This story was published in the January 3, 1997 edition of "The Christian Courier" and again in the August 16, 1998 edition of "Seek".
I thought I'd share it again.
The Major's Kid
All right. So maybe we did push the kid a little far that day. But hey, he had it coming. Or at least we thought he did. I mean, how were we supposed to know who that kid really was? To us he was Jeremy Shuward, Jeremy the Jerk, Big-Shot Shuward, too good to hang with the rest of the kids in the post housing area just because his father was Army Major Henry Shuward, transferred to
our small post from some big-cheese military assignment in Washington, D.C.
"Shuward thinks he's so cool 'cause his old man's a major." That's what Dean said one day when a bunch of us were hanging out, shooting some baskets on the playground behind the housing area.
"Well, gee," said Mary, "my dad's a major, too!"
"Yeah," Dean said, "but you don't have a problem about it."
"Maybe he's racist," suggested Marcus, who's black.
"Maybe he's racist against Puerto Ricans," I added, being Puerto Rican myself.
"Oh, he probably can't stand girls!" wailed Erin.
"Aw, come off it!" Tim finally cut in. "Look, the kid's and army brat like the rest of us, isn't he? He's gotta know how to mix!"
We all nodded. I told them how the first Saturday after Jeremy moved in my dad and I were walking over to the PX for some lunch when we saw him sitting on his front step. My dad told me to go and invite "the new boy" to come with us.
"Did he come?" Mary asked.
"Ha, you kidding?"
"Well, I believe it," Erin huffed. "When I went up to him in the school cafeteria and told him how my dad worked in his dad's office he just sort of sneered like he could care less. Last time I try to be nice to him!"
"And talk about a guy who can't take a joke!" Jason added. "All I did was toss that picture of those dead cockroaches on his desk..."
"Aw, man, that picture was wicked," Dean cut in,"especially how you wrote 'Jeremy's family reunion' at the top!"
"Boy, did he get mad," I said, recalling the scene in our eighth grade class. "Crumpled the picture up and threw it across the room!"
"He sure got a detention for that!" Jason laughed.
"You wish!" Dean snapped. "Shuward got out of that detention. The teachers are so understanding when it's an officer's kid!"
"Oh yeah?" Tim spat, "Well, I'm an officer's kid and I never got out of a detention!"
"Me neither," added Jason indignantly, "And my mom's a master sergeant!"
"That is so unfair!" moaned Erin.
"Gee, I don't know," Mary spoke up. "Maybe he was having a bad day."
"I'd like to give him a bad day," muttered Tim.
"Whoa, Mama, and today could be the day!" Jason pointed to the approaching figure of Jeremy Shuward.
"Yo, Shuward," shouted Time, grabbing the basketball from me, "here, catch, Shuward!"
Now let me say right here that Tim never really meant to hit Jeremy in the head with that ball. I mean, for crying out loud, Shuward could easily have caught the dumb ball, or jumped out of the way. But no, he just stood there and let the ball hit him!
"Hey, man, I'm sorry," Tim called, actually sounding sorry. "Hey, you okay?"
But when Shuward ignored him, turned his back and just walked off, Tim shouted, "Dang it, Shuward, what's wrong with you, anyway?!"
That was when Dean yelled, "Aw, don't worry about Shuward, he's just fine, aren't you, Shuward? Hey, how about your old man? The Major doing fine today, too?"
The kid stopped dead. He turned to us, his chest heaving, his eyes swollen with hate, anger, and tears.
"Stop calling me Shuward!" he screamed, "my name's not Shuward! It's Jones! Jeremy Jones! My father is First Sergeant Paul Jones!" He spun around and glared at Dean. "You want to know how my father's doing? Well, he's dead! Left for the Gulf War and never came back! Major Shuward is my step-father!
Then he ran off.
We stood around for a few minutes. Dean, Mary, and Jason sounded like they suddenly came down with a bad case of the sniffles. Tim couldn't stop clearing his throat. And me, I kept rubbing at a sting in my eye that just wouldn't quit. Erin was out-and-out bawling.
"My dad was in the Gulf War," she sobbed.
"My mom was over there," Jason said softly.
"C'mon," Tim said, "Let's find him."
We fanned out across the housing area until somebody spotted Jeremy behind a building leaning his elbows against a wall, his head buried in his arms. We formed a semi-circle around him.
"Hey," Tim said softly, "you should have told us."
"Jeremy, we understand," said Mary.
"Could've been any of our dads," said Dean.
"Or my mom," added Jason.
Erin was still crying too hard to say anything.
To our surprise Jeremy turned and faced us. His eyes were no longer filled with anger, only sadness.
"Thanks guys, thanks," he said, rubbing a sleeve across his eyes. Then he walked off.
We watched while the sad, slouched figure of Jeremy Jones grew smaller with each step then disappeared around a corner.
I felt like something inside me was about to burst. I started running, then we were all running.
Tim reached Jeremy a step ahead of the rest of us.
"Jeremy," he said breathlessly, "We want you to know that, that..."
"That you're not alone," Mary finished.
"That's right, man," Jason said, "C'mon, you got to be with us!"
"Yeah," the others chimed in.
Jeremy hesitated. He looked at us standing around him.
"Okay," he said softly.
So we headed off together that day, Jeremy Jones with us. Still one quiet kid, but we knew what was in his heart, and he knew that we were there for him.
And hey, what more did any of us need to know?