10-year-old Steve didn’t mind getting his arm broken while standing up to a group of bullies at school. What he didn’t expect was for a dozen policemen to come looking for him at the hospital.
Little Steve was looking out the bedroom window, waiting. He could see the highway at the far end of the horizon, where bright headlights were zipping past each other.
In a car cruising along the highway that night, a couple was sharing a comfortable silence.
“You know what? Let’s take that trip to Bora Bora,” Derek offered his hand to his wife, who sat next to him in the car.
“Woah, where did that come from?” Esther asked teasingly.
“I don’t want to wait to retire to…live my life! Sometimes the damn job makes you forget that you have a family — a brilliant little boy and a beautiful wife…”
Esther playfully slapped the back of Derek’s palm. “So you went to one retirement party for a fellow police officer, and it changed your mind. That is very useful information!”
“I’m serious. Let’s take a break from the rut and—”
“Oh, so our lives are in a rut now?” Esther was amused by how her husband easily walked into traps.
“Well, not just any rut. A beautiful rut! Look, all I’m saying is, let’s enjoy our lives before we—”
The darkness of the winding road was interrupted by a blinding light that approached the car. There was no time to realize that an oncoming truck had skidded onto the wrong lane and smashed into the car. Rising from that flash of piercing brightness and screeching tires, the car flung in the air. For a millisecond, they knew. They locked hands, and then it was over.
Back home, Steve was in shock and awe at the distant sight of a flying car. ‘I can’t wait to tell dad about this!’ he thought, unaware of the brutal irony.
Don’t forget the life lessons that your loved ones sowed in you.
It had been four quiet years since that fatal accident. Nobody could take his parents’ place in Steve’s life, but his grandfather Joe was the only family he had left. And Joe was intent on raising Steve with just as much love and virtue as he had raised Derek.
“I wonder what Steve must be going through today…” Joe worried as he walked home from his son’s and daughter-in-law’s gravestones.
At the same time, Steve was in the local hospital, screaming in pain.
Joe drove to the hospital as soon as he got the anonymous call. Those dreadful words kept replaying in his head:
“Steve is hurt. He had to be rushed to the hospital. He’s asking for you. Don’t worry, sir, I’ll be here until you arrive.”
“Steve, my child!” Joe ran to his grandson, unintentionally waking him up from sleep. Joe hugged Steve carefully over his plastered right hand.
“What happened? Who is this man?”
Joe noticed that the stranger standing next to Steve was wearing a janitor’s uniform.
“Were you the one who called me? Did you have anything to do with this?”
“I…I didn’t hurt your son. But I’m part of the reason why he’s here,” the man replied.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Joe’s suspicion was increasing every passing second.
“It’s not his fault, grandpa. It was me.”
Steve lowered his gaze as he narrated what had happened: how he was sitting on the playground, minding his own business, how he felt triggered when he saw a bunch of boys repeatedly mocking and bullying the janitor, Pete, and how he tried to talk the boys into stopping but got pushed instead.
“That’s when I heard it,” Steve continued reluctantly. “I heard dad’s voice.”
“Be brave, Steve. You already know what’s right. Trust it.”
“So I tried to pull the boys away from Pete. I ultimately had to shove one of them away with all my strength. He locked onto my hand really tight, and we both landed on my right elbow as we hit the ground. That’s how I broke my hand.”
“Is this true, young man?” Pete nodded.
The janitor spoke clearly to ease the old man’s suspicion. “It was in the middle of an asthma attack that the boys started huddling around me. They tossed my inhaler away, and I was completely powerless when Steve saw me. Your grandson stood up for me when I was struggling to breathe. I wish I could pay him back or cover his treatment, but I’m not—”
“No, that’s not necessary at all, Pete. I helped you because my dad taught me to always be brave and do the right thing — without expecting any reward.”
Joe was misty-eyed listening to Steve. He was starting to sound more and more like his late father.
Just as Steve, Joe, and Pete started to walk out after completing the hospital formalities, a group of 12 policemen showed up in the ward. Every spine in the ward straightened up at the sight of the uniformed officers.
“Steve?” one of the policemen asked, flashing his official identification. Steve nodded nervously. Had the school complained about him? Was he going to go to jail?
“Come with us, please. There’s someone we’d like you to meet.”
Onlookers tried not to stare as the police officers walked behind the boy and the two men.
Just as they approached the police van, a police dog was let out of it. Steve smiled at the canine but immediately brought back a grim expression on his face. ‘I shouldn’t be thinking about playing with a dog right now. I might be going to jail!’
But the dog was just too friendly to ignore. He started wagging his tail around Steve, trying to jump on him and lick his face.
Steve forgot all about being in the middle of a tense situation and simply embraced the dog.
“It looks like he likes you!”
“I like him, too! I didn’t know police dogs could be this friendly…”
“Well, he’s yours, kid.”
Steve thought the policeman was joking.
“Robin here had to retire early from being a police dog because of an illness. Now that he’s all healed, he must return to his closest human family.”
Robin…Steve had heard that name before. He looked at his grandfather and found him already in tears.
One of the policewomen patted Joe’s back, trying to console the old man.
“We all loved Derek. Four years and it still feels weird talking about him in the past tense.”
Turning to Steve, she continued: “But today, when Joe told us over the phone about how you had stood up for your school janitor, we knew it was time to introduce you to Robin.”
That’s when Steve remembered who Robin was. Months before his death, Derek had been raving about a new police dog that had been assigned to him.
“He’s fierce, that little thing. And he’s already taken a liking to me. We hang out all the time, Robin and I,” Derek had once said.
“Maybe we’ll get you a dog at some point, Stevie!” Esther chipped in, knowing how much her son loved to play with dogs.
“Can I please have Robin as my dog? Please, please, please!!” Steve begged his father.
“Maybe someday…” Derek said, a few months before he breathed his last.
What do we learn from this story?
Don’t forget the life lessons your loved ones sowed in you. Steve’s beloved parents were no more, but he never forgot the values his father taught him.
Adopt a dog if you can. There is so much love to give and receive from dogs who need a human companion. Bring a new furry friend home and begin a lifetime of the most unconditional friendship.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.
If you enjoyed this story, you might like this one about an old widower who thought he lost everyone, but soon discovered a loving young companion left behind by his departed wife.
This piece is inspired by stories from the everyday lives of our readers and written by a professional writer. Any resemblance to actual names or locations is purely coincidental. All images are for illustration purposes only.