Brown eyes

Joey woke up with the wonderful feeling that his dream had just changed everything.

The funny part was that he couldn’t even remember most of it. All he could hang on to was the sensation that his heart was so full it would pop and the image of a pair of big brown eyes. Those eyes were dancing in his head as he got dressed for school. They seemed to look at him as if they knew his every thought and considered each one wonderful. Even without knowing whose eyes they were, Joey walked taller knowing that they were watching him.

Down in the kitchen, Joey’s mother handed him his lunch, her green eyes smiling but filled with sadness. Joey gave her his bravest smile in return. It was easier today.

Out the front door and down the walk, Joey turned left toward the school. All the other days of this long week, he had walked with his heart thudding in his chest, paying close attention to turns so he wouldn’t get lost, dreading arriving at the strange building at the end. Today, though, he walked eagerly, glancing side to side, wondering at each turn if he would look over and see those brown eyes looking back at him.

Halfway there, Joey heard a cry from up ahead. Sprinting up the sidewalk, he saw a little boy, no more than two years old, who had fallen off his tricycle in a driveway. Joey helped the boy up and checked his hands. No blood. Looking at the boy’s tousled brown hair, Joey remembered when he had fallen off his bike last year. He reached in his pocket and pulled out the rock he found yesterday, the one with the flecks of gold in it. Handing it to the boy, Joey explained its magical properties. With this rock, anyone could ride a tricycle and never fall off. The little boy’s tears stopped and he looked up at Joey with wonder in his swimming blue eyes. Joey felt just a bit disappointed. For some reason he had been sure those eyes would be brown. Then a hand touched his shoulder and the boy’s mother smiled down on him. She handed him a little bag with her thanks. Joey could smell fresh baked peanut butter cookies from inside. His disappointment melted away.

Joey had to run the rest of the way to school, but he made it on time. A few kids laughed at his flushed, sweaty face, but Joey didn’t notice. He was too busy scanning the room for those eyes. He saw a few pairs that were brown, but they weren’t THE brown eyes. Heart sinking, Joey flopped onto his seat. A whole school day ahead and no brown eyes to help him. Joey felt his confidence seeping away. The morning was bad. He tripped on the way to the pencil sharpener and everyone laughed. He made extra mistakes in his math worksheet. The boy next to him spilled water on his homework folder, and the teacher had to hang the papers all over the room to dry them out. By lunchtime, Joey was ready to be done.

At lunch, Joey sat next to a group of kids he had never talked to before. Most weren’t even in his class. Joey ate silently as always, looking down at his own food until a groan caught his attention. He looked up. The girl next to him was shaking her red curls. Thinking of big brown eyes, Joey gathered his confidence and asked what was wrong. The girl said in a quavering voice that her mother had given her a tuna fish sandwich. Nothing was worse than a tuna fish sandwich. She was so hungry, but she would never be able to eat a tuna fish sandwich. Joey knew how she felt. Fortunately, he had that little bag with the delicious smell coming from it. When Joey offered to trade two homemade peanut butter cookies for the tuna fish sandwich, the little girl looked at him with such gratitude in her sparkling hazel eyes that Joey forgot all about brown eyes for just a few minutes. The tuna fish sandwich went quietly in Joey’s lunch box while the two kids ate peanut butter cookies and talked all about the first week of school.

The afternoon was much better. Though he hadn’t yet found the big brown eyes, just looking for them had made Joey’s day something special. When the last bell rang, Joey headed out the door with a sense of anticipation. The brown eyes were still out there somewhere, and the peanut butter cookies had taught him that brown eyes were not the only discoveries to be made.

At home, Joey told his mother the story of the peanut butter cookies, both earning them and eating them, and saw her looking happier than she had looked in a long time. He did not mention the brown eyes. Some things were not meant to be told to mothers, not until the right time, at least. Leaving his mother humming as she cooked dinner, Joey went out to work on his tree fort.

In the woods, Joey searched for sticks of just the right length. He had to go a bit further than usual to find them. Just as he was about to take his armload back to his own yard, he heard a whimpering noise from the bramble thicket under the trees. Carefully pulling about the thorny branches, Joey saw a little tuft of tan fur. His mother had always told him not to bother animals in the woods, but whatever this was had gotten caught in the prickly tangles. Joey couldn’t just leave it there.

His arm got quite scratched reaching so far into the brambles, but at last, Joey had a good firm grip on the furry bundle. It was hard work to pull it out without hurting it any more. He felt the tiny body trembling in his hand, but slowly and surely, he kept up his work. At last he had it free. It was a tiny puppy, all tan fluff. Joey could not believe his luck. A puppy, right here in the woods. As soon as it was free of the brambles, though, it nipped his hand, and dashed away, trembling, to hide under another, less thorny bush. Joey sat thinking for a moment. Then he smiled and ran back to his house.

In a matter of minutes, Joey was back, crouched in front of the book, tuna fish sandwich in had. Holding it out, he spoke gently to the puppy. Its whimpers subsided as it began to sniff with its little nose. In a matter of moments, it darted out and began to gobble the tuna hungrily. Joey stroked its soft fur, wondering where the puppy came from and who it belonged to, feeling it relax as its tummmy was filled and its fear subsided. When finally the sandwich was gone, the little puppy looked up at Joey. Big brown eyes met his, full of adoration, just as Joey had seen in his dream. All questions of who the puppy belonged to fled. The puppy belonged to Joey.

Later that night, Joey watched the big brown eyes close contentedly as the puppy curled up on the end of his bed. One look from those eyes had been enough to convince Joey’s mother. She might not know all about his dream, but she knew all about Joey, and that was enough. Joey snuggled down into his blankets, feeling the warm lump next to his feet.

He couldn’t wait to see what he would dream next.

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