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by Debbie OConnor  
10/14/2006 / Teen Issues

Kary tasted blood.

Get off! he shouted, twisting desperately. Sean Mulligans heavy, sweaty body had him pinned against his locker.

Sean laughed, slammed his forearm into the back of Karys head, and swaggered off.

Kary trembled with rage. Bile rose in his throat. He fought the tears that threatened furiously.

For weeks, Sean had kicked, hit, shoved and ridiculed him. Kary lived in terror of the next attack. It was ridiculous to think of fighting back; Sean had put kids in the hospital. He outweighed Kary by fifty pounds and towered over him.

Besides, Im supposed to turn the other cheek, right Lord? Kary kicked his locker closed with a bang. How long do I have to be his punching bag? was his inward scream.

Suddenly, Kary saw the lion. It was pacing and panting behind bars in his mind, hed seen it ever since the harassment began. "Why, Lord? I feel trappedam I the lion?"

There was no answer. Kary got detention for being late. He refused to provoke further torture by reporting Sean.

Band was Karys last class. He loved music, but it was part of his problem. He played the flute, like his mother. Many of the boys, Sean in particular, didnt feel this was a sufficiently masculine instrument.

Sean smacked the back of Karys head with his drumsticks on his way to the back of the room. Kary clenched his jaw and took out his instrument.

He played poorly, thinking of caged lions and plotting his escape. When class ended, he crammed his flute into its case, but he was not fast enough.

Whats the matter, Kary? Sean drawled. Having trouble putting your flute away? Sean hit the case in Karys hands, knocking the instrument loose.

Kary barely knew what happened. Everything went dim. His flute and then his body flew into Sean. From what seemed a great distance, he heard a cry and a crash.

Strong arms pulled him away and held him tight. Calm down, son, said the band director.

Karys fog cleared. He saw Seans huge body, unconscious on the floor. His head must have struck the podium.

Is he all right? Kary gasped.

I dont know, Mr. Alder said. He released Kary and went to tend his victim.

Lord, Im sorry, Kary prayed quietly as he watched. His body trembled with shock and grief. Please let him be okay. Please help me make this right.

Hours later, Kary sat in his car in the hospital parking lot--his stomach a pit of boiling acid. He wished he could vanish. Lord, Im sorry I hurt Sean. Please, help me face him. He took a deep breath and left the safety of his car.

Jonas Mulligan met him at the door to Seans room. You did this, he said, recognizing Kary.

Kary forced himself to look at Seans father. He was a large, powerful looking man. Mr. Mulligan, I came to apologize. I didnt mean to hurt Sean.

Jonas turned red and looked down. Sean told me he had it coming, he muttered. He has been angry since his mom and I broke upmean. Im sorry hes been hasseling you. You can see him.

Thanks, Kary said, the knot in his stomach loosening a bit.

He pushed the door open. Sean was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. He looked smaller in the hospital than he did at school.

Kary cleared his throat and said, Sean, Im sorry.

Seans head snapped in his direction. He looked surprised. Youre apologizing to me?

Yes. Will you forgive me?

Why do you care? Sean asked. His face was red and his voice was husky.

I believe in God. Im supposed to treat others the way I want to be treated.

Sean looked at Kary for a minute without saying anything. Finally, he cleared his throat and said, I used to believe in God. I prayed He would keep my family together, but He didnt do it. He paused, then almost yelled, Why didnt He do it?

Suddenly, Kary understood. Sean was the lion. The bars of his cage were anger.

His mind whirled. He took a deep breath and answered carefully, feeling almost as if the words were not his own, You have attacked me for weeks, Sean. It made me mad; it wasnt fair, but it wasnt Gods fault. I dont think God makes people do anything, he continued. We make choices and sometimes theyre bad. Like me, today. It isnt Gods fault I knocked you out.

Sean suddenly started to laugh, startling Kary. Im not so sure, he said. You think you did that all by yourself?

Weak and giddy with relief, Kary laughed too.

In his mind, he saw a cage crack open.

Debbie O'Connor lives just north of New Orleans with her husband, Jim, and their two children. Jesus has been her savior for 18 years. Contact Debbie at [email protected].

Copyright 2008 Debbie O'Connor

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