By Debbonnaire Kovacs

Michael Arthur Patterson carefully wrapped silver tissue paper around the 12 red roses in the long white box. He couldn’t see the red or the silver or the white, but he could smell the roses, feel the crinkly texture of the paper, and feel the weight of the box as he carefully handed it to the customer.

“Thank you very much,” the man said. “I sure hope this makes my wife feel better.” He sounded sad.

The man had been talking to Aunt Rose while she rang up his purchase, so Mike knew he had argued with his wife over something he now thought was silly. He was buying the roses to try to make up.

“You’re welcome,” Mike said, “but, um . . .” He wasn’t sure if he should say anything.


“I’d say I was sorry, too, if it were me,” Mike blurted out.

“I know. You’re right, I will. I’ll tell her I love her. Thanks again.”

The bells tinkled over the door as the man left.

“You’re a smart man, Mike Patterson,” Aunt Rose said.

Mike grinned. “Well, I know when to admit I’ve acted like an idiot, anyway.”

Aunt Rose laughed just as the bells tinkled again. Mike thought both sounds were musical.

“Hey, Mike! Hey, Aunt Rose!”

“Kenya!” Mike exclaimed. “You haven’t been in all week!”

“I know. You wouldn’t believe the homework I’ve had,” Kenya replied.

“How do you like your new school?” Aunt Rose asked.

“I love it! I especially love having worship and prayer right in school. Miss Angelo’s great. And guess what—we’re going to learn to play recorders! I came to see if Mike could help me.”

Mike was excited to think that someone else would be playing a recorder. Pretty soon they could play duets together. He eagerly spent a half hour helping Kenya practice.

As Kenya left the flower shop, she practically ran into Susannah, who was towing all four brothers behind her and looking hot and flustered.

“Oh, Kenya, I am so glad to see you! Are you busy right this minute?” Susannah asked.

“No, why?”

“Mom has a dental appointment, and I have to take care of all the boys. Matt really wants to go to the park, but I know when we get there he’ll get busy playing and forget to help me. I could really use another pair of hands!”

“Sure, I’ll help,” Kenya agreed. She took Luke’s hand and they set off for the park, Matt and Mark running ahead.

“Wait for us when you get to the street!” Susannah called.

The next hour at the park was full of adventures. Kenya pulled two sticks, one pine cone, and a yucky bug out of Johnny’s mouth. Susannah prevented Luke from going down the slide backwards and head first and from swinging standing up. Matt and Mark built an entire highway system in the sandbox, but a screaming Mark had to have his head held under the water pump to remove sand from his eye. Susannah and Kenya were really glad to see Susannah’s mom drive up in the van.

That evening, Susannah was under an apple tree, reading, when Solly showed up.

“Susannah, I hate to bother you, but . . .”

Susannah rolled over and looked up at him. “What is it?”

“I’m trying to braid Sultan’s mane, and there is so much hair in it! It will take about a million braids, and you’re so much faster at braiding than I am.”

Susannah grinned and jumped up. “Sure, I’ll help. I like to braid. Duke and Dolly don’t like to have their hair braided.”

Solly grinned back. “I’m not sure Sultan does, either, but he’ll get used to it.”

It took an hour to braid Sultan’s hair.

“You look very handsome!” Susannah told Sultan. The horse nodded his head and snorted, making them laugh.

The next morning, Solly went into Lilies of the Field and grabbed Mike by the shoulder, making him jump. “Guess what, guess what! Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, but you’ll never guess!”

Mike laughed. “What? What? You sound like Kenya when she gets all excited.”

“Well, I am excited. This week for Dads’ Day, we’re going on a long bike ride. We’ll be gone all day. We’re biking to this great park with a waterfall, having a picnic, and biking back home in the afternoon.”

Mike’s face fell. “Sounds great. You’ll have a good time.”

Solly still held Mike’s shoulder, so he shook him a little. “No, you too!”

“What do you mean, me too? I can’t ride a bike!”

“You can now! My dad just bought us a bicycle built for two! Come outside and see it!” Solly was practically jumping up and down.

“A what?” Mike asked.

“A bicycle built for two! It has two seats and two sets of handlebars and two sets of pedals. I ride on the front and steer, and you ride on the back. Come on! We brought it so we could practice.”

Astonished, Mike followed him outside and ran his hands over the satiny smooth new bike. “I can’t believe it! I can ride a bike? What color is it?”

“Red, with white racing stripes. It’s so cool. My dad knows where there’s a big empty parking lot where we can practice. Can you come now?”

Mike got permission, and the two boys, along with both dads, pedaled around and around the big parking lot. Solly shouted tips and encouragement over his shoulder. Mike thought it felt like flying.

“Wow,” Mike said on the way back to the shop. “You are a very kind and wonderful friend, Solly.”

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