By Linda Porter Carlyle
Hannah Maria Estevez clenched her fists. Hot tears of disappointment burned behind her eyeballs, and she blinked to keep the tears from spilling out.
“I know you’re really disappointed,” Mama said sympathetically. “I know how much you were looking forward to Melissa’s birthday party.”
“It isn’t fair!” Hannah gulped. “I really, really wanted to go ice-skating! I hardly ever get to go!”
“I know,” Mama said again. She smoothed Hannah’s hair back from her forehead. “But think about Melissa. She’s got to be even more disappointed than you are. After all, it’s her birthday party that got canceled! Instead of being able to celebrate by going ice-skating with her friends, she’s feeling hot and achy! At least you’re only disappointed—you’re not sick!”
Personally, Hannah didn’t think she would feel much worse if she were sick. Her disappointment was even giving her a stomachache. She probably would be sick soon. She wiped away a tear that rolled down her cheek.
“Cheer up!” Mama said. “I’m sure Melissa’s mother will reschedule her party when Melissa is feeling better. You’ll get to go ice-skating. Just not today.”
“But I’ve looked forward to it for so long!” Hannah wailed. “I’ll never get to go ice-skating!”
Mama laughed. “Go outside and ride your scooter for a while,” she suggested. “You’ll feel better if you get some exercise.”
Hannah thought about what she would really like to do. She would really like to have a temper tantrum. She would really like to lie down on the floor and scream and kick her feet up and down. She sighed. She was pretty sure Mama would not let her enjoy a temper tantrum. Mama would probably send her to her room. “OK,” Hannah grumped. “I’ll go outside.”
“You can ride up and down on both sides of the street, but don’t go too far away,” Mama said. “I want you to be able to hear me when I call you.”
Hannah got her pink scooter from the back porch and balanced on both feet as she rode slowly down the driveway. She stopped at the sidewalk and looked both ways. The neighborhood was quiet. Lots of the neighbors were gone on a last vacation before school started again.
Hannah turned right and rode down the walk. Up ahead, she saw Mr. Cook carrying a ladder across his lawn. She watched him lean the ladder against the front of his house and begin to climb up.
“What are you doing?” Hannah called, dropping her scooter on the grass and walking over to the ladder.
“Hello down there!” Mr. Cook said with his friendly smile. “How are you today?”
“I’m sad and mad!” Hannah announced. “I was supposed to get to go to a birthday party, and we were going ice-skating. But it got canceled because Melissa has the flu!”
“That’s too bad,” Mr. Cook said. “I’m sorry. I, on the other hand,” he went on looking down, “am happy. I’m glad it’s a beautiful day and I can clean out my gutters. I’ve got to get last year’s leaves out before this year’s leaves fall in and join them.” He pulled a small hand shovel out of his old leather tool belt and began to scrape it along inside the gutter.
Hannah watched him drop bits of dark brown, packed-together leaves down onto the grass. She wished she had a ladder and could climb up and help. Cleaning gutters looked like fun.
Hannah wandered back to her scooter and picked it up. Maybe if she rode really fast, she’d leave her mad feelings behind. Maybe that’s what Mama meant when she said she’d feel better if she got some exercise. “Bye!” Hannah called as she headed down the sidewalk.
“Goodbye!” Mr. Cook called back, waving his shovel at her.
Hannah rode rapidly to the end of the block and stopped. She turned her scooter around to ride back the way she had come. She looked at Mr. Cook on his ladder, leaning as far as he could to the left, scraping his little shovel along, tossing more bits of old dead leaves to the ground.
Suddenly Hannah noticed that Mr. Cook’s ladder was leaning to the left too. Mr. Cook dropped his shovel and grabbed at the gutter. The ladder leaned farther and crashed over. Mr. Cook lost his hold and fell to the ground.
Hannah stood still, horrified. Then she pushed off and rode as fast as she could back down the sidewalk. She jumped off the scooter and flew across the grass to where Mr. Cook lay, softly moaning. “I’ll get help!” Hannah screamed. She sped toward home.
Later, Hannah and Mama stood watching as the ambulance taking Mr. Cook to the hospital pulled away. “Will he be all right, Mama?” Hannah asked. She began to shiver. “Will Mr. Cook be all right?”
Mama put her arm around Hannah’s shoulders. She dropped a kiss on the top of her head. “I think so,” she answered. “We’ll call the hospital later and find out how he’s doing.” Mama looked around. “I guess we’ll just wait on the porch until Mrs. Cook comes home from the grocery store. We’ll have to tell her what happened. I’m sure glad you were close by when Mr. Cook fell!” she exclaimed. “It would have been awful if no one had seen the accident and he had to lie there a long time, waiting for help!”
“Yeah,” Hannah said with a deep breath. “Maybe God wanted me here! I’m glad I wasn’t ice-skating!”