When a Good Kid Gets Caught, Part 8
Keeping Promises
by Greg Wright

Buzzy lay flat on his back while buzzards circled over him. Next to him lay a dead rabbit, the real object of the buzzardís interest. But, Buzzy hoped to lure them in close by playing dead so he could scare them. He kept still, taking only shallow breaths. His body was tense, ready to move quickly if one of the buzzards tried to dive-bomb him. The birds circled closer.

Suddenly, Buzzy heard a roar and felt something biting through his shirt. He screamed, kicked, and twisted to get free, but the creature held him down. Finally, he broke free and started to run.

Then, he heard a familiar and teasing laugh. "Hey, buzzard meat, what do you think youíre doing?" It was Chad. Realizing what Buzzy was up to, he had quietly parked his bike several feet away and carefully sneaked up on him.

Buzzy flopped back down on the ground in relief. "You turkey, I thought the buzzards had me. You got me good."

"You had better be glad it was me," said Chad. "In fact, you probably want to find a different hobby. You could get an eye pecked out doing that."

"I guess youíre right," said Buzzy. "I probably wonít try this again. So, what are you up to."

"Nothing much," remarked Chad. "Mom and Dad will be out of town till late tonight, and I promised them that I would stay in the neighborhood. Do you want to play a video game or something?"

"No," replied Buzzy.

"Oh okay," said Chad, a little surprised at Buzzyís answer. "Maybe youíd rather do something outside. Do you want to throw a football or shoot some hoops?"

"Yes, I want to, but I canít," responded Buzzy. "Dad says that I canít play with you anymore, at least not until you change your ways and come back to church."

"What, your Dad said that? I thought he was my friend. I donít understand."

"He is your friend, Chad, and he likes you a lot. But he got really mad at you when you tried to get me to sneak out the night that Tommy got killed. He said that was the last straw."

Chad turned away angrily. "You all are just a bunch of do-gooders. I donít need you. If thatís the way you want to be, fine; Iím out of here."

He climbed back on his bike, jumped a ditch, and pedaled away, refusing to look back at Buzzy who called after him. He left Buzzyís neighborhood and drove down the highway away from town. Of course, in doing this he broke his promise to his parents, but he was so angry he didnít care. Besides, there was plenty of time to get back home before his parents returned.

After about three miles, he took a road that veered off the highway, a quiet road that dead-ended at a state park. After riding a few more miles, Chad calmed down and started to enjoy the ride. Then, one of his tires went flat.

"What bad luck!" he complained. "Normally, I would have a tube repair kit with me on a long trip like this, but I thought I was just going to Buzzyís house. This is his fault."

Chad got off his bike and began pushing it towards home. After about twenty minutes of pushing, his muscles ached, especially his back.

Up ahead of him an old gray Chevrolet pulled over to the side of the road, and two young guys got out. Chad immediately felt uneasy and nervous.

"Iím okay." He yelled, trying to send them on their way.

While one stayed by the car, one of them walked towards him. "Whatís the matter dude, you got a flat? I think I have a pump in the trunk; youíre welcome to use it."

Chadís mind immediately cried out from all the warning he had received about interacting with strangers out on the road. But since his aching arms and back cried louder, he let the stranger come. The stranger returned to his car to get the pump.

Chad wondered whether he was perceptive enough to look at a person and see his character. The young man looked like your normal country boy on a Saturday. His hair was a little long. He hadnít shaved that morning. He wore jeans, work boots, and a tee shirt. He didnít smell bad and didnít really act weird, as far as he could tell. Anyway, now with a flat, Chad just wanted to get back home.

"My name is Arnold, but my friends call me Skippy," said the man. He extended his hand to Chad."

Chad pretended not to see Skippyís hand and laid his bike on the ground.

"Which tire is it? Oh, I see itís the back one. Here, put this in your pocket," said Skippy, handing Chad the valve cover."

"Do you come out here often?" asked Skippy, trying to make conversation.

"Yeah, all the time," said Chad, lying in order to make himself appear less vulnerable. Chad relaxed a little.

"You should bring your fishing rod, next time. I caught a bass down at the pier last week. There, I think the tire is pumped; letís see how she holds."

Chad, no longer nervous, placed his ear close by the tire. He listened to the sickening sound of the air leak. There was no doubt, this tire would not get him far at all.

"Well, this doesnít look good," observed Skippy. "But, you know what, I think I have a bike tube in my trunk. My buddy and I bring our bikes down here sometimes, and I think I have a tube that will fit. Why donít you run over to Nick and tell him to get the tube out of the trunk for you."

"Oh great, thanks," said Chad. He ran over to Nick, who was still standing by the car. However, he stopped a few feet away. Something about Nick made him uneasy.

"Sir, Skippy said there was a bike tube in the trunk. Would you get it for me."

"Sure," said Nick." He turned around and opened the trunk and held the lid.

"I have to hold the lid; it wonít stay up," said Nick. "Just reach in and get it."

Chad really didnít like this situation. "Since you know where it is, why donít you let me hold the lid and you reach in and get it."

"No can do," replied the man. "I have a bad back and canít bend over like that. Hey, youíre not worried about me are you. Weíre just a couple of country boys out killing some time. I live on a farm about two miles from here. You probably passed by it; it has a white house with a green roof. Besides, I have to be one of the good guys; Iím wearing a white hat." He smiled and took off his hat.

"Sorry," said Chad, returning his smiling. Itís just that you canít be too careful out here.

Chad bent over and reached into the trunk, not realizing that Skippy was standing right behind him.

"Itís all the way in the back, probably in the left corner under the cardboard," said Nick.

Chad stretched himself and reached as far as he could.

"Oh here, I think I have it."

"Now!" yelled Skippy."

Suddenly Chad felt someone lifting his legs off the ground and pushing them into the trunk. Chad kicked wildly. Soccer had left his legs strong. He kicked Skippyís hands away and knocked him in the teeth. Chad was almost out of the trunk when he heard the click of a switchblade knife.

"Get in now or Iíll kill you," said Nick. "He grabbed Chad by the back of the belt and held the knife close to his neck.

"Why?" pleaded Chad.

"Letís just say that we plan to have some fun and we would hate for you to miss it. Now, get in." Nick held the back of the knife against Chadís neck until Chadís head was halfway in.

"Okay, okay, just let me get comfortable," said Chad. "He slowly moved his hand towards a partially exposed crow bar. Nick was no longer holding the knife at Chadís neck but still had it in his hand.

Chad grabbed the crow bar and struck Nick in the groin. The knife fell from Nickís hand as he doubled over in pain. Then, Chad stuck Skippy in the face, climbed out of the trunk and ran.

Slim and deer-like, he raced through the woods. Once he was sure that he was way ahead of them, he stopped and looked back. He could see them about 200 feet away, but they couldnít see him. Noting the direction they were headed, he took a different path up a hill. From there, he was able to see them when they returned to their car and drove away.

Chad just lay in the grass while his heart pounded. Then, he smiled.

"Hey, Iím getting good at this," he said out loud. "Once again, Iíve been in a dangerous situation and walked away unharmed. When Tommy was driving too fast and recklessly, I was smart enough to get out of the car. And just now, when these men tried to kidnap me, I was clever enough to get away."

Chad stood up and walked back towards his bike. "I am sick and tired of trying to please everyone else. I donít need God, Rangers, Commander Dave, or Buzzy. I just need myself. Rangers talks about being ready for anything. With my quick mind and strong body, I am ready for anything. "Come on danger, wherever you are; youíve met your match."

Chad decided to leave his bike and walk home without it. He would tell his parents that his bike was stolen and find it later, when he had help to bring it home. He noted the road marks around where his bike was located and dragged it into the brush, just far enough to where Chad would be able to see it later but hidden enough so that folks driving by would not be likely to notice it. But for now, he would walk home, just barely inside the woods, so that he wouldnít be visible from the road if the two kidnappers returned.

Chad hadnít walked far when he heard a rustling in the brush. He walked towards it to investigate. From what he could see, it looked like a persian cat. Chad had no use for cats at all, although he thought they could be useful in fishing for sharks.

"Ah, the big cat is terrorizing the little field mice," he said. "Letís teach the mean old cat a lesson." Chad sneaked over to the thicket where the cat was hidden. Then he jumped almost on top of the cat, bent over, and growled.

How surprised Chad was to hear a sound that more resembled an amplified mouse squeek than a cat. Then he saw it. The black and white striped tail went straight up into the air and before Chad had time to blink, the skunk squirted him in the eyes.

His eyes stang, as if someone had squirted him with shampoo. He couldnít see, and the smell made him choke.

This time Chad was really scared. He could possibly make it back to the road and solicit help, but how was he to do that without his sight. Chad had no idea how long he would be blind. He didnít realize that skunk blindness usually doesnít last more than twenty minutes. "Maybe if I listen for cars," he thought to himself.

But, he didnít hear anything. Finally, he decided to try to walk. He walked very slowly, feeling carefully with his feet and waving his arms. Eventually, he found himself a walking stick. This helped a little, but not enough.

Suddenly, he felt the ground beneath him give way, and he tumbled down, landing on a bunch of rocks. Pain shot through his right leg. He tried to stand but couldnít. When he felt around with his walking stick, he was surrounded on all sides. He was blind and trapped.

Later that evening, at Buzzyís house, after Buzzy had gone to bed, Commander Dave received a telephone call. "Dave, this is Chadís father. Have you or Buzzy seen Chad. Itís after midnight and heís not home."

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