by Sarah Kourkoulis

The door to Charlie’s bedroom opened slowly and the morning light that streamed in caused him to bury his head under the covers. Then came the sound of paws on the wooden floor and he felt a weight land on his legs. Of course, it didn’t stay there, but made its way to the head of the bed, and began digging at his blankets looking for him. He peeked out, only to be met by a wet nose and an even wetter tongue.

“Oooh, Cooper. Oh man, come here puppy!” Charlie sat up, ready to grab the Golden Retriever puppy, but the little guy was headed down the hall with his dirty sock. Charlie laughed, and saw his mom grab the sock before Coop could shred it to bits like he’d done to the last seven.

“You up Charlie? Come on, honey. You gotta get ready for school,” his mom called.

“I’m up Mom. Cooper’s so funny, isn’t he?” He sat on his bed, still thrilled at the idea of finally having his very own dog. Cooper had been here for three weeks, so this was still pretty new. And he loved waking up that way, to a happy, cuddly puppy.

“Yes he is. But you gotta get going now. Get dressed, and wash your face. Then come on out here for breakfast,” his mom said from the kitchen.

Charlie went through his morning routine blissfully happy. There was just no reason to be sad, not with Cooper playing with his shoelaces, and racing around the bathroom and hallway like his tail was on fire.

Then came the hardest part: saying good-bye. He hated that he couldn’t bring Coop to school with him, but he knew there was no way. So, he scratched his belly and told him that he loved him, and he’d be home soon.

He walked to school, where he was in third grade. Mrs. Klein was a great teacher, and his class was pretty nice, so mostly going to school was okay. And he really liked the walk. He got to see Mr. and Mrs. Martin, who lived on top of the hill, and they had three dogs and two cats. Sometimes on the way home from school, he would stop and play with them, which had been the best times ever until he got Coop. And past the railroad tracks, there was a cemetary that was pretty scary at night, but when he was walking, he liked looking at the pretty trees and the squirrels and bluejays that yelled at each other all the time.

Today, as he got past the cemetary, he saw Ken and Mike standing by the big oak tree on Mr. Stevens’ lawn. They were in fifth grade, big kids who liked to scare the younger ones at recess. They watched him as he walked by. He kept his eyes straight forward, trying desperately not to act as scared as he was.

Charlie felt them get on either side of him, and his heart started racing. They’d never teased him before, so he wasn’t sure what was going on.

“Sizemore, that’s your name, isn’t it?” Ken asked, sneering out the words.
Charlie nodded.

Mike laughed. “Well, they sure named you wrong. Size More? More than who? An ant?!” Both kids burst out laughing.

Charlie was terrified and confused. They didn’t live around here. Where had they come from? And what on earth did they want?

“Sizemore, we think you should live up to your name, don’t you? And since you don’t, we think we should do something about it.” Ken grabbed his shoulder and turned him around to face him. Charlie looked up, his face drawn and pale. He was shaking like a leaf.

“How ‘bout we make some deal, huh? How ‘bout you give us fifty cents every day and we don’t beat you up? How ‘bout that?” Ken bent low over him, his face just inches away. Charlie felt tears rising up in his eyes and he could do nothing to stop it.

“I’ll, I’ll tell my mom!” He knew his mom would protect him and make these guys stop.

Mike shoved him from the back. “Your mom! We don’t care what she does. She can’t hurt us!”

Charlie thought a second and said “My dad could! My dad could hurt you real bad!”
Ken grabbed both arms and squeezed. Charlie cried out. “Listen, punk. You tell anyone what’s going on, and we’ll hurt your dog. That new puppy. We’ll hurt him so bad, you’ll wish you hadn’t told anyone! Got it?” He didn’t let go until Charlie nodded, crying full tears now, the sobs coming out loudly. “Good! Come on Mike, we gotta get to school.”

The big kids ran off, and Charlie leaned against the tree. He suddenly realized that his pants were wet. He’d wet himself, he’d been so scared. Embarrassment caused his face to turn beet red, and he cried harder. He didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t tell anyone what had happened because of Cooper. Cute little Cooper. Those kids wouldn’t be allowed to hurt his puppy. He just was so scared and he wanted his mom, and he wanted his dad to beat up Ken and Mike. And he was wet, and he couldn’t go to school.

Charlie sat down, brought his knees to his chest and thought what to do. He couldn’t come up with any ideas. The day that had started so very well had simply dissolved and he couldn’t think of anything. Then he noticed a car slowing down by the cemetary. The car looked familiar. It was his dad!

The car stopped right in front of him, and his dad jumped out. “Charlie! Honey, what’s wrong? The teacher called, and said you hadn’t come into class. Your mom, she’s worried- Why Charlie, what happened?”

Charlie just sat under the tree, his face red as a tomato, tears streaming down. He didn’t get up at all; he was still wet and embarrassed. His dad came over and sat down by him and put his arm around him. “Tell me what happened.”

And suddenly, he remembered that his dad was bigger than Ken and Mike and that he would take care of Cooper and make sure everything was okay. Everything came out then, in short, jagged sentences, about what the boys had said, and what Charlie had said, and how they said they would hurt his puppy. And finally, he told his dad about how he’d wet himself.

All through it, Charlie felt his dad’s arm tighten, and his other hand just kept patting his head. He’d never felt so safe before in his life.

“Charlie, don’t you worry, okay? We’re going to go home now, and you can change, and then I’ll take you to school. Don’t worry about those boys. And don’t worry about Cooper. Nothing is going to happen to him, okay?”

Charlie nodded. He got in the car, and they went home. While he changed in his bedroom, he heard his mom and dad talking. They didn’t sound very happy at all, and his mom sounded like she was going to cry. She only sounded like that when she was really upset. He sat on his bed for a couple of minutes and pet Cooper, who had no idea what was going on. It was so nice to have him. Charlie gave him a big hug right then, which Coop didn’t like very much, but he covered Charlie’s face with kisses which made him laugh like crazy.

There was a knock on his door, and then his dad poked his head in. “Are you ready Charlie? I’ll take you to school now.”

As they drove there, Charlie started to worry again. “Dad, the kids will know I told you. Are you sure they won’t hurt Cooper?”

His dad nodded. “I won’t let it happen, Charlie. You’re my son, and I’m on your side. They won’t be able to get through me, okay?”

Charlie nodded.

When they got to the school, they first went to his classroom, and his dad talked to Mrs. Klein for a minute in the hall. Charlie didn’t know what his dad was going to do next, but he was sure that it would all work out okay. He went in and sat at his desk, and tried to forget about everything that had happened.

At recess, Mike and Ken didn’t come outside. Some of the kids said that they’d been taken to the principal’s office and they were in big trouble. Charlie knew what that was about, but he didn’t say anything.

His mom came to meet him at school, and they walked home together. She told him that his dad had gone to the principal and told him what the boys had done to Charlie. The boys were sent for, and his dad stayed in the office while the principal asked them about it. At first they said that they didn’t know what the men were talking about, but then Mike started crying. He said that he was sorry, and that he and Ken had done that to four other little kids. The principal didn’t say anything, and then Ken started crying and saying he was sorry too. Charlie’s dad had leaned over and put a hand on each of their shoulders and they were trembling. He said that they should talk to the kids they’d threatened and tell them they were sorry, and then he said that he never wanted to hear that they had done that again.

The next day, his dad asked him if he wanted a ride to school. Charlie said yes. Yesterday’s encounter was too fresh for him still, and as they drove past Mr. Stevens’ house, Charlie looked to see if Mike and Ken were there. They weren’t, and he felt a little better.

At recess, he was on the jungle gym when the two boys found him. He didn’t want to come down, so he stayed right where he was, looking down at them. They looked awkward and kind of shy, not at all like yesterday. Ken spoke first.
“Hey Charlie, I’m sorry for what I did yesterday. For saying what I did about your puppy. And well, for everything.”

Mike shifted a little. “Me too, Charlie. I’m sorry too.”

Charlie climbed down to where they stood. “I forgive you.”

They all just stayed where they were for a second, not sure what to do. Charlie went first. “Hey, you guys want to come over after school and play with Cooper? He’s pretty nice, and he loves to play.”

Ken’s face brightened. “Really? I love dogs. My parents won’t let me get one. But I don’t think I can come over today. Maybe tomorrow?”

Mike nodded. “Can I come over tomorrow too?”

Charlie was certain it would be okay. Everything would be just fine, because his dad had made sure of it.

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? BACK_TO_TOP