Simon's Journal

Volume III


Thirteen Sails
Adventures Abound


Written by Danny












Chapter - 16

I can't believe you're finally here


It took me a second or two to realize what had happened and why Tom was holding me like a little baby in his arms.

"Tom?" I said.

"Yeah little buddy?" Tom asked with more then a little concern in his eye.

"Um, you can put me down now." I said.

"Why? I am kind of enjoying it. Aren't you?" Tom joked, "If I had a few stones I could rock you to sleep."

"Thomas!" Mrs. Otteranski began, "Don't tease the poor thing!"

"Poor thing?" I thought.


I was soaked and I don't just mean my GoodNite, I mean every inch of me was drenched in sweat. Even my hair was wet again and apparently I had soiled myself once more.

Back inside the beach house Mrs. Otteranski insisted on giving me a going over in the tub to be sure I was ok; she did this while washing me from head to toe. After I was cleaned up she allowed me to get myself dressed. However, this time, with a little help from her, I only put on a regular disposable diaper and a white tank-top. I suppose I was getting fairly comfortable around BJ and his parents and didn't mind them seeing me like that. Heck, if I didn't have the nasty scars that crisscross my back I probably would have been running around all dang day in just a GoodNite or one of my other swim diapers.

After my bath and after I was adequately protected, I walked out to the porch where Mr. and Mrs. Otteranski were talking about me. Mrs. Otteranski wanted to call my doctor and my parents but thankfully after I had pleaded for them not to call; Mr. Otteranski took my side and persuaded his wife not to call either of them. I definitely didn't want to see or talk with my doctor again and I sure as heck didn't want to get my parents upset either. Knowing my mom, she would probably want me to come home right away!

"I am fine, really!" I assured everyone.

BJ wouldn't leave my side the rest of the day; not even to go to the bathroom. When he needed to pee he made me come with him. And once Tom was absolutely sure I was ok he returned to his camp site atop the hill. I was surprised that he had abandoned his post for as long as he had but I suppose he figured that since he was with me there wasn't much chance of someone sneaking in to steal me away again.

I suppose it would have been nice if he would have said goodnight and left but then he wouldn't be Tom. Tom being Tom meant that he couldn't just leave without slipping in one more of his witty comments. He picked up a pebble, gave it a toss straight up and caught it again before saying, "Let me know if you have trouble sleeping tonight."

I actually came up with a good come back, ok it wasn't cool but it was better then nothing. "Why don't you take your rock and roll on out of here?"

BJ groaned, "Oh Simon that one stunk worse than your diapers!"

Had his dad not done it for me, I would have had to get up and pop him one for that comment. However, he must not have hit him hard enough because BJ smiled and swung his head back and forth like a church bell as he went, "Gong, Gong, Gong!"


The rest of that day was quiet and after that emotionally draining spell, I was more than a little worn out. I was also incredibly parched. It seemed like I couldn't get enough to drink and even Mrs. Otteranski commented the fourth or fifth time that I had come in to get a glass of water; she had taken hold of my head, twisted it left and then twisted it right before proclaiming, "Nope, no gills!"

BJ and I stayed close to the beach house, which made his parents happy. The only time we left the house was when he and I walked some dinner up to Tom, which Mrs. Otteranski had cooked specially for him. She had said that when we got back we would be having our dinner. Before we left his mom made me go put on a pair of shorts, my shoes and a proper T-Shirt. I should have known that something was up.

We were getting close to Tom when BJ and I both heard Tom talking but neither of us could make out what he was saying. When we reached the clearing Tom had stopped talking and was sitting on the ground Indian style. With a pocket knife he was whittling the end of a long stick into a point.

"Soups on!" BJ announced.

"Soup?" Tom made a sick face and stuck out his tongue. "I hope you brought more than soup!"

"Fried potatoes, fried tomatoes and fried catfish." I answered.

"What? No fried calves brains or fried pigs feet or fried chicken lips?" Tom joked and I busted out laughing when I saw how grossed out BJ was.

"What's that for?" BJ asked as Tom laid the pointed stick on the ground.

Tom licked his lips when he saw the generous helpings on the plate, "Well, I wasn't expecting room service so I was going to go see if I couldn't catch that big turtle I saw earlier."

BJ handed Tom the bottle of water that he had carried up and Tom invited us to stay for a while. "You boys want to sit down and wait for the stars to come out?"

"Nah, we better not." BJ answered.

"Yeah, we have not had our dinner yet." I added.

"Suite yourselves but it sure does get beautiful up here when the sun is setting." Tom said before shoveling in a huge bite of the catfish.

"See ya tomorrow?" I asked as BJ and I started to head back.

"Ah `spec tho," Tom said with his mouth full.

We were about ten or fifteen feet away when I stopped and told BJ, "Wait here, I will be right back."

I ran back to the clearing and gave Tom a hug.

"What was that for?" Tom asked.

"Just because." I answered.


I caught up with BJ and the two of us went back to the beach house the long way via the beach. It wasn't something we did intentionally. We had heard something rustling around in some bushes and neither of us was feeling very brave. We didn't talk at first; we just walked side by side, picking up stones and skipping them on the water.

I was the one to break the silence this time, "Sorry I went spastic earlier. Hope I didn't scare you."

"What? Me scared? I never get scared!" BJ said.

"Yeah right," I said but let it drop.

"You know something?" I asked.

"What's that?" BJ said.

I gave another rock a fling and it skipped three times. "I am surprised that you haven't asked me what happened next." I said.

BJ made a fist around a round flat stone as though he was trying to crush it with his bare hand, "That's because mom and dad threatened me if I so much as thought about asking or saying anything."

"Oh," I said, "I hadn't thought about that."

When he didn't say anything else I asked him, "Do you want to know?"

BJ stopped turned and pointed at me with the rock still in his hand, "I didn't ask you to and I am not the one that brought it up. AND," he really emphasized that last word, "if my mom and dad find out, you got to tell them that you brought it up!"

I took hold of his finger that he still had pointed at me and gave it a side ways shake, "Deal!"

I started out with, "But first you have to promise not to tell ok?"

BJ pretended to zip his lips closed and then locked them with an imaginary key before tossing it into over his shoulder and into the water. What was amazing was the imaginary key actually went plop when it hit the water.

"Holy Hanna Montana! How'd you do that?" I gasped with amazement at the ripples in the water.

BJ giggled and held out his hand with his palm up, "I still had a rock in my hand."

"Whoa, that freaked me out for a second!" I said giggling along with him, "I thought you could do magic or something."

BJ waved his index finger as though it were a magic wand, "Abracadabra, you are a fish—POOF!"

I grabbed my throat and pretended I couldn't breath, "Can't breath, need to get in water fast...."

BJ waved his finger again and said, "Abraca-dork-ous, you're a dork again—POOF!"

"Ha-Ha! That's so funny I forgot to laugh!" I said giving him a shove toward the water.

"Hey!" he complained, "I don't want to get wet again!"

"Yeah, me either," I agreed.

"OK so you going to tell me what happened?" BJ asked trying to hide his eagerness.

"What happened what?" I teasted.

"What happened after!" BJ said impatiently.

"When?" I continued.

"Now don't start that again you brat!" BJ groaned.

I laughed, "Oh so now I'm a brat huh?"

BJ clapped his hands, laced his fingers together and proceeded to crack his knuckles, "Let me put it this way, at least tell me where you hurt the least right now."

"Huh?" I grunted in confusion.

"Because, if you don't tell me what happened I am soooooo going to HIT YOU!" BJ said shaking both of his fists in my face.

Laughing I said, "Ok, slow down there Mohammad Ali.

BJ scratched at the pealing skin from his sun baked nose and said, "Hey that was a good movie huh?"

"I guess!" I said with a shrug.

BJ gave me a little shove as he said, "You wouldn't know a good movie if it bit you on the diaper!"

I honestly couldn't believe he just said that and by the look on his face I don't think he could believe it either.

"Alright, alright, alright! So what's the last thing I told you?" I asked trying to make believe that he hadn't just said what he said.

BJ proceeded to give me a blow by blow, word for word playback.

"Ok, so everything after that is a complete blank for me until right before the scratchy and heavy mothball stinking blanket was jerked off of me. I was standing but was still tied up inside the blanket but somehow I already knew where I was and who I was about to see... again."

"Who?" BJ asked.

I elbowed him in the ribs and said, "Stop interrupting and I will tell you."

"Ouch man! Not so hard!" he whined.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to hit you quite that hard." I said.

"Oh so you did mean to do it a little hard?" He said half serious and half laughing.

"Yeah, pretty much!" I joked back.

"Just shut up and tell me who it was." BJ laughed too while he rubbed his ribs.

"Ok so I was standing there under that stinky blanket when I heard Mr. Wriggle say, `Welcome back!' with a sneer of hatred.

BJ gasped, "That was the fat toad man huh?" he asked.

"Yeah!" I answered and then continued, "Then his horrid wife, Mrs. Wriggle shouted from somewhere behind me, `Cho! Come untie these little retches and take off these filthy blankets! Hurry it up girl!' and even with the blanket covering my head I could hear Cho dragging her leg toward us."

"I expected the blanket to be pulled off just then but it wasn't yet. Instead I heard someone else speak. `So'tiz al' de seem ter yer, we'll take our pay an' be on our way!' It was the gruff voice of the man that had not once but twice now delivered me into the same hell hole. Once upon a time I had thought that Tom and this guy were the same guy but boy did I have that one wrong."

BJ gasped again. When he wants too, he can be a good listener.

I continued, "That same guy also said, `An' if yer d'nt mind, if yer let de beasties 'scape 'gain, d'nt call us!' and he made a sort of throaty rumbling sound."

"There were muttered words, the sounds of shuffling footsteps and than I heard another faintly familiar woman's voice speak, `Dis is as far as mi go wit you two. mi will be stayin' right chere and don't you be tryin' to change me mind 'bout it none!' I was sure I knew the owner of that voice but I just couldn't put my finger on it just yet."

BJ broke in and asked, "Can I ask two quick questions?"

"Sure," I said.

"Well, actually the first thing isn't really a question; I just wanted to say that you do that really good."

"Do what?" I asked.

"Talk like you are from Cuba," BJ said.

I laughed, "That wasn't Cuban that was Jamaican!"

"Oh, yeah that's what I meant." He said, "Well who was she?"

I slapped my forehead and moaned, "You already met her!"

"Who?" BJ grunted and when I looked at him I could tell he wasn't joking.

"Sister Sarafina you dope!" I said and whacked him in the forehead with the palm of my hand.

However, I had only meant to thump him jokingly but he had tried to duck at the same time and I really clocked him good. He fell back on his butt and after a second or two he looked up at me. I was sure he was going to be powerfully mad but he rubbed his forehead, smiled with his teeth clenched and said, "I suppose I deserved that."

"Whoa, no way, I really didn't mean you hit you like that. Are you ok?" I asked and I probably would have sounded a lot more genuinely remorseful had I not been giggling like a girl. I gave him my hand and helped him to his feet.

"You sure that you're alright?" I asked again.

"Yeah, just don't do that again!" He laughed, "And besides, I only got to meet her that one time and it was only for like two minutes."

"Really?" I said as we continued walking, "I thought it was longer then that."

"No because you drug me to your room too fast."

"Oh yeah!" I said nodding, "I remember now."

"Anyway, you do, do that very well." BJ said.

He totally lost me again, "Huh?"

"The Jamaican accent!" He said.

"Oh yeah!" I said remembering what we had been talking about before I clobbered him.


The two of us were getting close to the beach house now so I said to BJ, "Better wait until later to tell you more, ok?"

BJ moaned and kicked at the sand but it turned out to be a good thing I stopped talking when I did because his parents were sitting on the porch swing and they were not alone.

"MOM, DAD!" I screamed and ran up to the porch.

I threw my arms around them both and broke down crying but they were tears of joy at seeing them.

"Why are you here?" I asked.

"We wanted to surprise you!" dad said.

"You did!" I said excitedly, "But I thought you couldn't get off work to come?" I said to dad.

"Well, your father worked day and night to get his project finished and so we came up to spend the last night and day here with you." Mom answered.

I hugged them both again and said, "I missed you!"

I looked over at BJ and he held up his hands as if I were robbing him, "Hey I am as surprised as you are!"

I looked over at Mr. and Mrs. Otteranski but dad jumped in with, "When I called them yesterday afternoon I asked them not to tell you that we were coming."


Mr. Otteranski went around to the back of the beach house and returned with lawn chairs. I began to recount the fun that I'd been having and seeing how telling the truth can be a hard habit to break I also told them about re-hurting my back.

"I already told then about that." Mrs. Otteranski said to me.

"You did?" I said.


When I finally got around to mentioning Tom, dad said, "Yeah we talked with him about a half-hour before we got here."

"So that's who he was talking to!" BJ said thumping me in the thigh.

"I told you he was talking to someone." I said.

"No I told you!" BJ said.

"You two spying on me again?" Tom said from behind BJ and me.

I don't know how I did it, but somehow I had launched myself from a sitting position on the floor of the porch to standing with my back against the siding of the beach house. BJ on the other hand fell over backward off the porch with a sickening thud.

Everyone jumped to help BJ but he didn't need help; he was laughing.

"Are you ok?" Mr. Otteranski asked him.

Tom lifted BJ up to his feet.

"That was fun, can I do it again?" BJ joked.

"Tom you scared the bajeebers out of me!" I grunted.

The remainder of the day was spent with all of us sitting on the porch talking and laughing. All in all I'd have to say that today was a really good day.



Chapter - 17

And a friend will not say never


I have no idea if Pinky's is a national restaurant chain or not but I do know that they are all over the eastern US. If you don't know what Pinky's is, it's a 60's style restaurant with burgers the size of a small child's fist. They have a nickname too, most people call them gas burgers and you can guess why. There are two kinds of people, those that like Pinky's, and those that utterly despise Pinky's; it is that black and white with no grey at all.

Mr. and Mrs. Otteranski wanted to take my parents out for dinner and you can bet that BJ and I begged to go too when we heard they were going to Pinky's. Aside from having some of the most awesome food that isn't good for you, they also have the best gourmet ice-cream in the entire world not to mention the coolest kinds of games. I am wicked good at this one game called `Romper Stomper' and except for the first time I played it when I was six, I have never been beat.

Before we could leave, BJ and I were sent to go ask Tom if he wanted to join us. I don't know why they didn't just call him. Maybe my parents and BJ's parents wanted a few minutes alone to talk. BJ and I agreed that they were probably talking about me.

Unfortunately, when we got to Tom's camp site he wasn't there. We called for him and looked all over the place but he just wasn't anywhere around.

"Come on, he is probably out looking for pine cones to wipe himself with!" BJ said.

Instinctively I reached around with both hands and clutched at my bottom, "Ouch! Now that has got to hurt!"

For the second time today BJ surprised me, BJ took off running toward the beach house with me running after him and steadily loosing ground. BJ reached the front porch a good 45 seconds ahead of me.

"You ran faster than that today when Tom was chasing after you." BJ said laughing and gasping for air.

"Well I was running for my life then!" I said jumping into the car ahead of BJ, "If you had someone stuff a fish down your pants and then chase after you, you would be breaking the sound barrier too."

"A fish?" Mom asked with a chuckle.


Boy, Pinky's was screaming busy. There were probably 50 or more kids there of all ages and you can figure for each kid there was at least one and in most cases two parents. That should give you an idea how popular Pinky's is. Our parents were off in some booth yapping it up while BJ and I were tearing up every one of the games. He and I had played `Romper Stomper' five times. The first time we played against each other and the other four times we played as a team against other kids. On the fifth game we scored a Pinky's `Romper Stomper' record for the most points ever scored in a single game.

We were carrying our winning tokens up to the prize booth when this kid jumped in front of us. At first I was a bit ticked off but then he turned slightly and I realized I knew who he was.

"Peter?" I said not really sure I believed my own eyes and more then a little scared.

The boy turned to face BJ and me, "Simon?" he said, blinked and then near killed me when he grabbed me and hugged me, "SIMON!"

I managed to get him to let go of me, "Peter, I can't believe it! What the heck are you doing here?" I asked trying to burry my fear deep down inside so that he couldn't see it. "I mean I thought you were up at..."

"Pine Valley Military Academy?" Peter finished for me, "Yeah I am but my squad earned leave time."

"You're squad?" I asked.

Peter puffed out his chest proudly, "Yeah, I got promoted about two months ago to Cadet 3rd Class and was given my own squad. See those guys there in the matching vests?" he said pointing to several boys standing with their backs to us. "Those are just a few of them."

BJ was slowly inching himself in between Peter and me. So slowly in fact that I hadn't noticed but perhaps Peter had. Peter looked at BJ and said, "It's PJ right?"

"Actually, it's BJ, but you were close enough," BJ corrected him.

"BJ, right, sorry. Yeah it has been a long time." Peter said.

I couldn't believe the way Peter looked; his hair was cut short and he was wearing a navy blue knitted sweater-vest over a crisp blue dress shirt with a navy blue tie and matching dress pants. Though his face hadn't changed much, he seemed to be at least a foot taller than the last time I saw him.

Peter asked me, "Hey, do you remember Max and Johnny?"

"Yeah of course I remember them." I said casually whipping the sweat from my upper lip.

"They're in my squad too." Peter said and I started to turn around to look for them but then he added, "Unfortunately, I had to leave them behind. They broke curfew two nights ago and I had to confine them to barracks. Man they are going to be so mad when I tell them I saw you here. They probably won't even believe me."

"Dang Peter, you sound like a real G.I. Joe!" I commented.

"Hey what can I say, I..." Peter stopped talking when this wall of a man walked up to us. He was in full military dress uniform and looked mean enough to wilt flowers just by farting on them.

"Cadet Alderman!" the man spoke softly but his tone reminded me of my school principle, Mr. Andy Freeman. Heck, even I snapped to attention when the man spoke.

Peter was standing stiff as a board facing the huge man, "Sir?" he said and snapped him a salute.

The man bent down so that he was eye-to-eye and nose-to-nose with Peter, "Cadet, tell me I didn't just see you rudely insert yourself into the middle of this here line."

I looked up at Peter and saw little beads of sweat forming on his brow. My mouth opened and words were coming out before I even had a chance to think. "Excuse me sir, but he didn't jump in line, he's my friend from back home."

The man, without moving his head, put one eyeball on me, scanned me from head to toe and back up again before returning his gaze back to Peter. "That right Cadet?"

Peter only looked away for a spit second to glance at me before he answered, "No Sir! That is not completely true. He is a friend but I didn't know it was him when I jumped the line Sir."

I couldn't believe my ears, I had just given Peter a perfect out and he hadn't taken it.

The man turned his head but not his shoulders and eyeballed me the way he had been eyeballing Peter. "What's your name boy?"

Something about this guy made me want to play the part of the good little solder too. "Simon David Leonard Jr. Sir."

He suddenly stood upright, looked at Peter, then me and back to Peter once more before asking, "Wait a second. Cadet, is this the same boy you told me about?"

"Sir, yes Sir," Peter said and I could hear the fear in his voice.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a streak of yellow and I glanced to see BJ fleeing.

"Coward!" I murmured but apparently not as quietly as I thought.

"Friend of yours?" the man asked me.

"Yes Sir," I answered.

He thrust out a hand toward me and I jumped backward with alarm. "Sorry," I said and took his hand.

Leaving Peter standing at attention he shook my hand and introduced himself. "I am Colonel Slater Jackson. Cadet Alderman here has told me an awful lot about you. And I must add that I am honored to be shaking your hand. What you did was nothing short of heroic!"

I looked over at Peter, his brow wasn't just beading with sweat, it was poring off him and he looked positively scared.

"Thank you Sir," I said feeling uncomfortable with the praise.

He gave my hand a squeeze and I thought he was going to pop every bone in my hand. He got right in my face and spoke in the same tone he had used with Peter when he had first walked up to us, "Don't you ever let anyone tell you anything else."

"Yes Sir!" I said nervously.

Releasing his grip on my hand he said, "I know Cadet Alderman would never tell you this," he paused momentarily, "but he thinks very highly of you son."

I looked over at Peter once again; he had gone ghostly white and had his eyes rolled upward looking at the ceiling.

"Really? Uh, wow I... uh, I don't know what to say." I stammered.

"He followed your story through the news papers since day one." Colonel Jackson said.

When I got home I learned that since the disappearance all of the local news papers had carried the story. And when we returned there was no end to the reporters that wanted to talk with us.

"He probably doesn't want me to tell you this but I am going to tell you anyway. He came this close," Colonel Jackson held up two fingers nearly touching, "to going to real prison. He tried to sneak out one night and stole MY car but was caught about an hour later."

The thought crossed my mind, "Now why doesn't that surprise me none?" but what Colonel Jackson told me next really knocked me for a loop.

"Seems Cadet Alderman here felt that he owed you something. So, when the authorities called off the search for you and the other missing boys, he was intent on finding you and bringing you back home all by himself."

I looked over at Peter and he was still looking at the ceiling but I could tell by the glassy sheen of his eyes that what the Colonel was telling me was true.

The Colonel's voice changed and sounded almost fatherly, "The only reason he is standing here now and not sitting in some Juvenile Detention Center is because of what he said to me after he was brought back by the police."

I was looking directly at Peter while Colonel Jackson spoke. "Cadet, do you want to tell your friend here what you told me that night?"

When Peter spoke it didn't sound like him; at least not like the Peter I had known back home. His voice quivered and cracked as he said, "I, I said that you were the only friend I ever had that treated me like a real friend and not because you were scared of me like everyone else."

"And what did you tell me after that?" Colonel Jackson asked.

Peter cleared his throat and tried to speak but he had to clear his throat two more times before he could get the words out. "I said that I couldn't let some whack-jobs take my friend away."

I was beginning to get choked up too and I was so relieved when my dad and Mr. Otteranski appeared.

"Oh hi dad," I said stupidly.

"Simon, is everything ok here?" Mr. Otteranski asked.

Dad must have recognized Peter because he said, "Peter?!" but the tone in dad's voice made it clear that he still held a good deal of ill will toward Peter.

Peter was still standing at attention so Colonel Jackson said, "As you were Cadet."

Peter's posture softened and he turned toward my dad and stuck out his hand. "Hello again Mr. Leonard."

"Well I'll be!" dad exclaimed as he shook Peter's hand.

Mr. Otteranski also took Peter's hand and said, "I never would have recognized you. You look all grown up."

"Mr. Leonard, Mr. Otteranski, would you allow me to introduce my commanding officer, Colonel Slater Jackson." Peter said.

"Wait," Colonel Jackson said as he was shaking Mr. Otteranski's hand, "You wouldn't be any relation to Daran Otteranski would you?"

Mr. Otteranski looked puzzled, "That's my older brother!"

"Well I'll be a son of a gun! I served with your brother in the Gulf and we were in rehab together for about three months." Colonel Jackson rapped on his thigh with his knuckles and I was caught off guard by the sound it made. It was like a hollow metallic sound.

The Colonel continued, "How is that old one armed card shark?"

"You might not believe this but he married himself a Vegas show girl and now has five kids with another on the way." Mr. Otteranski said.

"Married with children? I never would have guessed it of him." Colonel Jackson then said with a grin, "But a Vegas show girl? That doesn't surprise me in the least."

My Dad jumped into the conversation; "I am sorry, but was there a problem here with Sim..." he began.

Colonel Jackson cut him off, "Oh no nothing like that. I was questioning Cadet Alderman here when it became apparent that I was in the presents of a true hero."

I blushed and started to feel uncomfortable again. I always feel like that whenever someone starts to praise me for what happened. They all think what I did was something amazing but they don't see the things that I see every time I close my eyes. They don't know the daemons I wrestle with on a daily basis. A hero? No, I don't think so, I did what I had to do and that's all there is to it.

Thankfully Peter was keen enough to pick up on the signs and came to my rescue. He cleared his throat softly but it was enough to get Colonel Jackson's attention.

"Oh yes! Well, I'll let the two of you get reacquainted," the Colonel said and before he left us he readdressed Peter, "We'll talk about the line jumping at another time."

"Sir?" I quickly jumped in, "I-I don't know how things are done at Pine Valley Military Academy but could you, maybe... I mean, could you let him off this one time? Please?"

Colonel Jackson gave my shoulder a thump with the side of his hand and looking at me he addressed Peter. "Cadet you have a fine friend here, be sure you don't take that for granted."

As the Colonel and Mr. Otteranski started to move away my dad gave me a look and a nod. It was his way of asking me if I was ok; I smiled and nodded back.


Peter sighed strongly, "Whoa that was close." He said and added, "Thanks for getting me out of trouble."

"Yeah, well thanks too." I said.

"What did I do?" he said.

I just shrugged and said, "Ah forget it!" and then a thought occurred to me.

"Hey, what about Steven? Is he in your squad too?" I asked.

Peter kind of withdrew before saying, "Steven's not at Pine Valley anymore. He couldn't take it and went A.W.O.L."

"A.W.O.L.?" I asked.

"It means Absent With Out Leave." Peter explained, "He was picked up seventeen days later but they didn't bring him back. I hear that he had broken into someone's house and was sent to Juvenile Detention. I also heard that he won't be out until he is nineteen."

"Wow! Man that sucks." I said.


BJ returned looking a little apprehensive.

"Where did you go?" I asked.

"To eat," he lied. I knew he'd gone and told our dad's to come up by the prize booth.

"So you guys want to cash in your tokens or what?" Peter asked.

"Oh yeah, I nearly forgot." I said.

I ended up letting Peter go first and I am glad I did because he had 53 tokens but he wanted this model airplane that cost 65 tokens. I suspected that he wanted the model because he used to be friends with Mikey Winston, Tate's younger brother and Mikey was a big time model builder.

"Hey, here are twelve of my tokens so you can get the model." I said.

"Really?" Peter said and I caught a glimpse of BJ behind Peter and he didn't look too happy about me giving away some of our tokens; especially to Peter.

"Wow, cool! Hey thanks!" he said to me and then said to the lady behind the counter, "Could I have that model right there, please?"

As it turned out, together, BJ and I still had 141 tokens. We had trouble deciding what all to spend them on but then BJ saw this weird multicolored snake puzzle thing that cost 35 tokens.

"That's all I want, you can have the rest." He said to me.

"No way man, you should get something else." I argued.

Peter pointed up to the top shelf on the left, "Look at that!"

It was a remote controlled boat and it was only 85 tokens.

"Whoa, yeah that's what I want!" I said and then turned to BJ, what do you think?" but he was totally absorbed in trying to figure out the puzzle snake.

Since I still have a few tokens left I looked to see what else I could get. Down on one of the lower shelves I saw a model paint kit and it was one token less then what I had. Peter was at the other end of the counter looking at something so I whispered into BJ's ear.

"Hey, would you care if I got those paints and gave them to Peter?" I asked.

BJ looked at the paints, then shrugged and nodded, "Yeah, you should do that."

So I did.

"Are you serious?" Peter said when I handed the paint set to him.

"Yeah I'm serious!" I said.

Peter nearly shouted, "Wow, thanks man!"

The three of us hung out by the games talking for a few minutes until another of Peter's cadets walked up to us. He was young, probably nine or ten years old and he looked more than a little upset.

The young cadet was frowning and wiggled a finger at Peter to get him to bend down so that the boy could whisper into Peter's ear. Peter stood back up and looked down on the boy with concern. Suddenly Peter snapped his fingers and turned to me, cupped his hands around my ear and whispered.

"Oh yeah, sure back at the table!" I said and thumbed toward the eating area. "I'll get my pack." I said and took off for the booth where BJ's and my parents were still sitting and talking.

When I rushed up to the table mom looked concerned, "What's the matter?"

"Nothing, just need my pack." I said and they all knew why I needed it; or at least they thought they did.

I hurried back to BJ, Peter and the young cadet. "Here ya go." I said handing my pack to Peter.

Peter looked around before handing the pack to the boy and without hesitation the boy took off for the bathroom.

"Thanks Simon!" Peter said, "The others tease him a lot about that so I have been trying to help him with it. He's been doing real well until tonight."

"That's really cool!" BJ said slapping Peter on the arm, "Peter Alderman helping instead of bullying other kids."

"Just a good thing you were here," Peter said to me.

"Wait, how did you know about Simon having... Well you know?" BJ asked.

I knew perfectly well how Peter knew that I wore diapers but there was no reason that BJ needed to know and I was just about to change the subject when I spotted across from us an instant photo booth. On the side of the photo booth it read Photo's One Token.

"Hey I have an idea," I said fishing in my pocket for the last token, "Let's get a picture of us for you to take back to Max and Johnny. That way they will know you really saw me."

"Good idea!" BJ and Peter said in unison and then laughed when they realized they had said it together.

The three of us crammed ourselves into the booth and I thought it was only going to take one picture of us but it took three.

"Wow, that's a deal! Three pictures for one token!" BJ said when the three of us scrambled back out of that cramped little booth.

"Look at your face in this one!" I said showing it to BJ.

"Hey, you guys each want one?" Peter asked.

I really would have liked to have had one of them to put on my dresser back home but BJ came up with the best idea.

"You know what?" BJ said to Peter, "You should take all three and give one to Johnny and one to Max and then you can keep the third one."

"Yeah!" I agreed.

I think Peter was getting choked up again but he was spared the embarrassment of us seeing him all emotional when that same young cadet came running up to us with the biggest grin on his face. He tossed my pack to Peter and without saying thanks or anything started to run back to the games.

BJ must have jumped two feet in the air when Peter barked out, "Cadet Williams!" Peter suddenly sounded very grown up.

The young cadet froze in mid-stride, spun around and ran back over to us.

"Did you forget something Cadet?" Peter said to him.

The boy grinned, looked at me and said, "Thank you sir!"

"Very good Cadet but that's not what I meant." Peter said.

The boy looked confused and curled one side of his upper lip, "Huh?"

Peter leaned forward and spoke softly but loud enough that BJ and I heard him, "XYZ-PDQ!"

The boy looked down at the front of his pants and saw that his zipper was wide open.

"Oops!" the young cadet said and zipped up his pants before saying, "Thanks Petey!" and took off running for the games.

I was giggling fairly hard when I repeated, "Petey?"

Peter looked like I'd just jabbed him with a sharp stick.

"Ahhh Petey's just a big softy!" BJ teased.


Right then my dad came over and said, "Simon, BJ, suppers on the table; time to come eat."

"Ok dad!" I answered.

Peter handed me my pack back and BJ and I said our goodbyes to him. I promised to write to him and he said I could get the address from Mr. Freeman at school because he comes up every so often to check on them.

"Tell Max and Johnny I said hi!" I said.

"Sure will!" Peter said.

I also wanted to say that I forgive him and the others for what they did. I also wanted to finally explain to Peter that I wasn't the one that had hung those pictures of him up in the school but I knew that Pinky's wasn't really the place for that sort of thing. In the end I decided that the first chance I got I would write it all down in a letter and mail it to him.

BJ must have been feeling brave because as we were walking away he said kind of loud, "See ya Petey-Petey"

When I knew Peter before, if he had looked at me the way he did just now, I would have probably turned and run in the opposite direction.

"See ya guys!" Peter said one last time and turned away.