The Vanishing Black Smudge
Adapted by Karen Holford
Many years ago a boy named Davy lived on a farm. It was a big farm, and there was lots to do to care for the animals and grow food for his family. Davy had a big sister Angie, a big brother Joe, and a sister Mary who was just a bit older than he was.
One day Davy’s parents announced that they had to go away for a few days, but they were sure the children were old enough to manage the farm work by themselves while they were gone. They put Angie in charge because she was getting quite grown-up. Davy didn’t think she was really grown up. He just thought she was bossy, and he really didn’t like to be bossed around by his own sister.
But after Mom and Dad drove off, Angie wasn’t so bossy after all. Wow! They were free to do anything they wanted! Go to bed when they wanted, get up when they wanted. Eat anything they liked, whenever they liked. Play when they liked, work when they liked. This was great!
The children had a great week. They made ice-cream every day, and rich chocolate fudge. They made popcorn and pancakes dripping with maple syrup. Of course they did their usual chores-milking the cows, feeding the animals, collecting eggs, and chopping wood. But mostly they just had lots of fun.
Then one morning Angie suddenly realized that Mom and Dad would be coming home the very next day. The children looked around at the house. There were dirty dishes on the table. There were toys on the floor. The beds were unmade. There were towels and dirty clothes on the floor. There were blocks and a wagon in the yard outside, and they still hadn’t cleaned up the garden tools in the barn for Dad.
Angie looked worried. She wanted everything to look perfect for Mom and Dad when they got home. They had left her in charge and she wanted them to be proud of her.
Suddenly Angie got bossy again. She ordered Joe to clean up the garden tools in the barn. She sent Mary to clean up the dishes and scrub the kitchen floor. Davy was to hurry up and dust the house from top to bottom, except for the parlor. Everyone knew the things Mom had in the parlor were too fragile for Davy to dust! When he was done with that, he could help Angie change the beds and do the laundry. Davy hated dusting. He hated changing beds and doing the laundry. He wanted to be outside helping Joe do grown up jobs. But Angie was in charge, so he followed her instructions feeling grumpy and angry inside.
Angie was so busy she had no time to cook lunch, so they all ate cold leftovers. Davy was hot and tired. He wanted to make ice-cream and have fun again, but Angie wasn’t through bossing.
“You have to help again this afternoon, Davy,” she said. “First I want you to polish all the shoes and boots with this black polish and brush. Then you can shake all the rugs. Mary has to go pick the beans in the garden, and Joe has to straighten the yard.” Davy was feeling more and more angry inside. The worst job in the world was polishing shoes and boots. It was so messy, and so easy to get big black smudges all over you and everything else.
While Davy was polishing shoes, Angie decided to dust and sweep the parlor so the whole house would be just perfect. The parlor was a beautiful room full of their mother’s best things. They weren’t allowed to play in there. They only went in there when there were visitors. While Angie was in the parlor she noticed Davy was not working very hard. She told him to hurry up because she had more work for him to do. By this time Davy was so mad that everything bubbled up inside him. Before he knew what he’d done, he had thrown a brush full of shoe polish at Angie. The brush sailed right past Angie’s head and landed smack in the middle of the parlor wall. He stared in horror at the big black mark on the expensive white and gold wallpaper. Then he ran out of the house and hid in the barn.
Davy stayed in the barn a very long time. He thought about how proud his mother was of their beautiful parlor, and how dreadful she would feel when she saw the mess he’d made of it. He thought about what his punishment might be. He was so mad at Angie. “It’s all her fault,” he thought. “I would never have done such a terrible thing if she hadn’t been so bossy and made me so mad!”
It was dark by the time Joe found him. Joe knew what had happened. But he didn’t say anything. He just took Davy into the house for a bite of supper before bed-time. Davy didn’t sleep very well. He knew Mom and Dad would be back in the morning. He wanted to run away, but there was nowhere he could go. He cried big tears into his pillow.
When Mom and Dad got home, they were very pleased with how well the children had managed the chores and how neat and clean everything was. They thought Davy was a bit quiet, and they did noticed that he didn’t eat much lunch. Mom even gave him a huge spoonful of nasty tasting medicine, just in case he was getting sick. Davy knew she hadn’t looked in the parlor, but he wasn’t brave enough to tell her what had happened. He was just miserable.
Then the worst thing possible happened. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson from across the town came to visit. Davy heard his mother welcome them, and invite them into the parlor. Oh, no! She would take them in there and see the mess, and she would be so embarrassed! He expected to hear his mother scream, but instead he heard Mrs. Johnson exclaim, “My, what a lovely parlor this is!”
Davy couldn’t believe his ears! What had happened? The black smudge was on the wall opposite the door. There was no way anyone could go in there without seeing that awful mark, spoiling everything else. Davy crept close to the door, and peeped in. He was so shocked by what he saw, he just stood there with his mouth open and stared. The wall looked exactly as it had before he threw the shoe polish brush. The wall paper where the black smudge had been was perfectly white and trimmed in gold like the pattern on the rest of the wall. His mom saw him in the doorway and invited him in. He sat on a slippery chair and stared at the wall most of the afternoon, his mind racing with what might have happened. After tea and cakes, the Johnsons finally went home. Davy lingered in the parlor so he would be the last to leave. When everyone had gone, he went up to the wall and stared at it closely. Someone had cut a piece of wallpaper to fit perfectly over the nasty mess. The paper had been cut ever so carefully to follow the edges of the pattern all around the little scrolls of gold. Then the edges of the paper had been sanded very thin so that there would not be a bump where the new paper was added.
Davy ate twice as much food at supper time to make up for all he had missed. He started to laugh and joke again, and Mom was pleased to see that her medicine had made him better! After supper Davy found Angie. He gave her a great big enormous hug. “Thank you,” he whispered in her ear. “I’m sorry I threw the brush at you, and made that awful mess. You fixed it, didn’t you.”
“Yes, I found some of the paper in the attic, and I cut it all out, smoothed the edges, and stuck it on with flour paste. I’m sorry too, it was mostly my fault. I shouldn’t have been so bossy. No wonder you felt like throwing something at me!”
If they noticed, Mom and Dad never said anything about the mark on the parlor wall. And Davy never forgot how special it was to discover that someone loves you enough to cover your mistake and save you from the consequences you deserve.
Does that sound like another Person you know? Yes! Jesus loves us enough to cover our mistakes with His perfect life. He saved us from the death we deserve because of our sin and gave us another chance to have the best life possible, now and forever. Isn’t that Good News!
Source: Families Filled With Joy: Family Ministries Planbook. Silver Spring, MD; Department of Family Ministries, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1998.