Substitute Dad

© 2006 - 2010 By Scribe1971 (

Chapter 13

The Party

We had a couple of hours to kill between arriving home and departing for the Mandarin so we decided to take it easy and watch TV. I went down to my apartment and loaded a Benny Hill video into the VCR to show Mark. While Josh regaled Susan with tales of our aerial exploits, Mark hung around with me. He perched himself on my easy chair and I sat down in my usual spot to wait for Josh.

"How's your brother doing, Mark?" I asked.

"Pretty well. He says he's making a lot of money now that he's finished school. He says computer people are really in demand in Calgary right now."

"Do you miss him?"

"Yeah, I miss him a lot. We talk on the phone every couple of days, but I haven't seen him in a long time. He and my father don't speak to each other. They had a big fight and then he moved out," Mark said as he looked down at the floor. "I wish I could have gone with him."

"He sounds like a pretty good guy," I replied trying to sound cheery.

"He's a great guy. He used to look out for me and when my mom got sick and my father started to drink. When mom died everything fell apart. He and dad were at each other's throats all the time and then one night something happened and next thing I know Bryan had moved out."

"That's too bad. Do you think you might want to go live with Bryan one of these days?"

"I'd love to but I don't see how it would happen," Mark replied sadly.

"Do you think Bryan would take you in if he could?"

"I know he would. We talk about it every once in a while."

"Mark, I have something that I need to ask you. Before I do, I want you to know that you can trust me. Whatever you tell me won't leave this room. It's important that I ask you this," I said carefully.

"I do trust you. I can see how much you care about Josh and he's always saying what a great guy you are."

"I'm glad," I said as paused before continuing. "Mark, I noticed that you have some bruises on your back. It looks like someone took a belt to you. Is that what happened?"

Mark's eyes got very large for a second and I could see that he was trying to decide how to proceed. He looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

"Its ok Mark, I'm only asking you that so that I can help you. If someone is hurting you, I want to help you," I said seriously.

Mark looked at me and locked his eyes on mine. "My father did it. He caught me looking at some dirty pictures on the Internet and he went crazy. He took off his belt and whipped me with it. It hurt like hell. He kept screaming that I was just like my brother," Mark said with a sob.

I got up and went over to the chair where Mark was sitting and held out my arms. It took him less than a second to hop up and throw himself at me. He buried his head in my chest and sobbed.

"It's alright Mark, it wasn't your fault. I don't know you all that well but I do know that you're a wonderful young man. You're a smart and polite boy with a lot of potential. I don't know why your father reacted that way, but it isn't your fault."

"But they were dirty pictures of other boys!" Mark sobbed and tried to pull away from me as if he expected me to be revolted by his revelation.

"Mark, it doesn't matter. It's normal for boys your age to be curious about things like that. It doesn't mean that you're gay but even if you are, it doesn't matter. It shouldn't matter to your father either way. Whether you like boys or you like girls has no bearing on your character," I said soothingly as I felt Mark hold onto me even tighter. I felt him relax and melt into me.

I stood there and just held him while he let it all out of his system. I saw Josh walk slowly into the apartment with a questioning look on his face. I gave him thumbs up and I mouthed "I'll tell you later" to him. He nodded and went back upstairs.

"Listen Mark, I'm going to make you a promise. I promise you that if your father ever lays a finger on you again, he will have to deal with me. I have an idea as to how I may be able to make your life a lot better but you're going to have to trust me because it might take a while,"

"Why would you help me after what I just told you? I'm a freak. I think I'm queer," he sobbed.

"Mark, don't talk like that. First of all, the word is gay, not queer. Queer is a dirty word that ignorant people like your father use. Second of all, you may or may not be gay. Hormones do all sorts of funny things at your age. Regardless, it doesn't matter to me and I guarantee that it doesn't matter to Josh. It doesn't make you a freak. If it did, then I'd be a freak too."

"What do you mean?" Mark asked.

"I mean I'm bisexual. That means I like women and I like men. Josh knows that and he doesn't care, he loves me just the same as he did before he knew that."

Mark was wide-eyed. "I had no idea," he said as he buried his face in my chest again.

"Mark, I'm going to make some calls and I'm going to see what I can do to help you out. Part of that is going to involve keeping your father from hurting you. I want you to call me at any time, day or night, if you feel that you're in danger. If you have to, simply get away and get to a phone or get yourself here. I will help you. If he does hurt you again, I want to know about it. You can tell Josh or you can tell me."

"I will. Thank-you for helping me. We've barely met and I've just told you my darkest secret and you want to go out of your way to help me. Now I know why Josh brags about you so much and why he loves you so much," Mark said softly.

"I can't stand seeing kids get hurt and mistreated. You're a good friend of Josh's and that makes you my friend too. I don't know what I can do at this point, but I will do something. I can promise you that if your father lays a hand on you again, he will be very sorry. He had better hope that the cops get to him before I do."

Mark looked me in the eye and I could tell that he knew just how serious I was. We gave each other a final squeeze and then released our embrace. I handed Mark some tissues to dry his eyes as I sat back down and started the movie. Josh, hearing the TV came back down. Bless his heart, he pretended that nothing had happened and simply climbed up on the sofa with me and assumed his usual position snuggled against my left side. Mark excused himself to use the bathroom and I took the opportunity to fill Josh in on what happened.

"The bastard," Josh hissed. "That asshole needs a good ass kicking."

"Well, that's exactly what he'll get from me if he hurts Mark again," I said seriously and Josh knew better than anyone that I meant it.

"What can you do to help him?" Josh asked.

"I'm not quite sure but I'm going to call Andy for some advice and I'm going to see if I can get in touch with Bryan in Calgary."

"I love you dad," Josh said as he hugged me firmly and kissed my cheek.

Just then Mark returned to the living room. He looked at Josh and I on the sofa and I could see the longing in his eyes. "Bryan and I used to sit like that and watch TV," he said sadly.

"There's enough room here for three of us if we move down," Josh said with a smile.

Mark's eyes seemed to light up. Josh repositioned his legs and slid down to the right side of the couch. I moved over to the middle position and Mark sat down in my customary spot. After a few adjustments, I had Josh and Mark snuggled up on either side of me and I wrapped one arm around each of them. We stayed that way for the rest of the afternoon and watched my collection of Benny Hill videos. It didn't take long to learn that Mark shared the same warped sense of humour that Josh and I had.

I was glad that Mark had the same sense of humour because he was going to need it. I still owed Josh a 'gotcha' for the makeup incident and with Susan's help I had planned a doozey! At about 4:00 Susan called us all up stairs for Josh's birthday cake and gifts. We decided that it was best to do the cake at home as opposed to doing it at the Mandarin partially because of the logistics of transporting the cake and gifts but also because by the time we finished eating all that Chinese food, none of us was likely going to have room for cake. There was also a third reason which Josh was about to discover.

I got Josh and Mark seated at the kitchen table as I went to help Susan light the candles on Josh's cake. The cake was unusual for a birthday cake. It was similar to a log cake but it had one very important difference. We lit the 14 candles (13 plus 1 for luck) and we all sang a passable rendition of "Happy Birthday" to Josh. He blew out all 14 candles in one breath and we all clapped. It was finally time for Josh to cut the cake.

Just as he poked the knife into the cake, Susan and I ducked. I was pretty sure that Josh had just enough time to realize that he'd been had before it happened. There was a loud pop and his cake exploded in a torrent of whipped cream and icing. Josh looked like a snowman with a face full of icing. The look of complete surprise on his face was absolutely priceless. Susan quickly managed to snap a photo before he regained his composure.

Mark, who also ended up wearing a quantity of icing and whipped cream, sat there in complete shock while Susan and I nearly split our sides laughing. After a few seconds Josh regained his composure and started laughing right along with us. He also made a point of rubbing his icing covered face against both of us.

We had a real cake for him, but this one was my payback for the makeup incident. I had blown up a large balloon, placed it on the cake-plate and then packed icing and whipped cream around it. When Josh unknowingly popped the balloon with the knife, the force of it blasted the icing and whipped cream into his face.

"That's it," Josh laughed. "You guys are really gonna get it now! This was your idea, wasn't it?" Josh said looking at me with a mischievous grin on his face.

"I confess, I did it," I said between bursts of laughter. "Your mom knew about it, but it was all my fault."

"Don't forget, your birthday is only a couple of weeks away," Josh said with a wink.

I knew I was going to get it bad. This was one of the best pranks that I'd ever managed to pull over on Josh. Josh had long been the master of the practical joke and he wasn't used to having one pulled on him. To his credit, he took it all in stride and with good humour.

We finally retrieved Josh's real birthday cake from the refrigerator and Josh gingerly poked it with the knife before finally cutting it and serving us all a slice. None of us even bothered cleaning ourselves up after the prank so we all ended up bursting out laughing each time we looked at one another.

"You guys are all certifiable," Mark said with a laugh.

With both the joke cake and the real cake taken care of, we moved onto the gifts. We were saving the trip announcement until dinner time, but we all had something for him to open before hand. The first gift that he opened was from Susan. He read the card and then tore into the wrapping paper with relish. Susan had given him some new camping gear - a sleeping bag, backpack, mess kit and flashlight. Josh knew that I was going to take him camping a lot, but he didn't know that his new gear was going to get a real workout during the summer months. Susan had asked me for help picking out his gear and I selected items which were actually the same as my own. I knew Josh would want to have the same things as I did but it would also ensure that everything was compatible.

"Thanks mom! This is so cool. We have to go camping for sure now," Josh said with a grin as he hugged Susan tightly.

"We sure will kiddo," I said with a smile.

Mark gave Josh his gift next. It wasn't wrapped, but Josh didn't mind. He gave him a beautifully detailed and hand painted scale model of a Cessna 172 aircraft. The model came in a nice display case with a clear cover. Josh loved it.

"Thanks Mark, this is really nice. It's just like the one I got to fly," Josh said as he gave his friend a brief hug.

He opened my gift last. He read the card and I could see his eyes moisten up a bit. "Thanks Dad. That's a really nice card," he said as he attacked the wrapping paper covering the gift. "Cool! A colour printer," He hollered. "Thanks dad!" Josh wrapped his arms around be and smeared me with more icing from his face. Josh was obviously delighted with the Canon printer that I had bought for him.

"You're welcome," I said with a smile as I wrapped my arms around him and returned his hug.

With the gifts opened, we scattered and got ourselves cleaned up for dinner. Josh and Mark retired to his bedroom to change and wash up while I went down to my apartment. Susan cleaned up the kitchen and then went to get herself ready. Within a few minutes we were all ready to go. The boys were beside themselves with excitement and nearly drooling on the floor in anticipation of the feast that awaited them.

We decided to take my Jeep. Being the only licensed driver who can handle a standard, I drove. Josh, whose driver training had been going exceedingly well hopped into the back seat with Mark while Susan took the passenger seat. Josh spent the 10 minute drive filling Mark in on all the details of the food nirvana that was the Mandarin.

The restaurant wasn't all that crowded for a Saturday night and we had a reservation so we were seated almost immediately. Mark's eyes were just about bugging out of his head as he surveyed the buffet that lay before us. Josh, now a veteran of the Mandarin took on the role of tour guide for his friend and took care to point out the location of all the tastiest treats such as lobsters and crab legs. I swear that the waitress took one look at the sight of two hungry teenage boys and cringed.

We sat down just long enough to place our drink orders and then we set upon the buffet. In the first of what would be many passes through the line, we loaded our plates with a myriad of Asian delights. Susan and I had been sitting down at the table for almost two minutes before the boys returned. Each of them was carrying plates which resembled the leaning tower! Amazingly, each of them had managed to balance two whole lobsters on top of everything else. Watching them devour the twin mountains of food was as entertaining as it was awe inspiring.

As I always did when I went to the Mandarin, I ate a lot more than I should have or normally would have. I managed to make my way through a couple of really stacked plates. Susan managed to down a little more than one plate and the boys easily put away four each. Neither Susan nor I had room for desert, but the boys sure did. We watched in total amazement as they both came back to the table sporting plates of fresh waffles with whipped cream and strawberries. I could only groan at the thought of eating anything else.

We decided it was time to bring Josh up to speed on the summer plans. He was just digging into his plate of waffles when I began.

"Josh, there's something we have to tell you. Something important," I said as seriously as I could.

Josh looked up from his food and looked back and forth between Susan and me.

"Honey, I guess you probably guessed that Tommy wouldn't be going to camp this summer. In fact, he's going away for July and August," Susan said trying to keep a straight face.

Josh looked stricken and unable to speak. "You're going away for the summer?" he managed to choke out.

"Yeah, bud. I sure am. I'm going to be driving all over the country," I said just barely containing myself.

"You're leaving me for the whole summer?" He gasped.

"Leaving you? Of course not, you're coming with me!" I said with a huge grin.

It took a second for it to sink in and when it did, Josh's eyes lit up like searchlights.

"We're going away for the whole summer? Just the two of us? We're going to drive all over Canada?"

"Yes, yes and yes!" I said with a laugh. "We're going to leave the day after school lets out and we're not coming home until Labour Day. We're going to visit every province and all three territories. We're going to camp out, we're going to stay in motels and we're going to spend the entire summer together. We're going to take photos, shoot video and we're going to keep a journal of the whole thing. If all goes well, we're going to publish it and maybe make some money from it."

"I don't care about making money; this is going to be the best summer ever!" Josh chirped.

"There's more honey," Susan said as she handed him an envelope.

Josh opened the envelope and extracted a bank book and ATM card. He opened the bank book and his eyes nearly popped out of his head. "There's $1,800.00 in this account!"

"That's for you to spend on the trip," Susan said.

At that point, Josh's mind went into overload. He jumped up and hugged Susan for all he was worth and told her in no uncertain terms how much he loved her. He then gave me the same treatment.

"I love you so much," He said as he enfolded me in one of his chest compressing hugs. "This is going to be the most amazing summer of my life. This has been the best birthday ever. I can't even tell you how much I love you because there aren't words to describe it," He gushed.

"I know bud, I love you the same amount. This is going to be amazing," I said warmly as I returned his embrace.

"That's going to be amazing," Mark said with a touch of sadness in his voice. "Make sure you send me some postcards."

I wanted to say something, but I thought better of it. If all went well, we'd do a lot better than just send him postcards. "Don't worry Mark, we haven't forgotten you. If all goes as I plan, we'll do better than that. Remember, you have to trust me," I said as I ruffled his hair. He smiled back at me and I knew he did trust me.

After the boys finished their waffles, Susan paid the bill and I drove us home. I went down to my apartment to relax and recover from overeating while Josh and Mark went up to his room to play with his computer. I had a bit of a headache, but it wasn't all that bad. I drifted off on the sofa and it was dark in my apartment when I was awakened several hours later.

"Dad?" Josh said as he gently shook my shoulder.

"Hey kiddo, what's up?" I asked.

"Mark and I are playing Doom. Can we borrow your laptop so we can play together?" Josh asked.

"Sure bud, help yourself," I replied.

"Are you ok?" Josh asked with concern.

"Yeah, I have a bit of a headache, but it's nothing to worry about. It's nothing like I had when I was sick," I said trying to reassure him.

"Come on, let's get you to bed and I'll give you a massage. This is the first one you've had in a while isn't it?"

"Yeah, the last time I had one was that night," I said. 'That night' needed no explanation. "Don't worry Josh; this is just a regular migraine."

Josh helped me up and put his arm around me as he led me into my bedroom. I got undressed and climbed into bed and Josh climbed on top of my back and proceeded to give me one of his amazing neck/shoulder rubs. His ministrations may have been clumsy compared to those of a professional, but the love was unmistakable in his touch.

"Turn over so I can do your temples," he instructed as he climbed off me.

I did as I was told. "Isn't Mark going to wonder where you are?" I asked.

"It's ok, he can wait for a few minutes," Josh said with finality as he began to massage my temples.

After about 5 minutes I was feeling a lot better. Josh lay down on top of my chest and cuddled with me for a moment before he got up and grabbed me some Tylenol and a glass of water. "Take these and I'll check on you later," he said.

"Thanks son. I love you."

"I love you too," Josh replied as he took the glass from me then leaned down and kissed me gently on the forehead. Josh turned off the lights as he exited my bedroom and went to rejoin Mark in his room.

A couple of hours or so later, I heard some noise in my apartment and I began to awaken. The bathroom light was on and I could hear someone rummaging around in there. I was about to get up and investigate when I saw Josh, dressed only in his blue briefs and carrying a Kleenex box, exit the bathroom and enter my bedroom. I didn't want to let him know that he had awakened me and have him feel bad about it so I pretended to be asleep. He quietly entered my room and sat down on the side of my bed. He reached his hand down and placed it on my forehead for a moment and then gently ruffled my hair.

He sat there for a few minutes and, as I often did with him, he simply watched me, thinking I was asleep. It was dark and my eyes were closed but I could almost feel the love and adoration radiating from him in waves. I knew that if I had opened my eyes, I would have seen on his face a look of adoration not that different from the look I wore when I watched him in candid moments. Before long he leaned down, kissed me tenderly on the forehead and whispered, "I love you so much, Dad," and nuzzled his face against mine. He had evidently satisfied himself that I was ok and his mission to check on me was complete so he stood up and headed back to his own room.

I smiled to myself and I felt warm inside and slowly drifted back off to sleep and once again dreamed of Josh and whatever future lay ahead.

The next morning, I was awakened quite suddenly by Josh. One second I was sleeping peacefully and the next, I was jolted awake as 126 pounds of Josh pounced on me and enfolded me in a massive hug.

"Wake up Dad," he laughed. "Breakfast's ready"

Had anyone else used such an unconventional method of waking me up for breakfast, I would have been more than a little annoyed with them. With Josh, however, things were quite different. Even if I wanted to me mad, one look at his sparkling gray eyes and his mischievous smile would have changed my mind in an instant. I blinked the sleep from my eyes and returned his tight hug. "Morning kiddo," I said.

"Feeling better this morning?" He asked seriously.

"Other than needing a piss so badly that my back molars are floating, I'm just as fine as paint," I said with a chuckle.

"Well, I don't want you to wet the bed and me in the process so I'll let you up. I'm still going to get you back for the exploding cake," he said with a smirk as he kissed my cheek and then climbed off me.

I took a moment to relieve my bladder and when I returned to my bedroom, Josh as still there. He was stretched out on my bed with his back propped up against the headboard and he looked troubled.

"You ok?" I asked as I sat down next to him and threw my arm over his shoulders.

"Yeah.....I'm ok, I guess," he said.

"Come on Josh, you don't think you can fool me do you? Something's bothering you," I said as I gave him a squeeze.

He seemed to think about it for a moment and then he put his arms around me and snuggled into my side. "I did something bad," he mumbled.

"What is it? Joshy, you can trust me. Remember, no matter what it is, it won't change anything between us and I'll do whatever I can to help you," I said warmly. I was concerned but not overly worried. I figured he couldn't have gotten himself into that much trouble since the night before.

"I know, but it's kind of embarrassing," he replied.

"Son, you never have to feel embarrassed around me," I said trying to reassure him.

He paused for a moment and studied his feet as if there was something very interesting about the white sport socks that he wore. "Mark and I....we.....we uh..." he stumbled and then blurted out, "We jerked off together last night."

"Oh Joshy, that's nothing to worry about. There's nothing bad about that."

"We didn't just do it at the same time. Well, we did the first time. Then we....we did each other. It actually felt good that way. We did it a bunch of times and had contests to see who would squirt first, who would squirt the farthest and who would squirt the most,"

"Joshy, there's nothing wrong with all that. That's what boys do. It's perfectly natural and a lot of boys your age experiment with other boys. It's nothing to be ashamed of and it's nothing to worry about," I said as I hugged him tightly.

"I won all the contests," Josh said proudly and flashed his famous grin. "I used up all my Kleenex and I had to come down and get some more," Josh chuckled. "I wanted to check on you too to see if you were ok. I was worried about your headache."

"I'm fine, Josh. You don't have to worry about my headaches anymore. Sounds like you had a busy night. I hope you used the baby oil that I gave you, otherwise you'll be sore again," I said with concern.

"Yeah, I like it better when I use that stuff anyway. Mark said he uses hand lotion sometimes."

"With the number of times the two of you popped off, it might smell kind of funky in your room. You might want to open the window and air it out a bit," I laughed.

"It did smell kind of nasty in there this morning. I hope my mom doesn't figure out what was going on! We tried to keep the noise down so I hope she didn't hear us!" Josh said with a nervous chuckle. "Did you ever do anything like that when you were my age?" Josh asked.

"I sure did. Peter, who was my best friend, and I used to have contests like that. I think I won most of them too. Andy and I used to jerk off together sometimes. Once I made myself all raw and sore like you did and he looked after me like I did with you," I said fondly recalling the memories. "A few times, Peter, Andy, a couple of Andy's friends and I had a real big circle jerk. It was a blast - literally!"

Josh got the joke and laughed out loud. "What's a circle jerk?" He asked.

"That's when a bunch of guys get together and jerk off and have contests like you and Mark did," I said. "We only did it a few times, but it was fun. Neither Peter nor I were much of a match for Andy and his friends who were 15 or 16 at the time. They were like cannons compared to us."

"Does this mean that I'm gay or bi like you?" Josh asked. " I look at some of the girls at school and my dick gets as hard as an iron bar but I really liked fooling around with Mark."

"It means only one thing, Josh. It means that you're a healthy, growing boy. You will figure out what you are sooner or later. Whether you're straight, gay or bi, it won't matter a bit to me. Who you choose to have sex with has no impact on your character and it won't make any difference to me. It doesn't bother you that I'm bisexual, does it?"

"Of course not! I love you and I'd love you no matter what," Josh said forcefully.

"I know. I feel the same way, Josh. Nothing will ever change that, especially nothing as relatively trivial as your sexual orientation. Mark thinks he might be gay and I'm fine with that," I said seriously. "Joshy, you have plenty of time to discover your sexuality. Nature will take its course and sooner or later, you will figure out where you fit. Don't be in a hurry to grow up and don't worry about things like this."

"I know about Mark. He told me and he told me that he told you about it. I didn't let on that you'd already filled me in on what happened to him."

"Mark's a really sweet kid and he doesn't deserve what he's had to go through. Between his mother dying, his brother leaving or being thrown out and his father turning on him, he's had a rough go of it."

"What are you planning on doing?" Josh asked.

"That's something that we need to talk about, Josh. I need you to make a very adult decision here. I'm pretty certain that I can help Mark but it will have an impact on you too," I wrapped both my arms around Josh as he thought about what I had said.

"What do I need to decide?" Josh asked.

"Josh, I've been thinking about this since yesterday and I have a plan. I have to talk to Andy and I have to get in touch with Bryan but I think we may be able to swing things so that Mark will be able to go live with his brother in Calgary. That will mean that he will be living quite a long ways away from us and you won't be able to see him very often. You'll be able to exchange emails and you can visit each other every once in a while, but that's about it," I said as I studied Josh's face. "What I need you to do is decide whether or not you want me to help him that way or if you'd prefer that I try to help him in some other way in which he stays in Ontario."

Josh thought about it for all of two seconds. "Help him. If he and his brother love each other even half as much as we do, he'll be much happier and much better off in Calgary. I'll miss him, but I couldn't live with myself if I decided to be selfish and tried to stand in the way."

I kissed the top of Josh's head. "That's exactly what I thought you'd say, Josh. You're an amazing young man and you are for more mature than the average 13 year old," I said lovingly as I held him.

"Dad, I've met your mom and your brother and your nephews, but I've never met your dad. Where is he?"

"He's dead Josh. He was a police officer and he was shot and killed in the line of duty when I was about 12," I replied sadly.

"Oh...I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring it up. I had no idea," Josh said in a worried voice.

"It's ok Josh. It's been a long time. I had my brothers to fill in as my substitute dads just like you have me. Jimmy and Andy and I were all very close when we were younger. We still are. Andy and I are still very close. Jimmy and I are close too, but he's married now and has the twins so we don't see each other all that often."

"Was your dad a 'dad' or was he just a father?" Josh asked softly.

"He was a dad all the way, kiddo. I loved him an awful lot. When he got shot, I wanted to go to the police station and kill the man who shot him. I would have if I had been given a chance."

"I'd kill anyone who shot you," Josh replied firmly.

"I know kiddo. My mom, Andy and James helped me get through it. We all helped each other get through it. I realized that my dad wouldn't have wanted me to do that. He would have wanted me to grow up and do something with my life, not rot in prison for killing a useless piece of crap like the guy who shot him."

"What happened to that guy?"

"He's still in prison. The judge gave him 25 years to life for murder. Unfortunately, he can apply for parole after 15 years."

"WHAT? He killed a cop and he could get out after only 15 years?" Josh asked incredulously.

"Unfortunately that's how our system works," I said resignedly.

"Someone needs to change that," Josh replied in an animated tone.

"I know, but what are we going to do?"

Josh had a very thoughtful look on his face. I could see the wheels turning in his head. "We have to change things," Josh replied. "If something is wrong, it needs to be fixed. It's easy to say it's too tough and not do anything. It's harder to actually do something; things will never get better unless people have the guts to do something."

"You sure you're only 13?" I asked Josh only half jokingly. What he said was absolutely right and made complete sense. After a few minutes I got up and got dressed and both of us headed upstairs to join Mark and Susan for breakfast. Neither of us knew it at the time, but Josh had taken his first baby step on the road to his future.

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