I came across this boy sitting on the side of a country road one morning. He could have only been like 12 years old. I thought maybe he was lost or hurt. He was crying, and sitting next to him was an empty bottle of black velvet. I pulled over and got out. I walked over and asked him if he was okay, he didn’t respond. So I asked him where his parents were. Still, no response. The puddle of tears gave me the impression he had been there a while. His dirty shirt and ripped-up rusty jeans told me he had must of had a ruff night considering it was dawn. I decided to sit down next to him, I was not going to leave him in the middle of nowhere, and I was very concerned for him. I asked him what his name was, he looked up, and I could feel the pain in his eyes as he mumbled, “Josh.” I said, “well, it just so happens that’s my name. Nice to meet you, Josh.” I asked him if he had drunk the bottle next to him; with a wipe of his eyes, he said “yes.” I knew now that God had put me here at this moment for a reason. I asked again where his parents were. He picked up a piece of grass, picking it apart bit by piece, and says “my father is at home, probably still drunk from last night. We live down the road.” I asked him if I could take him home and told him that his father was probably worried. He looked at me as if I had said the foulest curse word. He just shook his head and said, “I’ll be fine dad won’t even know I was gone.” We sat in silence for a minute as I grabbed a cigarette out and lit it. The air was calming, and the slight breeze was soothing. “So, do you drink like that all the time,” I asked? He picked up the bottle and put it up to the sun to check if there was a sip left and then threw it in the nearby field. Then he mumbled, “yes, why you ask.” I was a bit shocked by his reply and said, “well, you look no older than 12, and you shouldn’t be drinking at your age. What if your father found out? What do you think he would say?” He chuckled, and then, with the saddest tone, he replied, “nothing.” I have seen cases like this before, and I was one myself, so I didn’t say anything. He stood up and started kicking the rocks, with his head down and face red and puffy from crying.
I stood up and took my hat off, and wiped the morning sweat from my head. The sun had warmed up the summer morning. I saw what looked to be a small pond across the road that had been overgrown with weeds and tall grass. By the edge sat a large, broken-down bench. I asked him if we could sit over there and talk and explained I would eventually have to take him home or call the authorities to come and get him. He agreed to the conversation, and we started to walk across the road.
The bench was still usable, and we sat down. The sun had risen to its rightful place, and the air became humid, and the birds chirped away, and the bugs scattered around getting their day going. We sat in silence as I again lit another cigarette, thinking to myself, shit, I really need to quit these things. I looked over as Josh swung his feet back and forth. He was just a little feller. He reminded me of myself at his age. I glanced at my watch, noticing I would be late for a meeting and most likely miss it, but I didn’t care. This was clearly more important, and there will always be another meeting.
Josh picked up a pebble sitting next to him and threw it into the pond. I thought to myself, what could possibly drive this young boy to drink, but then again, at his age, I was drinking as well. So I asked him, “Josh, tell me, why do you drink?” He replied as if it was completely normal, “why, doesn’t everybody?” I wasn’t surprised because I knew what the response was going to be. At 12 or 13 years old, whatever age he may be, you don’t get that something like that is wrong if your parent doesn’t mind. “Do you have troubles at home? Does your father hit you?” I asked while gazing at the pond, hoping not to get the answer that I didn’t want to hear. He threw another pebble in the pond and said, “not really, only if he’s too drunk and I did something wrong, then ill get a whooping.” “Does he go too far?” Again as I asked, my heart drops cause I know the answer. “Sometimes, but I deserve it,” he says. My heart skipped a beat as I gazed at the pond. This poor kid thinks he deserves too far. I can feel my face get red in anger, and my heart starts to race. I slow my breathing with a deep sigh and look over as the kid sits with his head down, staring at the ants crawling on the ground.
I ask him where his mother is, and he tells me how his parents had divorced, and he chose to live with his father for a while because his father is sick and he has to take care of him. I asked what his father was ill from, and he told me he drinks too much. This I kind of figured because I had done the same thing. Without asking, he continues. He tells me that his father has been sick for a long time and that he tries to help him by convincing him to go to a place called AA. He explained that he goes with him and people were sick just like his father there, and somehow they don’t drink anymore. I didn’t tell him I knew of this place or that we were more alike than could be imagined. I sat and listened as he went on for what seemed to be an hour. Telling me how much he loved his father and how he wished that his father would be better one day. Josh told me the stories that I lived myself, and I felt the sadness of every tear that fell from his little face. He asked me if I believed in God. I said, “yes, but we argue a lot.” He looked at me confused and said, ” well, I believe in God, and we don’t argue, and I know he loves me, and I know one day he will save my dad.”
He stands up and picks up a hand full of rocks, and throws them in the pond as hard as he can. The water makes a sound that reminds you of raindrops on a stormy day. I close my eyes and listened to each rock hit the water. He proceeds to tell me that God was watching us all the time, “even when we poop,” he says with the cutest chuckle. He explains that God will never leave us and how his mother talks about some plan God has for him. That one day, he will do something great, and people will see how special he is. Tears roll down my face as I watch him throw these rocks and repeat the stories from his mother.
I continue to wipe my face, not to show the tears. I put my sunglasses on to hide it better. Josh sits back down and says, ” I’m sorry I lied to you, mister.” “What did you lie about?” I replied. He gazed at the pond, then looked at me directly in the eyes as if he could see my soul, and said, “I drink because he told me to, and I can’t stop because I don’t want to. It makes me feel better, and I don’t have to think or worry about anything. It makes me strong, and I have to be strong to take care of dad. He’s not strong enough to take care of himself”. I pause for a minute, ready to tell him that what was happening with his father was not his job to fix. How drinking was not the answer and that he should concentrate on being a kid.
Before I can, I wake up drenched from head to toe in sweat, and panic overflows me. It takes a minute to realize it was all a dream. I get up and splash water on my face. I stare in the mirror as tears start to roll down my face as I know that the boy in the dream was me.



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