Sometimes, even from the most unsuspecting people wonderful and profound messages can originate. This is the story of one such incident when much could be learned from a person like that.
On the way to school one day, this kid named Patrick went around telling everyone that he had some beer in his lunch box. Now in the 9th grade, this topic of conversation is new and exciting. He was the center of attention, and was enjoying it immensely. We all knew he didn’t have any in there, but it was still fun to talk like he did. In all the commotion we failed to realize that the bus had come to a stop on the side of the road.
We finally realized what was happening, and as the bus driver made her way through the aisle, you could see kids shoving paper balls in their bags, and sitting on batteries and rocks, which they were throwing out the window. The bus was unusually silent as the bus driver, Bertha we called her, waded her way through the narrow seats. Kids visibly squished as close as possible to the windows, some in an attempt to hide something, others just out of fear that the may inadvertently come into contact with the beast coming through.
Bertha was 7 feet tall, and appeared to be one of those ex-weight lifters, that had been on steroids for most of their adult life. Her neck was bigger than that of football players, and her arms resembled those of the body builders sometimes on ESPN. Her gut brought thoughts of the worlds strongest man competition to mind. She was big, and no one, not even Superman, or Batman could get away with messing with her. To us she might as well have been dressed in some military uniform, carrying a leather riding-crop. The fear kept us in line most of the time.
She strode right up to Patrick, and halted just short of him. Not a word was exchanged for a full minute, the two just looked at each other, a battle of wits. Patrick was the first to speak. "Waddaya want?" he said with a sneer. "What’s in the box Patrick?" she thundered, as if the voice of God. "None of your business!" He retorted. He was "dead", what was going wrong in his head, she had at least two feet on him, and her arms could crush him like a worm in pliers.
Time stood still. Why I will never understand. I wasn’t the one about to be brutally beaten in front of my peers. Patrick was a rock, immovable. His face never flinched, his voice never faltered. It was the perfect match, and one that we all knew was going to be a sad outcome for Patrick. Bertha just stood there though, she glared piercingly into his eyes; she was not going to lose this battle to him.
She reached down and took the box by force, and in a futile effort Patrick grabbed the box, and nearly had his arms ripped right out of his sockets. She opened the box, and we knew from the look on her face he was a dead man. It wasn’t beer, but even worse, he had been dumb enough to tote around hard liquor. What was he thinking? Bertha reached down and grabbed him by his collar and literally threw him 15 seats forward to the front of the bus, he crashed with a blood-curdling scream into the windshield.
At this point, you know that half the bus must have wet their pants, and the other half was in bewilderment as to what had just happened. Bertha though was un-phased she reached down, and with a vicious jerk lifted Patrick from the ground, and tossed him in the seat. Then she did the unthinkable. She opened the bottle and downed half of it in one gulp.
The thought of death crossed my mind, not because I had done something wrong, but because old Bertha couldn’t drive to begin with, and now she was going to be drunk. Patrick was sprawled out still unconscious, as we started moving again. Bertha kept nursing the bottle, and pretty soon it was gone and so was her mind. She got on the freeway headed away from school, when sirens started up behind us. She was all over the road, and the cops weren’t happy about it.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, Bertha had to pull out a gun, and turn around and empty a load into the front of a squad car. Now I knew I was a dead man. Who knows how fast we were going, but when the bus began to shudder I knew it was too fast. The cops were still behind us when we got off the freeway. We didn’t bother to stop at the light, just flew on through it. Some poor old lady in a Ford Explorer had the misfortune of broadsiding us. The bus flipped over with the impact, and slid a few hundred feet down the street. We all clambered out of the bus miraculously unharmed, everyone but poor Bertha.
She was caught, in a cocoon where the Explorer had hit, metal surrounded her, and she screamed this blood-curdling cry of pain. The police went first to the Explorer, where the old lady was in very bad shape. I wandered over there to see what was going on, when out of nowhere Patrick appeared. I had completely forgotten about him in the midst of the excitement. I was waiting for some wise crack, or some tough guy comment. He was changed though, something wasn’t right. He was no longer the "macho man", with a quick temper, and a "bully" attitude.
He made his way deliberately to the woman in the Explorer, where the paramedics kept repeating, "It doesn’t look good." He reached out his hand, and with the tip of his finger like something out of the movie ET he touched her wounds. One by one they began to heal. He placed his hand on her face, and her eyes opened and she sat up. It was the most amazing thing I have and will ever see. He was an angel sent from God to guard over someone. I thought at first it was the woman that we had hit, but a few minutes later I was of a different opinion.
Patrick turned on his heals, after saying nothing but smiling to the woman, and gesturing with his hand his acknowledgment of her many praises and thanks. He broke out into a full sprint for the bus. He crawled on top of it, and with a gigantic thrust ripped the front panel of the driver’s side. Tossing it aside as if it where nothing, he bent over and gently pulled Bertha from the wreckage. With the same touch as before he mended her wounds and then whispered something into her ear. She nodded, and slid back into the little cocoon.
I was in full awe. What had he just done? Who was he? Why was he here? Why did he help Bertha? What had he whispered to her?
The paramedics rushed away with the woman to have x-rays. The police called each child’s mother one by one, and Patrick came to me and put his hand on my shoulder.
I couldn’t say a word, but somehow he knew what was in my mind. "I am an angel." He said. "I was sent here to show the light of God on this woman, and Bertha." "I purposely made this image for myself, the message I bring is that much more powerful now."
With that he was gone. Into thin air. I was sure I was smoking something at that time. I had to be. I went to the bus, and looked in, but Bertha was gone too. A horn honked in the distance and as I looked to it I saw them both in a car. Bertha was driving, and Patrick was talking.
My parents didn’t believe a word I said, they only insisted I tell them where I had been all day and why I wasn’t at school. As I got on the bus the next day, there sat Bertha sober now, and visibly changed. She had her hair done up, she was in casual clothes, and she had an expression I had never seen on her face before. She was smiling. From that day forward, I never doubted the changes that can be made in a person. She had this jolly demeanor now, and for some reason didn’t seem like the beast that I had seen before. I never saw Patrick again, but sometimes when I would glance into a passing car, I could see his face as a reflection in the window smiling this pleasant, and compassionate kind of smile. I think he came more for me than for anyone else, it may sound selfish, but I now had a completely different view of the world, and of people in general.