A short story by
This story is copyrighted by Sam Lelliott, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.
Toby Crow was laughed at a lot in his young life. He didn't really notice too much because his learning difficulties stopped the hurtful words getting through to his brain like it would to a more intelligent person. Toby was at 14 a gentle giant measuring six feet in height and weighing in at just over 14 stones. He had a deep love of animals and birds, some people swore he could talk to them. The family had a cat, a dog and two ferrets that his father used for catching rabbits for the table. Toby wasn't happy about the dead rabbits but his father explained gently to him the reasons they needed the meat from the rabbits for food.
Despite the ribbing that Toby received he was a very happy youth because he had one best friend. That was Alex who lived next door. Alex was 8 years younger than Toby but in mental ages they were about the same. When the minibus arrived to take Toby to the special school he attended, Alex was there to wave him off before he himself went off to school and again when the minibus returned, to greet him. Away from school the pair was seen together all the time doing what they both loved, watching wildlife. Sunday was their favourite day when they went from their village up onto the South Downs close to Brighton to see what animals they could see. They had packed lunches and an old book called 'The observer book of British birds.' It was quite old but had good illustrations of most of the birds that they might see through the day. They also took a notebook in which Alex wrote down all the birds they saw through the day. They didn't care if they kept seeing the same birds all the time. They just enjoyed their time together as friends. At lunchtime they ate their sandwiches atop the highest hill, feeding the birds with the extra slices of bread they took with them. They only did the trip on dry days as the Downs were quite exposed and on wet days it was quite unpleasant.
When they arrived back home Toby's father would help them transfer to a big diary the birds and animals they had seen that day. Toby and Alex families were also very close, holding dinners and BBQ's for each other in turn. Toby's father owned the village store while Alex's dad was bus driver for the Brighton and Hove bus company. He did a lot of shift work but spent as much of his time as he could with Alex. He approved of the friendship between the two boys because he was certain that Toby would keep Alex safe. Alex loved 'Flying Angels' which the big lad would give him whenever he asked. At a nod of the head Toby would pick Alex up and onto his shoulders and run round the garden pretending to be horse and knight together.
The 4th of August was Alex's 7th birthday and with the help of his dad, Toby went into Brighton and bought a beautiful book called. 'The wild animals of the South Downs.' It was full of photographs and illustrations. When Alex opened the wrapping and saw the book from his friend he whooped around the room and gave his best friend a huge hug. "Thank you Toby that was just what I wanted," and hugged his friend again. Toby blushed a bit, not quite knowing how to handle such enthusiasm.
Alex got a pair of binoculars from his dad and the boys were quickly out into the garden to try them out. Toby couldn't believe how close they brought the birds. Alex tried to explain the best he could about lenses and how they were put together to be able to work their magic. Toby sort of understood but the instrument would forever remain a mystery to him.
Winter wasn't kind to Sussex that year and snow and rain were the order most days, so it was springtime before the boys had another trip to the Downs. As they climbed the hill they took it in turns to use the binoculars to watch the birds and animals. Small rabbits could be seen here and there getting their first taste of life. Both boys enjoyed watching them prance around. At the top of the hill they found a rare sight of a fallow deer feeding on the lower branches of a tree. They quietly sat and watched it, not making a sound watching it's ears swivel around listening for danger. Toby sneezed and the deer was off like a rocket.
"Sorry Alex, it just happened."
"Never mind Toby, we saw a deer and that's all that matters, let's see what else we can find."
Lunchtime arrived quickly and they sat to have their sandwiches under a big oak tree. As usual they shared each others food so they got a mixture of sandwiches. Toby had his favourite cheese and pickle while Alex had egg and cress. Each liked the others and quickly demolished them as young boys will. Each had a banana to follow and they both left one small piece for the birds to enjoy. After lunch they put all the wrappings back in the backpack so as not to leave any litter and set off toward home. They decided to run down the hill for a while and suddenly Alex fell and there was an almighty Crack! Toby was a little slower and saw Alex fall and heard the crack. When he arrived alongside Alex he saw Alex leg was all wrong and a bone sticking through the flesh. He started crying but something deep inside him seemed to tell him what to do. Alex was out cold, he had fainted from the pain. Toby went and found two strong sticks, tore off his shirt and then into strips. Using the sticks he bound the broken leg as tightly as he could so that it would not move much. He picked Alex up and carried him the rest of the way down the hill to the village. He sought out his dad at the shop and in no time an ambulance was whisking Alex off to hospital.
Toby sat down exhausted and cried with relief that his friend would now be looked after. His dad was amazed that Toby knew what to do. It was later that Toby remembered. He had watched one of the rescue programmes on the TV and had seen the paramedics do something similar.
Toby was very distressed for some time until finally he visited his friend in hospital. Alex laid there, his leg in the air looking happy to see his friend. He thanked Toby for what he had done as had Alex's parents.
"I saw it on the telly Alex. Remember that programme we saw together where you went all white seeing that mans broken leg?"
"Oh yes, that made me feel sick. How did you remember all that Toby?"
"I think it was because it upset you Alex. I don't like you being upset."
Alex smiled and said. I am glad you remembered Toby. You are very clever sometimes."
Toby's chest puffed out but he still blushed at the compliments.
Word got around about Toby's brave act and suddenly the bullying stopped. Alex came home with crutches and was in plaster a long time; in fact he had his eighth birthday in plaster. Toby had long since printed his name on the plaster as he had been taught. In wobbly letter he had printed in his best printing. 'To Alex from Toby Alan Crow your best friend.' It had taken a lot of concentration for him to do that and was probably the longest sentence he had ever written.
Of course Toby never amounted to much in the academic world but even to this day he is there to help anyone who needs it. He is greeted everywhere with genuine affection. His parents are old now so he looks after them in his own way. Alex has gone but his parents still live next door.
Alex? Well Alex went to university for seven years and is now a teaching professor at a local medical school. He still limps a bit but that serves to remind him of the boy from his old home. The simpleton, who he still saw when he went home to see his parents, wasn't so simple.
You will see them every day. Those who are less able, they may be walking about, in wheelchairs and whatever. Please remember they are human beings with feelings just like we, which are fortunate enough to be able bodied and minded.