Jeffrey opened one eye first, then the other. He looked at his new clock and pushed off the bedcovers. He sat on the edge of his bed, squinting at the clock’s two hands. One pointed up. One pointed down. He didn’t know what they said.
Jeffrey let his head hang upside down over the side of the bed. He made his fingers into tubes like binoculars. The clock hands still looked the same. One up. One down. He pulled the pillow over his eyes and sighed. He thought about his grandmother.
“Here’s a new clock for your birthday,” Grandmother had said. “You’ll be going to school soon, and you’ll need to know how to tell time.”
Jeffrey sighed again. The clock was a problem. He went into the kitchen to find his mother.
“I’ll fix you a nice breakfast,” his mother said. “Are you excited about tomorrow?”
“I’m not going to school tomorrow,” said Jeffrey. “I can’t read clocks, and I won’t know when to come home!”
“The teacher and I will help you at first,” said Mother. “And you’ll soon be able to tell the time by yourself.”
After breakfast Jeffrey went back to his room and made his bed. He smoothed the plaid bedspread carefully and tucked in the corners. He combed his hair, put on his shoes, and tied the laces. He stared at the clock. The hands were different now, but he still didn’t know what they said.
Then Jeffrey had an idea. “I know! Maybe Timothy can read a clock. I’ll ask him!”
Just then Timothy knocked at the back door. Jeffrey ran to open it. Timothy had a paper bag in his arms. “Hi, Jeffrey!” said his friend. “Dad took me shopping last night!”
“Oh!” said Jeffrey. “What’s in the paper bag?”
“New tennis shoes,” said Timothy, “for school tomorrow.”
“Could I see them?” asked Jeffrey.
“Sure,” said Timothy. “But I’m not going to school tomorrow.”
“You aren’t?” said Jeffrey.
“No,” said Timothy. “I can’t tie my shoes. The other children will laugh at me because I don’t know how the laces go!”
“I’m not going to school tomorrow either.”
“You aren’t?” replied Timothy, surprised.
“No,” said Jeffrey. “My grandmother gave me a clock for my birthday, but I can’t read the hands. The other children will laugh at me because I can’t tell time.”
“I have an idea!” Timothy exclaimed. “I can read clocks but I can’t tie shoes. I’ll show you how to read the hands on your new clock—”
“And I’ll teach you how to tie the laces on your new shoes! Let’s go to my room right now,” said Jeffrey. “We’ll teach each other.”
At noon Mother knocked on Jeffrey’s door. “It’s lunchtime, boys,” she said, “and I have a sandwich and some juice for each of you.”
“Thank you,” said Jeffrey. “I know it’s lunchtime. I can read my clock’s hands! They say it’s twelve o’clock!”
“Thanks. I’m real hungry,” said Timothy. “I’ve been practicing hard tying my shoelaces. And now I can do it!”
“It sounds as though you two are ready for the first day of school,” Mother said with a big smile.
“Yeah. I’ll meet Tim out in front of his house at eight o’clock tomorrow morning,” said Jeffrey.
“And I’ll be wearing my new shoes!” said Timothy.