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Chapter 7: The doctor's report
The story so far...Ben's friend Nate arrives. In the privacy of his bedroom, Ben tells Nate about the cat then confides about the $100 bill. Nate focuses on his friend's good luck instead of his guilt and reassures him that it was the cashier's mistake and not his. Ben talks about using the money to pay the vet. The phone rings, and its Dr. Hammond.

Written by Frances Milburn

Illustrated by Liv Aanrud

Mom turned away from Nate and me, as she listened to whatever Dr. Hammond was saying to her on the phone. There was a long silence. She was nodding her head. Of course, the doctor couldn't see that. "Yes... yes. Ok."

I stood frozen, wondering what she was being told. Mom was getting the update, and I just stood there feeling left out. It made me mad. Was the cat alive? Had she died in surgery? I could hear the quiet sounds of the TV in the den where Conner was watching some college football.

The silence was unbearable. I moved closer to her, hoping I'd overhear what the vet was saying. But I couldn't hear a word.

"That's amazing! I can't believe it." Mom said into the phone.

"What? What's she saying?" I asked, walking around to face Mom. She had a big smile and gave me a thumbs up. Suddenly, I felt hopeful.

"Well, I'll tell Ben. He'll be so happy." She hung up and gave me a high five. "The cat made it! She's asleep after surgery. Dr. Hammond said that she's not very old, maybe just a year."

But then her smile disappeared, and she put her hands on my shoulders. "Listen, we're still not out of the woods. The cat could unexpectedly get worse. The doctor said we'll have a better idea by tomorrow."

She started for the kitchen. "Come on, I'll make you boys a snack. Not much though since it's close to dinner time. Nate, you want to call and see if you can stay for supper?"

"Yes!" Nate picked up the phone and dialed.

"What was wrong with the cat?" I asked, following Mom into the kitchen.

"Just what Dr. Hammond guessed - a ruptured bladder. And she was able to repair it."

I felt better than I had all day. She got out carrots and hummus and set them out on the kitchen table, then began cutting up an apple. Nate came into the kitchen and sat across from me nodding his head. "Mom said ok to supper." He dipped a carrot into the hummus and popped it into his mouth.

"The cat's going to make it," I told Nate. "When do we pick her up, Mom?"

"We'll check on her tomorrow. Oh wait. That's Sunday. I guess we'll have to find out on Monday."

With my mouth full of carrot, I asked, "Now that we know it's a girl and not a boy cat, what should we name her?"

Mom whirled around and faced me with a slice of apple in her hand. "Just a minute. It's not our cat! We'll have to see if she has an owner."

"But you said she was just a stray!" I looked at her with disbelief. "And we can give her a good home. After all, if we paid to save her life, we deserve to keep her." Mom set the apple slices on a plate between us and poured us each a glass of milk.

"Quit! You're jumping the gun, Ben. Let's see whether she makes it through the night. I'm more worried about how to pay for the surgery. I wish you could figure out that instead of talking about what to name her."

Suddenly, I remembered the hundred dollar bill. I'd been showing it to Nate and had stuffed it back into my pocket when the phone rang. I knew at that moment exactly what I would do with the money. The only problem was how to explain it to Mom.

She turned and began to get out supplies for supper, ground beef, tomato sauce, and noodles. Looked like the makings for spaghetti, my favorite. She took out the frying pan and began to cook onions and garlic. My mind was churning trying to think up an explanation for the hundred dollar bill. Maybe Nate would have some ideas. I motioned to him with my head toward the bedroom. We left, just as the good smells brought my brother into the kitchen.

I closed the door behind me for privacy and sat on the desk chair while Nate laid down on my bed. "I've made up my mind. I'm going to use the money to pay for the surgery. I just don't know how to explain the hundred dollar bill to Mom?"

"Hmmm." Ben turned on his side, facing me. It was getting dark and I switched on my desk lamp. The smell of spaghetti floated into the room. "Couldn't you just say you found it?"

"Come on, my mom would never fall for that." We were both silent. I stood up and hid the money back in my closet box. Just then, we heard the doorbell. Nobody rang our doorbell in the country unless it was a stranger.