Cranberry Lane Crisis

They that deal truly are his delight (Prov. 12:22).

Katie looked at the hole in her mother’s garden, then at her big shaggy dog. “Jolly, why do you dig so much?” she asked.

The big dog gave her a curious look.

Katie giggled. “And look at your face—it’s all covered with dirt.”

Jolly wagged his tail.

“I guess digging makes you happy. That’s all there is to it.” She reached down and fastened the leash she carried onto Jolly’s collar. “Time for our walk.”

Leading Jolly through the backyard gate and heading up Cranberry Lane, Katie smiled and waved to everyone she saw. “Know what, Jolly? The people on this street are probably the nicest neighbors in the whole wide world.”

When they walked past the house on the corner, though, Katie said, “But I do wonder about the new people. I don’t think they’re very nice at all.”

For years the Martins had lived in the house on the corner. Then last month they had moved away. Now some new people, named Logan, lived there.

The Martins had always let the kids play in their front yard, but the Logans had plowed it up, spread black dirt, planted grass seed, and posted a sign that read: KEEP OFF THE GRASS.

“I don’t like that sign,” Katie told Jolly. “It doesn’t belong on Cranberry Lane. I don’t think the Logans do, either. Neighbors on this street don’t tell other neighbors to stay away.”

Just then a car pulled into the Logan’s driveway, and a man got out. He wore a dark blue uniform.

“That must be Mr. Logan,” Katie whispered to Jolly. “Look, there’s something shiny pinned to his shirt. Oh, wow—it’s a badge! He must be a police officer! He’ll probably arrest anyone who steps on his lawn, even if it’s just an accident.”

After watching Mr. Logan go into his house, Katie turned and started for home, feeling a little scared. Things were never going to be the same, now that the law was keeping tabs on Cranberry Lane.

When she reached home, she took Jolly to the backyard. But before she could close the gate, he scampered through it and headed lickety-split up the street. When he got to the Logans’ yard, he stopped and began to dig.

When Katie finally caught up with him, she started shouting, “Jolly! Stop that!”

But the shaggy dog just started a new hole. Dirt flew everywhere.

Katie began to cry. “Jolly,” she wailed, “you’re going to get me arrested!”

Suddenly, as if he understood, Jolly stopped digging and ran pell-mell over to her and jumped up on her legs for a comforting pat.

“Oh, Jolly, you’re the only dog living on Cranberry Lane. Mr. Logan can easily find out who ruined his lawn. He’ll probably put me in jail!”

Katie quickly took Jolly home and to the backyard, where she carefully shut the gate. Then she went to the garage and got a garden rake. Dragging it behind her, she headed for the Logans’ house.

Knees knocking, heart pounding, Katie rang the bell.

Mr. Logan answered immediately. “Hello there,” he said.

Katie swallowed. “My name is K-K-Katie C-C-Cooper. My d-dog—” It was no use. Katie dissolved into tears.

Mr. Logan opened the screen door and stepped outside. “What about your dog?”

“He—he d-d-dug up your new gr-gr-grass,” she managed to get out.

“Oh, so I see. Tell you what—I’ll go get my rake, and you and I will do a little repair work.”

He wasn’t going to arrest her—he was going to help her! Katie could hardly believe it.

He returned with his rake and more grass seed, and the two of them went to work. “Know what, Katie? My wife and I have always lived in an apartment, so this yard is a dream come true for us. Especially now. My wife and I have a new baby boy—born last night!

“We want nice soft grass for him to play on,” Mr. Logan continued. “That’s why I put up the sign. Grass seed won’t grow if people walk on it, you know. But as soon as it has a good root system, the sign will come down. Then you kids can play here anytime.” He took a final swipe with his rake, then leaned on it and smiled at her. “Thank you for your honesty and your help, Katie Cooper.”

“Mr. Logan, if I hadn’t told you about Jolly and helped you fix the yard, would you have arrested me?”

Mr. Logan started to laugh, then became serious. “Katie, police officers don’t arrest children—or big shaggy dogs, either. At least not unless they’ve done something really bad. I’m just a regular neighbor, and I want to be a good one—like you were for me today. Promise me that you’ll come back soon. I want you to meet my wife and our new son.”

Katie smiled. “OK.”

“Good.” He turned and started to sprinkle grass seeds on the newly raked areas.

Suddenly Katie had a good idea. “Mr. Logan,” she called. “I’ll help keep the kids off your yard until the seed grows.”

He turned and gave her a thumbs-up sign.

She waved, then slung the rake over her shoulder and headed for home, feeling great. Jolly was waiting for her at the gate.

“Guess what, Jolly? That sign does belong on Cranberry Lane. And I don’t have to be afraid of Mr. Logan. He’s just like everybody else on this street—one of the nicest neighbors in the whole wide world!”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Taia Morley