The young man was walking down the path, when suddenly, a vicious territorial dog approached him with hatred in his eyes. The dog sounded his warning and the man stopped in his tracks. The dog was not about to lose his ground to this stranger. The man looked up from the path and made eye contact with the terrible animal. There would be a conflict.
Infuriated, the dog sounded a fierce warning, “Be gone with you! This is my territory and I permit no one to enter!”
A small smile teased the corner of the man’s mouth. “We’ll see about that.” The standoff begins. The man raised himself up to his full height and broadened his shoulders preparing to confront this beast.
Defending his ground, “How dare you! I told you to be gone, I will not tell you again!”
The young man remained silent and laughed within himself. This dog thinks he’s bigger than he is.
The dog started to see that his opponent would not back down. With one last warning, he retreated into his grounds.
The young man let out a small chuckle as he walked past the dog that was still sounding warnings to the neighborhood. “Funny little dog.” Thought the man. “If people had as much courage as that dog did, we wouldn’t need police officers or the military. We could just handle it ourselves.”
He went along his way again, with a new smile hiding behind his pressed lips. He would remember this dog for his bravery.
Walking along this path was one that people had warned him about before. “You shouldn’t go that way, crooked people hang around it too much.” He was never one that listened to people and their sage advice. His argument was that it saved him 20 minutes of walking as opposed to going the long way around.
It was a beautiful day, the gentle breeze caressed him along the way and encouraged him to keep walking. The leaves were beginning to change colors as fall was closing in on the community. This day was going to be different though. He was going to approach his boss about how unfair the treatment had been towards him lately.
A noise in the brush caught his attention behind him. Turning around, he looked and continued along the way walking backwards. Out from behind a tree came a large man that plowed into him sending him flying sideways off the path. Landing hard in the gravel and sliding several feet, he lay there trying to catch his breath. Another man jumped on top of him and placed a knife at his throat.
“Make your move, boy.”
This was not how the day was planned to go.
“Get him up on his feet.” The battering ram called to blade. “I want to see what he’s made of.”
Blade grabbed him by the shirt and hauled him to his feet, always keeping the blade close to his gut as his tongue snaked its way around his mouth. He had a taste for this sort of thing which was barbaric.
Ram looked at Blade and waved him back. Concerned, Blade shot him a look. This was certainly not the normal routine.
Ram crossed the distance and shoved Blade back several feet. Turning to the young man, he growled, “What’s your name?”
“Does it matter to know the names of your victims? You get what you want in the end.”
A smug smile crept into sight, “I like to remember the one’s I have fun with. Tell me your name or I’ll pound it out of you.” At this point, Ram had a fistful of his shirt and another pulled back ready to deliver his message.
“Not until you give me a fair chance to defend myself. The two of you jumped me and took me by surprise. I call that being a coward. Face me man-to-man and give me a fair chance. If you beat me, then I will tell you my name.”
Ram was not happy with this answer, “A coward? I’m going to make you bleed.” Ram shoved his opponent back and removed his jacket. Ram was indeed a large beast of a man. “Are you ready to bleed?” With that he charged the young man with a war cry that would frighten even the most hardened of soldiers.
Crossing the distance in a few steps, Ram was inches from taking him to the ground. Ducking out of the way while delivering a sweeping kick to Ram’s ankles, Ram went flying forward into the gravel of the path. Sliding face first and sending up a cloud of dust, Ram was indeed, not happy with his first attempt at taking down this punk.
Rising back to his feet, Ram again closed the distance between them. This time the punches came. Two wild swings followed by an uppercut sailed past the young man’s head.
Big, slow, and dumb, thought the young man. This would be an easy fight.
Ram continued his rain of punches. None of them connected with their target. Losing his temper, Ram threw a wild overhand punch aiming for the man’s head. Sidestepping and countering with a chop to Ram’s throat, the beast went down to his knees gasping for air. Continuing the series, the young man slide in behind and secured a choke hold.
Ram began thrashing and flailing trying to grab any part of his opponent he could. As the struggle continued, the grip around his throat tightened. In one last desperate attempt to get free, the young man concentrated every ounce of strength into his grips. The beast at last fell unconscious.
Breathing hard, the man stood over the fallen beast. He shot a look to Blade as if to say, “Are you next?”
Blade was in shock. This was not how it was suppose to be. Ram was to intimidate people and he was to gain their wallets. They had done this a hundred times. His hands were shaking. Now what was he supposed to do?
“Did you kill him?” Blade asked.
Approaching Blade, fear instantly seized Blade’s heart. Raising his knife, Blade bellowed, “Stay back or I’ll stick you.”
“You’re a coward. You hide behind your knife because you are afraid.” The young man had seen this behavior before. “You refuse to confront the troubles of your life and try to blame others for your misfortune.”
Blade was struck to the core. “How do you know that?”
“You don’t need to. I can read it all over your face. Put your knife away or I’ll beat you as I did him.”
Blade was beginning to see his defeat. Lowering his knife, he asked again, “How did you know? Tell me!”
“The desperation in your voice cries out to those that will listen. You have failed in your eyes and you seek vengeance on others. Others that had nothing to do with your misfortunes.”
Ram was beginning to stir. Blade ran over to his friend and helped him to his feet.
Holding his head, Ram asked, “What happened?”
“You lost the fight. He got you in a choke hold and won.”
Turning to the young man, Ram dusted off and approached with anger flaring his nostrils. Towering over the young man, the beast stared him down.
Returning the stare, the young man confidently stated, “If you’re wondering how I beat you, I didn’t. You lost to yourself.”
“What do you mean?”
“You lost control of yourself and therefore lost control of the fight. I needed to do little to win because you were already defeated.”
Taking a step backwards, Ram huffed at him. “So what if I did?” Raising his arms, “I’m still here.”
“You are a failure to yourself and everyone around you.”
As cold as ice Ram retorted, “We have no one else.”
As they turned to go, the young man pursued them.
“You have no one else because you do not believe in yourself! You have failed yourself and therefore those around you.”
This stopped the two men in their tracks. They slowly turned around and walked back to him. This time Blade was the one to speak. “The world turned its back on us first. We tried to make ends meet, but it never seemed to work out. That is why we stick together. It pays the bills.”
Not giving in, the young man looked each in the eye and said, “Rise above your situation. Don’t allow the world to dictate who you are. Only then, will you be a better person. If you truly want to improve your situation, meet me here at 5:25 this evening and I will offer you a chance at a better life. If you want to live out your life in misery and blame others for your mistakes then be gone. I will not waste my time on slackers.”
With that, the young man stepped between them and went his way.
Arriving late for work, his boss immediately called him to the office.
“What is your excuse for being late?”
“I was discussing with a couple men how to change their lives.”
Looking over his glasses, he asked, “How did it happen this time?”
The young man recounted the story and the outcome. His boss leaned back in his chair and removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes.
“Look, I appreciate what you are trying to do, but I can’t hire every thug that loses to you in a fight.”
“Where were you when I got hired?” the young man questioned.
With a deep sigh he answered, “Second shift machine operator.”
“And now where are you?”
“Exactly. You would be nothing had I not challenged you to be more. How many people have you hired turn out to be poor workers?”
“Exactly my point. Give people a chance to excel at something and they will. These two are no different. Give them a chance to improve their lives.”
After a moment of silence, he finally said, “If they want a job, bring them in. I will be opening a new position soon and someone is going to need to take your place since you can’t seem to be here on time. Get back to work.”
The day past as any other would and quitting time soon rolled around. Enjoying the cool evening air after working all day, the young man began his walk home pondering what his boss had said.
Taking his usual route home, he turned onto his path to save time and see if he had someone waiting for him. Midway through the path something rustled in the brush behind him drawing his attention. A hand quickly wrapped around his throat and lifted him up, pinning him to the tree.
“Tell us what you know! No tricks this time, just tell us how to do it.” It was Ram that holding him against the tree. “Your not leaving until you tell us how.”
Unable to speak, the young man nodded his head. Ram dropped him to him to his feet.
“We talked about it and we want to know. We’re tired of being labeled as bad people because we’re not. We’re just trying to support our families and this is the only way we know how.”
Getting his breath back, the young man took a deep breath. “Nice grip. I spoke with my boss today and he has agreed to employ the two of you. It is hard work but it is satisfying to see what you accomplish at the end of the day. This is the first step to becoming a better person. Will you accept?”
Without hesitation, Blade and Ram said in unison, “Yes.”
“Good. Meet me here tomorrow morning and begin your new life.”
The next day, the three of them arrived at the boss’s door and the young man knocked. “Come in.” came the voice. The three of them entered and were instructed to sit. After shuffling through some papers, the boss removed his glasses and looked up at them for the first time.
Pointing at Ram, he said, “You, big guy. Do you mind heavy lifting?”
“No. I do it all the time.”
“I can see that. Take this paperwork, go to Sandy’s office and fill it out. After you do that, report to Jeff on the dock. You will load and unload trucks as they come in, got it?”
“Good.” Ram took the stack of papers and left the office.
“You. How good is your hand-eye coordination?”
“Better than most. What job will I be doing?”
“Take this stack and report to Sandy. Once she is satisfied with it, find Chris on the floor and learn how to run his machine.”
Confused Blade asked, “Which one is Chris? I don’t know anyone here.”
Pointing to the young man, he said, “This is Chris. He is being removed from his machine at the end of the week. Learn all you can from him. Now go, time is wasting.”
Blade took his paperwork and left the two men alone. The two of them sat in silence for several minutes as he shuffled papers around. Satisfied with them, he took off his glasses and laid them on the desk and rubbed his eyes.
“Do you know why I am removing you from your machine?”
Clueless and trying to relieve the weight of the situation, “I come in late all the time?”
“No. I worked out a deal with you to make up the time you miss, remember?” Chris nodded his head. “It’s important to me that everyone here gets a full paycheck.”
“I’m removing you from your machine because I am giving you a promotion that better suites you. Since you were hired on here, production and moral has greatly increased. I climbed into my current position because of you. Now it is my turn to challenge you.”
“Why me? I am not trained in anything except running my machine.”
The boss chuckled. “That’s where you are wrong in that statement. I have never known you to back down from a challenge. Which is why you have more than doubled production alone by bringing in dedicated workers. I want to pay you for your services. You will be giving a promotion that will allow you to recruit workers for us. You are doing the work already, accept the pay that goes along with it.”
Reaching out his hand and smiling, “I accept.”