A Song of Hope
By Todd Kirby
Copyright © 2017
All Rights Reserved
The following is a work of fiction.
Any relation of the characters and events to actual individuals or events is purely coincidental.
As with all of my books, I need to thank God first for blessing me with abilities and passions to do this kind of thing. I also need to thank my father, Floyd Kirby, and my lovely wife, Kim Kirby, for being willing to edit what I write.
The following people have also leant their expertise to me involving matters… well… outside of my expertise. Thanks to Brad Vickers and Justin “Moose” Cockrell.
As a child, Ronnie Murphy enjoyed fishing with his father. It didn’t happen often, as Ron Sr. was a second-generation police officer, and rarely allowed himself ‘down time’. When he did though, he took full advantage of the opportunity to teach little Ronnie lessons that would be useful to him as a man. One lazy Saturday afternoon, Ron and Ronnie were fishing at a new pond they had discovered, which was said to be good for bass. They had taken out a little Jon boat that Ron had inherited from his father, and were just starting to get a couple of bites when they heard a commotion coming from the shore.
Looking over, they saw an elderly couple sitting on a blanket by the water, and a small group of teenagers appeared to be harassing them. Ron Sr. quickly began reeling in his line and told Ronnie, “Reel your line in, son.”
“What’s going on, Dad?”
“Not sure yet, but we better find out.”
Ron Sr. set his pole down in the boat and began rowing toward the shore. Ronnie had barely gotten his line completely reeled in when they touched ground about twenty feet away from where the events were unfolding. Jumping out onto land, Ron Sr. called back without looking, “Stay here son, I’ll be right back.”
Of course, being a typical adolescent, Ronnie did nothing of the sort. Tying off the boat, Ronnie snuck close enough to see and hear what was going on, but remained mostly hidden behind a tree. As he watched his father walk quickly toward the ruckus, Ronnie saw his dad pull the edge of his shirt down over the firearm at his waist. Even though Ron Sr. wasn’t on duty today, he never left the house without his firearm and his badge. “A police officer is never really off duty,” he would say. Although he had never seen Ron Sr. pull his gun, Ronnie maintained a certain level of confidence in just knowing it was there.
As Ron Sr. approached the youths, he said in a calm voice, “Is there a problem here?”
“Mind your business.” said one of the boys, as he flicked the ashes of a cigarette he was smoking at the elderly couple.
“Son,” Ron Sr. started, “God didn’t put you on this earth to harass nice people like these fine folks. May I suggest you move on and find your purpose elsewhere?”
The group of boys began walking toward Ron Sr., and surrounding him. Little Ronnie came running up. Standing back-to-back with his dad, Ronnie put up his fists, ready to fight the much bigger boys.
Ron Sr. smiled at Ronnie’s courage. Then, lifting the edge of his shirt up to reveal his gun and badge on his belt, Ron Sr. said, “I think it’s time you boys moved on. I won’t ask again.”
The youths all froze. The one who was speaking before said, “You a cop?”
Ron Sr. nodded.
The boy smiled and said, “We was just havin’ some fun. No harm.”
“Glad to hear it,” Ron Sr. replied as his smile faded.
The boy motioned to the others and they left.
“Thank you Officer,” said the old man on the blanket. “My wife and I have been coming here for years, but lately there seems to be a lot of young hoodlums causing trouble. This is the first time they’ve approached us, but it may be the last time we relax here. It’s just not safe anymore.”
Ron Sr. replied, “Glad I could help. Are you all okay?”
“Yes, just a little shaken up I think.” said the older man.
“Well,” Ron Sr. went on, “I’m going to go back to fishing with my boy. If you all need anything, we’ll be within earshot for a couple more hours.” The couple thanked him, and Ron Sr. started heading back to the boat with Ronnie close behind.
As they were climbing back into the boat, Ron Sr. said, “I thought I told you to stay here.”
“I couldn’t let you face all those guys alone, Dad.” said Ronnie, “I’ve heard you say that sometimes you have to disobey orders if it’s the right thing to do.”
As Ron Sr. began rowing back out into the lake, he smiled at his son. “Just trying to even the odds, were you?” he said.
“That’s right.” said Ronnie. “There was a lot of those boys, and only one of you.”
“Do you know why those boys did that?” said Ron Sr.
“Because they’re punks!” Ronnie fired back.
“Possibly…” Ron Sr. began, “but more than likely it’s because they don’t have a dad who takes them fishing and teaches them how to act.” Ronnie looked directly at his father, intent on what he was saying. Ron Sr. went on, “God has a plan for each of those boys’ lives, and I hope and pray that every one of them realizes that plan. However, it is my job to serve and protect the citizens of this city, and until those boys realize God’s plan for their lives, I will… assist them in their decision-making.”
“So if those boys came to our church, you wouldn’t kick them out because of what they did here today?” asked Ronnie.
As he was changing the lure on his pole, Ron Sr. said, “No, of course not. The Bible tells us to pray for our enemies. Would you like to pray for them right now?” Ron Sr. could tell by the look on his son’s face that Ronnie wasn’t completely in agreement with the idea, so Ron Sr. offered, “That’s okay, I’ll pray.” As they both bowed their heads, Ron Sr. prayed, “Lord, thank you for the opportunities that you give us and for protecting us. God, we want to lift up those boys that were causing trouble today, and ask that you touch their hearts. Help them to grow into the men you want them to be, that they would know your salvation and your love. We ask this in the name of Jesus, amen.”
Ronnie said “Amen” quickly and cast his line out into the water. It took a little while for the fish to start biting again, but they did. And Ron Sr. and Ronnie enjoyed the next few hours of leisure time before heading back home with a nice mess of fish for Mrs. Murphy to fry that night.
The life lessons continued for young Ronnie as he grew up. In middle school, he joined a community little league team, and became a pretty good two-way player as a pitcher and a hitter. He was developing leadership skills as well, and was quickly tabbed as a team captain. By his second year, Ronnie’s team was ranked #2 heading into the tournament. In the final practice before the tourney started, the team was scrimmaging and Ronnie’s side was winning handily. The head coach called time and walked up to the mound where Ronnie was pitching.
“Ronnie,” said the coach, “I’d never tell you to do this in an actual game, but why don’t you let them get a hit. You’re winning 9-0. Just don’t make it look obvious, okay?” Ronnie nodded, and the coach went back to third base where he was standing.
The final boy up to bat was a slugger, but he couldn’t hit a curveball to save his life. Ronnie knew the catcher’s first signal would be for a curveball, which it was, but Ronnie waived it off. With a quizzical look, the catcher’s next sign was for a knuckleball, which Ronnie also waived off. The catcher looked around at his coaches and dropped his hands to his side. Then, as if being sarcastic, he gave the sign for a fastball. Ronnie nodded. The catcher looked shocked, as if he didn’t really mean to offer that one, but as Ronnie wound up, the catcher quickly got into position.
The pitch was a straight burner down the middle, and the batter knocked it out of the park. A two-run homer that put them on the board. Cheers shot up from their teammates, and the batter pointed the bat at Ronnie for a moment before he tossed it to jog the basses. Ronnie dropped his arms to his side and looked at his coach, who winked and nodded. But the catcher came out to the mound and lit into Ronnie.
“What are you doing, Ronnie?! You know the fastball is his dream pitch, why didn’t you throw the curve?”
“We were up 9-0, Ford…” said Ronnie, “I just wanted to try something.”
“Well don’t ever do that in a game!” said Ford. “We could have creamed them!”
Ronnie raised an eyebrow and said, “Isn’t it enough that we win?”
“No!” said Ford, “If you can crush ‘em, then crush ‘em.”
Ford was more of a football player than a baseball player, although he was considered an all-around jock even in middle school. When he heard the coach yell, “Alright Ford, that’s enough”, he went back to home plate and assumed his position. Ronnie easily struck out the next batter to end the game.
As the boys were putting their equipment away, the boy who hit the homer came up to Ronnie and said, “Thanks for the burner, Ronnie, I was expecting a curveball.”
Ronnie just smiled and nodded, but then he said, “Hey Hank, do you mind if I give you a little advice on curveballs? You know, from a pitcher’s perspective?”
“What, like show me how to hit them?”
“Yeah,” said Ronnie, “Would that be okay?”
“Yeah!” Hank replied enthusiastically.
So Ronnie went up to the mound and Hank took his place at the plate. “The first thing you should know about a curveball is that pitchers have to hold it a special way. So if you see the pitcher looking at the ball and the way he’s holding it before the pitch, it could be a curveball.” Then Ronnie showed Hank how he normally looks at the ball briefly as he adjusts his hand around it for a curveball. “Next,” Ronnie went on, “most curveballs break down. Not all, but most, so if you see what might be a curveball coming in high, get ready to swing. If you see what might be a curveball coming in straight for the strike zone, be prepared to let it go.” Hank nodded. “Finally,” Ronnie finished, “to crush a curveball, you’ll need to hesitate just a second and lean back a little bit. Be patient with it.”
The head coach looked up from the dugout as Ronnie wound up and pitched a curveball straight toward the strike zone. Right before it got to the plate, it dropped out of the strike zone. Hank swung and missed. “That’s okay,” said Ronnie, “did you see how it looked like it was going to be a strike, but then dropped out at the last second?” Hank nodded. “This next one is going to look like it’s gonna be high, but you’ll need to swing at it.” Ronnie called from the mound. The pitch came in high, but at the last second it dropped into the strike zone and Hank nailed it. “That’s it!” yelled Ronnie.
For the next fifteen minutes, Ronnie and Hank practiced with curve balls until their parents came to pick them up. By the time they quit, Hank was hitting more than he was missing. The boys put their gear away and headed toward the parking lot. Ronnie noticed that the head coach was talking to his mom when he walked up.
“That’s a special boy you’ve got there, Mrs. Murphy.” the coach said with a smile. “I’m going to miss coaching him next year when he goes to high school.”
“Well, we think pretty highly of him too,” she replied, smiling at Ronnie, “but it’s nice to hear someone else say it.”
As they got into their car, Ronnie asked, “What were you and coach talking about, Mom?”
“Coach was telling me how you were helping Hank Potter.”
“Yeah,” said Ronnie, “we were going over curveballs. Hank’s a slugger, but curveballs are his weakness. I was just trying to make the team better.”
“You know Hank’s dad hasn’t been there for him since the divorce, right?” said Mrs. Murphy.
“Yeah, I know.”
“It was very nice of you to help him.”
After a pause, Mrs. Murphy said, “I love you Ronnie Murphy.”
“I love you too, Mom.” Ronnie returned.
That Thursday, the tournament started. The first team they faced was Southside. They were mostly lower-middle class kids who played for fun but lacked the skills and coaching to win many games. After four innings, Ronnie’s team was up by nine, one short of the mercy rule. In the fifth inning, they scored another four unanswered runs, bringing the score to 13-0. In the sixth and final inning, with two outs and two men on, Tommy Wilcox stepped up to the plate for the other team.
Tommy and his family went to Ronnie’s church. Tommy’s mom was a teacher at the high school, and she always came to his games. She and her husband were currently sitting beside Ronnie’s parents. Ronnie looked at his dad, who clapped and cheered, “Come on Ronnie, one more out!”
Then he looked at Tommy’s mom, who clapped and cheered, “Come on Tommy, you can hit it!”
Then Ronnie looked over at his coach, who smiled and nodded.
Taking his position, Ronnie looked at Ford and waited for the signal. Ford signalled for a curveball, but Ronnie waived it off. Ford got a stern look, then signaled for a knuckleball. Ronnie waived it off too. Ford refused to give the sign for a fastball, but Ronnie nodded anyway. Ford shook his head and started to stand up to call time, but Ronnie began his windup and Ford had to quickly drop down into position to receive the ball. It was a screamer straight into the strike zone. Tommy Wilcox nailed it with a ‘POP!’ sound, and sent it out of the park.
Ford threw his catcher’s mask to the ground and started walking to the mound with a purpose. The head coach intercepted him halfway and told him to turn around and go back to home plate and finish the game. The coach then walked up to the mound to address Ronnie.
“I’m guessing you have enough pepper to get this last guy out, am I right?”
“Yeah coach, I got enough left for one more.”
“Seeing as this is one of the last games I will ever coach you in,” the coach said quietly, “I just want to say that I have absolutely no problem with what you just did. And you are one of the finest young men I’ve ever had the privilege to coach.”
“Thanks coach.” said Ronnie with a smile.
“Now get this guy out and let’s move on to the next round.”
“Aye aye, coach.”
And Ronnie did have enough left, as three quick knuckleballs dismissed the last batter. After the final strike, his team emptied the bench and congratulated each other on the mound. Ronnie walked over to where his parents and the Wilcox’s were sitting, and his dad put his arm around him. “You pitched a great game, son.” he said. “Don’t sweat that last homer.” But Ronnie was noticing how Ms. Wilcox was congratulating Tommy, and how different that scene might have looked if Ronnie had struck him out.
“Good game Tommy,” he said, “You guys finished strong.”
“Thanks Ronnie, good game. And good luck in the next round, we’ll be cheering for you.”
The next game was Friday, where Ronnie’s team faced Washington Township. They were mostly inner-city kids who didn’t have as much training but were really athletic. The game was a lot closer, and even though Ronnie wasn’t pitching, he hit two singles and a solo homer in three at-bats. His team won by a score of 7-4.
Since they won the first two rounds, Ronnie’s team had Saturday off before the championship game on Sunday. They wound up facing Greenville, a team from the suburbs. Greenville was ranked number one, and had been looking forward to facing Ronnie’s team all year.
When Sunday came, Ronnie was excited. Since he was the starting pitcher just a few days earlier, he would only be a backup for the championship game. The other team started off batting at the top of the inning, and got three outs without scoring a run. Ronnie’s team batted through the bottom of the inning, and didn’t score a run either. Through the first five innings, although there were a few close calls, neither team could score a run. So coming into the top of the sixth (the last inning of the game), the score was tied 0-0.
As Greenville came up to bat, the pitcher for Ronnie’s team looked tired. The coach could tell that it might be time to put in a backup. After walking the first two batters, then giving up a double, the coach called time and walked up to the mound. “I’m sorry coach,” said the pitcher, “I just got nothin’ left.”
“That’s okay,” the coach replied with a knowing smile, “you got us this far, you go rest now and we’ll see if we can finish it up for you, okay?”
The pitcher nodded and walked off the mound.
“Murphy!” yelled the coach, and Ronnie jumped up and headed to the mound. “Okay son,” the coach began, “you’ve got a man on second and a man on third. We’re down 1-0 and there are two outs. I need three strikes, can you help us out?” Ronnie nodded.
As the coach walked away from the mound, Ronnie checked the signal from Ford and nodded. The windup… the pitch… STRIKE ONE! Ford threw the ball back to Ronnie, who took his position again. Looking to Ford, Ronnie waived off the first signal, but accepted the second. The windup… the pitch… STRIKE TWO! Ford threw the ball back to Ronnie again. Taking his position, Ronnie looked at Ford’s signal again. He waived off the first and the second. Smiling, he accepted the third. The windup… the pitch… THWACK! The batter hit a line-drive straight at Ronnie, who seemed to take it straight in the chest and dropped to the ground.
The batter took off toward first, while the runner on third headed toward home. The coach started running to the mound to see if Ronnie was okay. But when he was about halfway there, Ronnie held up his glove… with the ball in it.
“YOU’RE OUT!” yelled the umpire.
The coach went ahead and helped Ronnie up, saying “Are you okay, son?”
“Yeah,” said Ronnie, brushing the dirt off of his pants, “but I think I swallowed my gum.”
Coach laughed a little and said, “Great catch, Ronnie. Are you gonna be able to bat this inning? You’re third in line.”
“I’ll be alright coach.”
Greenville took the field and Ronnie’s team returned to the dugout. When the first player came up to bat, the pitcher got the signal from the catcher and threw a burner down the middle. The batter bunted the ball about 12 feet away and took off toward first. The catcher ran to pick up the ball and fired it to first, but it was a fraction of a second late. “SAFE!” yelled the umpire.
The second batter stepped up to the plate. After checking the signal, the pitcher threw a perfect curveball that looked like it was coming straight over the plate, but dropped out of the strike zone at the last second. A swing and a miss, “STRIKE ONE!” Checking the signal again, the pitcher threw the same pitch again. “STRIKE TWO!” Noticing that the batter was skittish about swinging now, the pitcher waived off the first signal, then accepted the second. He wound up and threw a breaker ball that looked like it was going to be high, but dropped at the last second into the strike zone. The batter just stood there and watched as the umpire called, “STRIKE THREE! YOU’RE OUT!”
Next, Ronnie stepped up to the plate. He watched as the pitcher accepted the first signal. Ronnie noticed the way the pitcher looked at the ball just before the windup – this would be a curveball. The windup… the pitch… as the ball soared toward him, it looked like it was a little high but would break into the strike zone, so Ronnie leaned back toward the catcher and swung. PAK! Ronnie looked around with a smile, but as he saw everyone just watching while the catcher stepped up a few paces, his heart sank. Ronnie had gotten just enough of the ball to send it straight up about twelve feet in the air. The catcher held up his glove as the ball gently fell into it. “YOU’RE OUT!”
With two outs and the team down 1-0, Hank was up to bat. As Ronnie stepped out of the batter’s box and walked past Hank, he told him, “The pitcher looks at the ball right before he throws a curveball. They don’t drop as much as you expect them to, so don’t get under it too much. You got this Hank.”
Hank nodded and smiled. Stepping up to the batter’s box, Hank raised the bat up and took his stance. The pitcher accepted the first sign. The windup… the pitch… a swing and a miss. “STRIKE ONE!”
“You got this Hank!” yelled Ronnie and his teammates. “Eye on the ball!”
The pitcher accepted the first sign. The windup… the pitch… a swing and a miss. “STRIKE TWO!”
Now the pitcher smiled, knowing that Hank would be skittish swinging at the next pitch. He accepted the first sign from the catcher. Hank readjusted his grip on the bat as he saw the pitcher look at the ball to get the right grip. The windup… Hank leaned back toward the catcher… the pitch… THWACK! Hank took off toward first, and the runner at first took off toward second, but as Hank kept an eye on the ball, he slowed to a jog. This one was out of the park, a home run. Ronnie’s team emptied the bench and ran out to home plate awaiting both runners. As Hank crossed the plate, his teammates lifted him on their shoulders and cheered for joy.
They had won the championship, but the joy that Ronnie felt was more than that. He wasn’t the one who made the big play. He wasn’t the one who everybody was cheering. So why did he feel so great? This life lesson was teaching Ronnie that it’s important to serve others. When you help others up, then everybody wins, and that’s a lesson that would stick with him for the rest of his life.
When Ronnie got to high school, it seemed like life moved a little quicker. His parents gave him a lot more freedom to do things on his own, and Ronnie really blossomed with the personal responsibility. As a freshman on the baseball team, he impressed the upperclassmen so much that they didn’t haze him as much as the others. By junior year, he was a co-captain of the team.
Ronnie was also involved with the student council, and was a class representative all four years of high school. But the activity he was most involved in was the youth group at church. Ronnie became close with Tommy Wilcox, who was also involved with both the baseball team and the youth group, and whose parents were friends of Ron Sr. and Mrs. Murphy. One Wednesday evening at church, Ronnie was talking with Tommy about… things.
“So I hear you have a hot date this Friday…” said Tommy.
“What?” Ronnie replied. “How did you hear?”
“Bobbie Sue’s pretty excited about it,” Tommy said. “She’s telling everybody…”
Ronnie laughed and said, “Well, we’ve been friends for as long as I can remember. Lately I’ve just felt… I don’t know… different about her. You know what I mean?”
Tommy responded with a quizzical look, so Ronnie clarified, “There’s a look in her eyes when we talk, and she seems to want to be close to me… a lot. It’s like she wants to be my girlfriend instead of just my friend.”
“There’s no other girl I know who makes me feel the way she does. She’s beautiful, she’s smart, she’s a strong Christian. I feel like it’s meant to be.”
Just then, Ms. Wilcox walked up. She and her husband had been helping out with the youth ever since Tommy moved up from the junior high group. Hearing a part of their conversation when walking up, she said, “Are you two talking about who you know that needs prayer, or are you talking about girls?”
“Yes.” said Tommy, purposefully ambiguous.
“This is an important exercise.” she said, “Think about your sphere of influence. Is there somebody on the baseball team, or in one of your classes that God has placed on your heart to pray for?”
Tommy spoke first. “We were talking about this earlier, Mom. There’s a guy at school who’s really been on our hearts lately. Do you know Jeremy Bonds?”
Ms. Wilcox looked a little surprised, but said, “Yes, I have Jeremy in one of my classes, he would definitely be a good one to pray for. I think he’d be a good person to pray with as well.”
Both boys froze as they looked at Ms. Wilcox.
“Don’t look at me like that.” she said. “You know there are things expected of us in addition to praying for someone. In the book of James, he says: ‘Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?’ That tells me that God expects us to not only pray for people, but to do practical things to help as well.”
“What kind of practical help would we give to Jeremy Bonds?” Ronnie wondered out loud.
Ms. Wilcox replied, “Maybe the answer to that question is what you should be praying for.”
After Ms. Wilcox walked on to the next group of youths to make sure they were doing what they were supposed to be doing, Ronnie and Tommy pondered what she had said for a moment. Then they agreed to pray about it. Bowing their heads, the two friends prayed not only that God would touch Jeremy Bonds in spirit, but that the Lord would also make known to them some practical opportunities to help him. Once they were finished, Ronnie and Tommy resumed their earlier discussion.
That Friday was Ronnie’s date with Bobbie Sue. About dinner time, he pulled up to Bobbie Sue’s house in an old cruiser he had bought from the Police Athletic League auction and fixed up. Ronnie knew better than to sit in the driveway and honk the horn, so he turned off the car, walked up to the door and knocked.
Bobbie Sue’s father came to the door and said, “Yes?”
“Good evening Mr. Dobson.” Ronnie said respectfully. “I’m here to take Bobbie Sue to dinner at the Dairy Freeze.”
“And what time should I expect her home?”
“Well, let’s see…” Ronnie looked down at his fingers as he figured. “If it’s six o’clock now, and it takes about 15 minutes to get there… give us about an hour to eat…” Looking back up at Mr. Dobson, he finished with, “I’ll have her home no later than nine o’clock, sir.”
“That sounds fine.” said Mr. Dobson.
“Ugh!” grunted Bobbie Sue as she squeezed past her father and out the door. “I’m surprised you didn’t make him fill out an application, Dad…” She didn’t even wait for Ronnie to get back to the car and open the door for her, but just hopped in the passenger side and shut the car door.
“Always a pleasure, Mr. Dobson.” Ronnie said with a smile as he went back to his car and got in.
As Ronnie started the car up and backed down the driveway, Bobbie Sue looked around the interior of the car. “Wow, when did you redo the dash?”
“Last weekend.” said Ronnie. “Me and Tommy have spent just about every weekend doing something or other with this car.”
“Does your dad ever help?” she asked.
“Sometimes,” he replied, “but he doesn’t have a whole lot of time. Tommy’s dad helps sometimes too, depending on how experienced he is at what we’re doing. Like, he helped with the brakes when we replaced them… and the starter.”
The two made mostly small talk on the way to the Dairy Freeze, but once they got their food and sat down to eat, the conversation got a little deeper. They were talking about the youth exercise on Wednesday, and Ronnie told Bobbie Sue about Jeremy.
“You ever have somebody that keeps coming to your mind?” he asked.
“Absolutely…” she said as she looked him in the eyes and smiled.
“You know what I mean…” he continued, trying to subdue his own smile. “We were praying about Jeremy Wednesday, and then today at school I heard a couple of people talking about Reggie’s party tonight. You know Jeremy is going to be there, and Reggie’s parties can get pretty wild.”
“Are you thinking about going?”
“I don’t know.” said Ronnie. “I don’t know what help I would be. I mean, if he was too drunk to drive, I could give him a lift home or something I guess. I don’t expect to see him there and be all like, ‘Hey, Jeremy, you wanna talk abou Jesus or something?’”
Bobbie Sue laughed and said, “You never know…” Then her smile faded. “But if you do go, be careful. Ford and those boys will be there as well. There’s nothing they like more than fighting, and they don’t fight fair. They would just as soon knock you on the back of the head with a lead pipe as look at you.”
“I know.” Ronnie affirmed. “I don’t even know if I’ll go, I really have no business being there.”
“It’s funny you should bring that up though,” said Bobbie Sue, “I heard a little Sophomore girl in the bathroom trying to get a ride there tonight. You know the goth-looking girl?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“She was asking several of the upper-class girls if they could give her a ride, but that’s a rough crowd that goes to Reggie’s parties. I don’t think she ever found anyone.”
“Hmmmm…” Ronnie pondered.
Changing the subject, Bobbie Sue asked, “So are you all ready to start at the academy after graduation?”
“Yeah, Dad’s thrilled I’m following in his footsteps.”
Bobbie Sue looked down and said, “Will you… have time for a social life?”
“It’s not the military, Bobbie Sue.” Ronnie laughed. “I’ll be home on the weekends.”
“Good.” said Bobbie Sue.
The two finished their dinner with plenty of time to spare, so they decided to cruise through town with the windows down. As they passed by the motorcycle shop where Jeremy Bonds worked after school, they saw Jeremy riding off – and there was a man watching him go who had an odd look of concern on his face. Ronnie kept driving, but he put that thought in the back of his mind.
As they drove past a park, Bobbie Sue said, “Hey, pull in next to the park and swing me.”
“Do what?” said Ronnie.
“I want to swing,” she reiterated. “Come push me.”
The request seemed odd, but there was nobody else anywhere around, so Ronnie pulled into the parking lot. The two got out of the car, and Bobbie Sue ran over to the swingset and plopped down on a swing. “Push me, please.” she asked.
Ronnie smiled as he pushed her on the swing. At first he was apprehensive, because it was a little lame for two high school seniors to be on a swing set, but Ronnie felt so comfortable with Bobbie Sue that he didn’t mind. He loved to hear her giggle when she swung really high. After ten minutes or so, she said, “Okay, I’m done. We should probably head home.”
When she had stepped off the swing, Bobbie Sue took hold of Ronnie’s hand as they walked back to the car. When they got there, Ronnie opened the door for her, but Bobbie Sue wrapped her arms around his neck in a hug. When he hugged her back, she whispered in his ear, “If you want to kiss me, you should probably do it before you take me home.”
As they separated briefly, Ronnie leaned in and gave her a kiss. Even though his eyes were closed, he could feel her mouth smiling, so he began smiling as well, and the kiss fell apart.
“What’s so funny?” she said, looking at him and still smiling herself.
“You started it…” he said, unable to control a laugh now.
“Ronnie Murphy!” she said, “You kiss me right!”
“Well stop smiling and I will!” he replied.
As they both forced their smiles away, Ronnie pulled her close and began kissing her again. But his smile came back bigger than before and the kiss fell apart again.
“Ugh!” she grunted, unable to contain her own smile. “You might as well take me home then.”
“I’m sorry.” Ronnie said as Bobbie Sue got into the car. “It’s just… I can’t believe we’re dating… and kissing. I’ll do better next time, I promise.”
“Mmm Hmm…” she mumbled without looking up.
When they got to Bobbie Sue’s house, Ronnie walked her up to the door where Mr. Dobson was waiting. “You made good time, son.” he said. “It’s only 8:30.”
“Yes sir,” said Ronnie, “I’m a man of my word.”
“I know you are, Ronnie.” Mr. Dobson said, stepping outside the house as Bobbie Sue went inside. “I know I hassle you, but I appreciate your disposition. You’re a sheepdog.”
“A what?” said Ronnie, looking a little perplexed.
“A sheepdog. You may have heard there are two types of people in this world: wolves and sheep. Well, there’s actually a third type: the sheepdog. The sheepdog protects the sheep from the wolves. That’s how I see you.”
“Oh, um… thanks Mr. Dobson.”
“Yep,” said Mr. Dobson. “You be careful driving home now…”
Ronnie went back to his car and started it up as Mr. Dobson went back into his house. Sitting there listening to the car’s engine, Ronnie thought about what Mr. Dobson said about the sheepdog, and what Ms. Wilcox said Wednesday about doing something practical. Then he thought about the look on that man’s face when Jeremy Bonds drove off, surely to Reggie’s party. “All right,” Ronnie said out loud, looking up to the sky, “I hear you.”
Pulling out of the driveway, Ronnie drove straight to Reggie’s place. It was way out in the country. Reggie’s parents both worked, and about once a month they both had to be away on business, so Reggie would plan a big party. The house was far enough out that they could be as loud and raucous as they wanted – nobody would be bothered by it.
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Ronnie Murphy was a cop, and the son of a cop. He grew up as a Christian in a Christian home, but he would come to realize that being a Christian doesn't exclude you from having problems... or enemies. As Ronnie grows up, so do his problems and temptations. He has hopes. Hopes for his job, hopes for his family and hopes for his life. When life comes down hard on him, Ronnie has to decide: when is it time to give up hope?