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Authors: Ellen Miles

Maggie and Max

BOOK: Maggie and Max
5.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub




For homeless families everywhere,
and for those who help them.
And to my mother, Betty,
with many thanks and much love.



Title Page


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Puppy Tips

Dear Reader

Also by Ellen Miles!

About the Author



“Eatalotta, eatalotta, eatalotta pizza!”

“Pepperoni, mushrooms, anchovies on the pizza!”

“Mozzarella cheese and Parmesan, too!”

“Mmmm, mmmm,

Charles shouted happily with the group. He loved the pizza chant. He loved his bright yellow T-shirt. He loved working toward his Wolf rank. In fact, Charles loved just about everything about being in Cub Scouts.

It was cool that his best friend, Sammy, was in his den. It was awesome that they would both soon become Wolves. And Charles thought it was most especially super-cool
awesome that his mom and dad were Akelas — that is, den leaders.
That meant that all six Cub Scouts in Charles’s den came to the Petersons’ house for their meeting every week, and it also meant that both Mom and Dad came along to the Scouts’ monthly pack meeting.

After Charles’s dad finished leading the pizza chant, his mom shooed the pack out to the backyard so they could practice for the “Feats of Skill” they would have to perform as part of their Wolf Badge requirements. Some of the den members had a hard time sitting still for very long. So there was always time for jumping and running during their meetings.

Charles and Sammy were practicing their forward and backward rolls when Charles looked up and saw a furry brown face watching from a window in the house. “Hi, Buddy!” he yelled, waving to his puppy.

Charles loved Buddy so much. More than ice cream, more than Cub Scouts, maybe even more
than Christmas, which was only a few weeks away. Buddy was brown, with a white heart-shaped patch on his chest. He was the cutest, smartest, funniest, softest, sweetest puppy ever, and — best of all — he belonged to the Petersons forever and ever.

Lots of puppies had come and gone since the Petersons had started being a foster family. (That meant that they took care of puppies who needed homes.) Usually, each puppy only stayed for a few weeks, until the Petersons found it the perfect forever home. But Buddy was different. Buddy had come to stay.

Now, in the upstairs window, another little face popped up next to Buddy’s. That was the Bean, Charles’s little brother. (His name was really Adam, but nobody
called him that.) The Bean had a fuzzy green stuffed turtle hanging from his mouth. Mr. Turtle came from the pet store, and he had a squeaker inside. He was really a toy for
dogs, not for little boys. But the Bean was not exactly a regular little boy. The Bean loved to pretend that he was a dog.

Then a third face popped up. It was Lizzie, Charles’s older sister. She was keeping an eye on Buddy and the Bean while the den had its meeting. Charles figured that Lizzie was probably a little jealous of all the special time he got with Mom and Dad during Scout meetings, and of all the fun things the Scouts got to do, like crafts and skits and games.

Sure enough, Lizzie stuck her tongue out at Charles. He stuck his out back at her. Lizzie put her pinkies in the corners of her mouth and pulled it into a jack-o'-lantern shape. Charles did the same back at her. Charles was thinking about trying a new face with crossed eyes and a dangling tongue, but just then he heard Mom’s voice.

“Okay, Scouts, let’s head inside!” Mom was by the back door, waving her arms. “Our visitor has
arrived and it’s time to sit down and put on our listening ears.”

The den often had special visitors. Most of the time they talked about their jobs or about how the Scouts could make a difference in the community. Last month, the chief of police had come! He had made all the Scouts “official deputies.” That was cool.

Back in the living room, Dad was standing next to the Christmas tree talking to a tall man with a big, round stomach. Dad must have said something funny, because just as Charles and the others came in, the man burst into a loud, happy laugh. Dad was laughing, too.

But both men got more serious once the Scouts had settled down and were sitting in a circle on the floor. “Boys, this is Mr. Baker,” Dad said, introducing the man. “He is the director of the Nest, which is a shelter for families who need temporary homes.”

“You mean, like the way we take care of puppies?” Charles asked.

Dad nodded. “Sort of. Does everybody remember the big fire at Pinewood Apartments last week?”

Charles nodded along with all the other boys. He sure did remember. He remembered Dad’s beeper going off in the middle of dinner. Dad was a fireman, and he was always ready to go in an emergency. He’d had to leave right away to help with the Pinewood fire, and it had kept him busy until very late that night.

“Fortunately, nobody was hurt by that fire,” Mr. Baker said. “But three families lost their homes. So they are staying with us at the Nest. We have two other families staying there, too. Families that need a little help. With five families, we’re full to the brim.”

Sammy raised his hand. “How long do the people stay?”

“Usually only for a month or two,” answered
Mr. Baker. “Just until they get back on their feet. Sometimes a mom or dad needs some help with finding a job, or with learning English if they are from another country. We can help with that. We also help the kids with their homework, and make sure they get to school every day.”

Now another Scout spoke up. “Do the families help out at the Nest?”

“They sure do,” said Mr. Baker. “We all work together to keep the Nest going, just like you all help out with chores at home. In return, the families get a safe, warm place to live and three meals a day until they can find new homes.”

Now Mom spoke up. “Three
meals,” she said. “I had dinner there once when I was writing an article about the Nest.” Charles’s mom was a reporter for the
Littleton News,
the local newspaper.

“We do have a good cook,” agreed Mr. Baker. “And I must admit I enjoy helping out in the kitchen, too. I wonder if you boys can guess what
kind of things I like to make? I’ll give you a hint: My name says it all.”

Charles got the hint. “Cookies!” he yelled.

“Cake!” yelled Sammy.

“That’s right, I’m a baker,” said Mr. Baker. “And when you come to the Nest next week, you can sample some of my treats.”

Dad spoke up again. “Remember how we agreed at our last meeting that we wanted to volunteer somewhere, to help others in our community? Well, Mr. Baker has invited us to help serve dinner at the Nest one night a week for the next month. We’ll even be there for Christmas Eve!”

Mr. Baker was nodding and smiling. “We can’t wait to have you,” he said. “Especially on Christmas Eve. That’s when we put on our annual showcase — you know, singing, dancing, all that stuff. And our volunteers are the stars of the show!”

Charles gulped. Working at the Nest sounded
like fun, and it would be great to help people on Christmas Eve. But, performing in front of a group of people was
his idea of a good time. Just the thought of it made his hands feel all hot and sweaty. But there wasn’t time to worry about that now. It was time to say good-bye to Mr. Baker and finish up their meeting with a song. Mom turned out all the lights except for the ones on the Christmas tree. Then Charles and the other Scouts sang “Show Akela we stand tall, we are Cub Scouts after all” to the tune of “It’s a Small World After All.” Singing was fun, as long as it wasn’t for an audience.

They were on the last verse when Charles heard the phone ring. A moment later, Lizzie rushed into the room. “Ms. Dobbins just called!” she said to Mom. “She wants us to come over right away. She says she needs a foster family

Ms. Dobbins was the director of Caring Paws,
the animal shelter where Lizzie volunteered one day a week. Ms. Dobbins and her staff took care of lots of dogs and cats, but sometimes they needed help. That’s where the Petersons came in.

As soon as the last Cub Scout had been picked up by his parents, the Petersons piled into their van and headed for Caring Paws. When they arrived at the animal shelter, Ms. Dobbins greeted them at the door. Without wasting any time, she led them into the building and down the hall. Charles thought they were going to the dog room, but instead she brought them into her office. There, in the corner, was an enormous cardboard box. It was wrapped in bright green shiny paper, and a big, red, floppy bow hung down one side.

“Look what just arrived,” said Ms. Dobbins. “I was working late and I didn’t even hear a car pull up, but when I went to lock the front door I found this box on the steps.”

Charles, Lizzie, and the Bean moved closer to
the box and peeked inside. Their parents were right behind them.

Charles caught a glimpse of a wide, shaggy, white-and-brown face with big eyes that looked like melted chocolate looking up at him. A puppy! A puppy with floppy brown ears and a long feathery tail and the biggest paws Charles had ever seen.

“Wow!” Dad was staring into the box. “That is one

“Ohh!” said Lizzie. “How cute! Is it a Saint Bernard?”

“Uppy!” whispered the Bean, who had to stand on his tiptoes to look into the box.

“Keep looking,” said Ms. Dobbins.

“Oh, my!” said Mom suddenly. “There’s a kitten in there, too!”


“Exactly.” Ms. Dobbins crossed her arms and nodded. “There’s a kitten, too. Can you beat that?”

“But — who brought them here?” Charles wanted to know. He could barely take his eyes off the big dog and the tiny kitten. The kitten was black, with white whiskers, a white chest; it had three white feet and one black one.

“That’s a mystery,” Ms. Dobbins said. “A mystery that will never be solved, I’m afraid. But whoever it was, I’m sure they did the right thing. Maybe they weren’t able to take care of these animals, but they knew we would be able to help. There was a note on the box, but all it said was ‘Please take care of Maggie
and Max.’ The puppy is a girl, so she must be Maggie.”

“And you must be Max.” Charles was looking down at the kitten. The kitten stared back at Charles with green eyes that were almost too big for his face. Then he opened his little pink mouth and let out a long, pitiful meow.

Help me, pleeease!

Charles felt his heart swell up. Right away, he knew he would do
for that little kitten.

Maggie the puppy seemed to feel the same way. She put her big face down and gave the kitten a long, slurpy lick.

Don’t you worry, dear little friend. I’m right here.

Max gave another, softer meow and settled down, curling up between Maggie’s paws.

“You see how it is,” said Ms. Dobbins. “These two are obviously old friends. I tried to separate them, but when I put Max in the cat room he just cried and cried and cried. And Maggie seemed to be able to hear him from all the way down the hall in the dog room! She barked and barked and begged to be let out of her cage. Finally I brought them both in here, and they calmed down.”

“Whoa! Hold on there.” Dad held up both hands. “Don’t tell me you’re asking us to take
of them!”

Ms. Dobbins just nodded. “That’s exactly what I’m asking. How can I keep them here? I don’t want to separate them, and I can’t put a kitten in the dog room or a puppy — especially a puppy this big! — in the cat room.”

“Well, with Christmas so close and so much to do for the holidays, I just don’t think —” Dad began.

“We’ll take them!” interrupted Mom. While Dad and Ms. Dobbins were talking, Mom had reached into the box to pick up the kitten, and now she was holding Max up to her cheek and kissing his soft little face. Maggie the puppy watched closely, with worried eyes.

Charles was surprised. “Really?” he asked.

Mom hardly even seemed to hear him. She just nodded dreamily as she whispered baby talk to the kitten.

Lizzie shrugged. “Mom always was more of a cat person,” she reminded Charles.

Dad was shrugging, too. And grinning. “Okay!” he told Ms. Dobbins. “I guess that settles it. We’re taking them!”

The Bean cheered and started to hop all around Ms. Dobbins’s office. “Uppy! Uppy! Kitty! Uppy!” he sang, waving his fists in the air. “Yay! Yay! Yay!”

Charles felt like singing and hopping, too.
Instead, he helped Dad and Ms. Dobbins by opening the door while they carried the big box out to the Petersons’ van.

Back at home, Charles went inside first. He found Buddy, took him upstairs to his room, and gave him a chew toy. “We have some new visitors,” he told Buddy, giving him a special scratch between the ears. “Once they’re settled in, you can come down and meet them, okay?”

Then he ran back downstairs in time to watch as Dad and Lizzie lowered the big box onto its side on the living room floor and opened the flaps. Maggie and Max were free to explore. The puppy came out first, carefully placing one big paw and then another onto the rug. She looked up at Charles, gave herself a shake, and plopped down on her pudgy backside. Then she opened her mouth in a big, drooly doggy smile and let out a deep “woof!”

Nice place! I like it here. Got any food for me and my little friend?

Maggie was mostly white, with big brown and black splotches, floppy brown ears, and a long, fluffy white tail. “Look!” said Lizzie. “Her paws are twice as big as Buddy’s, even though she’s way younger than he is!”

Charles and Lizzie and the Bean watched as Maggie got up again and started padding around, sniffing the couch, the Christmas tree, the coffee table, and the bookshelf. She was very curious and so, so cute.

But by the time the puppy had worked her way over to the fireplace, Max the kitten had crept partway out of the box. He began to yowl at his friend.

Too far! Too far! Don’t leeeave meee!

Right away, Maggie galumphed back to the box and gave Max a big lick.

“Aww,” sighed Mom. “She’s such a good caretaker.”

“Uh-oh,” said the Bean. He was pointing toward the Christmas tree.

“Oh, no!” Charles saw that the kitten had gotten over being scared. As soon as Maggie had licked him, Max had started to charge around the living room, exploring at top speed. Now Charles watched as the kitten climbed up, up, up into the tree’s branches, swatting at any ornaments that blocked his path. In a twinkling, Max was all the way up near the star. He paused and looked down when he heard Charles’s voice, and his eyes grew big with fright.

BOOK: Maggie and Max
5.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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