John Bellows was terrified.
His life had been painfully difficult for the past year. Twelve years old, he recently moved in with his grandmother in Mayberry after his mother died. Despite the real pain of losing his mom, life had slowly gotten better. He had started an apprenticeship and had even made friends with a neighbor boy.
Then hell found him.
A gang of local boys started terrorizing him. Maybe it was because of his small size, or his awkwardness. Maybe the reason didn’t matter. It started small, with petty indignities, name calling, then it escalated. They tripped him, threw trash at him, and later dumped him into a barrel. Fighting back never seemed like an option. Instead, John put his head down and accepted his punishment, reasoning these boys would eventually lose interest in him.
Perhaps they might have left him alone, except that their leader Keegan, a brutish youngster, who was large for his age, delighted in tormenting John. One of the few people John could confide in during this time, was Teddy the neighbor boy, who was a year older than himself.
Teddy was an odd bird, skilled at tools and with machines, but clumsy with people. He often knocked on John’s bedroom window late into the night, wanting to show off his latest invention. Most of the devices seemed to have no discernible purpose, but they looked interesting, with their springs, tumblers and whirring gears.
After one particularly harsh beating, John was warned that if he didn’t turn over his wages, worse beatings would come. Bruised and battered and not knowing where to turn, he shared his misery with Teddy. His friend listened grimly, and when John was done, Teddy nodded his head as if he knew what needed to be done.
“Listen Johnny, I have an idea,” said Teddy resolutely.
John looked at his friend. Teddy was the picture of sincerity, but at this moment sincerity seemed of little importance. A feeling of panic began to set in.
“Just trust me,” said Teddy with a hand of John’s shoulder, “We can do this. You’re not alone. We. . .you and me, we'll put an end to this.”
What could Teddy possibly do? It seemed ridiculous, but as unreasonable as it seemed, John was willing to try almost anything and so he listened to his friend's plan to put an end to Keegan’s campaign of terror.
A week later they had made all of the necessary preparations and John was on the streets of Mayberry. It wasn’t long before he saw Keegan and his boys trailing him. He ran down the narrow alley just as they had planned it..
When Keegan and his toughs entered the alley, they thought they had John trapped, but instead, Teddy had set up a pulley to bring John up to the second floor. Just then, Teddy levered and pushed the remains of a ruined shack, from atop the neighboring building, onto the alley below. There was a tremendous crash with debris closing off the alley. Teddy and John looked down from either end of the alley, while Keegan and his lads yelled and cursed in frustration, since they were the ones now trapped.
Seeing their enemies confused, Teddy pressed the advantage, pulling a rope and triggering a series of chutes and catapults propelling rocks into the alley. Before the dust settled, the boys used their slings to cast stones down on Keegan and his gang. In the hail of stones, two of Keegan's gang were quickly dispatched and were left writhing in pain.
This only made Keegan even more angry. He was like a wolf denied his prey. He jumped atop a dumpster to leap at John. In the meanwhile, his two remaining companions made their way towards Teddy, using the debris to climb up the uneven side of the building. Even with Keegan approaching him, John was worried for his friend who seemed cornered on the neighboring building. However, just then he heard a laugh.
“Ha, you stupid bastards. As much I’d love beat your heads in, I’ve got to go.”
At this point, things got a little vague, since much of what happened was outside of John’s line of sight. Apparently, just as the two bullies reached the third floor and the top of the roof, Teddy had attached a harness with a set of wings to his back. With a dramatic flourish, he gave a wave and leaped off the building with a triumphant yell.
In that moment, Keegan reached the top of the roof. He stood in front of John, with a gap toothed diabolical grin, poised and ready to pounce. But then something inexplicable happened. Perhaps emboldened by the bravery of his friend or maybe just angry from the months of abuse, something snapped. John found his courage. He closed his eyes, and swung his fist, hitting Keegan flush in the jaw with a right cross and then with a left hook to the body, toppling over the bigger boy.
For a moment, John just stood there, crying tears of frustration, screaming and cursing unintelligibly at the prone form of Keegan. It was finished. He had done it. Then he remembered his friend.
John ran around to the other side of the building and found Teddy. Apparently, his wings didn’t work as expected and instead got blown out like an umbrella in a storm. He plunged to the ground. With his legs twisted grotesquely to either side, Teddy smiled weakly.
“Wings didn’t work...” said Teddy grimacing in tears, “Did we get’m?”
“Yeah, you crazy fool. Thanks to you,” said John shaking his head in amazement.
John dragged his friend to the local doctor. Although his legs were never the same, Teddy eventually walked again. Strangely, his parents blamed John for what happened that evening and so it was many months before they saw each other again. During his rehabilitation, Teddy spent a good amount of his time reading books. John was therefore relatively unsurprised, when years later Teddy became a librarian.
As for John, Keegan and his gang never bothered him again. In fact, from that day forward, for his part in the day’s scrum, the lads of the neighborhood called him Crazy John. Taking down the local bully had curiously given him a reputation. Although they gradually grew apart as boys often do, Crazy John never forgot the kindness and bravery of his friend Theodore Emelior Beem. He had taught John how to stand for himself. He was a true friend, something all too rare in the world.
For more on Theodore Emelior Beem, the story Indomitable tells us more about his journey and begins several months after he breaks his legs.