Trent sat high in the oak tree, dangling one leg over a thick branch. When Jared and Tom called to him from below, he didn’t even hear them. He was daydreaming about a book he had been reading. His Grandma Jessop had given him Pioneer Children for his birthday. After reading the book for a while, he had left it on his bed and climbed the tree to think about the pioneer children and their amazing experiences.
One boy in the book had saved his two little sisters when their house and fields caught fire. Another had found food for his family because his father was away fighting in the war.
The stories told about the many dangers that the pioneer children faced—bears, coyotes, Indians, even starvation. Trent wished that he had lived then. He would have met the challenges! He could outsmart Indians or scare away coyotes. As a Boy Scout he had learned how to make a cave in the snow where he could keep himself and his little brother warm if they got lost, just like a girl had done in one of the stories. He would share a piece of bread with a hungry child, even if it were all he had.
But it would never happen to Trent. His mother could buy him anything he wanted in the supermarket—any type of bread, fresh fruits and vegetables year round, even cookies and candies.
Finally, the voices below broke through Trent’s reverie.
“Trent! What’s the matter with you?” Jared called. “Have you gone deaf or something?”
“We’ve been hollering at you to come down,” Tom said.
“Who knows? We’ll just walk around till we find something to do.”
Yeah, I’ll bet, Trent thought. Jared and Tom were his best friends, but lately they were often into some kind of mischief. Trent climbed partway down the tree and then dropped to the ground.
“What were you doing up there, anyway?” Jared asked.
“I was thinking about this book I’ve been reading,” Trent answered. “It’s all about—”
“A book!” Jared sneered. “Don’t you have anything better to do than read books?”
Trent looked searchingly at Jared, trying to see past the dark eyes and freckles that he had come to know so well. Tom, too, was almost as familiar as a brother, although he had moved into the neighborhood only six months ago.
“What’s with you, Jared?” asked Trent. “You used to like to read. You used to like the other things I like too.”
Jared just ignored Trent’s question.
“Hey, look,” Tom said, pointing. “Here comes Reggie. Let’s have some fun with him.”
Reggie was huffing and puffing up the hill on his bike, sweat beading on his forehead, a paper sack held tightly in one hand. Reggie tried his best, but he just couldn’t do a lot of things very well, and he attended a special class for slow learners.
“Hey, dumbo,” Tom said as Reggie neared them, “dumb kids aren’t allowed on this street. You’ll have to go back around the other way.”
Reggie stopped and straddled his bike. He looked around, confused.
“What’s the matter?” Tom went on, “Don’t you know the way?”
Jared snickered. Reggie was older than they were. He was stronger, too, but he looked afraid.
“What’s in the sack?” Tom asked.
“Mmm, let’s see,” Jared said, grabbing the sack away from Reggie. “Maybe you have my favorite kind of candy in there.”
Jared dumped out the candy, and he and Tom began dividing it between them.
Reggie blinked a few times, and Trent saw tears in his eyes. “My daddy gave me the money,” Reggie quavered. “I earned it.”
“Ha!” Tom jeered. “What did you have to do to earn it? Tie your own shoes?”
“Button your own shirt?” Jared added.
Trent felt tears starting in his own eyes. He didn’t want to go against his two best friends, but he knew what he had to do. “Stop it!” he shouted.
Tom and Jared looked at him, surprised. Even Reggie looked surprised. Trent grabbed the candy out of his friends’ hands.
“Aw, c’mon,” Tom said. “We’re just having a little fun.”
“Well it’s not much fun for Reggie, is it?” Trent asked as he handed the sack and candy back to Reggie.
“No,” Reggie said, wiping the tears off his cheeks.
“Come on,” Trent said, his hand on Reggie’s shoulder. “I’ll walk with you.”
As they walked, balancing the bike between them, Trent and Reggie talked. They talked about bicycles and allowances, and Reggie told Trent about his new puppy.
When they waved good-bye, Trent felt good about what he’d done. He realized that although he hadn’t faced starvation or bears, as the pioneer children in his book had, by standing in his against his friends to help Reggie, he had acted with courage too. It was just another kind of courage.