Four-year-old Tony stood at the front door with his nose pushed against the screen.

Finally he turned to Mother and said excitedly, “He’s coming, Mother! Scott’s coming home!”

Opening the door, Tony ran down the steps to meet his brother. “Hi, Scott!” he called. “I’ve been waiting for you. I’ve been waiting all day long.”

“Well, here I am,” said Scott. But he didn’t sound nearly as excited as Tony.

“Can we play now, Scott?” Tony asked, running to keep up with his big brother. “I have the game all ready to start.”

“I can’t play today, Tony. I have other things to do. I’m going over to Joe’s house,” Scott answered as he hurried inside, leaving his little brother far behind.

By the time Tony reached Scott’s room, his big brother had almost finished changing into his play clothes.

“Can I go with you, Scott?” Tony asked eagerly. “I like to go to Joe’s house.”

“Of course not!” Scott snapped.

“But I’ll be good, and I’ll do exactly what you say,” Tony promised.

“Well, you still can’t go! We’re going to play ball, and you’re not big enough,” Scott explained. “You’re too little to be tagging along everywhere I go.”

“I just wanted you to play with me.”

Tony said in a quiet voice, blinking fast to keep the tears from spilling over.

Scott knew Tony was about to cry, but he just didn’t care right then. All he wanted to do was get away and play ball with the boys.

As Scott ran out the front door, he called, “I’ll play with you one day next week, Tony. You go play with your trucks now.”

Once again Tony was left alone. He stood at the front door and watched his brother run down the sidewalk and turn the corner to Joe’s house.

Scott knocked on Joe’s door. “Here I am,” he said when Joe answered the door. “Are you ready to play?”

Joe had a surprised look on his face. He stammered a little bit as he explained, “I didn’t know you were coming over today. I promised Beth I’d play with her.”

“Beth?” Scott echoed in disbelief. “You mean you’re playing with your little sister?”

“Sure. I promised this morning I’d play with her when I got home from school. But come on in. You can play too,” Joe suggested. “You ought to see what an imagination she has!”

Joe grinned as he led his friend to his sister’s room. Scott stopped in the doorway. He couldn’t believe his eyes. A small table and four chairs were set up in the middle of the room. Three dolls were propped up on three of the chairs and Joe sat down on the other. Beth was setting the table with her toy dishes and pretending she was the mother. Joe pretended right along with her.

Scott suddenly felt very strange. After all, Joe’s little sister was the same age as Tony, and Joe seemed to enjoy playing with her.

Scott remembered how Tony had been waiting at the door for him to come home and then almost begged him to play. He shifted his feet and cleared his throat. Finally he said, “Say, Joe, do you mind if I go home a minute and bring Tony back to play with us?”

“That would be great!” Joe answered. “I’m sure Beth would much rather feed real people than dolls.”

Scott ran back to his house and into his brother’s room. Tony was all alone in the middle of the floor with his fire truck. His face lighted up when he saw his brother. “Will you play with me now, Scott?” he asked. “Do you have time?”

“Yes, I do have time, Tony,” Scott answered. “Come on. Let’s ask Mother if you can go with me.”

Tony looked up eagerly into his big brother’s face. “Am I big enough now to go with you, Scott?”

Scott squeezed Tony’s hand and grinned. “You’re not too little and you’re not too big. You’re just right! Let’s go.”

Illustrated by Mel Owen