The Adventures of Billy and Bobby
Book 3, Chapter 5
A Lesson From Patch
by Greg Wright

It had rained the night before, and the air was still wet. Yet, Bobby wanted to walk to school today. As he made his way, the icy wind cut through his thin cotton tee shirt, and, although he hated to wear a jacket, this was one time he missed it. He sped up to get to school faster. Then, when he was halfway there, he noticed a red jacket bobbing up and down.

"What now!" he thought, as he recognized it was Daniel and ran towards him.

"Daniel, what are you doing?" He shouted. The fierce wind almost drowned him out.

"I've lost pages out of my book report," Daniel shouted back. "Go on, or you'll be late for school."

"You'll never find them in this wind," Bobby warned.

"I have to find them," Daniel replied, "I spent three hours writing that report."

"Three hours on a book report," Bobby wondered out loud. "Either this report is very good or this guy is incredibly slow."

"I'll find it," Daniel said. "I don't want to make you late for school."

"I'll help you find it," Bobby insisted.

"Suit yourself," Daniel replied.

Bobby raced past Daniel and found the papers impaled against the long sharp leaves of a yucca bush.

"Look," Daniel moaned, when he caught up to Bobby. "The papers are ruined."

"No they're not," Bobby insisted. "Besides, if the yucca bush had not stopped them, you might not have gotten anything back. Come on, let's hurry."

They both ran as fast as they could, but it wasnít enough to get them to school on time. Mrs. Warren was not impressed with their explanation and demanded that they spend time after school, as punishment for being tardy.

"It's your own fault," Daniel chided. "I told you to go on."

Bobby, now used to having his kindness taken for granted, shrugged his shoulders and said, "you're welcome."

Daniel just shook his head.

The time after school passed by quickly. Daniel and Bobby cleaned blackboards, erasers, and counter tops. Then they cleaned all the debris out of the desks and emptied the trash.

When they were finally able to walk home Daniel commented. "I don't understand why you helped me, today. Are you in Boy Scouts; was I your good deed for the day?"

"It was the right thing to do," Bobby responded.

"Well, I still don't understand, but I should thank you, I guess," Daniel replied. "But why do you continue to be kind to me when I give you no encouragement, whatsoever."

"You remind me of Patch," Bobby replied.

"Patch?"

"Yes, I learned a great lesson from Patch. Patch was a collie who lived on my Uncle Ben's farm. She was a stray that just kind of took up there. Aunt Clara was not one to let any animal starve, and with her regular feedings of table scraps, Patch soon came to regard the farm as her home. But Uncle Ben ignored her."

"Clara's pet," he called her, "let Clara take care of her."

"But when summer came and I arrived for my annual visit to the farm, I was thrilled to have a dog to play with. Patch was a dog you could be rough with. She was tough and seemed to never tire, even in the summer heat. We would wrestle. That was too easy, since she had no way to hold me down. For more of a challenge, we would play keep away with an old tennis ball. Other times, we would just run to see who could go the fastest. Believe it or not, sometimes I won. But my favorite thing was to pull on her ear and make her chase me. Then, if she outran me, she would jump on me and make me fall down. I would laugh uncontrollably as she licked me all over. That must be why Aunt Clara so often commented that Patch and I smelled just alike. We were such great pals that every morning she would wait for me on the back porch."

"Sounds like a fun dog."

"She was fun, until one day, without meaning to, I hurt patch. She reacted to the pain by biting me in the face a couple of times. Because I was little, I got really scared and screamed. Uncle Ben and Aunt Clara ran out to see what was wrong. They seemed to panic."

"I guess they were very worried about you."

"Worried and angry. I have never seen Uncle Ben so angry or his face get as red as it was when I told him what Patch had done. He went and got a rope and took patch away. Aunt Clara took me inside to bandage me and clean me up. She had just finished when the morning stillness was shattered by the sound of a single gunshot, quickly followed by a horrible yelping sound, and another shot. Then the yelping stopped."

"No, Uncle Ben, no!" I screamed. But it was too late. Patch was gone. I buried my head in Aunt Clara's apron and cried.

"Patch didn't mean to bite me, I hurt her some how," I insisted.

"I know you loved Patch," Aunt Clara said as she held on to me, "but we can't keep a dog that bites you."

I didn't want to see Uncle Ben when he came back, I was so angry with him for shooting Patch. But when he returned holding the dogís collar, I was surprised.

"Patch's collar?" Aunt Clara asked.

Uncle Ben nodded as he dropped it on the floor.

I walked over to pick it up. Part of it was covered with blood.

"If I had only known this, I would not have shot her," Uncle Ben sighed. "Her collar was too tight and no one had adjusted it. The collar had grown into her neck. Her skin had grown around it, partly covering it. It was so covered with fur that we didn't even know she had a collar. Iím afraid that she must have bravely endured incredible pain, playing with Bobby. Today, it was just more than she could handle. Bobby I'm sorry. Can you forgive me? Patch didnít need to die."

Uncle Ben looked so sad that I forgot my anger and readily forgave him. That afternoon, we buried Patch. I cried again, wishing that I hadn't hurt her, blaming myself. But Uncle Ben and Aunt Clara reassured me that it wasn't my fault."

Then, Uncle Ben took the collar and built a frame around it. In explaining why, he said. "Patch bit and hurt Bobby, but it was because there was something under her skin that was hurting her. Sometimes people are mean and irritating. When they are, we get angry and sometimes we want to get back at them. But, we have no idea what it is, under their skin, that makes them mean. Since we never know what is under another person's skin, we have to learn to forgive them and love them, no matter how they treat us."

"Daniel," Bobby continued, "I know that there is something bothering you. I know there's something under your skin that makes you not want to trust me."

Daniel hung his head. "I wish I could explain, but I can't."

"It's okay. But, I donít want to force myself on you; If you donít want my help, Iíll back off."

Daniel was silent as, in his mind, his longing to welcome Bobby as a new friend fought against his deepest fears of future rejection.

"About the bullies," Bobby began, breaking the silence, "when they bug you, do you want me to stay out of it?"

"If you will give me a chance to solve the problem myself, first," Daniel responded. "Then, if itís more than I can handle..."

"Then what?"

"Then, beat the cr..." Daniel stopped to rephrase his response. "Then, I'll welcome your intervention and even be grateful for it."

"You've got a deal," Bobby said, as he extended his hand for Daniel to shake.

Firmly taking his hand, Daniel was excited. But a storm raged in his tortured mind. "How could he let his guard down, like that. Would Bobby really be someone he could trust? Was it worth it, to risk being hurt again? How could he be sure? How could he know?"

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