Yes! There it was again. "Peter," called the voice that was decidedly Mother's.
"Coming," Peter answered. He tilted the sprinkling can further to hasten the water to the last dry corner of the newly-sown lettuce patch. There, he was done!
His sneakers sped across the freshly-tilled soil in the direction of the patio.
There, at the picnic table, Mother was checking her seed inventory.
"Finished?" asked Mother.
Peter nodded, then gave her a quizzical look that asked, "What do you want?"
"Want to go along to Kessler's? You were speedy in getting chores done, so you may go along. Matthew's going to," said Mother.
"Yes! I do want to!" Peter replied. "As soon as I put the sprinkling can away, I'll get ready." Then he raced to the utility shed and hung the sprinkling can on its hook above the mower.
Meanwhile, Mother glanced up from her seed packets. She watched Peter dart to the shed, then into the house.
I'm surprised he remembered to put that away, she said mentally. But that's Peter, a carbon copy of his daddy! His daddy's a good worker, organized, and interested in detail. Will he be a shop foreman too? she wondered.
Now Mother's thoughts went back to the time Peter was learning to talk. I won't forget his first sentence. He was playing with a few nuts and bolts and as he managed to turn a nut on a bolt, he said, "It fits." He amused us all.
Meanwhile, as Peter and Matthew were changing clothes they were discussing their pleasure in going along to Kessler's. "Easter vacation is great!" declared Matthew. "We get to go along to Kessler's, my favorite store. Think we'll be allowed to go to the toy department while mother's getting her plants and seeds?"
"I hope so," Peter answered. "Even if we can't buy some new toys, I'd like to see what they have."
Soon the boys were dressed in clean clothes, combed, and seated in the mini van.
Mother checked her list and added one more item she'd forgotten. She headed for the garage. The boys were chatting happily as Mother got in and drove the five miles into town.
When they arrived, Peter inquired, "Mother, may we please go over to the toy department while you get your things?"
Mother looked from Peter to Matthew and back to Peter. She knew how bored the boys would be while she was deciding on seed varieties and flower plants. "Okay, but remember the 'No Touching Rule.'"
Delighted, the boys headed to the shelves laden with tractors and equipment. There were also furry animals, chain saws that whirred like real ones, and stacks of table games.
Peter and Matthew were engrossed in wishful thinking as they surveyed the merchandise in each aisle.
"See this toaster," said Peter. "It actually pops the toy bread slices like a real one. I wonder how it works." He reached for the sample toaster that was out of its display package.
"Peter, don't! Remember what Mother said," warned Matthew. "And see that sign!"
"Which sign?" Asked Peter.
"There," said Matthew as he pointed to a neat little sign that stated:
Lovely to look at,
Wonderful to hold;
But if you should break it,
It's already sold.
"Oh, I forgot," said Peter as he quickly withdrew his hand. His eyes scanned the rest of the items in the aisle, while Matthew examined the baseball gloves.
Peter checked the end display of kites then sauntered up the Tonka toy aisle.
There they were! The bright red fire engines Peter had seen in the catalog were sitting waiting to be bought by eager boys.
"This one is different then the others," noted Peter. "You can extend the ladder. I wonder how it works." He reached for the little crank on the side.
The engine slid about on the metal shelf, so Peter had to use both hands.
The crank wouldn't turn.
He lifted it from the shelf to get a better grip. He tried to turn it. "What's wrong with this?" he wondered.
Once more Peter yanked. Back and forth. "There it goes," murmured Peter. "I got it! I just need to wiggle it back and forth so it works more easily. Probably a squirt of oil will help." Peter kept turning the stubborn little crank.
Slowly but surely the ladder went up, up, up, until at last it was fully extended.
Peter smiled with satisfaction. He had gotten the crank to work. He turned to set it on the shelf. "Oh, it doesn't fit on there with the ladder up. I'll have to turn it down again," he noted.
The crank was even more stubborn now.
Peter tried to turn it backwards. He wiggled, coaxed, yanked and finally forced it.
The ladder jerked downward. Again it jerked.
Peter persisted. He checked. "It almost fits. Just about a half inch yet and I can set it back," he estimated.
But the crank would not be persuaded. It would budge no further.
Peter put all the pressure that his fingers could apply.
Crack! The crank snapped off.
Momentarily, Peter panicked, but thought quickly enough to bend the ladder just enough to jam the engine on the shelf. He stuffed the crank in his pocket; then glanced up and down the aisle to see if anyone had witnessed his accident.
Matthew was coming. "Peter! Did you break it?" asked Matthew, with evident concern.
"No!" answered Peter quickly, as his cheeks turned crimson red.
"May I help you?" asked a sales clerk that seemed to appear from nowhere. "Ah...a...no," Peter stammered.
"I thought I heard something snap," said the clerk. "You didn't break anything did you?"
"No," Peter lied, while a knot in his throat seemed to choke him.
"Good. I always hate to have to make children pay for things they break," said the clerk as she turned to leave.
"Is there a problem?" asked Mother, joining the boys just then.
"No, there's no problem. I just thought I heard something snap," said the clerk. Then she smiled at Peter and went to assist another customer.
"Did you break something?" asked Mother as she turned to the boys.
"No," answered Matthew.
"A...no," answered Peter.
"I'm glad," said Mother, "because you know you weren't supposed to touch anything. Now let's be on our way." She led the way to the exit door.
Peter felt horrible. He had disobeyed. He had lied three times.
And it all happened so quickly.
Peter shivered; yet his hands were hot and sweaty. Inside he was in knots--in his stomach, in his throat, and even in his head. Tears were ready to spill over, but he kept them in check. Like a mechanical toy, Peter followed Mother and Matthew across the parking lot.
Mother loaded her purchases into the van, fished out the keys from her purse, and put the key into the ignition.
What shall I do? Tell or not tell? Oh how horrible I feel! thought Peter. He hoped somehow the engine would stall and allow him more time to think.
Promptly the engine started.
"Wait! Don't go," called Peter.
"Why?" questioned Mother as she glanced her rearview mirror.
Then the pent-up tears spilled over. "I did break the fire engine," Peter blurted out. "I didn't mean to. It just happened. The crank didn't work and I was trying to fix it."
Mother listened quietly.
More tears and sobs came. "And I told the clerk I didn't. And Matthew. And you," he added.
Gently, but firmly, Mother said, "Come, Peter. We're going back into the store. You will admit the lie and pay for the fire engine."
"But Mother, there was something wrong with the crank. It wouldn't have broken if it had worked okay."
"Would it have broken if you would not have touched it?" Mother asked.
Peter hung his head. "No, it wouldn't have," he admitted. "But Mother, one more thing. Can't we just buy the engine and not make a big fuss about it to the clerk?"
"Would that correct your lie to her? I'm sorry, Peter. You'll need to confess. Now come," Mother said, as she headed for the store entrance.
Peter knew she was right. But how can I? he wondered. His legs seemed too unsteady to carry him.
Too soon it seemed, they entered the toy department where the sales lady was stocking shelves. At least other customers were not around. She looked up and smiled, but when she noticed Peter, her smile was replaced by a somber expression.
"My son has something to say to you," said Mother. Then she placed her hand lightly on Peter's shoulder.
Somehow Mother's gesture helped give him courage to say, "I'm sorry I lied to you." A tear slid down his cheek. Then he added, "I did break the fire engine, and I'm here to pay for it."
The clerk took a deep sigh and said, "I'm glad you came back. After you were gone I happened to notice the crank was missing. I admire you for coming back." She smiled at Mother. Then turned and said, "I'll get the engine for you and you can pay for it at the checkout."
When she handed the fire engine to Peter, he meekly said, "Thank you," and followed Mother to the checkout.
Once they had paid the cashier and the minivan was motoring home, silence reigned.
At home, both boys headed for the bedroom. Peter sprawled across the bed and faced the wall. Meanwhile, Matthew changed into everyday clothes and headed for the door.
"Matthew," said Peter, "I'm sorry I lied to you."
"I'll forgive you," said Matthew as he left the room.
Now Peter was alone and the tears of regret and relief spilled out. How easy it had been to disobey! How hard to make things right!
A tap-tap-tap signaled that Mother was at the bedroom door. "Peter," she called softly, "do you mind if I come in?"
"No," answered Peter.
She sat on the edge of the bed.
"I'm sorry, Mother. I disobeyed you and I lied to you. I didn't intend to do that. It happened so quickly," Peter finished.
"I'll forgive you, Peter. I'm rejoicing now. Not that you did wrong, but that you are sorry about your wrong," said Mother.
Peter sat up and reached for his bank on the dresser. He dumped the contents on the bed and said, "I want to pay you for the fire engine now." He counted the coins and dollars and handed them to Mother.
"Thank you," she said.
Peter noted that she looked sad, but relieved. It had been difficult for her too. But how grateful he was that she helped him make things right.
A slight smile swept across his face. "Mother, I just thought of Peter, the disciple. I lied three times, like he did. I could be called Peter, the Second."
"And remember, Peter," said Mother, "Jesus forgave Disciple Peter, and He'll forgive Peter, the Second too."
Then she flashed him a heartwarming smile.
A special thanks to The Wallings for typing up this story for Anabaptists!
From Stories for Every Season
by Verna M. Martin
© Christian Light Publications
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