by Lizzie Ross
Molly could smell a storm coming up as the wind blew her scarf and hair out behind her. She walked next to her dad; both of them carried groceries and hurried to beat the rain home. Since it was her birthday, they had gone home through the park so Molly could spend a few minutes on the swing. Now her father walked quickly, and Molly had to run to keep up. The soup cans in the bag she carried bumped against her chest as she raced after him.
At the stoplight, Molly noticed a fuzzy white wad of something right next to her, stuffed into the chain link fence separating the park from the sidewalk. Looking closer, she could see it was a small stuffed dog. She wanted to take it home, almost as if it were a real puppy about to get caught in the rain.
“Dad, look. In the fence.”
Dad squinted to focus on the puppy. “Hmm, a stuffed animal.”
“Can I take it home for my collection?”
“Is it yours?” Dad looked at her closely.
“No.” Molly chewed her lip, knowing what her father would say next. Her parents had definite ideas about not picking up things that don’t belong to you. Whether it is money a ring, a book, or someone’s drink, if you didn’t put it there, you shouldn’t touch it.
“Then you can’t take it home. That puppy is there so its owner can find it, not so you can add it to the crowd on your bed. Now come on, the light’s changing.”
Molly couldn’t bear to think of the stuffed puppy getting soaked by the rain that threatened to come down in torrents. As Dad started to cross the street, Molly pulled the puppy from the fence and stuffed it inside her jacket. She wrapped her arms around the grocery bag, hugging it to her chest to keep the puppy from falling. When she caught up with her dad, she could tell he was already thinking of something else.
After leaving the groceries in the kitchen, Molly ran to her room. She put the puppy on her bed, with all her other stuffed animals, and stood back to admire it. “Finders, keepers,” she told herself. At the sound of footsteps nearing the bedroom door, she dived at the puppy and thrust it under her pillow. Just then, Annie, her older sister, came in.
“Hiya, birthday girl,” Annie said with a grin. “What’re you doing? Ready for the day’s festivities?”
“I’m not doing anything! And how come you never knock? Can’t I have some privacy?” Feeling twinges of guilt, Molly’s instinct was to yell at Annie.
“Ten years old but still a pest. I’ll come back when you’re in a better mood.” Annie slammed the door as she left. Thunder announced the storm’s arrival.
Molly dug out the puppy and hugged it before going downstairs, trying to erase mental images of a young girl like her, searching for something no longer in the park.
Molly found it hard to enjoy her birthday lunch, even though her mom had cooked all her favorite foods. It was even harder for her to show enthusiasm for the gifts she opened — clothes, a book, and an octopus hand puppet. A card from her grandmother contained a brand new ten-dollar bill. Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” before she blew out her candles. Not even the cake sprinkled with candy corn made her feel better.
While the others cleared the table, Molly gathered the wrapping paper, boxes, and envelopes for the trash. She didn’t notice the ten-dollar bill float down below the table. Thirty minutes later though, while putting her gifts away, she realized it was missing. She raced back to the table to begin her search. Mom came into the dining room to put away the teapot.
“Mom, have you seen my money from Grandmommy? I thought I left it on the table.”
“No, Molly. Maybe it fell on the floor.” Mom bent to look under the table, but she didn’t see it there.
Molly found Annie doing her algebra and asked her.
Annie gave her sister an impatient look and said, “Ever hear of finders keepers, losers weepers?”
“Mom! Dad!” Molly shouted. “Annie stole my money and won’t give it back!” She turned to Annie. “If you don’t give me back my money, I’ll ….”
“Go away! I’m busy.”
“No!” Molly stamped her foot. “You stole my money, and I’m going to get it back!” Just then Mom and Dad came into the room.
“Alright, what’s going on here?” Frowning slightly, Dad stood with arms akimbo, a magazine dangling from his right hand.
“Annie stole my money from Grandmommy, and she won’t give it back. She says, ‘finders keepers,’ but that’s not fair!” Molly blinked quickly to hide the tears that she couldn’t keep back.
“Well, Annie,” said Mom.
“Oh, for goodness sake,” Annie said, dropping her pencil onto her desk. “Did I say I had taken your money? All I said was, ‘finders keepers, losers weepers.’ That’s no evidence. I found it under the table and put it on the chair where she was sitting.”
Molly raced to the dining room, and there was the green bill, still crisp and unwrinkled, resting on the red plush seat. The chair had been pushed in, so she hadn’t seen it earlier. After apologizing to Annie and her parents, Molly returned to her own room, put the money into her bank, and then sat on her bed and pulled the puppy from under her pillow.
“Oh, you darling,” Molly said, as she stroked the puppy’s white fur. Its ears were ragged, and the tail nearly bald. The felt on its nose was thinning, as if it had been kissed too often. Finders keepers, she thought. And losers … weepers.
She watched the rain splatter against her bedroom window and gave the puppy one last hug. Then she put on her jacket and stuffed the puppy back inside. Stopping by the kitchen on her way out, she got a clear plastic bag and an umbrella.
“Mom,”she called, “I’m going out to the park. I’ll be right back.”
Rain pattered lightly against Molly’s umbrella. A teenager was walking his collie in the park. Trying to hide her actions from the boy, Molly gently put the puppy into the bag and tied it to the fence. The stuffed animal was easily visible through the clear plastic. She looked at it a moment, re-adjusted the bag to keep out the rain, and turned away.
A few minutes later, Molly passed a man reassuring a little girl,“Don’t worry, sweetie, if Puppy’s wet, we can dry it out.”
“How many times do I have to tell you, Daddy? Puppy’s a girl!”
Molly smiled as she imagined their reunion.