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"Who is that boy?" asked Amanda.
Her great-aunt adjusted her glasses and squinted at the faded black-and-white photograph in the battered album. "That is my oldest brother, Harold." She placed a wrinkled hand on her heart and glanced away. "I believe he was sixteen in that picture. Let me see yes, it was just before he joined the army and went overseas."
"You mean he was in the war?"
"Yes, he fought in World War II. Harold was so excited to join up he lied about his age." A tear rolled down Great-Aunt Mary's cheek. "But he never came back. Missing in action was what they told our parents." She sighed. "I still miss him after all these years."
"That's so sad. I didn't know anyone in our family had been in the war. We've been learning about twentieth-century wars at school." Amanda looked at the picture again. "Is that his dog beside him?"
"Yes, that was Joey, his cocker spaniel. Joey was devoted to Harold. He went to the railway station every day waiting for his master, until he passed away seven years later." Aunt Mary had a faraway look.
"Here, you can have this picture." Aunt Mary carefully took the snapshot from the silver corner tabs holding it in place. "Harold had spunk, just like you. And he wanted to see the world. Last time we heard from him, he was in Holland."
"Really? I'm going to Holland to meet my friend Leah Anderson from England next week. She wants me to see the tulip fields. You like tulips, don't you, Aunt Mary?"
"Oh, yes. They are my favourite flower. One time, Harold saved up his pennies to buy me a tulip for my birthday."
Amanda took one last gulp of tea and brushed her bangs from her eyes. "Thanks so much. I need to get going." She kissed her great-aunt on the cheek.
"Have a wonderful time in Holland. Say hi to Leah from me." Aunt Mary waved from the doorway.
Amanda hung on to the picture of the great-uncle she never got to meet, wondering what he would have been like.
* * *
Amanda Ross adjusted her glasses and peered up at the tall, colourful houses as she stepped off the curb. The scalloped roofs pierced the sky, making her feel shorter than usual. She didn't notice the bicycle until it was too late.
The woman cyclist swerved to miss her. The bike clattered against the railing. An avalanche of vibrant tulips tumbled from the basket, landing at Amanda's feet.
"Dombo!" shouted the woman.
"I'm so sorry." Amanda dropped to her knees and frantically picked up flowers. She held up a white one with red stripes. "This one is so pretty."
"It is called the Canada 150 tulip. It was named for the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Canada."
"Really? I'm from Canada."
"That is very nice, but you really must watch when you cross the street here in Amsterdam. There are many bicycles."
"I'm so sorry about that. I'll be more watchful from now on." Amanda lowered a large handful of colourful tulips into the basket attached to the front of the woman's bike. Something moved at the bottom of the basket.
Before she could see what it was, the woman quickly covered it with tulips. She shoved a Canada 150 tulip under Amanda's nose. "Here, you can have this one." She got on her bicycle and skilfully made her way through the throng of pedestrians and other bikes on the bridge that crossed a canal.
"Are you OK?" Leah ran up to Amanda. "We should have warned you about the bicycles."
"Maybe you should stick closer to us." Leah's dad noticed the flower in Amanda's hand. "What have you got there?"
"A Canada 150 tulip. The woman who almost ran me over gave it to me."
Leah pointed. "Hey, there is the Dutch pannenkoeken house I told you about. Let's get something to eat. I'm starved."
This time, Amanda looked both ways before crossing the street.
"Mmmm, these sure are good." She took another mouthful of a flat pancake heaped with apples, cinnamon and whipped cream. "Thanks a lot for inviting me to join you here in Holland."
"I had to be here on business, and Leah wanted to come along. It's one of her favourite places. She needed some company." Mr. Anderson smiled. "Besides, it's always nice to see our young Canadian friend."
"Yes, and we have so much catching up to do. Emails and texting are great, but it's always better to chat in real life." Leah grinned at Amanda.
When they stepped out of the restaurant, a cluster of bikes flew by. Amanda thought she saw the woman who almost ran into her among them.
"Can we go on a canal tour boat, Dad?" asked Leah. "It's such a marvellous way to see the city."
"Sure, that's a good idea. That way Amanda can get a good view of things from the water. I recall she enjoyed the sailboat ride off the coast of the Isle of Wight." He ruffled Amanda's short brown bob. "Just a quick ride today."
They boarded a long, low boat that took them at a leisurely pace through busy canals. Mr. Anderson explained, "Amsterdam was built around the canals. The city is below sea level."
"Why doesn't it flood then? Why don't the houses sink? And why are they so tall and skinny?" Amanda had so many questions.
Leah smirked and pulled back her long blonde hair into a ponytail. "I'm sure my dad, the engineer, will be able to explain all that."
Mr. Anderson cleared his throat. "Well, the houses in Amsterdam used to be taxed on frontage, so they built tall, narrow houses to save money. Wooden stilts driven into the wet ground before construction were used to support the houses. That is why they don't sink."
Amanda pointed. "Why is that one over there leaning sideways?"
"Due to the wet ground, some of the supports are now rotting, causing houses to tilt and sink into the earth. They now build the houses with concrete foundations."
Leah rolled her eyes. "I think it's time to get off the boat, as I've had enough of the construction lesson."
They disembarked at the next stop, in front of a shop with large wheels of cheese piled high outside the door. Once inside, the sour-milk scent of cheese greeted them. A cheerful girl in a pointy white hat with wings on each side handed out samples.
"Yum, this cheese is so good." Amanda smacked her lips. "Let's buy some for a snack later."
Mr. Anderson took out his wallet. "Good idea. We'll take a wedge of Gouda and one of that one we just sampled." He pointed to the cheeses.
"You mean the Edam?" asked the sales clerk. "These are good choices."
While Leah's father paid for the purchase, the girls went outside. Amanda heard a whimpering sound. "Did you hear that?" she asked Leah.
"Did I hear what?"
"A sound like a baby or a baby animal. I think it came from over there." Amanda pointed at a large garbage can across the road. "There it is again!" She stepped off the curb.
"Amanda, watch for bikes!" Leah shouted.
One whizzed past, barely missing Amanda. She didn't even notice. She headed for a cardboard box sitting beside the smelly garbage. Bending over, she opened it. Curled up in the bottom, a brown-and-white puppy with the biggest chocolate-brown eyes she had ever seen stared up at her. The puppy whimpered and put his head between his front paws.CHAPTER 2
"what is it?" asked Leah as she came up behind Amanda.
"You won't believe this. It's a puppy!" She reached into the box and pulled out the quivering dog. "He's soooo sweet." Amanda hugged his soft, fluffy body close to her.
"Who would leave a puppy in a box, beside a dustbin?" Leah shook her head. "That's awful."
"What have you two got there?" Mr. Anderson arrived carrying the bag of cheeses.
"This puppy was just left here in a box, like a bit of rubbish, Dad." Leah's voice shook. "We can't just leave him here."
"How about we take him over to the girl at the cheese shop? Maybe she knows who he belongs to or what to do," replied Mr. Anderson. He led the way back across the road.
"Hallo!" The young girl's face lit up when she saw Mr. Anderson and the two girls come back into the shop.
"We found this puppy in a box by the garbage cans. Do you know who he belongs to?" asked Amanda.
The girl's face fell. "No, I don't. But this has been happening a lot lately. People have a dog they don't want, and they just throw him away."
"What can we do?" The puppy snuggled closer to Amanda.
"Come back tomorrow. I'll ask around. Maybe I'll have some information for you." The young girl flipped a yellow braid over her shoulder and gave them a broad smile. "My name is Lisa."
Amanda put the puppy inside her jacket and held on to him tightly as they walked back to the hotel.
"I'm not sure the hotel will like us having a dog in the room." Leah's dad sighed. "I'd best get some dog food, unless he likes cheese. I think I saw a pet shop down the street. I'll be right back."
The girls spread newspapers on the floor.
"I wonder how old he is." Amanda stroked his soft fur.
"Are we sure it's a he?" asked Leah.
"Yes, I checked. He's a he, all right."
"What should we call him?"
"Let's call him Joey. That was the name of my great-uncle's dog."
Mr. Anderson soon returned with dog food, a dish, leash, collar and basket. "Here you are, sport. I hope this will do until we find you a home."
Joey approached the food warily, looked around and then gulped it down. His little tail wagged all the while.
"He is rather amusing, but he might need a bath. He's a little stinky." Leah's dad pulled out his cell phone. "Why don't you two take him across the street to the park for a walk and a wee? I have to make a couple of calls. Make sure you keep him on the leash." He started dialling. "And watch for bikes; they're everywhere!"
Many people took advantage of the sunny day and lounged on the grass across the street in a large, pie-shaped park. The girls took turns walking the dog. Joey darted all over the place, making him hard to control. He saw another dog, got excited and tugged Leah along, straining on the leash. She tripped and let go.
"Stop! Stop!" yelled Amanda as Joey sped past her. She ran after him as he jumped over people and around shrubs and colourful flower beds. She lost sight of the puppy. "Oh, no. Where has he gone?"
Her taller friend shouted from behind her, "I think he went over there by those bronze statues."
Amanda ran in the direction Leah pointed and found herself in the middle of a large group of people dressed in old-fashioned clothing. They stood completely still. She ran around a musketeer with a big, floppy hat, aiming his long rifle. Confronted by a drummer, she nearly tripped over a metal barking dog. Amanda felt like she had stepped into a play where no one moved.
"Are you by chance looking for this little fellow?" An older teenage boy with a wide grin held a wiggling Joey in his arms.
"Yes. Thank you so much. He got away on us." Amanda took the panting dog from him. "You were very naughty to run away on us like that."
"They tend to do that." The young man brushed his bushy blond hair from his face and chuckled. "Where are you from?"
"I'm from Canada, and my friend Leah is from England. I'm Amanda, by the way."
"Hallo, Amanda and Leah." He nodded to both of them. "I'm Jan, from the Netherlands. Jan is John in the Dutch language. It is spelled J-A-N but pronounced Yan."
"Nice to meet you, Jan. What is this?" Amanda pointed to the figures behind her.
"That is a 3D replica of Rembrandt's famous painting, The Night Watch. Rembrandt is Amsterdam's most famous painter. The original painting is in the Rijksmuseum. These figures make his painting come to life. This place is called Rembrandt Square, and a statue of the great painter is there in the middle." Jan pointed to a figure of a man on a pedestal wearing a beret and a flowing cape.
"That's just awesome. Thanks for the info, Jan. We'd better get back now."
Jan shrugged his square shoulders. "It's nothing. Enjoy Holland and hang on to that puppy." As he walked away, he waved to a woman across the street.
Amanda spied red-and-white-striped tulips in the basket of the bike the woman stood beside. Was it the woman on the bicycle who almost ran into her? She squeezed Joey close to her.
"Are you OK?" asked Leah. "I'm sorry I let go of the lead."
"It's all right. We got him back."
"Jan seems nice."
"Everyone here is very nice." Amanda looked back to see Jan and the woman talking. She mumbled, "Or almost everyone."CHAPTER 3
That night, Amanda kept waking up to check on the puppy sleeping in his basket. The next morning, she found him snuggled against her in bed. She gave him a belly rub and stroked his velvety ears before she got up.
Leah's father greeted the girls at breakfast. "I called an animal shelter. It appears to be on the way to my meeting. I'll take the puppy with me and drop him off."
Amanda felt a pang in her heart, although she knew she couldn't keep him. "What will happen to him?"
Mr. Anderson patted her hand. "They will find him a good home." He turned to Leah. "You and Amanda can take the canal boat and stop at the Anne Frank House. You liked it there the last time you visited with your mum, and I know Amanda will find it interesting."
"My teacher told us about Anne Frank and read to us from her book. I would love to see the house she and her family hid in during World War II." Amanda kissed Joey's soft, fuzzy head and wiped a tear from her cheek before anyone noticed.
"Come along, Amanda. We'd better get going as there is always a queue." Leah picked up her backpack.
The girls boarded a boat. Amanda, in order to get the best pictures of the interesting houses and sights along the banks of the canals, jumped from one side of the boat to the other. Noticing boats with flowers growing in pots on the decks and curtains in the windows, she asked, "Do people live on some of these boats?"
"I believe so," replied Leah.
"Look at that one with all the cats on it!" Amanda pointed to a long, low boat docked in front of some tall houses. Cats of all sizes and colours lounged on the deck. Others wandered about, barely glancing at the boats passing by.
"It says 'De Poezenboot' on the side. I wonder what that means."
A woman sitting in front of them turned around. "De Poezenboot means 'the Cat Boat.' It is the only animal shelter in the Netherlands that floats on water. Henriette van Weelde and her daughter started rescuing cats and eventually bought a canal boat to house and care for them. Volunteers take care of the cats until a loving home is found for them. We care about our animals here in the Netherlands."
"Can you visit it?" asked Amanda.
"Oh, yes. It has become a world-famous tourist attraction. It is the one and only Cat Boat."
"We found a puppy yesterday, in a box by some garbage cans."
"No! I can't believe it. How awful." The woman frowned. "What have you done with the poor thing?"
"My dad is taking him to an animal shelter today," answered Leah.
Amanda took a picture of the Cat Boat. As she lowered her camera, she noticed a boy carrying a tabby cat stepping onto the boat. She lifted her camera and zoomed in. The sturdy blond guy looked a lot like Jan, the boy they had met in the park the day before.
Leah stood up. "We're almost at the Anne Frank House. We need to get off."
"Thanks for telling us about the Cat Boat." Amanda smiled at the woman as the tour boat pulled in to a drop-off point.
Leah led them to a tall, dark house with a brass plaque on the door that read, 'Anne Frank Huis.' A long line of people wound its way down the street and around the corner.
"Ugh! I knew there would be a long queue." Leah scowled as they made their way to the end of the line.
"I wonder how long we'll have to wait." Amanda looked around. "I have to find a bathroom."
A woman with an Anne Frank House tag on her vest walked by. "Excuse me. Can you tell me how long we'll have to wait to get in?" asked Amanda.
"It will be about an hour."
Amanda spotted a sign for a public bathroom and said to Leah, "Do you mind waiting in line while I use the bathroom and take some pictures of that church over there?"
"Sure, go ahead. But stay out of trouble, and mind the bicycles!" Leah pulled her hair back into a ponytail and wrapped an elastic around it.
Amanda took pictures of the church called Westerkerk and its tall bell tower. Skulls carved into the stone above the door looked fascinating, but kind of creepy. She stepped inside to take more pictures and saw a sign explaining that Rembrandt had been buried in the church. She remembered him from the park.
She bought postcards at the gift shop and asked the sales clerk, "What does Westerkerk mean?"
"It means 'the West Church.'"
Amanda left the church and walked around a corner, where she saw a brass statue of a young girl with her arms behind her back, her head held high and a sweet smile on her lips. She stepped closer. The sign below indicated it was a statue of Anne Frank, who lived from 1929 to 1945. A chill ran through Amanda when she realized Anne had been only sixteen years old when she died. She snapped a picture.
"It's a good likeness, don't you think?"
Amanda jumped back, straight into someone. She swung around.
It was Jan from the park.
"Oh, you — you startled me."
"I apologize for that." He brushed his hair from his eyes. "Where is your puppy, Joey, I think you called him?"
Amanda looked down. "My friend's dad is taking him to an animal shelter. He isn't my dog. We found him, abandoned."
"You should have told me. I work at a rescue centre."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Amanda in Holland"
Copyright © 2019 Darlene Foster.
Excerpted by permission of Central Avenue Marketing Ltd..
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