Once there was an ordinary house, with an ordinary fence, an ordinary yard, and an ordinary car parked in the driveway. What went on in this house, though, was anything but ordinary.
Anyone who knew anything about the Pout family who lived in the house would tell you, “Don’t borrow sugar there,” or “Don’t sell cookies there,” or “Don’t throw your ball over that fence.” You see, everyone in this ordinary house was extraordinarily grouchy. Mr. Pout and Mrs. Pout were grouchy. Sue and Lou Pout, their daughters, were grouchy. Even their dog, Boo, was grouchy.
It all started on a very ordinary day. “Why didn’t you mow the lawn?” Mrs. Pout yelled at Mr. Pout. Mr. Pout huffed outside, mumbling something about Mrs. Pout’s dry meat loaf.
Seeing Sue Pout out in the yard, Mr. Pout frowned and angrily asked, “Why didn’t you pick up your toys? I have to mow, and they’re in the way!”
Sue got up with a groan, threw her toys onto the porch, marched into the house, and stomped up to her bedroom. Lou was on the floor, playing with blocks.
“Get out of my room!” Sue demanded sulkily. “And play with your toys in your own room.”
Lou scrambled out of Sue’s room and into her own. Boo was curled up on her bed.
“You’re getting hair all over my bed,” Lou complained loudly.
Boo jumped off the bed and ran out of the room with his tail between his legs. He went outside and lay in Mrs. Pout’s flower bed—on purpose!
Day after day their grouchiness got worse and worse, and everyone in town tried to avoid them.
One bright morning, a stranger with a wide, red hat came to town. She was going to visit an old friend but could not find her house. She walked straight up to the Pout’s front door and knocked. Mrs. Pout answered with a frown.
“Good morning. My name is Eva Smiley, and I am looking for the home of my friend Ava Twinkly. Do you by chance know where she lives?” Eva asked with a smile.
“Next block over, three houses down,” Mrs. Pout grumbled as she started to shut the door.
“Thank you so much,” Eva said. “By the way, you have the most beautiful flower bed I have seen. You must have put your heart and a lot of hard work into such a magnificent display.”
Mrs. Pout was not used to hearing such kind words and could not help but smile at the stranger’s compliment.
“Well, have a good day, and thanks again for the directions,” Eva said as she walked toward the street, her wide, red hat bouncing with each step.
That day, for the first time in a long while, Mrs. Pout hummed as she worked in her flower bed, carefully tending each delicate flower.
Later, she saw Mr. Pout outside and called to him, “Thank you for mowing the lawn yesterday. It looks so nice!”
Well, Mr. Pout could not help but smile at the kind words. All the rest of that day, he whistled as he cleaned out the garage.
That evening Mr. Pout found Sue watching a television show. “Thank you for washing the dinner dishes,” he said warmly. “I appreciate how you help out around the house.”
Sue could not help but smile at the kind words and hugged her father for the first time in a long while.
Before going to bed, she noticed a picture Lou had colored and hung on the refrigerator. She went up to Lou’s room. “The picture you colored of the mountains is great! You made the mountains look big and real!”
Lou could not help but smile at the kind words, and that night she had pleasant dreams.
The next morning, Boo was curled up on Lou’s bed. She petted him and got up to get him a dog bone. “You’re a good dog, Boo, and you keep me warm at night,” she said gently.
Boo had not had a dog bone in a long while. It made him very happy, and that day he did not lie in Mrs. Pout’s flower beds.
That morning at breakfast, Mr. Pout grinned and said, “Would anyone like to go to the lake today for a picnic? We could get some ice cream on the way home.”
Bright smiles lit all the faces around the table. Something amazing and almost magical had happened to the Pouts. They were no longer grouchy! And although they would always be the Pout family, their attitudes from then on were most unpoutlike.
And somewhere a smiling stranger walked away from another house, her wide, red hat bouncing from side to side.