Mr. Todd Bundy stared at the new seven-year-old in his class. He had heard a lot about this new student and had been anxious to meet him. The boy’s name closely resembled the boy who had changed his life and now that he saw him in person he knew without a doubt that this was the son of Kevin Winslow.
He thought back to the day many years ago in that very same school. He’d had the pretty redhead girl Nancy in the hallway. He was bigger than her. He was bigger than all the kids and he took advantage of that fact. Once he had been caught by one of the teachers bullying a small eight-year-old boy. He thought he would be in trouble but the teacher just ignored it. That gave him the courage to rule over the kids at PIGC. But there was one boy he could not touch. Kevin Winslow. His father, who taught there, loved the boy and would have Todd’s head if he tried anything.
That day in the hallway, Todd had been walking ahead of Nancy. He would turn occasionally just to see the fear in her eyes. It made him feel powerful. Finally, he stopped and blocked her way. She tried to get around him but he was too strong and shoved her against the wall. He felt like her master as he felt her body tremble. It was then that the little baby, who in Todd’s opinion shouldn’t have even been going to their school, came up to them. He pushed the little brat down thinking that the four-year-old would be too scared to tell. The little boy got up and locked eyes with him. Todd could not look away. He felt an intense pain in his head that increased with every word the boy spoke. “You will let us pass and never bother us or anyone else again.” He was pushed back by some invisible force as the two children hurried past him.
Todd had stood in the hall the entire class period. He finally was escorted to the school nurse. She’d given him a pain reliever and excused him from the rest of his classes. He had spent the rest of the day in his room. He couldn’t get a handle on his thoughts because of the headache. He’d finally fell asleep. The next morning he felt fine. He actually felt better than he had in a long time. He looked forward to going to his classes. He had always hated PIGC. He was being forced to go there because his older brother and sister had gone there. He was not nearly as bright as they were. The school had made him feel stupid so he had taken his frustrations out on the students.
Something had changed in him. He hadn’t felt like bullying anyone. He went to all of his classes and actually learned. He had finished out his last year at the Hawaii campus with better scores then he’d ever achieved before. He failed the test for the Greece campus but the school let him in regardless because of his improvement. Now he was an English teacher at the Hawaii campus and Devin Winslow was in his class.
Todd approached the boy and shook his small hand.
“Hi Devin,” he greeted with a tremendous smile on his face. “My name is Mr. Bundy. I am so happy you have joined us here.”
“Hi Mr. Bundy,” Devin replied excitedly. “I love PIGC already!”
“Good, good! I hope you are ready to delve into some of the greatest literature ever written. You will be studying ancient texts, great philosophers throughout all ages as well as ethics and logic. You will get to read books that most people never heard of yet the wisdom contained in them could change their lives forever.”
Devin listened as his excitement grew. He loved to read but had never had the opportunity to study things like Mr. Bundy was saying.
Mr. Bundy watched as his new student’s face shimmered. He knew he had him hooked just as he had hooked all his new students the first day he met them. Devin would not be disappointed.
Scott Jones was anxious to meet the new student yet afraid. The boy’s name resembled the name of the son he had loved and lost so many years ago. The last time he had seen him, the boy was almost a man. Kevin secretly kept in touch with him and they would meet in different locations in Hawaii every year. He had met Kevin’s real mother Annie and his sister Anastasia. He could never get over their strange green eyes.
Kevin never said where he was living or why their meetings were secret. Scott was just glad to be able to hug his boy even just once a year and watch him grow. Kevin told him he was the only Daddy he had and he would always love him. Then one year he didn’t get a message for their annual meeting. He never heard from him again. He knew the Gaydos men were searching for Kevin and his family although he didn’t know why. He feared something very bad had happened.
Even after all those years Scott never stopped thinking about his son. Even when he had children by Tina he still had Kevin in his heart.
Now he was going to meet a child whose name sounded so much like his son’s. He wondered what he looked like. If the boy had the green eyes he wasn’t sure if he could keep himself from hugging him.
He watched as his current class ran through a military-like obstacle course set up in one of the outdoor gyms. There were even wires they had to climb under. The course at the New Jersey campus was even tougher. It had real barbed wires and simulated bullets flying over the kid’s heads. Scott always thought it strange that this was a requirement at a school for little geniuses but he always did what he was told and never questioned anyone in charge.
It would be over an hour before Devin Winslow came to his class. Scott unconsciously rungs his hands together.
Devin sat with Chris in the dining hall. He loved the roar of noise that echoed off the walls and hit his ears. The sound of so many people talking reminded him of the diner his mother use to work at, only this was much louder and different. It was the sound of children around his age talking intelligently to one another. He felt like he was dreaming.
“So what do you think of PIGC so far Devin?” asked a seven-year-old who was sitting on his left side. Her name was Lillie and she was in two of his classes. She, like all of the students, called the school Pig C rather than saying the letters.
“I think it is the best place ever!” he practically shouted at her.
Lillie laughed. “I know how you feel. After going to public school in Detroit this place is heaven! This is my first year too.”
Devin was about to reply when he noticed Trent Gaydos walk into the room. He watched him search the tables with his eyes until he found Devin. He smiled and walked over to him. Devin stood up to greet him.
The last time he had seen Trent in person was at the New Jersey campus. Devin looked at the light grey suit he wore. He seemed different than when he wore the light blue suit. The grey made him look graver even though he smiled as he approached.
“So nice to see you again Devin,” Trent said in his high voice as he reached to shake Devin’s hand. Devin let the big hand envelope his and tried to shake it appropriately. His mother had told him that you could tell a lot from a handshake.
“Hello Mr. Gaydos,” Devin said looking up at the tall man.
“I’m sorry I missed your mother. I’ve had to be in so many places that it feels like I’m chasing a phantom.” Devin had no idea what he meant. “I am very pleased that your mother changed her mind about letting you attend PIGC.”
“I am too. Thank you for letting me come.” Trent patted him lightly on his back.
“My pleasure Devin. We are lucky to have such an outstanding young man as you become a part of our institute. Please sit down and finish your lunch. I don’t want you to go to your next class hungry.”
As Devin sat down Trent greeted the children around him and then said he would see him later. Devin was glad to see him. He really liked Trent. He watched him as he looked at the teacher’s tables as though he were searching for someone. Then he nodded and smiled at the teachers who were there and rushed out of the room.
Devin picked at his lunch as he engaged in conversation with Chris and Lillie.
“Physical Education,” he answered to Lillie’s inquiry about his next class. She had pre-algebra.
“I have to take that because I’ve never had algebra before,” she said. “I’m not good at math and it seems so hard.”
“I can help you if you need it.” Devin offered.
“I can help you too,” Chris joined in. “I’m really good at math.” He looked at Devin. “So you have Mr. Jones next? You’ll like him but you’ll be in pain until your body gets used to the exercises. I heard some kids say he was doing the obstacle course today.”
“Yes, sir! I hope you can climb, run and crawl.”
“I’ve never done very much physical activity. I never really got the chance. I guess it will be good for me right?”
“Sure thing. Mr. Jones isn’t mean or anything but he is demanding. He’ll get as much work out of your body as he can. You’ll be surprised how healthy you get and quickly too. Even the food they serve is very healthy. Did you notice?”
Devin looked at his plate of half-eaten salad filled with spinach leaves, carrots, and other raw vegetables. It had walnuts and apples thrown in as well. He took a mouthful. It wasn’t bad, just different.
“I guess it’s better for me than the stuff I’m used to eating.” He thought about the articles he had read about eating right. His mother never could afford to buy the healthiest foods even though he encouraged her to do so. Here was another advantage to attending PIGC.
After lunch, Devin went to his room and changed into the PE uniform the school had provided. Chris offered to show him the way to the outdoor gym but Devin remembered how to get there. When he arrived he saw his class consisted of only ten boys including himself. He saw Trent talking with a tall light-skinned muscular black man. As soon as the man looked at him he saw a strange expression on the man’s face. It was similar to the way Mr. Bundy had looked at him. Like Mr. Bundy, the man quickly changed his expression into a smile. Trent put his hand on Mr. Jones shoulder as he began to walk towards him. He restrained him while he urgently whispered something in his ear. The whole time Mr. Jones did not stop looking at him.
“Some of these teachers are weird,” Devin thought to himself. “Why does he keep looking at me? Huh! Maybe he does that to all the new students.”
Trent finally removed his hand from Mr. Jones’ shoulder and walked over to Devin with him.
“Devin,” he said warily. “May I introduce to you Mr. Jones?”
The man got down on one knee and vigorously shook Devin’s hand. When he spoke his voice was filled with emotion.
“Devin Winslow. I am very glad to meet you, little man,” he sighed in his deep voice.
Devin was confused by the man but not offended by his manner. He felt a strange sense of security being so close to him.
“I’m glad to meet you also Mr. Jones,” Devin earnestly replied. He looked deep into the man’s face. He guessed him to be near fifty even though he had few wrinkles decorating his face and just a bit of grey in his hair. The man seemed to be bursting to say more to him but Devin could tell Trent’s presence stopped him.
“Today the class will be doing an obstacle course… as you probably guessed since its right there.” He pointed to the imposing course. “Are you up for it?”
“I… I don’t know. I’ve never done anything like that before.”
“Don’t worry. Most of the boys in your class haven’t either. You’ll get through just fine.”
“Do you mind if I sit through your class, Mr. Jones?” Trent asked.
“Oh, not at all Mr. Gaydos. Feel free to come to my class anytime!” Devin sensed a bit of sarcasm in the statement. As Mr. Jones rose to his feet he told Devin to join the other boys. Trent walked over to the bleachers and climbed to the top to get a good view of the course.
Mr. Jones explained the course to his class then divided them into two groups. It was the responsibility of each group to get every member of the group through the course. It was not a race but more of a team-building exercise.
Devin’s group was chosen to go second so they climbed the bleachers to watch the first group. Devin was horrified as he watched the boys scale a high wall by climbing a thick rope that was attached to it. Only two boys were able to get to the top on their own. The others had to be assisted by the group. He watched as they ran through tunnels and over tires. He saw them swing over barrels of water and run across narrow beams. He worried when they got to a deep sand pit. As they stepped in they sank to their upper calves. They had to run through the pit and then climb a rope to get out. The last obstacle was the low wires. The wires were two feet off the ground and the boys had to crawl under them for about 15 feet then run to the finish line. The whole time Devin’s group was cheering and encouraging them and Mr. Jones ran alongside them boosting them to do their best. One boy began crying as he gave up under the wires. His team members who had crossed the finish line went back to help him get through. He would not budge. One boy crawled under the wire and grabbed the other boy’s hands. The two remaining boys grabbed the boy’s legs that had the other boy’s hands. As they pulled the two boys began to slide from under the wires. Devin’s group cheered even louder. Finally, the entire team was through the obstacle and ran to the finish line together.
Mr. Jones gave each boy a huge hug and told them he was proud of them. He then gave them bottles of water and orange slices.
Now it was Devin’s group’s turn. He had butterflies in his stomach as they line up. When Mr. Jones shouted go Devin was surprised that he was the second boy to reach the wall. The first boy struggled but made it up the rope to the top of the wall. Devin went next and only got halfway up. The boy at the top told him to use his feet on the wall to help him climb. He struggled to get his feet on the wall. He could hear the kids cheering for him and he didn’t want to let them down. He braced his feet on the wall. He walked and pulled himself up with rope. When he got near the top the boy up there grabbed under his arms and helped pull him up. The next boy had an even harder time. The two boys waiting to climb lifted him up and Devin and the other boy at the top pulled him up. The fourth boy stood on the last boy’s shoulders to give him a head start. He was able to climb high enough to be yanked up by the boys on top. The last boy was the strongest. He easily climbed the wall and the boys ran to the next obstacles.
By the time Devin got to the wires, he didn’t think he could go any further. The sand pit had sapped whatever strength he had left. He was dripping with sweat and knew he had never been that tired ever before in his life. He didn’t care about the encouragement from the bleachers. He was tired. His lungs hurt and his legs felt like bricks.
One by one his group got through the wires. Only he was left. He hated PE and wanted to quit until he heard Mr. Jones’ booming voice.
“Devin, I know you’re tired but look at how far you’ve come. Don’t give up now son. You only have to get through the wires and you’re done. DON’T GIVE UP! You have the strength. You CAN do it.”
Devin lifted his head which had been hanging down in defeat. His eyes followed the voice. He found Mr. Jones’ eyes. They looked deep into his as he softly said again, “You can do this.”
Devin sighed and crawled under the wire. As he pulled his body through, he felt his muscles complaining. He was determined not to quit. His team would not have to rescue him. He could hear both teams chanting, “Go! Go! Go!” When he got through the wires his team was waiting for him and they all ran to the finish line together.
Mr. Jones came to give the team their hugs. When he hugged Devin he whispered in his ear, “Don’t ever think you can’t accomplish something. There are things deep within you that you can do but you haven’t tapped into them yet.” Then he squeezed him and went to the next boy.