Lifting the mini-recorder, the elderly pastor began listening to the stranger’s message. “I can’t believe I so totally blanked and got off the bus at Webster Elementary. Every Tuesday, Mom picks my sister, Jamie, up; I don’t walk her home. Frustrated, I took the back way. Gruesomely bad decision.
“You might be asking, who are you? My name is Peter Jacob Johnston III and I’m 13 years old, though you wouldn’t think so to look at me. My 10-year-old sister has cancer. I didn’t think a kid could have anything worse happen than that; but, today, I found out there’s worse. Lemme tell you what happened when I left Jamie’s school.
“I passed by this large double-hedge of irises and would’ve kept on going, ‘cept the soles of some familiar worn-out, black boots caught my eye. Naturally, I did a quick glance right and left before I drew closer to the boots. Shock of shocks, Punt was still in those boots. No kidding; there he was, all laid out amongst those purple flowers. Call 9-1-1, I told myself; but instead, I moved to see what made the light flash off Punt’s neck. Okay, now, here’s something worse.
Jeremy’s knife was sticking out of that huge neck, a large pool of dark-red blood already soaking the ground.
“The thing is, even though he’s this tall, African-American Middle School basketball star, Jeremy and me are best friends. Punt, who’s called that because he kicks his target so hard he’d make a field goal if he ever let go, threatened to separate my geeky head from my scrawny, little, white boy body. Jeremy told Punt he’d pay with his own over-sized, ugly mug, if he ever touched me again. Punt is the guy who carries out the punishment for Bull, the school’s chief bully. I don’t know if Punt ever gets to decide on who he kicks.
“When I saw Jeremy’s knife, I just reacted, without thinking. Pulling out my folded-up Math paper, I wrapped it around the knife and yanked it out. I covered the bloody end of the knife and put it in my jacket pocket. Really, I don’t know what I thought I’d do with it, probably wash it off and give it back to Jeremy. I don’t even know if Jeremy really knifed him or not; he could’ve done it.
“The real reason I’m putting this on my dad’s old mini-recorder and leaving it in your office, Pastor, is that, if I show up dead, I just want someone to know what happened and what I saw today. Bull knows that Jeremy’d be lookin’ for Punt when he heard I got beat up on the way to the bus today. If Bull hears Punt’s dead, I’m thinkin’ he’ll forget about goin’ for Jeremy and just come whack me. That’d be the worst hurt for Jeremy.
“Don’t bother lookin’ for me, Pastor; you’ll never find me. Could ya pray for me and Jeremy? Uh, I think Jeremy’s a Christian ‘cuz he spends all mornin’ Sunday down at the corner Baptist Church. Me? Well, uh, if I live through this, I might just come back to get the recorder from you, and we can talk about it, okay?”
Pastor Green hit rewind and slipped to his knees. Tears trickled down the weary old saint, falling like the early rain of spring. “My God and my Father. You alone know where Peter can be found. Take me to him, please.” Standing, Pastor Green walked with determination to his office door, expecting directions from the one Who’d led him for more than 60 years. Realizing it might be a long walk, Green veered off to the restroom just before exiting the building.
Opening the swinging door marked MEN, Pastor Green heard gut-wrenching sobs from behind a closed stall door. “Hello, Peter. I’m Pastor Green and God has sent me to help you find Him. I’m very sad to hear Harold has been stabbed; he was on his way to find you. Harold found Jesus here this afternoon and so wanted to make things right with you. He feared that Bull would never let him quit. According to Harold, Bull stole Jeremy’s knife.” Slowly, the blue metal stall door moved, as Peter‘s bent body emerged. Lifting his head, eyes red and swollen, the adolescent began to speak.
“I-I got real sick, all of a sudden. D-D-Did you say, Bull took Jeremy’s knife? Then…”
“C’mon, Peter. Let’s go to my office; your Heavenly Father’s waiting.”
Author’s Note: This is not a true story, as far as I know. Bullying in our middle schools continues to be an increasingly serious problem. Truly, only Jesus can bring it to an end.
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