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The Bully-Busters

Children's Story
"I think," proclaimed Peter, lying on his back and gazing up at the trees, "we should become bully-busters."

"What?" said Jimmy, lazily. Karl simply rolled over, chewing at the blade of grass in his mouth.

"No, c'mon," said Peter. "Like ghost busters. We could identify all the bullies in school, then go bust them."

Karl laughed. "You mean you could! Jimmy and me'd just pick up the pieces afterwards! Anyway, how you think you're gonna bust a gang like the Robots?"

Peter shrugged. "You know what they told us at Sunday School. Good always triumphs over evil in the end. We'll obliterate them with goodness."

"Now I know you're nuts," declared Jimmy. "You don't believe all that stuff, do you? We'd be dog meat in seconds. Anyway, look what happened to Jesus! He got killed - and that's what'd happen to us! No thanks!"

"Come on, guys," urged Peter. "You don't like those bullies, do you? We don't have to do much. Just be honest with them and tell them what we really think. And not run away from them."

His two friends looked at each other. "He's serious!" said Jimmy. "They'll kill us, you know they will. At least we survive at the moment."

"But what sort of a life do we have? They steal our pocket money, and push us around, and are always getting us into trouble. I'm fed up with it. We've tried hitting back, but that didn't work, they just laughed. We've tried telling, but they just got worse. What have we got to lose? Anyway, we'll have God on our side."

Karl and Jimmy were worried; they weren't at all sure how much protection God would actually offer. But they knew Peter in moods like this. He was the impulsive one, always acting first and thinking afterwards, when it was too late. They could tell he was determined to go ahead with his hare-brained plan, which was doomed from the start, so either they went with him and tried to protect him from himself as best they could, or they let him go alone and probably get killed.

They talked on a bit, trying to dissuade their friend, but it was hopeless from the start.

"All right," they eventually agreed miserably. "We'll come. All for one and one for all. But if this doesn't work, you've had it! We'll kill you ourselves if the Robots don't!"

The three friends organised a few basic ground rules. When they met the gang, they'd always speak and answer absolutely honestly, even if this meant annoying the Robots, but wouldn't deliberately antagonise them. They would stand their ground, whatever happened. They would defend themselves, but not otherwise fight, and they wouldn't throw punches even in self-defence. They would no longer go out of their way to avoid the Robots, but would choose routes whether the Robots were likely to be there or not.

It wasn't long before the plans were put to the test, for the three friends found the Robots blocking their way as they turned the corner past their school. Three hearts began to hammer against three sets of ribs, three pairs of knees began to tremble and three mouths suddenly felt very dry.

"So, what have we here?" jeered James Kinley, the leader of the gang. "You kids got any money?"

"Yes," said Peter. "I've got my pocket money."

James looked surprised at such a ready response. "Hand it over, then," he ordered. "You know the rules."

"No," said Peter.

"What?? You stupid or something? You know what'll happen to you!"

"Yes, you'll beat me up and steal my money."

"Well hand it over then!"

"No."

As the four bigger boys took a menacing step forward, Karl and Jimmy closed in towards their friend. Jimmy felt almost resigned. This was madness. It would probably put them all in hospital. But they'd made a pact, and now they had to see it through. Bully busters, indeed! The only ones who'd be busted were themselves, not the bullies.

Suddenly he became aware of one of the Robots peering at him. "You afraid?" sneered Tom Butcher.

Jimmy nodded. He knew the worst possible mistake was to admit fear in front of a bully, but he'd promised to be truthful. He felt like jelly as he waited for the first punch, and clenched his fists ready to bring them up in front of his face. Perhaps he'd be able to stave off the first few blows.

But Tom was frowning. "Why don't you just give us the money then? Or leg it down the road or something? What are you doing just standing there?"

Jimmy thought carefully. He wanted to tell the absolute truth. "I don't want to be here," he said. "I am afraid of you all, and I'd rather be a million miles away. But I don't think you should steal our money. And Peter is my friend, so I'm not leaving him here alone."

Chris Weston was dancing about with glee. "Let's beat 'em up!" he cried. "That way we get their money and show 'em! Don't waste time talking to 'em, stupid little gits!"

But the others were looking uncertain and puzzled. This was a new response, one they hadn't met before. They turned to James for guidance.

A grin split James' face. Suddenly he grabbed Karl and dragged him away from the other two. "Now I'm going to bash him and you two cissies are just going to stand there and watch me," he cried, and lifted his fist.

But Peter and Jimmy ran to their friend's side. "You'll have to bash us all," warned Peter.

"That can be arranged!" And he started to pound Karl, who curled away from him, trying to ward off the blows. "What's the matter, don't you like me?" taunted James.

Karl found enough breath to say, "No, I don't like anything about you. I feel sorry for you 'cos I know your dad walked out, and you have to live with your Mum's boyfriends, but I don't like you. I think you bully because no-one likes you, and bullying is the only way you get what passes for respect."

There was a brief pause in the rain of blows as James registered Karl's remarks, then James went beserk, hitting and punching and kicking, with arms and legs flailing. His three gang mates piled in on top, and Peter, Jimmy and Karl were soon bruised and bleeding. But all three refused to hit back.

They were all badly injured that day. Peter was taken to hospital, unconscious. Karl and Jimmy were patched up in Casualty, but Jimmy had a broken arm, and Karl had fractured ribs, and both had badly swollen and bruised faces.

Jimmy felt deeply depressed, it hurt so much, and he was worried about Peter. Karl was silent, shocked by the ferocity of the attack. He wondered whether he'd ever find the courage to venture out of doors again. He found he hated James and his Robots, and the strength of his hatred scared him.

Peter came out of hospital in a couple of days, but it was a week before any of their injuries had healed sufficiently to allow them to return to school. Peter's dad took all three of them in his car. He hadn't said much about the fight, but the grimness of his look had been enough.

The three friends were called into the Headmaster's office. To their surprise, they saw the Robots there too, but all looking very anxious and miserable. "I think these boys have something to say to you three," said the Head.

Each of the Robots in turn came and stood before Peter, Jimmy and Karl. Each one looked crestfallen and ashamed and sad. And each one in turn said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you so much."

Karl found his hatred evaporating. Why, the Robots weren't to be feared after all! All they could do was beat people up, and when that didn't work, the Robots had nothing left. They were just sad and lonely. They had nothing.

The three friends looked at each other. They each had a tremendous feeling of love for each other. They had shared something very important, and they'd seen it through, despite the consequences. Somehow, there was a very special bond between them now, one which no-one could break.

"We were bully-busters after all," said Jimmy, wonderingly. "And I think you may be right, Peter. In a funny sort of way, good does conquer evil, even though it hurts in the process! Let's go on busting bullies, it feels good."

Peter grinned. "But perhaps not every week! Let's hope it's only necessary now and again!"
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