When a Good Kid Gets Caught, Part 9
by Greg Wright
Chad couldn't believe what was happening. He rubbed his eyes furiously, but nothing helped. Tears streamed down his face. The acidic discharge from the skunk burned like cayenne pepper spray. The pungent odor choked and gagged him. Pain raced up and down his right leg. Now, he lay injured in a sink hole he couldn't see.
"What foolishness made me take off running blind?" he scolded himself. "Now, I'm trapped in this hole and no one knows where I am. How long does skunk blindness last? Will I be blind forever, for a few days, for a few minutes?"
Chad tried to remember what happened to his dog when he met a skunk, thinking that the affects on himself might be similar.
"When Philo got sprayed, his eyes watered. But, he was still able to see. I think I'll just wait here for a few minutes. Maybe my tears will be enough to wash this stuff out."
Chad was right. After about twenty minutes, he was able to see enough to get his bearings. "Well, the hole is deep but not so deep that I can't climb out of it. It could have been worse."
Cautiously, Chad tried to stand. But, his right leg was too injured to support his weight. "It looks like my right leg took the force of the fall. But, I can't stay here, I've got to get back to the road so that someone can find me and help me. I'll have to crawl out."
Chad carefully surveyed the sides of the hole. The smoother side was also the steepest and had few hand holds. However, the less steep side had shrubs and brush that could be use for support. Leaving his walking stick, he crawled up on his stomach, dragging his right leg. However, when he was almost at the surface, he ran out of handholds. The trunk of a small tree at the top was just barely out of his reach. When he tried to lunge for it, he missed and slid back down to the bottom of the hole, landing on his right leg. The pain was excruciating and Chad almost passed out.
Then, he noticed that his walking stick had a crook at the top, just the right size for grabbing the tree. "Hmm, that might work, but how can I carry my walking stick up the side of the bank when I need both hands for climbing?"
Chad picked up the stick and stuck it inside the back of his shirt. "Okay, it can ride there, and I'll pull it out when I get close to the top.
Again Chad climbed the bank. This time, when he ran out of hand holds, he pulled the stick out of his shirt and hooked it around the tree at the top. Then, he climbed, hand over hand, using the stick like a rope. At the top of the bank, he grabbed the tree and then hoisted himself onto the surface.
"Ah, once again I've been saved by my own cleverness," Chad thought out loud, once more taking no thought of God. "Now, all I have to do is get back to the road, wherever that is. Hmm."
Chad looked around, but it was impossible to locate the road lying down.
"I'll have to stand. This is going to hurt."
Chad crawled around until he found a thick kudzu vine that came all the way down to the ground. He grabbed it and pulled himself up, placing all his weight on his arms until he was high enough to put some of the weight on his left leg. He was glad he had earned his physical fitness merit; his efforts to meet the required number of pull-ups made his arms strong.
"I can see better, but I'm still not sure which way to go to get back to the road. I had better try to remember, whether when I left the road, I went uphill or downhill."
But, Chad couldn't remember. Then, he tried to find the area where he first encountered the skunk. "Ah, there it is. If I can just get back over there, I should be able to retrace my steps back to the road."
When he got to the site of the skunk attack, he circled it until he found an area of broken twigs and disturbed underbrush. It looked like a trail he might have made, so he followed it. It was much harder to crawl than to run, and Chad spent a great deal of time cutting away briers with his pocketknife.
Late in the afternoon he came to a creek. This really surprised him, and his confidence fizzled. "I don't remember seeing a creek before. Don't tell me I went the wrong direction." It was almost dark. He was exhausted from crawling, and his leg was throbbing with pain and getting worse.
Now, it was much colder and windier. To keep from shivering, he buttoned the top button of his shirt, zipped up his jacket, pushed up his collar, and sat up.
Suddenly, he heard a motorcycle and saw its lights through the trees. Quickly, he picked up a rock and put it in front of him to mark the direction in which he had seen the lights. Then, he looked up through the trees at the night sky. Not many stars were out, yet, but the waning moon was in almost the opposite direction as the motorcycle. He again looked ahead to where the motorcycle had been, searching for a landmark towards which he could crawl. There was a large broken poplar tree that had been struck by lightning. He would crawl towards it, keeping it ahead of him and the moon behind him. The road shouldn't be much further. But, he sighed as he looked at what lay between him and the tree, blackberry bushes, and not the thornless kind, either. There was no way for him to hack his way through those bushes with just a pocketknife. What could he do?
He decided to crawl along the edge of the blackberry thicket until he found less threatening vegetation. Then he crawled behind the thicket and made his way to the split poplar tree. Looking at his watch, it was now 9:00. He climbed behind the poplar tree and looked down a hill. From there, he could see the glimmering asphalt in the pale moonlight.
"Well Chad, congratulations, you've done it again. There's the road."
Carefully, Chad climbed downhill to the edge of the pavement. He hadn't been waiting long when a car passed by. The car slowed down when the driver saw Chad waving his arms. Then, the driver floored it and raced away. Chad was furious.
"Why did he do that? Does he think I'm a robber? Does he think I have buddies waiting in the woods to jump him if he stops to help me. Never mind, there will be someone else."
But, no one else came. There was no reason for anyone else to come; the park was closed. Chad tried to brace himself for what was likely to be a long cold night. He reflected on advice Commander Dave had given about taking hikes and bike rides. "Always tell someone where you are going." Now, he wished he had at least left a note on the table for his parents.
Meanwhile, at about eleven o'clock, Chad's parents returned from their trip. "Where's Chad?" his father growled, angrily. "It looks like he's let us down again." He immediately called Commander Dave."
"No, I haven't seen him all day," Commander Dave responded. "Is his bike missing."
Chad's father went to the garage to look. It was an expensive road bike, and whenever Chad wasn't riding it he always put it in the garage for safety. It was gone.
"Wherever he is, he took his bike," said Chad's father. Does Buzzy have any idea where he might be?"
"Let me go ask Buzzy. Then, I'll call you right back. I'll have to wake him up."
"No, don't do that."
"No problem, Chad might be in trouble. I'll call you back in a few minutes."
Commander Dave quickly walked to Buzzy's bedroom. "Buzzy, wake up," he said, gently shaking him.
"Ugh, I don't wanna go to school," said Buzzy. He turned over, away from his Dad. Commander Dave shook him again. "Come on Buzzy, wake up. I've got to talk to you." Buzzy sat up and rubbed his eyes.
"Buzzy, do you know where we might find Chad?"
"Probably in bed, like me. Now, can I go back to sleep?"
"Buzzy, Chad never returned home. Have you seen him today?"
"Yes, he came by here around four o'clock. But, when I told him I couldn't play with him, he got really angry and rode away. I don't know where he went after that."
"Does Chad have a special place he goes when he's angry?"
"Ugh, he might."
"What do you mean he might?" commander Dave yelled. "You know something, don't you?"
"Dad, don't get mad. I would be glad to tell you, but it's a secret. Chad made me promise not to tell."
"It's some place where Chad is not supposed to go, right?"
"Son, you never, ever promise to conceal wrong doing. This was a sin from the very moment you made the promise. Now, Chad may be in danger. You have information that could help us find him, but you've bound yourself with a promise you never should have made."
"That might be true, Dad, but it's still a promise. I can't break a promise! You said, yourself, that for a Royal Ranger to be faithful to his friends, he has to keep his promises."
Commander Dave scratched his head reflectively. "Of all the times for Buzzy to start listening to my devotions, he has to pick this one."
"Buzzy," said Commander Dave, "I'm proud that you want to be faithful to your friends by keeping your promises. We should always try to keep our promises. But, what if Chad is injured? What if he needs our help right now? What do you think Chad would want you to do?"
"Chad would want me to help you find him. But Dad, what about the promise?"
"Buzzy, your promise was a commitment to be faithful to Chad by concealing his secret. The issue, here, isn't as much the promise as it is your faithfulness to Chad. Now, in order for you to be truly faithful to Chad, you have to break this promise. Under these circumstances, it is the only right thing to do. This is one case where keeping your promise would be sin."
But Dad, why would keeping my promise be sin?"
"Buzzy, when you made this promise, you made a commitment to conceal evil. That was wrong. Ephesians 5:11 says that we are to expose evil. You are obligated to break this promise. However, even if the promise was not, itself, wrong, using this promise as an excuse to conceal this information vital to helping Chad would violate the command to love your neighbor as yourself. What do you think Chad would want you to do? Don't you think he would want you to get help for him as fast as you could?"
"Dad, that sort of makes sense. But I have a hard time with thinking I have to break one rule in order to obey another. I'm not sure that this is really the way God wants us to think."
"Hmm, I see your point, son. Fortunately, there is a chapter in The Bible that deals specifically with what to do when kids make bad promises. It's in Numbers chapter 30."
"Dad, what were you doing reading Numbers?"
"Hey, I'm a Math major."
"Never mind. Anyway, Numbers 30 says that if my wife or daughter makes a careless promise, I can annul it. That is, I can release her from the promise. Now, although this chapter does not specifically mention boys, since the wife stands in a higher position of authority than the child, it makes sense that this would apply to boys as well. Does this sound right to you."
"Yes sir, it does."
"Okay Buzzy, hear this. On the authority of The Word of God, as your father, I hereby release you from your promise to Chad. Now, where is Chad?"
"Chad rides on the back road to Ferguson Park. Let's go get him."
"Oh no you don't. You're going back to bed. Chad's father and I will look for him."
"No Dad, I can help you. You need me."
Commander Dave looked at Buzzy doubtfully, then relented. "All right, hurry up then. Put on some shoes and get a big coat."
In a feat never since repeated, Buzzy got dressed in sixty seconds. Together they got the pickup and went over to get Chad's father. Buzzy sat in the middle.
There were no cars and no streetlights on the back road to Ferguson Park. Commander Dave drove slowly with his lights on bright. Chad's father held a flashlight out the window. But, they drove all the way to the park gate without finding any sign of Chad.
"Buzzy, do you know anywhere else he might be?"
"He could be over at the Bradley's farm, messing around. But he's more likely here. Dad, you've got to turn around to get out, anyway. Please drive more slowly this time."
Commander Dave reduced his speed to about ten miles per hour. Suddenly, Buzzy saw a movement.
"Dad, back up, I think I saw something."
Commander Dave backed up the truck, and Chad, suddenly aroused from sleep, squinted his eyes against the glare of the lights."
"It's Chad!" exclaimed his father. He jumped out of the truck and knelt beside him."
"Son, what happened. Are you okay?"
"It's a long story, Dad. My right leg hurts real bad. Would you..."
Suddenly, Chad's body was wracked by pain with such force, that it was too much for his brain, and he passed out in his father's arms.
"Dave, Chad just lost consciousness!"
"Son, wake up! Wake up! Please, please wake up."