The Act of Love

The Act of Love

From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

The Act of Love

I hate pulling weeds! I thought. It’s hot. It’s sticky. And it’s Saturday!

Still, I made sure to pull every stinking weed out of that flower garden. My dad was Mr. Perfecto Lawnman. He could detect a single weed a mile away. And if he spotted so much as one little clover, I’d be back pulling weeds for the rest of the day.

“Dad, I’m done,” I shouted from the garden, feeling sure that I had done a good job.

Dad stormed out of the house. “Don’t be yelling outside, Kathy,” he grumbled. “Use those two feet of yours and come get me.”

Suddenly, a sick feeling came over me. It was the kind of feeling I had when my dad was going to find that one stinking little clover.

“Geez,” Dad said, waving an irritated finger, “you missed a spot.”

I sighed, went to the spot and pulled the weeds. Afterward, I looked back at Dad, still standing there with a scowl on his face.

“Okay,” he said, turning away, “I guess you’re done.”

As Dad walked back to the house, I wondered if I’d ever done anything good enough or right enough for him. Sometimes, I wondered if he even liked me.

Like the night I had taken out the trash without being told. That was a big deal for me. But Dad didn’t see it that way. He was mad because I didn’t put the trash can lid on tightly enough to keep our dog out.

Well, I’m sorry, I thought, but I can’t help it if Sugar’s a trash picker.

The other day, when I was in a rush to get to school, Dad stopped me at the door. In his hand was a topless tube of toothpaste, the same one that I’d used just moments before.

“Where’s the cap to the toothpaste?” he asked, his eyebrows bunching in the middle. “And how many times do I have to tell you? Squeeze from the bottom!” At least I brushed my teeth, I thought.

Just then, a sloppy, wet tongue washed over my face, breaking me from my thoughts.

“Sugar!” I said, hugging her tightly. “Where did you come from?”

Sugar looked at me, her big sloppy tongue hanging to the side. I smiled.

“At least you like me.” Then standing up, I brushed the dirt from my knees and headed for the house.

Two weeks later, on the morning of another weed picking weekend, I was sick. I was sweaty and feverish and I ached all over.

“Let’s go,” Dad said, lifting me from the bed. “You need to see a doctor.”

“Please, no,” I said, in a shallow, sickly voice, “I’d rather pull weeds.”

He took me anyway, and the doctor said I had pneumonia. The only nice thing about it was that I didn’t have to pull weeds. I didn’t have to take out the trash. And since I had to stay in bed, I didn’t have to brush my teeth. If having pneumonia was ever good, it was good then. And as I rested, Sugar stayed with me, lying down beside my bed. She liked me.

That night a noise woke me from my sleep. I opened my eyes just a sliver, and I saw a tall, slender form. Enough moonlight shined through my window so that I could see it was my dad. But why was he there? I didn’t say, “Hi, Dad,” or anything like that, I don’t know why. He came up to me and put his hand against my forehead. When he took his hand away, I saw him lay something on my nightstand. He looked at me again, then left.

When he was gone, I reached over to the nightstand and picked up a necklace. It wasn’t like any I’d ever seen before. Dangling from a golden chain was a puppy in a basket, and the puppy looked just like Sugar. With shaking hands, I held that necklace to my heart and cried. My dad, who never gave hugs and never said, “I love you . . .” had just said it all.

Kathy Kemmer Pyron

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