Substitute Dad

© 2006 - 2010 By Scribe1971 (scribe1971@hotmail.com)

Chapter 29

For Acts of Bravery

"What time is you mom's flight due in?" I asked Josh.

"She said she was going to be on the Air Canada flight arriving at 6:30," Josh replied as he gently placed Richard and Matthew on their feet.

"How's it going bro?" Andy asked jovially as he approached.

After a series of greetings and introductions, our expanded group of ten decided to make our way to the motel and get checked in before heading out for dinner. The plan was to meet Susan at the airport and then the group of us would head off for dinner together.

We had all booked ourselves into the Holiday Inn in downtown Ottawa. It was only a five-minute drive to Parliament Hill and about ten minutes away from Rideau Hall where the medal presentation would take place the next day.

The rooms at the hotel were spacious and well appointed. Josh, Mark, Bryan, and I were in one room. Andy and my mom were in the next, James, Ann, and the twins were in the room next to them. Susan and Bob were booked into a room across the hall.

While I went about hanging up our suits, Josh fired up my laptop and connected to the Internet using the in-room high speed connection. A moment later, I heard his happy shout.

"COOL," he crowed. "There's a Mandarin restaurant not far from here. Can we go there for dinner?"

"Sounds like a plan to me," I replied. "How about it guys, you feel like pigging out on all you can eat Chinese food?" I asked Bryan and Mark.

"Oh man," Mark replied. "The Mandarin is one of the things I miss most about Ontario."

"I guess that settles it as long as everyone else agrees," Bryan replied.

It didn't take long to secure the agreement of the rest of our party. In particular, Richard and Matthew were very enthusiastic about the idea of eating at the Mandarin. I placed a call to the number that Josh provided and made a reservation for twelve for 7:30 PM.

We had about 30 minutes before we had to leave to pickup Susan and Bob at the airport so we took a few minutes to relax. It was just as well that we were having a later dinner. It was approaching 6:00 but to us, it was still 4:00 in the afternoon. Josh puttered around on the Internet while Bryan stretched out on his and Mark's bed to read a book. I sat down in the reclining easy chair in the corner of the room to read some of the tour books that had been left in the room. Mark spent some time with Josh on the Internet before coming over and climbing on the chair with me. He was a pretty big boy, but I didn't mind when he snuggled in to read the tourist books along with me. I was a little surprised, that was something that Josh often did, but I didn't have any complaints about Mark doing it too.

"You excited kiddo? I asked him after a few minutes.

"Yeah, kinda," he replied.

I could sense that Mark had something on his mind. "You want to take a little walk with me?" I asked.

"Sure," Mark replied with a smile.

"Guys, we're going for a little walk to check out the hotel," I told Josh and Bryan.

"Sure. Have fun," Bryan said.

"Would you grab me a coke from the machine while you're out?" Josh asked.

"Sure bud," I replied as Mark and I left the room.

We went to the elevator and made out way down to the lobby and sat down in a couple of comfortable chairs.

"Is everything ok Marky?" I asked.

"Yeah. Everything's fine. I'm having a great time and the past few months have been the best time of my life. It's just that...." He trailed off.

"It's ok bud. It's me you're talking to. You can tell me anything," I said encouragingly.

"I know and I'm glad that you're here. I love my brother more than anything and I love Josh like a brother. You and I have a special relationship. You came into my life at just the right time. You're like my guardian angel," Mark replied with a grin.

"I hear you bud. I've said it before; you're like a son to me." I reached out and gave his knee a squeeze through his Khaki pants.

"I just feel a little bad for Bryan. We're all getting medals and he isn't," Mark said softly.

I smiled at Mark and I felt a lot of pride in the boy at that moment. He had become so much like Josh that it was uncanny. "I wouldn't worry about Bryan," I said softly. "I mean it's very nice of you to think about your brother that way, but he doesn't feel left out. You know what he feels?"

"What?" Mark asked.

"He feels pride in you and he loves you unconditionally. He doesn't feel bad that he's not getting a medal; he's feeling happy for you. He feels proud of you for what you did. You know what he told me?"

"What?" Mark asked with a raised eyebrow.

"He said that although you guys live like buddies or roommates and you're brothers, Bryan told me he feels like a Dad. Your brother loves you more than anyone else in the entire world and he's proud of you. He doesn't need a medal to feel part of this. Bryan is part this because he's part of you and you're part of him."

Mark thought about what I had said for a moment and then smiled and leaned over to give me a big hug. "Thanks Tommy," he said softly. "You're the best."

"You too kiddo. Never forget that Bryan or I will always be here for you and Josh."

"I know. Nobody has ever done as much for me in my life."

We walked back up to the room, stopping along the way to get us each a Coke from the vending machine near the elevator. I smiled when I opened the door to the room and Mark bounded in, jumped up on his bed with Bryan, and gave him a huge hug.

"Hey bud, what's that for?" Bryan asked in a surprised tone.

"Just because," Mark replied.

There was a knock at the door just as I was about to sit down.

"Andy!" I said as I opened the door. "Come on in bro."

"What's up guys?" Andy asked.

"We're just relaxing before we hit the Mandarin," Josh replied.

"Good plan," Andy replied. "I have the statement of claim and the statement of defense for you to sign."

"Oh yeah, the lawsuit. I'd almost allowed myself to forget about that," I replied.

"Don't worry about it. Their case is a joke and it'll get thrown out in a second."

Andy handed me a stack of papers. "Do I have to read all of these?"

"Normally, yes. In this case, Professor Markinson and I drew them up and I know what they say. Basically, it lays out the legal reasons that the plaintiff's case is invalid and it states the basis of our case for our counter claim and our complaint against their lawyer. We've also included a standard retainer form allowing Professor Markinson and I to act on your behalf."

"Ok, I'll sign. I don't need all the legal details," I chuckled.

"How much are we suing them for?" Josh asked.

"We're asking $1 million, but we probably won't get that much," Andy replied instantly getting Bryan and Mark's attention.

"Do they even have $1 million if we win?" I asked.

"That's the beauty of it. We're naming the plaintiffs and their lawyer as defendants. If they lose, the lawyer has liability insurance which would have to pay. I doubt that we'll get $1 million, but we'll get something out of it."

"Remind me never to piss you off," Bryan said with a laugh.

A moment later, there was another knock at the door and when Mark opened it; he was nearly bowled over by two very excited six year olds!

"LET'S GO!" Richard shouted.

"YEAH, WE"RE HUNGRY!" Matthew added.

Anne followed them in at a slightly slower pace.

"You guys are going to have a lot of fun keeping those two fed when they become teenagers in about seven years," I said to Ann.

"Don't I know it. They already have very healthy appetites but they're like their dad, they don't gain a pound of fat!"

"What did I do?" James asked as he too entered the room.

"Mommy said that we're like you and we don't get fat when we eat too much," Matthew said.

"She did, did she?" James smiled at his son.

"All of you boys are like that," my Mom said as she completed our little group. "Let's get a move on, this room is a little crowded with ten of us in here."

We headed downstairs to our vehicles. My mom, James, Andy, Ann and the twins piled into their rented mini-van while the rest of us climbed into our rental car and we headed off to the Mandarin. The plan was to drop Bryan and Mark off, then for Josh and I to return to the airport to meet his mom and Bob.

"Don't eat all the Lobster before I get back," Josh said to Mark when we dropped them off.

"Don't worry, I'm sure there's enough," Mark replied.

"Looking forward to seeing your mom again?" I asked as we made our way back to the Ottawa airport.

"Yeah, I'm not too keen on seeing Bob, though."

"I know son, just try to be nice and give him a chance."

"I will."

We pulled into the short term parking lot and I deposited a couple of loonies in the meter. We didn't expect to be waiting for long. Susan's flight was supposed to land at 6:30 at it was already 6:40.

We entered the terminal on the arrivals level and I could see that Josh was excited and looking forward to seeing his mom. He didn't have long to wait.

No sooner had we arrived in the arrivals area when we saw Susan coming through the gate with her suitcase in tow. Surprisingly, she was alone.

"MOM!" Josh shouted and ran to his mother, throwing his arms around her in a big hug.

"Hi Susan," I said as I approached.

"Hi Tom," she said and gave me a quick hug. "You two look great. Josh, I think you've grown a bit."

Josh blushed slightly. "Where's Bob?" he asked.

"Bob decided he didn't really want to come along, so I'm here alone," she said.

A small light came on as I wondered to myself, 'Why wouldn't Bob 'want' to share in this great moment?' I got the sense that there was more to the story than Susan was letting on, but I wasn't about to say anything and potentially spoil the happy mood.

"I'm really glad that you're here," Josh said.

"Me too, Josh. Me too," Susan said.

"We have a rental parked outside. Unless you want to go to the hotel first, we can go straight over to the Mandarin and join everyone else for dinner," I said.

Susan laughed out loud. "The Mandarin, eh? Trust the two of you to find a Mandarin restaurant! We can go to the hotel later. Josh might start eating the upholstery in the car if we don't get some food into him."

"MOM!"

"Don't Mom me. I know you too well son!" Susan laughed.

We arrived back at the Mandarin a few minutes later and after everyone had a chance to say hello to Susan, we joined the Buffet line. Not surprisingly, with three hungry boys in the group, the others had already started eating by the time we arrived.

Back at the table, James had ordered a bottle of wine and some grape juice for the kids. Strangely enough, Ann stuck to juice as well. James stood up and offered a toast. "I'd like to propose a toast to the three heroes. To Tom, you used to be the baby of the family but now you're the one to have followed closest in Dad's footsteps. To Josh, you're a truly amazing young man who has had a profound affect on Tom. To Mark, a courageous young fellow who has overcome some very significant obstacles. Cheers."

All three of us were blushing quite obviously at that point as we all clinked glasses and drank.

"You guys are heroes, but NEVER, EVER do anything like that again," my mom said seriously.

"I'll second that one Dianne," Susan replied firmly.

An hour later, we were all tucking into dessert when Ann spoke up. "Now that we have everyone together, we have an announcement to make. We found out the other day that the family is going to be getting a little bigger in about eight months."

It took a moment before it sunk in and then everyone broke out into cheers and shouts of congratulations.

"Way to go bro," I said and lightly punched James on the shoulder.

The twins, who were sitting between Mark and Josh, looked a little confused. Josh leaned down and whispered in Richard's ear while Mark did the same with Matthew. A second later, both boys broke into huge grins.

"Daddy, does mommy mean that we're going to be big brothers?" Matthew asked.

"I'm already a big brother cause I was born first," Richard said causing everyone to laugh.

"It sure does son. You two are going to have a little brother or a little sister."

"I'm hoping for a little girl," Anne said. "There are already too many males in this family!"

"Keep it up and we'll soon have our own hockey team," Andy said.

"I play hockey," Mark said.

"Same here," Andy replied. "We ought to talk."

"You guys won't believe some of the stuff we've done on this trip," Josh said enthusiastically. He proceeded to hold everyone enthralled with tales of bungee jumping, super malls, towering mountains and simulated air combat.

"Sounds like you boys are having quite a summer," Susan said.

"Yeah, it's the best time I've ever had!" Josh gushed.

"I'll bet that you're both learning a lot," my Mom added.

"Oh yeah! I never imagined some of the places that we've seen and we've met so many incredible and wonderful people," Josh said. "You should see the badlands. Tommy was even bitten by a snake. I thought it was poisonous, so I cut its head off with a knife."

"Sounds like you got lucky," James said.

"Josh found a real dinosaur tooth in the Badlands," I said and proceeded to tell them all about Dinosaur provincial Park and about Shelly. As I spoke about Shelly, I saw Susan take Josh's hand in her own.

"Wow Josh, you did a really wonderful thing for that little girl," Susan said.

"I want to go see the dinosaurs," Matthew announced.

"Uh oh, now look what you've started," Ann said.

"Come to think of it; I'd love to see that place too," James replied.

"You? In the outdoors?" Andy asked incredulously. "I always thought your idea of roughing it was running your laptop on batteries."

Everyone had a good laugh at James' expense.

"Sounds like something I can relate to," Bryan chuckled.

"That's why I didn't think it was weird when you wanted me to pack my suit to go on a camping trip," Mark deadpanned earning a round of laughter.

As I sat back and listened to my family bantering back and forth, I couldn't help but smile. The whole crew was gelling nicely and everyone got along famously. Family was everything to Bryan and me, and I was thrilled to be in the company of all of my loved ones at the same time.

Later that evening, back at the motel, Josh went across the hall to visit with his mom for the evening while Bryan, Mark, and I settled in for a quiet evening. I decided to polish my shoes for the next day's ceremony and figured it could be a good bonding moment with Mark.

"Hey Mark, you're going to join the Air Cadets right?" I asked.

"Definitely. I want to join the air force when I get older."

"Excellent. It's a good program. Do you want to learn an important skill that will help you in Cadets and in the military?"

"Sure," Mark replied and came over and sat down with me on the side of the bed.

I reached into my overnight bag and produced my good leather shoes and a small bag containing some black shoe polish, some rags and a balled up pair of panty-hose. "I'm going to teach you how to spit polish your shoes and make them look like mirrors," I said.

"Cool," Mark replied. "Why's that important?"

"Good question. Your uniform is something that you wear with pride and the way you wear it says a lot about you. Having well polished boots or shoes says a lot about you in military circles. It shows a lot of pride and dedication. It's actually pretty easy to do, but it takes a lot of work to build up a good coat of polish."

"I'll get my shoes," Mark said and he went to retrieve his shoes from his bag. "How do you do it?" he asked when he returned.

"Well, you need a little polish, a little spit and a whole lot of little circles," I replied.

"A whole lot of little circles?" Mark asked with a questioning look on his face.

"Yes sir, a whole lot of little circles," I replied.

I proceeded to show him how to wrap the rag around his finger, how to get a tiny dab of polish and how to work it into the leather using a firm circular motion.

"You have to learn how to give just the right amount of pressure," I instructed.

"My finger get's tired after a while," Mark said.

"I know; it does that until you get used to it. Once you get lots of layers built up, it gets easier. See how it's started to get nice a shiny and you can see those little streak marks? That means you're doing it right."

"How do I know when it's done?" Mark asked.

"I consider it done when I can read newspaper print reflected in it."

"Oh man, that's a lot of work," Mark lamented.

"I know and your boots aren't the only thing that will need polishing. The brim of your cap and your belt need to be done and you need to polish the brass of your buttons and your cap badge too!"

After an hour or so when Mark had a good coat of polish on his shoes, I showed him how to buff them to a brilliant shine with a balled up pair of panty-hose.

"Wow! These look great," he enthused. "Look at my shoes."

"Those look great bud," Bryan replied.

Pretty soon, Mark was polishing his brother's shoes too while I went to work on Josh's.

It was getting late and we needed to be up early the next morning, so we decided to turn in. I wasn't too sure if Josh was coming back that night, but I made sure that he had a room key before he left. Susan was only going to be in Ottawa for one night, so I wanted him to get as much time with her as possible.

I climbed into the big king-sized and, after bidding Mark and Bryan a good night, I drifted off to sleep. That night, I once again found myself dreaming of Josh and the future. In a dream very similar to the first such dream that I'd ever experienced, I saw myself with a crowd of people in a well decorated room. Josh, who appeared to be in his late 30s, was standing at the front of the room in profile facing an older man. Beside me on my left was a blonde woman, a very pretty blonde little girl and a strikingly handsome blonde teenage boy. The boy was a mirror of Josh and both he and the little girl had his gray eyes.

Beside me on my right was a man dressed in the sharp blue dress uniform of an Air Command officer in the armed forces. The officer had three gold bands on his sleeves, the brim of his peaked cap was adorned with a quantity of "scrambled eggs" and he proudly wore the golden wings of a pilot on his chest. It took me a moment to realize that it was a grown up Mark sitting next to me wearing the uniform of a Lieutenant-Colonel. Beside him was what was an older version of Bryan and in the rows behind us, I could see most of my family members as they might look in 20 or so years. The last thing I remember in the dream was watching Josh, standing proud and holding a nicely bound book in one hand; begin to read from a card being held in front of him.

I awoke to the sound of thunder and the light tapping of rain on the hotel window. I was on my back and I felt a familiar weight and warmth against my right side. Josh had evidently returned from visiting his mother and climbed into bed without disturbing me.

I wrapped an arm around him and went over the dream in my mind. Slowly, the meaning of that dream began to dawn on me and while I still rejected the idea that I was somehow clairvoyant, I believed that someone somewhere was trying to tell me something. I realized for the first time just what Josh's destiny might be and why it was so important for me to be there to support and nurture him along the way. With the sound of my son's snoring in my ear and thoughts of what the future might hold flashing through my mind, I once again drifted off to sleep.

We all awoke bright and early the next morning. The big day had finally arrived. The four of us scrambled to take our showers and get dressed up in our suits. I decided against mentioning any part of my dream to any of the others.
 
Before long, all eleven of us were standing in the hotel lobby waiting to take the short drive to Rideau Hall. Josh looked like a million bucks in his new suit and the same Navy blue tie that I'd given him for his father's funeral. Mark and Bryan both looked immaculate in their suits, as did Andy and James. Susan, Anne, and my mom were all dressed in nicely trimmed skirts and jackets. Even the twins were decked out in tiny suits and ties.

"You've become such a handsome boy Josh," Susan said as she wiped the corner of her eyes. "You're not a little boy anymore."

Josh blushed slightly and hugged his mother.

My own mom reached up and straightened my tie for me. "You look wonderful too Tom," she said and kissed my cheek.

Most of the morning seemed like a blur. I hardly remembered walking to the car and climbing into the passenger seat as Bryan got behind the wheel and the boys climbed into the back seat. I barely noticed the majestic Parliament Buildings, the stately National War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or even 24 Sussex Drive, the home of the Prime Minister. When we finally arrived at Rideau Hall, it seemed as if we'd only just left the hotel.

After we parked the car, we were met by a Government House staffer who checked our invitations and recorded the names of our guests before showing us into the main hall where the presentation was to take place. Along the way, she explained how the ceremony would take place but I barely heard her. I was lost in my own thoughts. I was filled with mixed emotions. I felt pride, but I still felt a degree of guilt and shame over what had happened. If not for Josh's hand on one shoulder and Bryan's hand on the other, I don't know how I would have made it through that morning.

When we entered the room and took our seats in the front row, I had a sense of D‚j… vu. I realized that the room we were in, was the same room from my dream the night before and that only served to heighten my certainty that I had correctly interpreted the dream. I was also thinking about my Dad and wondering what he'd think of all this. I knew that he'd be proud and I was a little sad that he wasn't there to see it.

"You ok Dad?" Josh asked.

"Yeah bud, I'm fine," I replied and squeezed his hand. "I'm more than fine."

"You have kind of a funny look on your face," Josh commented.

"I just feel a little overwhelmed, that's all."

"I'm with you Dad. We're all with you. Everyone you love and care about is here with you," Josh said softly.

"I know kiddo. I was thinking about the future and the past too. I was thinking about my Dad. I wish he was here."

"I'm sure he is here Dad. He's always with you. It's like you told me that night in the hospital. Your dad will always be with you, just like you promised to always be with me."

I knew he was right and hearing it from him made it real. "You're right Joshy. Thanks bud."

"Hang in there Tom," Bryan whispered to me and placed a hand on my shoulder.

"I will. Thanks," I replied and softly touched his hand.

A few moments later, the ceremony was started with the playing of the vice regal salute and the arrival of the governor general. She was a fairly short, kind looking, lady who had a grandmotherly look about her. When she spoke, she spoke from the heart and with the authority of her office.

"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Rideau Hall. Of all the duties that I have as Governor General, this is the one which gives me the greatest pleasure. I am honoured today to recognize ten Canadians who have made a real difference to this country. Each of you has performed an act of heroism and placed yourself in a position of great peril in order to help others. Each of you represents the best of what this great country of ours has to offer. Each of you has set an example of for the rest of us to follow. I am proud of all of you and I am very pleased to welcome you hear today in recognition of your brave and selfless acts," she said before sitting down in the large chair at the front of the room.

The Rideau Hall staffer who had shown us to our seats approached the podium to the side of the room and began to speak. "Your Excellency Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, Ladies and Gentlemen. We will begin this morning's ceremony with the presentation of the Star of Courage to three young men from Toronto, Ontario. Thomas Ryan Davis, Joshua Michael Chambers and Mark Andrew Callahan please step forward."

Josh, Mark, and I all stood up together and walked to the front of the room. I heard one of the twins giggle something and smiled faintly as we took our places facing the governor general.

The woman at the podium began to read the citation for our medals. "In February of this year, Thomas Ryan Davis, Joshua Michael Chambers, and Mark Andrew Callahan were visiting the Cloverdale shopping mall in west Toronto when they stumbled across a robbery in progress. The robbers, who were armed with handguns, fired several shots during the robbery and had taken a hostage. These three young men took it upon themselves to stop the robbery. They disarmed the first suspect and were forced to use one of the robber's own pistols to shoot and kill the second suspect, in order to prevent any harm from coming to themselves or any bank employees. During the exchange of gunfire, Thomas Ryan Davis was wounded in his arm. Subsequent investigations by the police revealed that had these three brave young men not intervened to stop the robbery, it is a virtual certainty that the hostage would have been killed."

The Governor General rose from her chair and approached the three of us. Beside her was another aid carrying the medals laid out on a silver tray. She stopped first in front of me. "On behalf of Queen Elizabeth the second, I present you with this medal for acts of bravery in the face of great personal peril," she carefully pinned the medal to the left lapel of my jacket and then shook my hand. She smiled warmly at me and said, "Congratulations and well done."

She moved on to Josh and then to Mark and repeated the same narration again. Just like that, after only a few minutes, it was all over. When we turned to head back to our seats, I noticed that at the back of the room, there were a dozen Toronto police officers in their dress uniforms, among them was Constable Darren Higgins. He smiled at us and gave a brief thumbs-up gesture as we took our seats.

We sat and admired our gleaming medals as we watched the rest of the medal presentations. There were ten groups and individuals being honoured that morning. Sadly, a few of those presentations were posthumous. I thought about just how close our little adventure had come to resulting in a posthumous presentation. Had Joe Chamber's aim been a little better, I could have taken his slug in my heart instead of across my arm.

Following the presentation, there was a catered reception. I sought out Constable Higgins and the other officers who had made the trip and found out that they had all known and worked with my dad before he died, and they had all come to Ottawa on their own dime to see us. I was truly moved and I made it known to them.

"Way to go son, your dad would have been very proud of you," Darren said warmly.

"Thanks. Thank you to all of you for coming. It means a lot to have you here." I made my way to each of them and shook their hands. Having them there meant more to me than any of them would ever know. I could feel my dad in that room with me that morning.

After speaking to the officers, I sought out Josh. I found him with Mark near the buffet table. "Hey son. How's it going?"

"Great. How about you?" Josh asked.

"I feel great kiddo. I just spoke to Darren and the officers who came with him. They all used to work with my Dad. I was thinking about what you said, and I can feel my Dad here with us today."

"I'm glad. I want to speak to them and thank them too."

Josh turned and was about to head in the direction of the group of police officers when he noticed a tall, well dressed man enter the room and begin walking in our direction. I followed Josh's gaze and felt my breath catch in my throat. The man coming towards us was the Prime Minister of Canada.

"Josh, do you know who that is?" I asked.

"Isn't that the Prime Minister?"

"Yes it is," I said. He was on his second term and likely to run for a third. While I hadn't voted for him either time and was unlikely to vote for him the next time, it would be an experience to meet someone of that importance.

"Welcome to Ottawa," he said as he approached and extended his hand to me.

"Thank you Mister Prime Minister. It's an honour to meet you."

"It's not every day that I get to meet a hero," he said with a crooked grin.

He moved on to Mark and I noticed the reporters following him with still cameras and video cameras. I hoped that we weren't going to end up on some election brochure.

By the time he finished with Josh, I need not have worried about being used in campaign material.

I heard the Prime Minister exchange greetings with Josh and then I did a double take when I heard what Josh had to say next.

"I'm honoured to meet you sir, but if I can be honest with you, I don't think you're doing a very good job in some areas," Josh said clearly, confidently and loud enough that all the reporters took notice. Suddenly Josh was surrounded by microphones, tape recorders and every camera in the room.

"We live in a great country but there are some problems that don't seem to be getting fixed. My father was a drunk who kept getting drunk and driving his car. No matter how many times he got locked up for it, he kept getting out. He kept doing that until he finally killed three people and himself. My new dad's father was a police officer like those men over there. He was shot and killed in the line of duty and the guy who killed him might get out of jail in just a few years. My new dad was in the army and he got hurt and it took two years for the army to figure out that they were at fault and he nearly died. A bunch of our troops, including some of my Dad's friends, are over in Kosovo right now and they're having to work with old equipment that should have been replaced," Josh paused for a moment and it was clear that the Prime Minister was thinking quickly trying to figure out how to answer him.

Josh continued. "Right now, my dad and I are driving across the country trying to learn as much as we can about every part of Canada and the people who live here. I don't know if you've ever done that, but if you haven't, you should. I've learned about what a great country this is, but I've also learned that there are some problems. Do you know how some of the First Nations people have to live? Do you know that there are people, little children even, who are getting sick with cancer and dying from it? There are beautiful places like the Rocky Mountains and those places along with the animals that live in them need to be protected and I'm not sure it's being done right. Rotten people like my former grandparents are able to sue my Dad because we stopped my former uncle from robbing a bank and killing his ex wife. People like my friend Mark's father are able to abuse and mistreat their kids without having much to fear from the law. You need to be protecting kids." Josh said.

"You're a very smart young man," the Prime Minister said. "Those are some very complex and difficult issues."

"Yes sir, I know that. My dad likes to say that you should tackle the hard stuff first. I learned a lot about Terry Fox on this trip. He did some really difficult stuff. He ran a marathon a day on one leg because he believed in his dream. He was just a young man not much older than me. You're the Prime Minister. You're a smart guy and you have all sorts of power. You're supposed to deal with the tough problems and make them better. That's what you get elected for. I ran for student's council at my school to try to make things better for the other students," Josh said.

"I can see that you'd make a great politician," the Prime Minister replied.

"I'm not a politician. Politicians do what they think will make people vote for them. I do what I do because I want to change things, just like Terry Fox did, and just like lots of other people do."

The Prime Minister was clearly flustered. His reputation as a brawler from the mean streets of Shawinigan was no match for an idealistic and determined boy who wasn't afraid to speak his mind. The reporters were nearly in stitches and you could just about hear a pin drop as everyone in the room stopped what they were doing to listen to Josh give the Prime Minister a piece of his mind.

"Thank you for the advice Josh. You're a very smart and passionate young man with a lot of ideas. I hope you don't lose that idealism as you grow up. You have given me a lot to think about. I hope I never have to run against you," the Prime Minister said with an uncomfortable laugh before managing to extricate himself from the room.

The bunch of us just stood there slack-jawed as Josh suddenly found himself in the middle of a media frenzy. It wasn't every day that a young boy told off the Prime Minister in front of the national media.

As for Josh, he didn't understand what all the fuss was. The Prime Minister was just a man and Josh had told him what he thought. He had been polite, respectful, and truthful. Josh didn't expect to realize fifteen minutes of fame as a result; he just wanted to be heard - and as the Prime Minister found out, sometimes the truth hurts.

When we left Rideau Hall, Josh was just as happy to leave the media frenzy behind him and to get on with the business of being a boy and enjoying having his whole family together for a day of exploring Ottawa.

As I sat in the passenger seat of the car, I smiled to myself. I had always known what a special boy Josh was and pretty soon, the rest of the country would know too.

That night, Josh would be featured on all the main newscasts. The next day, the front page of virtually every newspaper in the country would feature the image of Josh, dressed to the nines, wearing his new medal telling the Prime Minister what was wrong with the country.

It was that day that the country got its first real taste of Josh and it wasn't to be the last.


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