Holidays can be extra hard when your parents are divorced, and Madison is facing her first Thanksgiving since the “big D.” She’s used to having a full house, but when her relatives from Chicago can’t make it, she feels like there’s nothing to be thankful for this year. “Trying to be fair and square is impossible when you feel like part of a triangle,” she points out. There has to be a way to get in the holiday spirit, and a volunteer job at the local animal shelter is just the distraction Madison needs!
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Thanks for Nothing
From the Files of Madison Finn, Book 5
By Laura Dower
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2001 Laura Dower
All rights reserved.
"Nooooooo!" Madison covered her face with her hands and peeked through her fingers.
This e-mail was bad news.
Date: Sat 11 Nov 7:56 AM
I am so very sorry, Maddie, but I won't be coming to your house for Thanksgiving. My hip problem is back, and I'm not traveling anywhere. Your aunt Angie is spending the holiday with your uncle Bob's family, so our traditional visit is on hold until next year. Don't be sad. I will miss you and Phin very much. At least we can talk online now. I finally have the hang of this e-mail.
How did your report card go? How is your friend Aimee? Write me another letter.
Madison groaned as she reread the message for the third time. When Gramma Helen didn't like something, she would say, "Maddie, that is for the birds." That was exactly how Madison felt right now. Only this Thanksgiving was going to be "for the turkeys."
How could Gramma not come to Far Hills? Madison deleted the yucky message.
For the past twelve years, Madison's parents had hosted a major feast every Thanksgiving. Mom's mom, Gramma Helen, and Mom's sister, Aunt Angie, and her husband, Uncle Bob, would travel on the plane from Chicago to New York. Dad's brother, Uncle Rick, would even come from Canada with his wife, Violet, even though Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving in October.
The Finn house had been the epicenter of everyone's Thanksgiving universe for as long as Madison could remember.
Mom always decorated the house with paper turkeys and gourds and pumpkins and spice candles. All of the town guests slept on sleeper sofas around the house—except for Gramma. Madison gave up her bedroom for Gramma. But she didn't mind. Madison loved having the house full of people ... and so did Phin, Madison's pug. He loved all the extra attention.
Thanksgiving morning meant sleeping in, watching the Macy's parade on TV, and eating way too much good food. Dad wore an extra-large poofy white hat and called himself the house superchef. Madison was his unofficial chef-ette. She got up at five in the morning to help him make the best cornbread stuffing on the planet.
But not this year.
This year Dad wouldn't be in the Finn kitchen, thanks to the big D—D for divorce. And thanks to Gramma's bad hip and Aunt Angie and Uncle Bob's changed plans, there would be no out-of-town visitors. There wouldn't even be turkey on Madison's dinner table. Unfortunately, Mom was a vegetarian who wanted to save the turkeys, not baste them.
Madison had visions of eating a Thanksgiving bean burrito and tofu stuffing with cranberry sauce this year.
Phin was curled up in a ball on the floor, snoring, oblivious to the change in holiday plans. Would he miss the Thanksgiving attention even more than Madison would? He'd surely miss turkey scraps tossed under the table.
"Maddie, did you call me? Do you need something?" Mom rushed upstairs and found Madison curled up on her plastic purple chair in the center of her room. "I heard you scream and ... hey! What's that look on your face?"
Madison pouted. "Gramma can't come to Thanksgiving." She leaned over to pet Phin's ears. He made a snuffling noise.
"She e-mailed you, huh?" Mom frowned. "She said she would."
Madison could tell from Mom's tone of voice that she knew about the change in plans already.
"I'm sorry, honey bear," Mom added. "Gramma wanted to tell you herself. I know how disappointed you must—"
"Thanksgiving STINKS." Madison crossed her arms. "Can't we go to Chicago to see everyone?"
"I told you I have work commitments that week. I'm so sorry, Maddie. Really I am. Next year we can—"
"Next year?" Madison said. "What about this year?"
"This year will be just the two of us. Is that so bad?" Mom chuckled, trying to make light of the situation. But Madison wasn't laughing back.
"I knew everything would be ruined when I saw a black cat yesterday," Madison moaned. She believed that it was terrible luck for a person to walk under ladders or cross a black cat's path. Bad Thanksgiving luck had definitely found her.
"But we'll have fun together!" Mom said with a big smile. "Won't we?"
"I guess." Madison shrugged.
Mom took a deep breath.
"What's Aimee doing for Thanksgiving?"
"Having a normal day. Her family isn't divorced," Madison snapped.
The moment she'd said the words, Madison knew how hurtful they sounded. She reached for Mom's arm.
"I didn't mean that." Madison gulped. "I am so sorry. Mom."
Mom threw her arms around Madison's shoulders and squeezed. "I'm sorry, too. I know our new arrangements take some getting used to. But Angie and Bob will come next year. So will Gramma."
As Mom hugged, Madison felt all her feelings swell up inside like she would burst. But she held back from crying.
"Let's just make the best of it, okay, Maddie?" Mom said, gently smoothing the top of Madison's head.
Madison nodded. She didn't really have a choice. Whether she liked it or not, certain rules about holidays had been set up in the Finns' divorce arrangements. The judge had ruled that Mom and Dad swap Madison from holiday to holiday. This year, Mom got Thanksgiving. Next year, Dad would.
The back-and-forth between Mom and Dad made Madison dizzier than dizzy on a regular basis. Holidays, however, were proving to be the worst. In this family tug-of-war, Madison Finn was definitely all pulled out.
The doorbell zinged. Madison leaped up and dashed downstairs to get the door.
Aimee was standing on the back porch, arms waving in the air, her dog Blossom's tail thwacking against the sliding doors. From inside, Phin started panting, he was so happy to see his doggy girlfriend through the glass.
"What are you doing here, Aim? I was just gonna call you!" Madison said as she opened the doors. Blossom dashed inside and ran off with Phin.
Aimee struck a pose with her hands up in the air. She was wearing a brand-new yellow winter parka.
"Whaddya think?" she asked. "I ordered it online from Boop-Dee-Doop. Well, my mother did. We ordered it on her credit card. My first Internet purchase ever."
Madison shook her head. "Cool color."
"It's called Lemon Drop," Aimee said.
"It's nice. But in case you hadn't noticed, Aimee, it's like fifty degrees outside."
Aimee pulled the jacket off. "I know. I know. But I just couldn't wait to show you. That's why I came over."
Madison decided to make it a special occasion. She took out the blender to make yellow fruit smoothies in honor of the jacket. Making smoothies was one of Madison's favorite things to do.
"Put extra banana in mine," Aimee requested.
They watched the blender go.
"I just found out my gramma isn't coming for Thanksgiving," Madison said, adding ice into the machine.
"Bummer." Aimee sighed.
"Yeah." Madison sighed back. She poured the smoothie into a glass. "So what's happening at your house for the holiday?"
Aimee shrugged and took a big slurp. "Mom is making some kind of health food dinner, as usual. My brothers begged for turkey, so we're having one of those, too. You know the drill."
"Uh-huh. The drill."
Aimee looked at Madison sideways. "Is something wrong, Maddie?"
"I wish that I had the usual drill for Thanksgiving."
"Yeah, you have to spend Thanksgiving without your dad," Aimee said. "That's stinky."
"Without my dad. Without my gramma," Madison said. "Without everyone. It's just gonna be Mom and me. And two people can't have a real Thanksgiving alone together."
"Why don't you guys go to Chicago?" Aimee asked.
"Mom's work." Madison sighed again. "Some project she has to do. I wish I were you or Fiona. She gets to go all the way to California for Thanksgiving."
Fiona Waters was Madison and Aimee's brand-new seventh-grade best friend. She'd moved to Far Hills from California over the summer with her twin brother, Chet.
"Fiona said her gramps has a great big swimming pool out there." Aimee giggled. "They'll be swimming on Thanksgiving! Now that's weird."
Aimee twirled around. She danced when she wanted to cheer her friends up, and Madison looked like she could use some cheering.
Madison cracked a smile.
"So are you gonna do that extra-credit project in social studies?" Aimee asked, waving her arms in a circle over her head.
Social studies was the one class Madison, Aimee, and Fiona had together. Their teacher, Mrs. Belden, had a reputation for being one of the toughest teachers in junior high—but she always gave kids a chance to do extra-credit projects. She said hard work was good, but it was just as important to have fun.
"I don't get why she calls it extra credit when everyone has to do it," Madison moaned. "And why do we all have to pair up?"
"I don't know. But we could do our project together. We can make a turkey or something."
"A turkey?" Madison exclaimed. "Like what? A turkey sandwich?"
Aimee laughed. "Sure. Let's make a mini-replica of the first Thanksgiving dinner with little drumsticks and corn on the cobs...."
"Hey, what time is it?" Madison asked all of a sudden.
Outside, the sun was dipping down in the sky. It cast the entire room in an orange glow.
Aimee looked at her yellow wristwatch. She had watch bands to color-coordinate with each outfit, including her new parka. "Wow, it's almost five o'clock. Already four-thirty."
"It's getting late. Let's take the dogs out," Madison squealed. "Blossom! Phin!"
Blossom came running with Phin. They were panting like crazy.
"Wanna go OUT?" Madison said. Aimee laughed and grabbed the leashes.
It was fun to walk the dogs together. Madison and Aimee liked to think that their dogs were best friends, just like them.
When Madison returned home. Mom was perched on the sofa, watching edited reels from one of her documentary films.
"I'm going up to my room," Madison announced.
Mom didn't flinch.
"I'm going up to my room," Madison announced again, louder this time.
"Okay. Dinner's in an hour," Mom said, waving her off. "And clean that mess. And finish your homework."
Madison made a face, only Mom didn't see it. Mom sounded like a recorded message: do this, clean that.
Once upstairs, Madison consciously decided not to pick anything up. She crawled over her enormous pile of clothes and pile of files and collapsed into her purple chair. There were much better things to do than clean her room! She powered up her laptop.
Madison had only intended to log on, send an e-mail back to Gramma, and log off. But once online, she got way distracted from those tasks. She surfed around and went to the home page for TweenBlurt.com. There was a new feature advertised on a flashing yellow banner across the top.
Just Fishing Around! The Ultimate Search Engine!
Madison typed in the word dog for fun, just to see what a search on her favorite subject might turn up. Madison was overwhelmed to see more than 1 billion possible matches. Links were underlined.
Dog Owner's Guide: Welcome to Dog Owner's Guide
If you have a dog, want a dog, or love dogs, you've come to the right place for all kinds of information about living with and loving dogs. Includes Dog Screen Saver, more.
Dog Emporium Online
Flea collars, heartworm pills, soft beds, chew toys, rawhide ... everything discounted for your family dog.
Dog of the Day—Sign Yours Up Now
Tell us about your special dog. Is your bichon frise funny? Does your weimaraner whine? Winners daily!
Madison added a few more words to the search to find dog links closer to home. She typed in DOG, FAR HILLS, NEW YORK—separated by the required commas. A familiar name popped up.
Madison knew this vet!
Far Hills Animal Shelter, Clinic, Dog Boarding
Welcome from Bryan Wing, DVM, and staff. Full service, referrals, dog boarding, Tales of Homeless Pets, Breed Tips, dog grooming care. Volunteers needed!
Dr. Wing was married to Madison's computer teacher, Mrs. Wing. This was the direct link for Dr. Wing's Web site.
On the site's home page there was a photograph of a basset hound that looked just like Aimee's dog, Blossom. That dissolved slowly into a photo of a yellow Labrador retriever (who was really more cream colored than yellow) and a teeny dachshund named Rosebud. More flashing type at the bottom of the screen read: Come and visit our offices! There was a teeny photograph of Dr. Wing and a short letter underneath that.
Welcome to Far Hills Animal Shelter and Clinic! We're glad you've stopped into the section of our "virtual" animal shelter. For ten years, my team has been dedicated to pet rescue and care in Far Hills. Working with shelters, veterinarians, and other concerned businesses, we hope to eliminate our homeless pet problem and care for sick and abandoned animals in our area. Won't you please become a volunteer and help out?
"Rooooowowf!" Phin barked. He was curled up into a ball by the base of Madison's purple chair. Madison scratched Phin's head.
The idea of helping out at the animal shelter seemed so exciting. Maybe this year's Thanksgiving didn't have to be for the turkeys after all? Maybe this Thanksgiving could be for the dogs instead?
Phin would definitely love that.CHAPTER 2
Mom thinks I should still be taking flute lessons, but I am soooo over the musical instrument thing. I am going to be an animal volunteer. That makes more sense, since I have loved animals my entire life.
Here is a list of all the pets that I have had:
1. Sea monkeys in a plastic jar.
2. Goldfish named Peanut Butter and Jelly because one was yellow and the other was sort of purple.
3. Ick, my cat. I named him that because he threw up fur balls a lot.
4. Phinnie, the best dog ever. I love, my pug better than any pet!
My biggest wish in life would be to live on a farm or near a zoo or in the apartment over Wink's pet shop in Far Hills so I could see more animals all the time and Phin would have more animals to play with. I wonder what the shelter will be like? Dr. Wing's Web site says they take care of sick animals and do "animal rescue." I wonder if that's some kind of animal SWAT team?
Rude Awakening: It's a dog-meet-dog world and I want to be part of it RIGHT NOW.
"What a wonderful idea, Maddie," Mom said when Madison told her about the Far Hills Animal Shelter. "I'm happy that you want to volunteer—especially at Thanksgiving time. And it's only a short ride over there. We can drive over today to check it out."
As Mom drove them to the clinic downtown, Madison could feel her entire body humming. Would the animals at the clinic like her? Would she like the animals? What would Dr. Wing say when he saw her?
Madison fussed and twisted in the car's front seat. The belt felt so snug. She couldn't stay still. This ride was taking forever!
"Well, there's the clinic," Mom announced. "At last!"
She pointed to a squat-looking, pink cement building with an iron gate and planters filled with mums out front. A teeny neon sign blinked HOSPITAL under a bigger, painted, wood sign that bore the clinic's name: FAR HILLS ANIMAL SHELTER.
"Maddie, are you going to just sit there or are we going inside?" Mom teased. Madison led the way as they got out of the car.
"It looks nice from the outside, right. Mom?" Madison said as she approached the clinic slowly. Each stepping-stone was shaped like a dog bone.
"Doggies everywhere," Mom said, pointing out photos of different dog breeds on a poster in the clinic window. "Phin sure would be jealous."
"Hiya!" chirped a blond woman wearing a white lab coat and a purple T-shirt. The shirt read I'M FOR FUR-FREE. She introduced herself as Eileen and stood behind the front desk like she guarded the place.
"Hi," Madison said. "I'm looking for Dr. Wing—"
"Pet problems?" Eileen interrupted. "Well, we can help you. We got all sorts of pets here. In all shapes and sizes."
"We're not looking for a pet or bringing in a pet," Mom said. "My daughter would like to volunteer. She goes to Far Hills Junior High, and she says she saw your Web—"
"Volunteer? Well, sure!" Eileen said. "Why don't you have a seat and I can help you both in just a sec." She stepped into a back room.
The front door of the clinic opened with a gust of air, and a bearded bald man came inside with a parrot on his shoulder. He took a seat by the door across from a woman who was holding an empty leash. Madison saw little animal hairs all over the woman's clothes.
Excerpted from Thanks for Nothing by Laura Dower. Copyright © 2001 Laura Dower. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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