B. J.’s Secret97972_000_004
I met B. J. the Saturday we moved to Pinedale. I was walking down the snowy street with my ice skates, when a kid with glasses slipped and slid into me. He was chasing a fuzzy little dog.
“Sorry,” he said, pulling me up and brushing the snow off my pants. “Mrs. James’s dog, Snuggles, escaped from her apartment, and I told her I’d catch him. By the way, I’m B. J. Are you new around here?”
“Yeah. We just moved into that blue house,” I answered, pointing across the street. “I’m Jack.”
“Hi. Glad to meet you.” B. J. grinned, and I felt my mouth curve into a smile. He was a funny-looking kid with hair that stuck out from under his hat like straw, but his friendliness wrapped around me like a giant bear hug. I didn’t know anyone else in the neighborhood yet.
“Do you like to skate?” I asked. “I’m going over to the rink.”
“Help me catch Snuggles,” B. J. said, “and I’ll show you the best ice in town.”
“Come on then.” B. J. was already running down the street. “Snuggles always heads over to the flower shop. He has a crush on the poodle that lives there.”
B. J. cut down alleys and zigzagged through town as if he was in a maze. “I’ve lived here all my life,” he told me. “I know the best shortcuts.”
A few minutes later, we found Snuggles curled up in a furry ball against the flower shop door. B. J. scooped him up and gave him a scratch behind the ears. “Sorry to interrupt your date,” he told Snuggles, “but Mrs. James is waiting for you.”
After we took the dog back and got B. J.’s skates, he led me to an awesome pond. Pine trees surrounded it like tin soldiers, and the frozen surface looked as smooth as polished silver. Kids raced around it, their winter jackets blurs of bright colors.
“The kids usually skate here,” B. J. said as we sat down on a bench near a tiny building. “That’s the chalet for warming up. They sell snacks inside too.”
After we laced our skates, B. J. introduced me to Mike, Leroy, and Jenna. He seemed to know the entire town. Before long, we were all playing tag, and I felt the sting of the icy cold air on my cheeks as I flew across the ice.
B. J. had just tagged me, when a little girl in a pink coat slipped and fell. She started to cry, and B. J. whipped over to help her up.
“Is this your sister?” I asked, skating up.
“No, it’s Emma,” he answered, holding her hand to steady her. “She hurt her knee. I’m going to take her inside and get her some hot chocolate.”
“Oh,” I said. “What about our game?”
“I’ll be back—go ahead and play.”
“Come on, Jack,” Mike hollered. “You’re it.” So I skated off to tag him. I figured Emma must be B. J.’s cousin or something like that. Why else would he take care of her?
Over the next few weeks, I got to know B. J. a lot better. He lived with his mother and sister in an apartment downtown. I could tell when I visited that they probably didn’t have much money. Their furniture had faded spots, and their clock looked like the one in school—black and white with no flowers or decorations. Nothing about the place was fancy, but he didn’t mind and neither did I. His mom laughed all the time, and he was quickly becoming my best friend.
We both loved skating and collecting coins. We both built model airplanes too. In fact, we got along better than peanut butter and jam. But I couldn’t understand why B. J. did some of the crazy things he did—like giving Jenna his trumpet solo in the Christmas program.
“Why did you give it to Jenna?” I asked him. “You were going to steal the show.”
“Jenna’s dad is coming to town just to see her,” he told me. “She’s real excited about it. He hasn’t been around much since her parents divorced. It’s important to her.”
“But what about you?”
“I don’t mind.” He shrugged. “Let’s finish our homework and go sledding. I’ll show you the hill we call Double-Decker.”
When we went sledding, he loaned his sled to a couple of boys who didn’t have one and doubled up with me. I didn’t bother to ask him why. Afterward, we went for hot chocolate at a little restaurant that he knew about. Before we left, he swept the floor for the owner. “He has arthritis,” B. J. whispered to me, “and sweeping hurts his hands.”
On the way home, we passed a theater, and a man in a long robe stumbled and fell down in front of us. I helped him up. He had long brown hair, and he was wearing sandals in the snow. He looked like the pictures of Jesus Christ that they show in Primary.
“Are you all right?” I asked. I knew he was an actor, but he looked so much like what I thought Jesus must look like that I wanted to help him as much as I could.
“I’m not used to wearing sandals,” he said, thanking me. “I have to go now. They’re waiting for me inside.”
“Have a good day,” I said as I watched him hurry inside.
“Did you see that actor?” I asked B. J. “I felt like I was helping Jesus.”
B. J. smiled. “Now you know my secret,” he said. “I always try to treat people as if they were Jesus Christ. Then it’s easy to help them, and I feel happy too.”
That night, I thought a long time about what B. J. had said. Then I decided to get up early in the morning and shovel the walks for my dad. He might wonder why I’m so helpful, but the idea made perfect sense to me.