Two Heads Are Better Than One

By Linda Porter Carlyle

MacKenzie Isabelle Evans scooped another bite of mashed potatoes into her mouth.

Dad looked at her. “It would be nice if you finished chewing one mouthful before you stuffed another one in,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” Mac mumbled.

“It would be nice if you didn’t talk with your mouth full either,” Mom added.

Mac gulped. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I have to eat fast though. I have to go over to Joseph’s. He’s got a big problem he needs me to help him with.”

“Did you forget you are supposed to wash the supper dishes tonight?” Mom asked.

Mac groaned. Then she looked at Dad hopefully. “Will you help me? Will you dry them and put them away for me? I’ll dry the dishes for you tomorrow night.”

“What a deal!” Dad said, wiping his mouth with his napkin. His eyes twinkled. “How could I turn down an offer like that?”

“You might as well slow down and actually taste your food,” Mom suggested. “You can’t go to Joseph’s until the dishes are done. And you can’t wash the dishes until we are all finished eating. And your father and I intend to enjoy our supper.”

Mac sighed. She shoved a forkful of salad into her mouth.

Finally supper was over. The last dish was washed and dried and put away in the cupboard. “Can I go over to Joseph’s now?” Mac asked, bouncing on her toes.

May I,” Mom corrected.

May I go over to Joseph’s now?” Mac asked with a grin. “May I, please?”

Mom tugged one of Mac’s red curls. “Yes, you may,” she said.

Mac shoved her arms into her jacket and hurried out the back door. She paused on the porch and looked up at the sky. The night was very cold and quiet. Stars glittered in the black velvet sky. Red and green and blue Christmas lights hung like glowing jewelry on neighborhood houses. Mac’s breath made white puffs in front of her face. Christmas was such a wonderful season! What big Christmas problem could Joseph have? Mac wondered. She jumped off the porch and ran across the grass.

Joseph answered Mac’s knock on the back door. “I thought you forgot,” he said.

“No. I had to be responsible,” Mac explained. “I had to wash the dishes before I could come over. But Dad helped me so I could get here faster. What’s your problem, anyway?”

“Sh!” Joseph hissed. “I don’t want G.M. to hear us talking.” He sat down at the kitchen table. “I don’t have enough money to buy Christmas presents,” he explained. “I want to get presents for G.M. and for Mom, but I don’t have money to buy them, and I don’t know what to do.”

“You could always ask your mother for some money,” Mac suggested.

“I know,” Joseph said. “But it doesn’t seem exactly right to ask somebody for money so you can buy them a present.”

“You could make them something, maybe,” Mac said, a thoughtful frown on her forehead.

“I tried to think of something I could make,” Joseph agreed. “But I can’t think of anything. It’s going to be a horrible Christmas! How can I not give my mother and my grandmother Christmas presents?” he exclaimed.

Mac put her chin in her hand, rested her elbow on the table, and thought.

Joseph stared at the kitchen clock and watched the seconds tick away.

Mac banged her fist on the table. “I know!” she exclaimed.

“What did you two break out there?” G.M. called from her studio.

“Nothing!” Mac called back. “I’m just thinking.”

“That’s the loudest thinking I’ve ever heard!” G.M. retorted.

Mac giggled. She leaned closer to Joseph. “I know!” she whispered. “If you can’t buy anything or make anything, maybe you can do something!”

“What do you mean?” Joseph asked.

“You could volunteer to do something for G.M. and for your mom. Something that they have to do but they really hate doing. You could do it for them!” Mac jumped out of her chair, caught up in her idea. She looked around the kitchen. “You could volunteer to clean the oven,” she suggested. “I know my mom hates doing that. Or you could volunteer to mop the floor or wash the windows. Or clean out the gutters in the spring! What do you think?”

Joseph’s eyes shone. “I’ve got an even better idea!” he exclaimed. “You know how people sometimes give gift certificates, and you can go pick out whatever you want at the store? I can give them,” Joseph stopped and lowered his voice to a whisper. “I can give them time gift certificates! I can make fancy certificates and each one will be worth an hour of time instead of a dollar. And then when Mom or G.M. has something bigger than just a regular chore that they want me to do, they can use my time certificates!”

“That is a truly excellent idea!” Mac whispered. “Do you care if I copy it? I could give time gift certificates to my mom and dad too. Do you want to start making them right now? What do you think they should look like? You start working on the design, and I’ll go home and get my gold gel pen.”

Joseph grinned. “This is going to be perfect! G.M. always says that time is money. I think she’ll really like my present! How many hours do you think I should give her?”

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