Right from the start it looked like a bad day for Stanley Wilcox: He wasn’t ready for the spelling test. He’d have to pay for his library book if it didn’t turn up by Monday. And his mother reminded him as he left, “Grandpa will take you to the eye doctor after school.”
Stanley moaned. He didn’t want glasses.
“You calling me, Mr. Crouch?” Stanley loped across the yard and followed his neighbor’s pointing finger. He supposed that he had let a few leaves land on Mr. Crouch’s spotless lawn when he raked his own.
But Mr. Crouch was pointing toward the fence at the back of the Crouches’ property and to the woods beyond. Not the fort! He couldn’t complain about that! thought Stanley.
“Take a look back there. You’ve dug clear under my fence and thrown debris onto my grass. I want you and your friend to get that cleaned up first thing after school, or I’ll call your parents.”
“I have to go to the eye doctor after school,” Stanley mumbled.
“First thing tomorrow morning then!”
When he got to school, Stanley made out the blurred letters of an announcement on the chalkboard:
Floor Hockey Championships
3rd & 4th Grade Finals
Just then his friend Roger ran over, shouting, “The men’s club is taking the winning team to a real ice hockey game at the arena!”
Stanley flashed a wide grin. It was the first thing he’d had to smile about that morning.
At lunchtime Stanley told Roger the bad news. “Mr. Crouch says that we have to clean up his yard.”
“He says that we got junk all over it from digging behind the fence.”
“But we didn’t! We were extra careful because you said he’d yell.”
“I know. But he won’t listen. If he talks to my dad, he’ll say to stop playing there because we should be ‘good neighbors.’”
“Well—right after school, then, OK?”
“I can’t,” said Stanley. “I have to get my dumb glasses. He said to come tomorrow morning, but—”
“The hockey game!” Roger’s eyes widened in horror.
“I know, I know.” Stanley stuffed his sandwich wrappers into his lunch bag. “Maybe it won’t take long at the eye doctor.”
Grandpa was his usual jovial self when Stanley climbed into his car after school. “Did you have a good day?” he boomed.
“Awful,” Stanley answered shortly, slumping down by the window.
One thing about Grandpa: He always knew when you didn’t feel like talking. Stanley stared at the signs gliding by that he could never quite make out until they were almost upon him. “What do you always find to be so cheerful about, Grandpa?” he asked.
Grandpa tapped the gold rim of his glasses. “Must be these rose-colored glasses of mine.”
“Rose-colored? They look like ordinary glasses to me,” said Stanley.
“Don’t you believe it. These glasses help me see through the dark side of things to the rosy-colored good part on the other side.”
“What if there isn’t any good part?”
“There always is,” said Grandpa. “Sometimes you have to look harder and have more faith. That’s where these old specs are a big help.”
Stanley perked up a little. It would be nice to have Grandpa’s kind of faith in God. Stanley didn’t think it came from his glasses, though.
Half an hour later Stanley stood on the steps outside the doctor’s office, his new glasses hooked firmly over his ears. The letters on the billboard across the street were so sharp that they seemed to bounce right out of their background. The colors on the drugstore’s neon sign were dazzling. An airplane flew overhead, and Stanley could see it clearly. “Wow!” he said.
“What did they do, Stanley, slip you a pair of those rose-colored glasses, too?” Grandpa asked.
Stanley grinned. Look for the good part, eh? It would be hard to find anything good about having Mr. Crouch for a neighbor, but he would start by doing what Mr. Crouch had demanded. Stanley would be going the second mile, as Jesus had said.
When he got home, he called Roger. “Can you come now? We have an hour to work before dark.”
Roger was there in five minutes. Stanley waited for him to start laughing about the glasses, but he only said, “They aren’t so bad.”
Then off they marched, like two soldiers going into battle.
Mrs. Crouch answered the doorbell. “My husband isn’t home yet, but I’ll show you what he wants you to do.”
The yard was a mess. There were gaping holes under the fence with rocks and sticks and dirt scattered on both sides. They were to pick up the debris, rake the yard, and carry any trash to the front. “We’ll never finish by dark,” Roger moaned. “And we can’t come tomorrow morning.”
Stanley just set to work. A few minutes later he stopped. When he pulled his glasses down over his nose, he saw only a dark blob moving near the Joneses’ fence, but when he pushed them up again, he saw a dark, scruffy-looking dog, nose to the ground, feet flying, and dirt spraying out behind.
“The Joneses’ dog sure can dig, can’t he?” said Stanley.
“Rufus!” Mrs. Jones came running out. “Rufus, you bad dog! Come here!” Rufus stopped and hung his head and scooted apprehensively up to Mrs. Jones, the tip of his tail barely wagging.
“Shame on you! Look at that mess!” She saw Stanley and Roger. “Hello. You earning some spending money?”
“Not exactly. We’re sort of paying Mr. Crouch for these holes in his yard,” Roger explained.
Mrs. Jones walked closer. “You made those holes?”
“Uh—we’re not sure. But we were digging back there by our fort, so …”
Mrs. Jones looked at the holes. She looked at the scattered dirt by her own fence. She looked at Rufus. Rufus wagged his tail.
“Don’t smile at me, you bad dog,” said Mrs. Jones. Then she laughed. “You boys didn’t make those holes.”
Mr. Crouch came into the yard. “Looks like you have a lot of work to do yet,” he said to the boys. “You’ll have to finish up in the morning.”
Mrs. Jones spoke up. “No, Mr. Crouch. These boys didn’t dig up your yard.” She pointed to Rufus. “There’s the guilty one.”
Mr. Crouch looked at Rufus. “Well, Mrs. Jones, am I to suppose that that animal is going to repair my lawn?”
Mrs. Jones’s laugh was so jolly that even Mr. Crouch smiled. “This dog is going to be tied up for a while. I’ll send my son over to clean up your yard for you.”
“That was pretty nice of Mr. Grouch—I mean, Mr. Crouch,” said Roger as they walked home. “Besides apologizing, he gave us each a dollar for raking his yard, and we didn’t even finish.”
But Stanley wasn’t listening. He was looking at the sky over the garage roof. It was bathed in a rosy glow. “Wow!” he breathed. “Grandpa was right. Rose-colored glasses!”
“What’s the matter with you? You don’t have rose-colored glasses. You’re looking at the sunset.”
Stanley laughed sheepishly. He pulled his glasses down and peered over them. The rosy color was still there, only duller, the way he had seen sunsets all his life until then.
It hadn’t been such a bad day after all. Even if they didn’t win the tournament tomorrow, they’d make a good try for it. And say! If he really got busy and searched, maybe his new rose-colored glasses would help him find his library book!