Timothy Alden Young had always been called Tay by his mom. It was a nickname that had stuck with him all the way through middle school. Life had not been easy for Tay. He was the product of a broken home, being raised by his mother. He was also an only child and lacked the influence of another male during his formative years. Some would say he was a mom ma’s boy. Soft spoken and shy, he was a gentle soul. He loved animals and when he turned thirteen, began volunteering at the local animal shelter, spending hours with the stray pets. He found them a lot easier to get along with then people.
Tay had been dealt a bad hand at birth. A respiratory ailment had held him back from a lot of the physical activities normally taken for granted by his peers. And, as if that wasn’t enough to deal with, by second grade, he was wearing glasses. Big thick glasses. Pale and skinny, he tended to keep to himself. Needless to say, he had a lot on his plate. And as is often the case, being different meant being picked on.
It was therefore, with some trepidation that Tay stepped off the school bus to begin his first day of high school. His town only had one, so he knew he would be meeting a lot of kids from other middle schools that he had never met before. That was a little intimidating, considering what he had encountered to date. He had attended a couple of days of orientation earlier in the week, so he already had his class schedule and his locker assignment. Moving down the hall with a backpack full of textbooks and supplies, he walked to his locker. Upon arriving, he saw a group of boys standing around, one blocking his entry. They were older then he, and very large. Two wore varsity jackets with a football and their name emblazoned on the chest. The third was rummaging in his locker which was adjacent to Tay’s.
“Excuse me, I need to get to my locker” Tay said, pointing to the one behind the boy.
All three turned to look at him and no one moved. Instead, one said “Well what have we here? Did someone order a nerd”, at which they all laughed.
Tay tried again, attempting to walk around the boy. “Can I get in my locker please”
Again, the boy failed to move. “This section is assigned to athletes Wimpy. Unless we have a varsity kickball team, I’m guessing you ain’t one of those. You better check with your momma to make sure you’re in the right place”.
A bell was heard, summoning the students to their homerooms. None too soon for Tay. As the bigger boys moved away, he finally gained entrance to his locker and deposited his belongings. Thankful that the confrontation was over, he ran down the almost empty hall to his homeroom.
As the days wore on, it became obvious that Tay was to become the source of amusement for the jocks. They often congregated around the locker next to his which turned out to belong to the football teams star running back, Dan Anderson. He always had an admiring crowd around him, and he loved every minute of it. They all wanted to be like Dan, so whenever he would torment Tay, they would join in seeking his approval. They would needle Tay about his “coke bottle” glasses, sometimes grabbing them and passing them around while Tay would try unsuccessfully to retrieve them. It was also not unusual for them to knock his books on the floor or pull things out of his locker. Tay started excusing himself during class under the pretense of having to go to the bathroom, just so he could visit his locker quickly and avoid the hassle he knew awaited him between classes. But that didn’t help him in the cafeteria or on the school grounds. Tay lived in fright of running into Dan
One afternoon, after coming home from school, Tay told his mom that he was going to the library and would be back in an hour or so. With the screen door slamming behind him, he jumped on his bike and headed down the street. A block down, he turned into a wooded area that was a shortcut to the next block. Although rough, the path that had been beaten down over time was smooth enough to bike on with some care. Not too far into the woods, he heard what sounded like whimpering. Stopping to listen, he heard it again. Tay leaned his bike against a tree and began walking toward the source of the sound. Not too far away he discovered the sound was coming from a german shepherd concealed in the underbrush. As he approached, he could see that he was hurt, how badly he couldn’t tell. One leg was at an odd angle and he had a couple of cuts. It appeared that he had been hit by a car. The dog didn’t seem to be afraid of him nor was he aggressive. Tay stooped down and started patting and talking to him to comfort him. He noted he had no collar or tags, but it appeared he had worn one at one time.
“What am I going to do” Tay asked himself. I can’t leave him here. If I do, he could die. Quickly he assured the dog he would be right back and, straddling his bike rode as fast as he could back home, bursting into the kitchen, yelling for his mom. She came running from the living room with a look of alarm, fearing something bad had happened.
“Mom, you must come quick” Tay said. “There is a dog down in the woods that has been hurt bad. He needs to go to a vet. Please bring the car so we can take him. Please mom. He needs us”.
Seeing the hurt and anguish in her son’s eyes, his mother said “get in the car. I’ll get my keys and you can show me where he is”.
Together they drove down the block until Tay pointed and said “Stop. He’s in there.
Together they jumped from the car and entered the woods. Shortly they stood in front of the dog who, still whimpering, remained as Tay had left him.
“We have to help him mom. Can we put him in the car and take him to the vet”?
“How would we get him in the car” his mother said.
“I’ll carry him” Tay said, wondering silently how he was going to lift an 85 pound german shepherd. “I’ll meet you at the car mom”
His mother turned and ran back to the car as Tay surveyed the situation. Slowly, he moved behind the injured dog and slowly wiggled his arms under it’s torso. He tried to be gentle, but the dog still cried out in pain. Straining to regain his feet, Tay was barely able to stand, struggling to carry the dog. Slowly he made his way through the woods, constantly gentling the dog with his voice and assurances. Gaining the car, he saw his mother had taken a throw from the trunk and spread it on the back seat. Tay turned his back toward the car and sat down, swinging his legs and scooting across the seat until they were both inside. Closing the door, his mother jumped into the drivers seat and drove them to the vet.
It seemed like they had been waiting an eternity although it had only been about an hour when the vet came out to the waiting room and approached Tay and his mother. “He’s going to be OK” the vet said. “He’s a little banged up and he has one broken leg that I was able to reset. The owners have been called”.
Tay was surprised. “He didn’t have any tags. How do you know who he belongs to”
“He had a chip” the vet said. His name is Coby and he belongs to a family named Anderson. Do you know them”?
A chill ran down Tay’s spine. He only knew one Anderson, and that was Dan. Was it possible he had just saved his worst enemies dog?
“Well” Tay’s mom said. “I guess we can go now. It looks like Coby is in good hands and his owner will be here soon. What do you say”?
As they walked toward their car, a van pulled rapidly into the parking lot. Tay watched as Dan and his father jumped out and sprinted into the clinic.
The next morning, as he stepped down from the bus, Tay was surprised to see Dan Anderson standing on the sidewalk. All the usual emotions immediately kicked in and Tay lowered his head and tried to skirt around him.
“I want to talk to you” he heard Dan say.
“About my dog”
There was a long silence before Dan spoke again. “That was a pretty neat thing you did yesterday. Coby means a lot to me. I guess I owe you my thanks”.
Tay just stood and stared at Dan, not saying a word, not showing any emotion.
“Look” Dan continued. “I guess I owe you more then that. I’ve been kind of an asshole. But when I found out what you did for me, after all I’ve done to you, well, I had to let you know I appreciate it man. Holding out his hand he said “shake”?
Reluctantly Tay took his hand and shook it, still suspicious, but hoping for the best. Smiling, Dan threw his arm over Tay’s shoulder saying “Come on or we will both be late for class“.
As they walked together toward the school, Tay felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Maybe things were going to get better after yesterday. He heard Dan say “You know, if it had been your dog, I don’t what I would have done”.
Tay smiled and said “You know, if it had been you, I don’t know what I would have done either”.