveled back and forth between her mother’s solemn face and Dr. Griesh who looked uncomfortable.
“Karen,” Mrs. Aimee began slowly, “Your dad called me today at work.”
“Is that why you’re home early?”
Her mother nodded.
“And?” Karen prompted.
“He said he’s coming through Colorado Springs on a vacation.” The words came rushing out. “He’s going to Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore. You’re invited to go along.”
“That would be great. I’d like to go,” said Karen, but her voice didn’t sound very enthusiastic. Many times in the past her father’s plans had suddenly changed. Karen knew better than to get too excited too soon.
“There’s something else,” said Mrs. Aimee. “His girlfriend, Patty, is going with you,” she explained.
“So you don’t want me to go,” said Karen.
“I admit this has upset me, Karen. They shouldn’t be going camping together when they aren’t married. It’s wrong. But you should have a chance to have some fun with your dad.”
Karen went up on the porch and put an arm around her mother’s shoulders.
“Let’s not worry about it, Mom. It isn’t like it will really happen. Name one time when Dad said he was going to do something and then he actually did it. You know he’ll probably call in a week or two and say he decided to go to Hawaii or cruise the Caribbean. He won’t really come through Colorado Springs and pick me up. There’s no reason to get all upset, Mom.”