“Dad,” Ashley said to her father as she snuggled up to him on the couch and watched her favorite cartoon show, “Adam says you don’t like cartoons.”
“I like watching cartoons when I’m with you,” Dad told her.
“Then you do like cartoons?” the six-year-old girl asked.
“No, not really,” he confessed. “But sometimes you do things you don’t really like, because it makes someone you love happy.”
Ashley was happy with Dad’s explanation. She snuggled up closer, and they continued to watch cartoons.
Early the next morning, Ashley said to Adam, “Do you know why Dad watches cartoons even though he doesn’t like them? Because he loves me.”
“So does Chester!” joked Adam, holding his pet gerbil in front of Ashley’s face. “Here—give him a kiss!”
Ashley screamed, running to her mother’s arms.
“Stop teasing your sister,” Mom scolded Adam. “You know that she’s afraid of Chester.”
“Aw, he won’t hurt her,” Adam griped. “He’s as tame as a pussycat.”
“Speaking of pussycats,” Mom warned, “you had better watch out that Scratchy doesn’t get him. You left Chester’s cage door open—again.”
“Aw, that old cat couldn’t catch a cold.”
“Just remember to put Chester back into his cage—and make sure the door is closed.”
Later in the day, Adam burst into the living room as Ashley helped Mom dust the furniture.
“Guess what, Ashley? Dad loves me, too. He’s taking me to a soccer game. And he loves soccer, so we’ll really have a great time!”
Ashley kissed her father good-bye and frowned at her brother as they hooted and hollered out the front door on their way to the soccer game.
“That’s enough dusting,” Mom said. “I’m going to the basement to do the laundry. Why don’t you go to your room and play?”
Ashley slowly crept past Adam’s room, hoping she wouldn’t run into Chester on the loose. Her brother was becoming forgetful again. Three times last week he’d left Chester’s cage door open. And three times he had had to rescue his gerbil from Scratchy.
As she peeked into Adam’s room, she saw Scratchy pawing behind Chester’s cage. The old cat’s back was all hunched up. His hair was standing on end.
“What’s the matter, Scratchy?” Ashley asked. But the cat ignored her.
Ashley peeked behind the gerbil’s cage, then jumped back and screamed. It was Chester. He was out of his cage again. She shouted for her mother. But with the washer running, her mother couldn’t hear her cries.
Scratchy’s sharp claws were getting closer and closer to Chester. Chester was shaking and squeaking. Ashley didn’t know what to do.
“Shoo, shoo,” she said, chasing Scratchy out of her brother’s room.
Now she was alone with the gerbil in Adam’s room. Ashley leaned over the cage to look again. Chester was still there. Still shaking. Still squeaking.
Ashley was frightened. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes tightly, and reached behind the cage.
“I can’t do this!” she cried, pulling her hand back. “I just can’t stand the thought of touching Chester.”
Then she remembered her father’s words: “Sometimes you do things you don’t really like, because it makes someone you love happy.”
Adam would be happy if Chester were inside his cage, Ashley thought, and not inside Scratchy.
Once again she took a long, deep breath, closed her eyes tightly, and reached behind the cage. She felt Chester’s warm, soft body. But instead of pulling her hand back, she grasped the frightened gerbil and gently put him into his cage, slamming the door shut behind him.
Shaking a little, she lay on her brother’s bed and gave a big sigh of relief.
Moments, later, she heard her father and brother quarreling. That was a fast soccer game, she thought.
“Why are you in my room?” Adam demanded as he charged into his room.
Without waiting for an answer, Adam turned to Chester’s cage and turned to Dad, who was standing in the doorway. “See, Dad, we missed the soccer game for nothing. I didn’t forget to close the door to Chester’s cage.”
“Yes, you did!” Ashley exclaimed. “I put Chester back in his cage, and I closed the door!”
“But I thought you were afraid of Chester. I thought you didn’t like him.”
“I am afraid of him. And I don’t like him. But”—she looked her brother in the eye and smiled—“I do love you, Adam.”