117. Friendship

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Henry walked alongside Big Willy, and the two of them followed the train tracks.

Willy swung a large tin bucket at his side, and it was filled to the top with old baseballs. To his left, a German Shepherd padded along, tongue lolling and tail wagging.

"Say, what's your dog's name anyway?" Henry asked.

"Trouble," Willy said, smiling.

"Trouble?" Henry laughed. "Why am I not surprised?"

Big Willy grew quiet then, slowing his pace, and looking out over the train tracks.

Henry studied his friend. "What's wrong? You got kind of quiet all the sudden."

"I'm just so glad to be back," Willy said.

"I'm glad you're back too," Henry said. "It just didn't seem right without you here. We've been together since we were kids."

"That's true," Willy said. "Honestly, I never even should have left in the first place. It was a mistake to go and work with my cousin. It's just ..." He sighed, shaking his head.

"What is it?" Henry said. "Did something happen between you and your cousin?"

"Yeah, Johnny was doing some pretty bad stuff."

"Like what?"

"He was running a dog fighting ring. It was terrible. I couldn't believe how those owners treated their dogs, training them to fight and kill each other. When I told Johnny what he was doing was wrong, he got really mad. He'd had a lot to drink and ordered one of his pit bulls to attack me. It wasn't the pit bull's fault. He was only doing what he was trained to do, but I got scared. I thought that dog was going to kill me, so I punched it. I didn't mean to hit the poor thing so hard. I was only trying to get the dog to back off and stop biting me. He was tearing my arm open." Willy blinked as he showed Henry the scars on the inside of his left arm, "But I hit the dog too hard. The pit bull ... it died."

"Willy, I'm sorry," Henry said. "That wasn't your fault. I know you wouldn't have ever hurt that dog if you'd had a choice."

"Yeah," Willy said. "I just wish that it all could have gone over some other way."

"Me too," Henry said.

Willy nodded. "You know, I found Trouble here, not too long after I got back into town. He was walking along these train tracks, hungry and thirsty. I took him in and got him taken care of. I don't understand how anyone could ever hurt or neglect an animal. Poor Trouble was probably abandoned." Big Willy paused for beat before adding, "You know what, Henry? One day, I want to open an animal shelter, so I can take care of all the neglected animals. Animals are the most innocent creatures in the world, and they need friends just like us."

Willy looked down at Trouble, eyes filled with love. He leaned over and gave him a gentle pat on the head, and the dog's tail wagged faster.

Henry smiled at his friend. "I know I may not be a fuzzy animal, but I want to say, you're my best friend in the world."

Willy smiled. "You're mine too."

A short time later, they arrived at a split in the tracks and took a turn, heading down a narrow dirt path. At the end of the trail, they came to their baseball lot. It was the very same lot where they had played on when they were kids.

There were several dark- and light-skinned boys, playing baseball together.

Henry and Willy entered the lot, and Trouble barked, swishing a happy tail back and forth.

The boys stopped playing and looked over. At first, their mouths hung open. Then their eyes started to light up.

A colored boy shouted, "Hey, Pioneers!"

And a blond-haired kid said, "You want to play a few innings?"

Henry and Willy smiled at each other.

"We'd like that," Henry said.

The boys jumped and cheered ...

... and then they rushed over to surround their heroes.


Author's Note

Remember when Willy told Henry he was leaving town?

In the bar?

At the time, Henry felt hurt, like he was being abandoned, and he got angry.

Then Willy came back!

Everything happens for a reason. That's the message here.

In Color, the life of every major character, and even some of the minor ones, is connected in some way. That's what I've tried to achieve. Every action, regardless of how small, can have a profound effect on the lives of the many.

Another thing ... this chapter brought Henry and Willy full circle as friends.

Well, we're heading into the home stretch ... only three chapters to go!

Sigh. I really can't believe it.

Thanks so much for all your reads and support!

Talk soon!

Tom

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