This story is by Brenda Cyr and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Greg, are these drugs?”
Looking up at his Mom, Greg replied, “You have no business going through my stuff.”
“I was cleaning your wheelchair; I wasn’t going through your stuff. You won’t clean it, and it reeks after a few days.”
“I’m 15 now, and you need to respect me and leave my stuff alone!”
“That’s a conversation for another time. What’s in here looks like drugs.”
“It’s not mine! Denny asked me to keep something for him. It is a surprise for his sister and didn’t want her to find it.”
Greg looked away, hoping she couldn’t see his lie. He hadn’t considered getting caught. It seemed simple, stash an envelope in the pocket of his wheelchair, go where he was told, they took it, and then continue with his day. Honestly, it was the most fun he had ever had. People smiled at him. He would joke with the other guys and laugh at each other’s bad jokes. Denny offered him a chance to fit in. With some luck, he could even get into the Insiders Club. Members of the Club wore a special armband and had emblems on their jackets. They hung out together after school, and always had girls with them. Rolling down the hallways, someone would always high-five him, smile or say hi. Sometimes girls looked right at him, not at his wheelchair. It felt good after a lifetime of people looking only at his wheelchair, never at him.
“I’m going to call the police. They will know what to do about this.”
“Mom, please don’t.” Greg was shaking his head. “I told you I didn’t know what was in the envelope. Please, listen to me, just once…”
“What is going on?” Greg’s Dad entered the room, looking from Greg to his wife, then back to Greg.
“I found these drugs stashed in his chair.”
“What? What the hell is going on?”
“Dad, let me explain.” Greg felt his chest tighten. “One of the guys at school asked me to keep something for him. He said it was a surprise for his sister. I never looked at it. I promise I didn’t.”
“We need to call the police. I won’t have drugs in my home.”
“Hold on, honey,” Greg’s Dad spoke in a soft tone. “Greg, what is this kid’s name?”
“Have we met Denny? Isn’t he the kid that got caught breaking into Mr. Robin’s store? Call him and tell him to come over here right now.”
Greg made the call, and Denny arrived quickly. Greg’s shoulders sagged as he watched his Dad answer the door, envelope in hand.
“Look, I don’t know what’s in here, but I do know that you are taking advantage of my son. If I ever catch you talking to him, even so much as looking at him, I will be the one you deal with. And believe me, you will wish I had called the police.”
Denny didn’t make eye contact as he grabbed the envelope and ran.
Greg felt nauseated. Denny will tell everybody about what happened, that he got caught, that he was a loser, just like they had always thought. Greg, that loser who eats lunch all by himself. The guy that sees all the pretty girls stroll by without noticing him. The kid that could never quite get anything right and was always stumbling over his words. At least tomorrow was Saturday, and he wouldn’t need to face it yet.
The following morning, Greg’s Dad came back from running errands with a big smile on his face. “I got you a surprise, Greg.”
Suddenly, a big ball of black and white fur was bounding up the ramp to the front door. She stopped in her tracks when she saw Greg. She dropped down and let out a small whimper. Greg held out his hand, and the dog slithered over to him on her belly.
“This is Sue. My friend said she needed a good home, and I figured you might need a new friend. She got herself into a bit of trouble at her other home, but she will be fine here.”
Greg reached down to rub her ears, and 35 lbs. of dog leaped up on his lap and started licking him. Greg’s face lit up, beaming at both his Dad and his newfound friend.
Monday morning came too soon. Greg dawdled as he got ready for school, trying to delay the inevitable. Arriving late for class, he attempted to sneak into the back of the class. His trembling fingers tried to open his bookbag, but his pens and pencils flew out and rolled over the floor. Everyone turned to stare at him. Greg imagined he could hear whispers under their breath. Lunch was lonelier than expected; no one stopped to talk or even looked his way.
Greg arrived home to find Sue waiting for him at the door. She yelped with glee when she saw him, and her wet kisses washed away some of the pain of the day. It didn’t take long for them to become inseparable. Sue never let Greg out of her sight, and they both relished outings to the park, playing fetch, and just hanging out. Greg’s sense of isolation vanished as his fluffy friend turned into his best buddy.
One afternoon, at the park, Greg heard a voice behind him.
“Hey, aren’t you in my science class?”
Greg looked up and saw Veronica, one of the most beautiful girls in school.
“Yes, I sit at the back,” he sputtered.
“That’s a great dog you have. What’s her name?”
“This is Sue. Wow, your dog is huge! What’s his name?”
Standing beside Veronica was a cream-colored full-size poodle. “ Louie. I named him after Louis the Great, King of France. I bet he can run faster than your dog!”
Greg looked over at Louie and noticed he was missing a front leg. “I don’t think that would be fair, I mean, he only has three legs. That would be like you challenging me to a race.”
Sue jumped up and dropped the ball on Greg’s lap. Veronica grabbed the ball and said,“ Watch this.” She threw the ball, and both dogs took off. Louie’s long legs easily outpaced Sue’s shorter ones, and she happily shared her ball as they raced back with it. “You see, Louie doesn’t know he’s missing a leg. To him, having three legs is normal; he goes on about his life. Nobody ever told him that he couldn’t do things. I let him try, and he goes ahead and figures out a way to do it.”
A group of kids rode by on their bicycles. Greg could hear the comments as they passed, about the gimpy kid in the wheelchair, and a 3-legged dog. Greg hung his head, ashamed to have Veronica hear the way people talked about him.
“You know,” she said, “people always tell me how special I am for having a 3-legged dog. Louie goes up and gives them some love anyway.”
Greg replied, “What do you mean, anyway?”
“Well, they think he can’t do things that other dogs do. But they are so wrong, and both Louie and I know that. I call him Limitless Louie because he can do everything he sets his mind to and do it better than most other dogs.”
Looking over at the playing dogs, Greg saw the truth in what she said. Sue was having a hard time keeping up with him, and Veronica loved him, Louie seemed to have it all. Maybe it was time for him to start trying to live a bit more like Louie.
The next day in class, Veronica came right over and said hello. Everyone looked at him, as he tried not to blush. “Why don’t you come and sit with us?” Greg sat up straighter as he accepted her invitation. He couldn’t believe his luck, sitting at the same table as the most beautiful girls in the school. He was afraid to say much to them. He didn’t want to blow this, but he did manage to share a few jokes.
“Are you and Sue going to the park later?”
Greg’s voice cracked as he replied, “Yep, hope to see you and Louie there.”
Greg didn’t dare think of it as dating, but Veronica and Louie kept meeting them in the park daily.
One day, she said, “ Greg, I am so glad you stopped hanging with Denny.”
“You knew about that?” Greg felt his ears turning red.
“Everyone knew about it. Denny is bad news. I always thought you were somebody special, and I didn’t want Denny to ruin it.”
Veronica reached over and grasped Greg’s hand. “I was right, you know. You are somebody special.”
As Greg started to lean in for his first kiss, Sue bounded up on his lap, licking both faces with glee. Louie jumped up to join in the fun, and they both laughed.