‘Laughter in a Box’

Wally watched the steady rain stream on the basketball net attached to his garage. The net looked limp and defeated. That’s how Wally felt. He’d sprained his ankle in a fall the week before and now spent his time in a chair.

He was glad his friend George visited him every day to keep him company and to help him with his homework.

“You need to keep this propped for a while,” George said, tucking a pillow under Wally’s foot.

Wally glared at his wrapped ankle.

“How will I ever be able to help our neighborhood basketball team if I can’t practice?”

“Maybe you can still play if you rest your foot,” George said.

Wally couldn’t understand George’s “a day at a time” attitude.

George pulled a book out of his backpack.

“Today, though, we can use the time to catch up on our studies,” he suggested.

“How can you think about studies at a time like this?” Wally groaned. “All I can think about is that I’m not able to practice!”

George went to work and began writing an essay on “time management.” Wally just stared at him, bewildered. He didn’t seem happy. He wadded up page after page and tossed them into an old box Wally had by his desk.

“We’re going to lose the neighborhood game, you know,” Wally said. George just ignored him.

Wally shrugged and picked up his history book. He tried to concentrate but was angry that he had tripped over his own feet and now couldn’t play basketball. How could he study when he felt like this? George continued to toss papers into the box.

“How are you doing on your essay, George?”

“I’m not!” George said. He kept his back to Wally and wouldn’t look at him.

Wally decided he might as well take a look at his lessons. As he thumbed through the pages of his history book, he read this quote by Harry S. Truman: “A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.”

“What am I doing?” he thought. “How am I supposed to make this an opportunity?” He watched George toss another paper into the wastebasket.

Then George suddenly got up, looked past Wally and left the room.

Wally reached for the basket, interested in what George had been writing. He decided to take a look.

The first note said, “Wally is unhappy.” The second said, “Wally is complaining.” The third note read, “Why do I come here?”

At first, Wally took a deep breath, wondering what he was going to say to George. Then he remembered the quote he’d just read. “He only comes to my house to help me,” he thought.

George walked back into the room, and Wally pelted him with a note and laughed.

“So I’m unhappy, whining and complaining, huh?” He tossed another note at him.

George paused briefly and then began laughing too. He picked up the notes and pelted them back at Wally.

Wally decided “laughter is the best medicine.” They arranged the old box on a dresser and used it for basketball practice.

“It’s OK,” Wally said, “until we can get back to the real thing. And look, the sun has come out. I think there’s a rainbow right over the basketball net. If we do this right, George, we can get our studies done and practice basketball.”

“Since when did you become an optimist?” George asked.

“Since I read the history lesson,” Wally said.

Special thanks to Laura-Susan Thomas for this week’s illustration.

To see more of her work, visit