Part 12 (Epilogue)
Helga G. Pataki fell out of bed. The nine-year old girl lunged for her alarm clock to both silence it and check the time.
"Criminy! I'm going to be late!"
Luckily the alarm clock was only a back-up; she still had time, but she would have to rush. Helga left her room, running downstairs to the kitchen while simultaneously brushing her teeth.
A bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Miriam was waiting for her with a paper-bag lunch.
"Mom…!" said Helga, somewhat out of surprise.
"I thought you might've overslept," explained Miriam, handing her the bag. "Think of it as a pre-emptive strike."
"But it's Saturday. You didn't have to…"
"Up-up-up!" interrupted Miriam. "Didn't want you to be late – you're meeting Phoebe today, right? I packed your favorite sandwich with the crust cut off, a Yahoo! soda, and I made you a fresh fruit salad, no strawberries."
Helga looked up at her mother with an appreciative glance. "Thanks, Mom. You're the greatest."
"Hey, there she is!" Big Bob entered the kitchen with both arms out-stretched, ready to capture Helga in a hug and swing her around. "There's my favorite only daughter! How ya doin' this morning, Helga?"
"I'm fine, dad," replied Helga, as Big Bob set her back on the ground. "But aren't you forgetting something?"
"No, don't think so…"
Miriam nudged Big Bob harshly with her elbow. "B…Your eldest daughter, Olga?"
"Oh yeah…ah, she's not here right now, so no harm done."
"Listen, I gotta get going," Helga said, heading for the door. "I'll see you guys later. Love you!"
"Love you too, honey!" Big Bob and Miriam said in unison.
As Helga ran down the sidewalk, a city bus was driving down the street in the opposite direction. A few blocks past the Pataki household, Rhonda stepped off at the bus stop. She adjusted her clunky, unfashionable glasses that sat lopsided on her face (courtesy of lopsided ears), but had a positive smile on her face.
As she walked down the block, she past a group of three young girls (Gerald's sister Timberly included), playing double-dutch. She paused in front of them and sighed, shaking her head.
"Oh no no no no no – this simply won't do," she said. "Hold my bag, please."
Timberly took the bag as Rhonda took her place in double-dutch. She instructed the girls to spin the ropes as fast as they possibly could, and she jumped in. Without missing a beat, Rhonda pulled off a couple quick tricks and elaborate stunts before jumping out of the circle, leaving the three girls in total awe.
Rhonda took her bag from Timberly. "And that's how it's done." she said, slightly out of breath, before continuing down the sidewalk.
"Who was THAT?" said one of the girls.
"Her name's Rhonda - she's in my big brother's grade at school," replied Timberly.
"THAT…was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life," said the third girl. Timberly and the other girl couldn't help but agree with that sentiment.
Meanwhile at the Heyerdahl household, Phoebe was still getting ready in her room. After she finished brushing her hair, she quickly glanced at her work desk. On it, her geography homework was splayed out and untouched.
Phoebe shrugged. "I'll get to it later," she said, literally closing the book and exiting the room.
When she reached the outside, she spotted a small white cat attempting the cross the road in front of the house. At that exact moment, however, the Jolly Olly Man's truck was careening down the road at top speed.
"Oh no!" Phoebe cried, shielding her eyes to avoid the sight of imminent impact. But just as it looked like the cat's fate was sealed, a big girl in a plaid skirt jumped into action and saved the cat, in turn causing the ice cream truck to slam into a nearby lamppost.
A small crowd of kids had gathered around the wreckage, and Phoebe was quickly among them. The Jolly Olly Man rushed out of the vehicle and to the girl's side.
"Oh, my word! Tell me child, are you alright/hurt?" asked the Jolly Olly Man, his voice steeped with concern.
"Hey, you big jerk! You almost killed Patty!" said Sid.
"Yeah!" said Stinky. "All she was trying to do was rescue that poor defenseless feline, and you were going to flatten her like yesterday's detritus!"
Sid turned to look at Stinky, puzzled. "Detritus?"
"Look it up, Sid. I ain't no walkin' dictionary."
"I'm fine, you guys," said Patty, getting to her feet, the kitten still gripped in her hands. "And so's the kitten. It looks like it has a nametag – I'm going to see if I can find the owner."
"Oh, please, let me come with you!" pleaded Harold.
"Yeah, let us tag along!" said Sid. "We wanna make sure you're okay!"
"Thanks," said Patty. "But I'd prefer to do this alone, having too many people tag along might slow me down. Besides, I still have to find out where 123 Elm Street is."
"Excuse me," chimed in Phoebe. "But did you say 123 Elm Street? I have a classmate that resides at that address. I could lead you directly to her domicile."
"Alright, then, let's go," said Patty.
"Wait a minute!" said the Jolly Olly Man loudly. "I feel terrible about all of this! Before you go, everyone please partake in some free ice cream! Who likes rum raisin?"
As Sid waved his hand like a madman and the other children gathered around him, Patty and Phoebe went to find the owner of the cat.
In a nice neighborhood on the other side of the city, a redheaded girl in expensive clothes looked out the window.
"Look, Daddy!" she said excitedly, pointing to the short and tall girls walking towards the house with a white cat. "They found Arty!"
"I guess we better welcome then in and thank them for their troubles," said the girl's father. "Could you get the door, Lila?"
Lila nodded and was about to head for the door, when a redheaded boy zipped by her from the other room by her, laughing along the way.
"You snooze you loose, sis!" taunted the boy.
"Mother!" cried Lila. "Tell Liam to knock it off – he's being ever-so obnoxious right now!"
"Liam, quit teasing your sister," came a lilted voice from the other room, followed a slender, pretty, redhead woman. She entered the living room and walked over to a coffee table where Liam had knocked over a picture stand. She picked up the stand and set it upright once again so that it proudly displayed a picture of smiling, happy, family of four.
"We're all here, so let's welcome them in together."
Helga was jogging lightly down the block, lunch still in hand.
"I was supposed to meet Phoebe in the Park about 10 minutes ago," she thought worried. "I hope she's not mad at me…"
As Helga turned the corner, however, her train of thought was cut short when she bumped into a young boy in a small blue hat. They both fell to the ground, and Helga dropped the bag, spilling its contents.
"Watch where you're going, football-head!" said Helga to the boy.
The boy with the football-shaped head was stricken with embarrassment. "Oh gee – I'm so sorry, Helga!"
"Yeah, well you should be," said Helga as she stood up and dusted herself off.
"Really, Helga, I AM sorry. I- I wasn't paying attention to where I was going, I got distracted and…"
"Hey, hey!" interrupted Helga, cutting the boy off. She then grinned as if she were suppressing a funny joke. "Arnold…Did you seriously think I was mad? Gotcha!"
Relieved that she was only pretending, Arnold let out a huge sigh. "You got me, alright," putting his hands on his hips to convey mock-annoyance.
Helga helped Arnold off the ground. "No harm, no foul, right?"
"I still feel bad for making you lose your lunch."
"Wouldn't be the first time," Helga quipped, then punched Arnold on the arm. "Kidding! I'm kidding! Criminy, football-head, where's your sense of humor?"
"Well, at least let me help you pick this stuff up…"
Arnold and Helga stooped over the sidewalk to pick up the remains of the lunch that Miriam had so lovingly packed. When they set their sights on the heart-shaped sandwich, they grabbed for it at the same time, and their hands touched.
Helga and Arnold looked at each other for several seconds before pulling away, recoiling their hands. Helga tried her best to hide her blushing. "I-I should get going," she stammered, quickly running down the sidewalk. "I'll see at school on Monday!"
"Wait!" Arnold watched as the girl departed down the sidewalk, then sighed, and turned to go on his way. When he reached a nearby alley, however, he ducked inside when no one was looking and stood close to the wall. He then pulled from his shirt a heart-shaped locket containing a picture of Helga G. Pataki.
Arnold held the locket close to his heart and swooned longingly. "Someday, my love…someday."