The Kid from Hell
Updated: Dec 22, 2020
Hell is a harsh word to use in reference to a child, but no other word fit. All the other kids in the many foster homes he spent time in were afraid of him. At least that is what the case worker had told Reed Spencer when he expressed interest in taking him on as a “Big Brother.” Reed had been in the Big Brother, Big Sister program for the last 15 years. His last ward had moved out of state with his mother when she had a job offer, she could not refuse. Reed had been Charlie’s Big Brother for the last 4 years. He had taken a sabbatical for a few months before deciding to take on another challenge. And that is just what they had always been, a challenge. Every kid he spent time with had issues it seemed. Charlie’s was his hatred of all things school related. His mother had a hard time keeping him enrolled and attending the local schools, so she opted for a private school and signed Charlie up for a Big Brother. It did him a world of good and the bond between Charlie and Reed would last for life. But, thought Reed, it was time to help another lonely young person.
Most of the kids just needed the company and friendship of a male figure whenever the father was absent in their lives. In Jeffrey’s case, now, he was being cared for by his grandmother. Due to his behavior, no family wanted to risk taking him in as a foster child anymore. Jeffrey had developed a “reputation.” Jeffrey had been in and out of the system over the course of his 9 years of life. His parents were incarcerated and would be for the rest of Jeffrey’s young life. His grandmother, the only person in Jeffrey’s life that mattered to him, was, at best, in fair health. But, because he had nowhere else to go but back in the system, the caseworker decided to place him in his grandmother’s care for a trial period. When Reed learned of Jeffrey’s situation, he knew he could help him. Reed, himself, was raised by a single mother, whom he adored, but needed a father figure in his life. His mother’s answer to that was to put him in to the Big Brother program at the age of 6. Reed resisted at first, but soon his whole life had changed for the better. His Big Brother, Robert, was still in his life today. Every second Saturday of the month Reed and Robert would have lunch together and talk about their mutual interests. Reed’s mother had died from cancer a few months after Reed graduated from college. Ever since then, Reed wanted to give back to other kids that needed a friend.
Reed was not afraid of a challenge. His job at the fire station allotted him quality time off to spend with his Little Brothers. The fact that he was also the fire chief, made him extremely popular with them as well. Tours of the firehouse were very exciting to the boys who had spent most of their time with their single or widowed moms. Reed had made up his mind to take Jeffrey as his next Big Brother. It would prove to be the biggest challenge he had ever had.
The first outing he planned with Jeffrey was a ball game. He picked him up from his grandmother’s house on Saturday morning and bought him breakfast at McDonalds. “The kid from hell” was true to form when he began throwing his food on the floor, stating that he was being poisoned. When Reed attempted to calm him down and pick up the mess he had made, Jeffrey began to wail as loud as he could, putting on a show for everyone within ear shot. Jeffrey began to swear at the attendant when he came over with a broom to sweep up the rest of the remains of his breakfast.
“You asshole,” Jeffrey blurted, “you sure have a loser job, don’t you, he continued.”
Reed threw the remains of the mess away and took Jeffrey by his collar and headed him towards the door.
“Hey, he said, that’s child abuse, you idiot; leave me alone and don’t touch me.” “I want to go to Egg Palace for breakfast or are you too cheap to buy me a decent breakfast?” he asked.
“You had your chance at breakfast, now you wait for lunch to get another meal” exclaimed Reed, calmly.
Instead of a response, Jeffrey just stared at him in disbelief. Then the pouting started and the silent treatment which was part of Jeffrey’s bad boy act.
“Do you like baseball,” asked Reed? No answer. “How about football?” Still no answer. “Well, maybe we can just spend some time at the library, reading books,” Reed suggested.
“Are you nuts,” blurted Jeffrey, “I don’t want to go to know dam library, now or ever.” “Fuck that,” he added.
“Watch your mouth or you will be spending time in the laundromat, while I do my laundry,” said Reed. “It’s either that, or the baseball game,” your choice, he said.
“I don’t care where we go, but I am NOT GOING TO THE LAUNDROMAT OR LIBRARY,” Jeffrey warned. “No way, no how,” he added.
“Well, okay then, the ballgame it is,” replied Reed.
The rest of the ride to the stadium was in silence as Jeffrey stared out the side window of the pickup truck, looking like a man on his way to a life sentence in the state prison; which is where he was headed if he kept up his bad behavior, thought Reed. Then, suddenly, a dog ran out in front of the truck, causing Reed to swerve to avoid hitting him. But it was too late, and the truck struck the dog in the back legs and he let out a blood curdling howl of pain.
“Stop the truck, you dumb ass,” said Jeffrey, “you hit him and he’s really hurt, we have to get him to the hospital or he will die,” he continued.
But Reed was already stopped and running out the door towards the pup that now lay quietly on the asphalt, unable to move his back legs.
“Oh God,” said Jeffrey, “Oh God... he can’t get up... he’s going to die and it’s all your fault.” he wailed.
And then Jeffrey did something that amazed Reed. Jeffrey knelt next to the injured pup and with tears in his eyes he gently stroked his mangy fur and spoke softly to him as though he could will him to stand up. Reed ran back to the truck to retrieve a blanket and then carefully placed the dog on to it and carried him to the passenger door.
“I’ll hold him,” said Jeffrey, “you just drive the dam car as fast as you can to the doctor,” shouted Jeffrey.”
“I said, watch that mouth and get in the truck. I will put him in your lap after you get in and sit still and stop your swearing.” stated Reed. “You are scaring him with that nasty mouth.”
“Okay, said Jeffrey, but please hurry up.”
When the trio arrived at the vets’ office, Reed climbed out of the driver’s side and walk around to the passenger side to a tearful Jeffrey and his furry friend. At that moment, Jeffrey’s painful eyes were filled with tears.
“I want to keep him when he gets better,” Jeffrey announced, “so he won’t get hurt anymore,” he added.
“You’re getting ahead of yourself,” said Reed, as he wrapped the blanket securely around the mutt and took him into his arms.
Jeffrey jumped out and ran to the office entrance to open the door for him.
“Please hurry,” he said, “pleaseeees?” he wailed.
The vet’s assistant took the dog from Reed’s arms and rushed him to the back room. Reed and Jeffrey just stood there watching as the pup turned his head back to look at them standing there. He let out a small yelp and then he was taken inside the treatment room.
“Can’t we go back there with Buddy,” asked Jeffrey, trying to hold back the tears?
“Buddy,” asks Reed, he already has a name, he continued?
“Well of course dumb... I mean Reed, if he is going to go home with me, he has to have a name, doesn’t he,” asked Jeffrey?
“Again, you are getting ahead of yourself,” explained Reed. “A dog takes a lot of love and care, and I don’t think you are the type of kid who can handle that,” he hinted, knowing it would have the right effect on the troubled boy.
“I promise I will be good to him and never let him get hurt anymore,” said Jeffrey. “I won’t swear anymore, and I will feed him and walk him every day if Gram will let me keep him,” he pleaded.” “Can you talk to Gram and ask her if we can keep him,” he pleaded?
The “Kid from hell,” my ass, thought Reed. If I had known that all it took was a mangy looking mutt to make a boy change his ways, I would have taken him to the pet shop first, he said to himself.
A few days later, Reed took Jeffrey and his grandmother to pick up Buddy from the clinic.
“Can we take Buddy with us next Saturday,” Jeffrey pleaded?
“We’ll see how he is by then, where do you want to go next Saturday,” asked Reed?
“The dog park of course,” Jeffrey replied.
“The dog park it is, said Reed!