Ro and Jo knew of two elderly people in their neighborhood, who needed a little help with their yards. While older kids hit them up for money to mow grass and weed gardens, Jo knew that they didn't have much money.
"We have to get it done fast," said Jo. "Mrs. Harris doesn't usually take too long at the store."
"Yeah, but her daughter picked her up. They always go to lunch first. We have at least an hour and a half," Ro said. "Even when the little bus from the senior center picks her up, it takes her that long."
"Yeah, that's true, I guess. Maybe it's Mr. Lawrence who goes faster."
"He still can drive himself. But his legs bother him and he only picks up a few things at a time and hurries back home," Ro said, remembering almost getting caught in his yard that time, figuring he would take as long as Mrs. Harris to go shopping.
"We still need to get done and out of here before she gets back – and her garden needs weeding."
"I'll take care of the weeds," Sir WHIP said from Kato's back. He could get away with coming out with the children by making himself look like a toy. From a few feet away it looked as if Jo had put his toy dragon on his dog's back. That Sir WHIP was a smart one, alright!
"How are you going to pull weeds with your little tiny hands, Sir WHIP?" Jo asked, skeptical.
"You'll see," Sir WHIP replied, a hint of mystery in his voice.
Ro and Jo glanced at one another, shrugged, and got on with their work while Kato casually walked around back to Mrs. Harris' garden. Once there, Sir WHIP fell off of Kato's back (on purpose, to look like a toy) as the dog stood by the garden with his leg cocked, though he wasn't peeing – just giving Sir WHIP a chance to sneak into the rows of plants.
He started at the very last row, walking around each plant, being very careful to only destroy the weeds.
Kato ran back to the children to see if he could help them with their yard chores.
"How's he doing it, Kato?" Ro asked. In answer, Kato wagged his tail and yipped, turned toward the back yard, spun back toward his friends and ran circles around them. Jo rolled his eyes, smiling and shaking his head.
"We might as well go take a look, he'll never stop running around us if we don't," Jo said, setting the weed whacker on the sidewalk and heading around the side of the house toward the back yard. Ro followed as Kato plunged ahead, tail wagging, tongue lolling out the side of his mouth happily.
They found Sir WHIP in the second row already – and it was a pretty big garden. Mrs. Harris and Mrs. Levy were friends, and both grew a lot of vegetables and fruits to can in the fall. That means to preserve foods in jars in a special way so they last all winter, and sometimes even longer.
"Okay, we need to pull some weeds to make it look like we're just working back here in case someone sees us out their window," Ro said, stepping into the garden row and moving close to Sir WHIP.
Jo stepped into the next row, so that he could still see Sir WHIP between the plants.
As soon as he saw the puff of smoke he knew how Sir WHIP, with his little tiny claws, was weeding the garden, and making such fast work of it.
While leaning against the closest plant, keeping it separated from the weed, Sir WHIP snorted out a little flame and burned the weed. In seconds it was rendered into a little pile of ash, and Sir WHIP merely stirred the ashes into the soil at the base of the plant. He hummed a little work song as he moved up the row, the rhythm of the music making the work go more quickly.
"What are you children doing there? You're not smoking cigarettes, are you?" Mrs. Andrews said from over the fence in her back yard.
"Oh no," Jo whispered, startled, and Kato whimpered. Thinking quickly, he turned with a smile and answered, "Oh no, Mrs. Andrews, we don't smoke and neither does Kato. We are doing some yard work for Mrs. Harris, and Kato saw a bunny in her garden and came to get us to see it, that's all."
"I thought I saw some smoke," the lady said, still suspicious.
"No ma'am. We don't mess with fire," Ro responded. "We have to get back to work now," she said, and the children headed back for the front yard with Kato, and Sir WHIP ducked behind a tomato plant, hoping Mrs. Nosy Posy would go back inside her house.
"Some people think kids are always up to no good," Ro said, shaking her head sadly.
"Most people are nice, though," Jo said, thinking of Mrs. Levy, Mrs. Harris, and Mr. Lawrence.
"Okay, we really have to hurry now, because Mrs. Andrews will probably be looking out her window when we return to weed the garden," Ro said softly. "Some people should know the difference between neighborhood watch and neighborhood snoop."
Jo nodded, grimacing, picking up the weed whacker as Ro revved up the mower. Within half an hour they were finished in the front yard and starting around the side of the house, Kato prancing along happily beside them, looking around for flying bugs to play tag with. Every now and then he would see a little puff of smoke in the garden, but not much, and Sir WHIP was almost finished weeding. His plan had been brilliant.
As they finished mowing and whacking, Ro and Jo looked toward the garden, and saw Sir WHIP at the far end of the last row, sitting back against a pepper plant, resting from all his work. He'd done a beautiful job, not a weed in sight anywhere!
"I hope Mrs. Andrews stays inside her house, because it smells a little smoky out here," Jo said, sweeping the debris off the path he'd edged.
"I don't see her," Ro said, with her broom at the other end of the path, working toward her brother, hurrying now, because it had been a little over an hour and they needed to get out of Mrs. Harris' yard before she came home and found them. Mom said true good deeds should be done anonymously, without the person you're doing the work for knowing who you are.
"Me either," Jo said, almost able to bop his sister's broom with his own. Just then Mrs. Andrews' back door opened, and she hurried across her yard toward the fence, carrying something in her hand.
"Children, could you come here?" she called out, and she sounded more cheerful than she had earlier.
Ro and Jo shrugged and headed for the fence. Mrs. Andrews reached over and handed the Ziploc bag of homemade cookies to Jo. "I'm sorry children. You've been working very hard doing something nice for Mrs. Harris. I was wrong about you smoking, of course, and I wanted to apologize. Maybe I need an eye exam…" she said, smiling. "I could swear I saw smoke before."
"Might have just been the sun shining on the plants, evaporating dew?" Ro suggested, remembering her science class in school.
Mrs. Andrews nodded hopefully. "Maybe you're right. Anyway, I thought you might like some peanut butter cookies. You know, Mrs. Harris has been puzzled about who has been mowing her lawn all summer," she said, winking at the children. "It's a nice thing you're doing for her."
Ro and Jo smiled, and Kato stood, tail sweeping back and forth, and gave a happy little yip.
"There's enough to share with your little doggie, too, and your parents," Mrs. Andrews said.
"Thank you, Mrs. Andrews!" Ro said. "That was very nice of you. And it's okay about before. Smoke means fire, and if there was fire in Mrs. Harris' garden it would have been very dangerous."
Mrs. Andrews smiled. "Yes. Very. But I should have known nice children like you weren't doing anything wrong."
"If there were a fire, we would be trying to put it out with the hose, believe me," Jo said, thinking the time Sir WHIP had set Ro and Jo's yard on fire.
"Yes," Mrs. Andrews said, smiling. "I imagine you would." She looked over at the garden then, and said, "You did a fantastic job in that garden! Not a weed in sight!"
Sir WHIP, still leaning against the pepper plant in the back of the garden, smiled. He ruled, he thought, proud of himself and the work he'd done. When he saw his pals starting across the yard to collect their gear, waving goodbye to Mrs. Andrews saying final thank-yous for the cookies, he leapt to his feet and waited for Kato. The dog ran up and down the garden rows as if playing, and stopped to sniff the pepper plant Sir WHIP had been leaning against, to give his little (at the moment) sparkly orange friend a chance to hop up on his back and pretend to be a toy again.
Team Rojo made their way home, where they would enjoy their cookies with nice cold milk after putting the mower, weed whacker and brooms in the shed.
They found Scales on the kitchen table already, that said, "Good deed." They were accumulating a lot of them, that sparkled on Jo's vest and Ro's himation.
"So next time, what do we do about the smoke?" Jo said, sipping milk.
Just then Sir WHIP came out of Mom and Dad's room, having made himself large enough to carry an object that would fit in Jo's hand.
Ro and Jo laughed when they realized what it was.
"Mom's little fan!" Jo said.
"I can sit it on it's little stand at the end of the row I'm working in, and it will blow the smoke away before it rises up above the plants," Sir WHIP said. "All we need are some batteries to keep it running."
"Dad will get us some, especially if he knows it's for doing good deeds," Ro said, munching a cookie and lifting Sir WHIP up onto the table to have one of his own. "I love peanut butter cookies!" Sir WHIP said, chomping away.
Jo petted Kato and tucked a cookie into his mouth. "So does Kato!"
"So do we!" Ro said, handing out another cookie to herself and her brother. "There are four left – two each for Mom and Dad," she said, zipping closed the plastic bag.
"Awesome. I say we finish the cookies, put the dishes in the dishwasher, and go check out the crystal ball in the fort and find out what Grandma Crystal is up to," Jo suggested.
"Yeah! Maybe she'll be in the mood to go swimming!" Ro said, and then thought of her mermaid friends from her Princess Rosie days. "We might even see Early and Shirley!"
"Cool! Let's go!" Jo said, rinsing his cup in the sink, and doing the same for Ro's when she handed it to him. She tossed their napkins in the trash and wiped the table.
Then Team RoJo, their good deed done for the day, headed out to the fort for high adventure!
TD – 8/6/2016