To Give or To Get
 

BILLIE WASNOT IN A GOOD MOOD WHEN HE AWOKE TO THE SOUND OF HIS ALARM CLOCK RINGING LOUDLY!  HE WANTED TO SLEEP LONGER BUT HE KNEW HE HAD TO GET UP ANDGET BUSY WITH HIS PAPER ROUTE. HE HAD TONS OF NEWSPAPERS TO ROLL AND DELIVER THAT SATURDAY MORNING.  HE'D HAVE TO BE AT THE SCHOOL FOR SWIM PRACTICE BY TWO-O’CLOCK THAT DAY, AND HE WAS ALREADY WISHING HE HADN'T STAYED UP SO LATE THE NIGHT BEFORE.  BUT BILLIE CLIMBED OUT OF BED AND HURRIEDLY THREW ON A PAIR OF OLD FADED JEANS AND A TEE-SHIRT AND BEGAN THE TEDIOUS CHORE OF ROLLING NEWSPAPERS. BY FIVE-THIRTY THAT MORNING, HE WAS ON HIS BIKE AND PEDALING TOWARDS OAK STREET WHERE HIS ROUTE STARTED. "WELL, LOOK AT IT THIS WAY," BILLIE SAID TO HIMSELF, "WITH THE MONEY I'LL BE EARNING FOR DELIVERING NEWSPAPERS TODAY, I CAN BUY THAT NEW FISHING POLE I'VE BEEN WANTING FOR SO LONG, DOWN AT ZACK'S TRADING POST." ADDED TO THE HUNDRED AND THIRTY DOLLARS BILLIE HAD ALREADY SAVED, HE'D HAVE JUST ENOUGH.  JUST THE THOUGHT OF OWNING THAT NEW SHINY RED FISHING POLE IMMEDIATELY CHEERED BILLIE UP, AND HE COULDN'T HELP BUT SMILE AS HE TURNED THE CORNER OF OAK AND LILAC STREETS. "YEP, HE THOUGHT TO HIMSELF, 'SOON THAT NEW FISHING POLE WOULD BE MINE !"

LATER THAT DAY, HE WAS BACK ON HIS BIKE AND ON HIS WAY TO SWIM PRACTICE. WHEN HE ARRIVED AT HIS JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, BILLIE SAW THAT HIS BEST FRIEND DANNY WAS WAITING FOR HIM IN THE SCHOOL PARKING LOT. HE AND DANNY HAD BEEN BEST FRIENDS EVER SINCE KINDERGARTEN, AND WERE ALMOST EXACTLY THE SAME AGE.

BILLIE AND DANNY WENT INSIDE THE SCHOOL AND HEADED FOR THE GYM. SWIM PRACTICE ONLY LASTED FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF ON SATURDAYS AND THEY ALWAYS RODE THEIR BIKES OVER TO IKE'S DRUGSTORE AFTERWARDS, FOR ICECREAM.

AS THE TWO BOYS SAT ON BAR-STOOLS AT THE SODA FOUNTAIN AT 'IKE'S', THE MAIN TOPIC OF DISCUSSION WAS THE SHINY RED FISHING POLE THAT BILLIE WOULD SOON BE BUYING.  BILLIE'S EYES LIT UP AS HE TOLD HIS BEST FRIEND ALL ABOUT IT.  NOT THAT DANNY HADN'T ALREADY HEARD ABOUT IT A THOUSAND TIMES, BUT AGAIN, BILLIE DESCRIBED EVERY DETAIL OF THE FISHING POLE TO HIS FRIEND.  THE TWO BOYS SAT AND TALKED FOR A GOOD TWO AND A HALF HOURS. THEY MADE PLANS TO GO FISHING TOGETHER REAL SOON OVER AT SMITH'S POND. 'I WON'T BE USING THAT OLD WORN OUT FISHING POLE OF MINE MUCH LONGER', BILLIE WAS THINKING TO HIMSELF. DANNY REMINDED BILLIE NOT TO FORGET TO BRING THE CARTON OF ORANGE SODA'S THEY ALWAYS ENJOYED ON THEIR FISHING OUTINGS. DANNY WOULD BE BRINGING THE SANDWICHES HIS MOM ALWAYS MADE FOR THEM WHEN THEY WENT FISHING.

BILLIE AND DANNY STOOD OUTSIDE OF IKE'S STILL TALKING ABOUT FISHING, WHEN BOTH BOYS SUDDENLY NOTICED THE TIME.  THEY BOTH DECIDED THEY'D BETTER BE GETTING ON HOME BEFORE THEY WERE LATE FOR SUPPER.  THEY HOPPED ON THEIR BIKES, WAVED A QUICK GOODBYE, AND HEADED FOR HOME.

BILLIE'S MOM WAS ALREADY SETTING THE TABLE FOR SUPPER WHEN HE WALKED INTO THE KITCHEN.  "HI, MOM, I MADE ANOTHER TWENTY DOLLARS TODAY FROM MY NEWSPAPER ROUTE !"  HIS MOM LOOKED AT HIM AND SMILED. "THAT'S GOOD, BILLIE, "AND I BET I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO BUY WITH ALL OF THE MONEY YOU'VE SAVED, TOO."  THERE WAS NO NEED TO ANSWER THAT, FOR HIS MOM AND DAD KNEW HOW BADLY HE WANTED THAT FANCY NEW RED FISHING POLE.  AFTER ALL, IT WAS ALL HE'D TALKED ABOUT FOR THE LAST THREE MONTHS.

BILLIE WAS ALL WORN OUT AS HE CLIMBED INTO BED THAT NIGHT.  HE'D SURE HAD A BUSY DAY.  HE KNEW HE'D BETTER GET TO SLEEP BECAUSE HE HAD TO GET UP EARLY THE NEXT MORNING TO GET READY FOR SUNDAY SCHOOL.  

DANNY AND HIS FAMILY ATTENDED THE SAME CHURCH AS BILLIE AND HIS DID, AND THE TWO BOYS WERE IN THE SAME SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS. BILLIE LOOKED FORWARD TO CHURCH EVERY SUNDAY-ONLY MUCH MORE NOW SINCE HE'D BECOME A CHRISTIAN.  LAST YEAR DURING A REVIVAL AT HIS CHURCH, HE HAD SURRENDERED HIS HEART AND LIFE TO CHRIST.  BILLIE WOULD NEVER FORGET THAT NIGHT, FOR HIS HEART HAD CHANGED AFTER THAT. WHAT HAD ALSO BEEN WONDERFUL ABOUT THE NIGHT BILLIE HAD GOTTEN SAVED, WAS THAT HIS BEST FRIEND DANNY, HAD ALSO MADE THE IMPORTANT DECISION THAT SAME NIGHT TO INVITE JESUS INTO HIS HEART, AS WELL. BILLIE REMEMBERED THAT NIGHT AT CHURCH, AND THE PEACE AND HAPPINESS WHICH HAD COME INTO HIS LIFE SINCE THEN.  BILLIE AND DANNY HAD LISTENED AS THEIR PASTOR HAD READ FROM GOD'S WORD-ABOUT THE SACRIFICE THAT GOD'S ONLY SON JESUS CHRIST HAD MADE FOR ALL OF MANKIND. HOW HE HAD BEEN NAILED ON THE CROSS THAT DAY AT CALVARY AND HAD WILLINGLY SHED HIS OWN BLOOD TO PAY FOR ALL OF MAN'S SINS.  WELL, IF THEY HADN'T OF WANTED TO TAKE THEIR PASTOR'S WORD FOR IT, THERE IT WAS, RIGHT THERE IN GOD'S HOLY WORD, AS PLAIN AS COULD BE. BILLIE HAD KNOWN IN HIS HEART THAT BEFORE THAT NIGHT HE'D NEVER HAD A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST. OH SURE, HE'D ALWAYS BELIEVED THAT GOD EXISTED, AND LIKE A LOT OF OTHER PEOPLE, KNEW THAT JESUS HAD DIED ON A CROSS, BUT HE HAD NEVER BEFORE THAT NIGHT FELT REMORSE FOR HIS SINS OR HAD EVER "PERSONALLY" ASKED CHRIST TO BE HIS LORD AND SAVIOUR.  HE'D NEVER PERSONALLY INVITED CHRIST TO TAKE CONTROL OF HIS LIFE AND COME AND LIVE INSIDE HIS HEART. HE HAD NEVER BEFORE EVEN ADMITTED TO BEING A LOST SINNER. HE HADN'T KNOWN THAT HIS BEST FRIEND SITTING BESIDE HIM IN CHURCH THAT NIGHT, HAD NEVER MADE THAT DECISION YET EITHER. THEY'D NEVER TALKED ABOUT IT.  HE HAD ALSO REALIZED THAT NIGHT THAT IF HE WERE TO DIE WITHOUT HAVING ACCEPTED JESUS CHRIST AS HIS PERSONAL SAVIOUR, THAT HE WOULD NOT BE GOING TO HEAVEN.  NOT JUST THAT, BUT BILLIE HAD COME TO FULLY REALIZE WHAT JESUS HAD DONE FOR HIM-WHAT JESUS HAD DONE FOR EVERYONE. HE HAD TAKEN OUR PLACE UP ON THAT CROSS THAT DAY. THAT NIGHT HE'D REALIZED THE DIFFERENCE IN KNOWING ABOUT JESUS AND BELIEVING IN HIS EXISTANCE, AND IN HAVING A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM. AFTERWARDS HE AND DANNY HAD BOTH FOLLOWED UP AND OBEYED GOD'S WORD AND WERE BAPTIZED BY EMERSION.  IT FELT GOOD TO BE SAVED, AS THE SCRIPTURE SAYS IN GOD'S WORD, TO BE A "NEW CREATURE IN CHRIST."  OH SURE, HE HAD THE USUAL TEMPTATIONS THAT EVERY OTHER KID HAS, AND HE WAS SURE HE MESSED UP MORE THAN A FEW TIMES, BUT HE ALWAYS TRIED TO REMEMBER TO TALK TO GOD EVERY NIGHT BEFORE HE DRIFTED OFF TO SLEEP SO HE COULD GET THINGS RIGHT WITH HIM.  BILLIE SAID A PRAYER THAT NIGHT AND THEN FELL INTO A PEACEFUL SLEEP.  

THE  FOLLOWING MONDAY AT SCHOOL, BILLIE WAS DISAPPOINTED THAT DANNY HADN'T SHOWN UP IN CLASS.  HE WAS RARELY ABSENT, SO BILLIE WAS WONDERING IF MAYBE HE HAD GOTTEN SICK OR SOMETHING. THAT EVENING AT HOME, BILLIE ASKED HIS MOM IF SHE HAD TALKED TO DANNY'S MOTHER THAT DAY. HIS AND DANNY'S PARENTS WERE GOOD FRIENDS.

"WHY NO, BILLIE, I HAVEN'T TALKED TO KATHY IN A COUPLE OF DAYS," "WHY, WASN'T DANNY AT SCHOOL TODAY?" "WELL, BILLIE REPLIED, 'NO HE WASN'T AND WHEN I CALLED HIS HOUSE JUST NOW, THERE WAS NO ANSWER." "I WAS JUST WONDERING IF MAYBE HE WAS SICK OR SOMETHING."

BILLIE AND HIS PARENTS AND LITTLE SISTER SAT DOWN AT THE SUPPER TABLE THAT NIGHT AND BOWED THEIR HEADS AS BILLIE'S DAD SAID THE BLESSING FOR THEIR FOOD.

"DEAR LORD, WE THANK YOU FOR THE FOOD THAT WE'RE ABOUT TO EAT, AND WE THANK YOU FOR THE MANY BLESSINGS YOU'VE GIVEN US.  THANK YOU FOR YOUR SON JESUS CHRIST. IN JESUS'S NAME WE PRAY, AMEN."

AFTER HIS SECOND HELPING OF HIS MOM'S DELICIOUS FRIED CHICKEN AND MASHED POTATOES, BILLIE WENT ON UPSTAIRS TO GET READY FOR BED. HE HAD JUST FALLEN ASLEEP WHEN HE HEARD THE PHONE RINGING DOWN THE HALLWAY. HE COULD HEAR HIS MOM'S VOICE AS SHE WAS TALKING TO SOMEONE, BUT HE COULDN'T MAKE OUT WHAT SHE WAS SAYING. TOO TIRED AND SLEEPY TO CARE, HE DRIFTED OFF TO SLEEP AGAIN.

THE NEXT MORNING, BILLIE WOKE UP IN AN ESPECIALLY GOOD MOOD. TODAY WAS THE BIG DAY!  AFTER SCHOOL, HE'D BE GOING OVER TO ZACK'S TRADING POST TO BUY THAT NEW FISHING POLE !  HE WAS EVEN WHISTLING AS HE STROLLED INTO THE KITCHEN THAT MORNING FOR BREAKFAST. HIS MOM AND DAD WERE SITTING AT THE KITCHEN TABLE, DRINKING THEIR COFFEE. HE NOTICED THAT THEY WERE TALKING IN LOW AND HUSHED VOICES. THEY STOPPED TALKING WHEN THEY SAW BILLIE WALK INTO THE ROOM. HE WAS WONDERING TO HIMSELF WHAT THEY HAD BEEN WHISPERING ABOUT. THEY WERE BOTH LOOKING UP AT HIM NOW, AND THEY HAD "THAT LOOK" ON THEIR FACES, AS IF SOMETHING WAS WRONG. BILLIE FIGURED HE WAS PROBABLY GOING TO FIND OUT PRETTY QUICK, BECAUSE HIS DAD ASKED HIM TO  "COME SIT DOWN"  BECAUSE THERE WAS SOMETHING THEY WANTED TO TALK TO HIM ABOUT.

BILLIE SAT DOWN AND LOOKED OVER AT HIS MOM.  HE COULD TELL THAT SHE HAD BEEN CRYING.  "BILLIE, I'M AFRAID WE HAVE SOME BAD NEWS,"  HIS DAD SAID SOFTLY. "THE REASON YOU DIDN'T SEE DANNY IN SCHOOL YESTERDAY IS BECAUSE HE'S IN THE HOSPITAL."  BEFORE BILLIE HAD A CHANCE TO ASK ANY QUESTIONS, HIS DAD CONTINUED.

"YESTERDAY AFTER CHURCH, DANNY'S MOM HAD SENT HIM UP TO THE STORE ON HIS BIKE TO PICK UP A FEW THINGS FOR HER." "AND, WELL, HIS DAD HESITATED, "WHILE ON HIS WAY HOME, A TRUCK RAN A RED LIGHT AND HIT HIM."  "HE WAS IN CRITICAL CONDITION FOR SEVERAL HOURS, BUT IT LOOKS LIKE HE'S GOING TO PULL THROUGH NOW."  BILLIE'S DAD WENT ON, "BUT THERE'S MORE BILLIE",- DANNY HAS LOST HIS LEFT ARM."  "HIS MOM AND DAD HAVE ALREADY CONTACTED OUR PASTOR SO THAT HE CAN LET EVERYONE KNOW WHAT'S HAPPENED, SO THAT EVERYONE CAN BE PRAYING FOR HIM." " NEXT SUNDAY AT CHURCH, WE'RE GOING TO TAKE UP A SPECIAL OFFERING FOR DANNY," "YOU SEE, HIS PARENTS ARE GOING TO NEED SOME HELP." "THEY WANT TO BE ABLE TO AFFORD TO BUY DANNY AN ARTIFICIAL ARM, WHEN THE TIME COMES." "BUT DANNY'S DAD WAS LAID OFF FROM HIS JOB A WHILE BACK, AND HAS BEEN OUT OF WORK FOR SOME TIME NOW, AND THEY'RE GOING TO NEED ALL THE FINANCIAL HELP THEY CAN GET." "AND IT WILL BE A WHILE BEFORE DANNY WILL GET TO LEAVE THE HOSPITAL."

BILLIE'S DAD CONTINUED ON FOR A FEW MORE MINUTES, TELLING HIM ABOUT THE ACCIDENT. BUT BILLIE WAS NO LONGER LISTENING. HE JUST SAT THERE LOOKING DOWN AT THE FLOOR. HE HAD A FEELING OF BOTH SHOCK AND DISBELIEF. HIS STOMACH HAD SUDDENLY STARTED TO HURT.  HE WAS THINKING TO HIMSELF THAT THIS JUST COULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED TO DANNY !  HE FELT LIKE CRYING.... EVEN MORE THAN THAT- HE FELT LIKE POUNDING HIS FIST AGAINST SOMETHING. "WHY, LORD, WHY?" BILLIE ASKED, TO HIMSELF. "WHY DID THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN TO DANNY?"  BILLIE WANTED TO BE BY HIMSELF NOW, SO HE CLIMBED THE STAIRS AND WENT INTO HIS ROOM. HE SAT DOWN ON HIS BED. HE FELT LIKE HE MIGHT BE SICK AT ANY MOMENT.

BILLIE NEEDED TO TALK TO GOD- HE NEEDED SOME ANSWERS. HE STARTED PRAYING. THE TEARS CAME. BILLIE FELT AS IF HIS HEART HAD BEEN BROKEN.  BILLIE HAD TO HURRY TO FINISH GETTING READY FOR SCHOOL. HE WAS ALREADY GOING TO BE A FEW MINUTES LATE. HE HOPPED ON HIS BIKE AND HEADED DOWN THE STREET IN A HURRY. HE DREADED HAVING TO SIT IN CLASS ALL DAY. HE'D BE THINKING ABOUT HIS FRIEND WHO WAS LYING IN A HOSPITAL BED. HIS FRIEND WHO HAD ALMOST DIED. "WELL, BILLIE THOUGHT TO HIMSELF, 'IT'S TRUE THAT THE LORD IS MY VERY BEST FRIEND, BUT DANNY'S RIGHT NEXT IN LINE, 'COZ HE'S LIKE MY BROTHER." "SO I GUESS HE'S MY SECOND BEST FRIEND IN THE WHOLE WORLD."

THE NEXT SEVERAL WEEKS SEEM TO DRAG BY FOR BILLIE. THEN ONE FRIDAY AFTERNOON WHEN HE HAD JUST GOTTEN HOME FROM SCHOOL, HIS MOM GAVE HIM THE GOOD NEWS. DANNY WAS FINALLY HOME FROM THE HOSPITAL. IT ISN'T THAT HE WASN'T EXCITED ABOUT THE GOOD NEWS, BUT BILLIE WASN'T READY TO FACE DANNY YET, AND HE FELT ASHAMED AT FEELING RELIEVED WHEN HIS MOM TOLD HIM THAT DANNY WOULDN'T BE RECEIVING ANY VISITORS FOR A FEW DAYS YET. "WHAT WOULD HE SAY TO DANNY WHEN HE SAW HIM... WHAT COULD HE SAY?"  BILLIE WONDERED TO HIMSELF. HE JUST DIDN'T KNOW.

THAT FOLLOWING SUNDAY MORNING, BILLIE GOT UP EARLIER THAN USUAL AND GOT READY FOR CHURCH.  LAST TUESDAY, AFTER SCHOOL, BILLIE HAD NEVER MADE IT TO ZACK'S TRADING POST TO BUY THAT NEW SHINY RED FISHING POLE. THAT WAS THE DAY HE'D BEEN TOLD ABOUT DANNY'S ACCIDENT. HE'D FORGOTTEN ALL ABOUT BUYING HIS NEW FISHING POLE AFTER HEARING ABOUT WHAT HAD HAPPENED.

HE SAT AT THE KITCHEN TABLE THAT MORNING BEFORE TIME TO GO TO CHURCH, AND VERY QUIETLY ATE HIS BREAKFAST. HE DIDN'T FEEL MUCH LIKE TALKING, BUT HIS LITTLE SISTER WHO WAS JUST THREE YEARS OLD, SAT IN HER HIGH-CHAIR JUST CHATTERING AWAY.  OF COURSE, SHE HAD NO IDEA OF WHAT NOW WEIGHED HEAVILY ON HER BIG BROTHER'S MIND. BILLIE JUST FELT SO AWFUL ABOUT WHAT HAD HAPPENED TO DANNY. HE AND DANNY HAD BOTH WORKED SO HARD ON THEIR SWIM TEAM, AND HAD PLANNED ON PARTICIPATING AND COMPETING IN THE SWIM MEETS THAT WOULD SOON BE COMING UP.  DANNY WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO SWIM NOW.  NEVERMIND ALL THAT ANYWAY, THE SWIM TEAM DIDN'T MATTER. HE JUST FELT SO BAD ABOUT DANNY LOSING HIS ARM.  BUT HE WAS THANKFUL THAT DANNY HADN'T DIED.  BILLIE GUESSED THERE WOULD BE A LOT OF THINGS DANNY WOULD NO LONGER BE ABLE TO DO NOW. THEY MIGHT NOT EVEN BE ABLE TO GO FISHING TOGETHER ANYMORE.  

SUNDAY SCHOOL SEEMED TO SLOWLY DRAG BY.  BUT WHILE BILLIE WAS SITTING IN CHURCH THAT MORNING, HE MADE UP HIS MIND ABOUT WHAT HE WAS GOING TO DO. HE KNEW WHAT HE 'HAD' TO DO... RATHER, HE KNEW WHAT HE 'WANTED' TO DO.  YES, IT WAS ALREADY DECIDED !  HE WAS GOING TO DO IT !  

THE SERMON WAS SHORTER THAN USUAL THAT MORNING, BUT IT WAS A GOOD ONE, BILLIE THOUGHT. THIS PARTICULAR SERMON HAD SOMEHOW REALLY HELPED HIM. THEIR PASTOR HAD TALKED ABOUT HOW GOD HAS A REASON FOR EVERYTHING - ABOUT HOW WE REALLY SHOULDN'T QUESTION THINGS THAT HAPPEN TO US. EVEN IF WE DON'T ALWAYS UNDERSTAND..... EVEN WHEN THINGS THAT HAPPEN HURT US, OR DON'T GO OUR WAY.  WHETHER THEY BE GOOD OR BAD, WE SHOULD LEARN TO THANK GOD FOR ALL THINGS. AND FAITH.. HE TALKED ABOUT HOW GOD STRENGTHENS OUR FAITH IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS SOMETIMES. BILLIE HAD LISTENED TOO, AS THIER PASTOR HAD TOLD THEM THAT MORNING THAT ONE DAY WHEN THE BELIEVERS GET TO HEAVEN, THEN WE WILL UNDERSTAND ALL THINGS. "YES, BILLY THOUGHT TO HIMSELF, 'HE KNEW WHAT HE WAS GOING TO DO, AND HE WOULDN'T MIND IT ONE BIT !

THEIR PASTOR STOOD BEFORE HIS CONGREGATION AND MADE THE ANNOUNCEMENT. THEY WOULD NOW TAKE UP A SPECIAL OFFERING. THIS OFFERING WOULD GO TO HELP DANNY'S PARENTS, OR RATHER, ACTUALLY IT WOULD BE HELPING DANNY, BECAUSE HE NEEDED AN ARTIFICIAL ARM AND THIS MONEY WOULD HELP HIS PARENTS TO BE ABLE TO AFFORD IT.  

THE OFFERING PLATE WAS NOW BEING PASSED AROUND.  WHEN IT WAS PASSED TO BILLIE, HE WAS READY !  HE WANTED TO DO THIS !  HE REACHED INTO HIS POCKET AND PULLED OUT HIS WALLET. HE TOOK OUT EVERY SINGLE BIT OF THE MONEY HE'D BEEN SAVING.  IT WAS THE MONEY HE'D BEEN SAVING TO BUY THAT SHINY NEW RED FISHING POLE.  ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS, ALTOGETHER.  IT WAS ALL THE MONEY BILLIE HAD.  HE HAD WORKED FOR EVERY PENNY OF IT. BUT SOMEHOW TO BILLY, IT STILL DIDN'T SEEM LIKE ENOUGH.  BILLIE WISHED HE HAD MORE TO GIVE- TO HELP DANNY.  HE WISHED WITH ALL OF HIS HEART THAT HE HAD MORE TO GIVE.

THE FOLLOWING WEDNESDAY AFTER SCHOOL, BILLIE RODE HIS BIKE OVER TO DANNY'S HOUSE.  HE BROUGHT WITH HIM SOME OF THE SCHOOL WORK THAT DANNY HAD MISSED. THEIR TEACHER HAD GIVEN IT TO BILLIE AFTER CLASS THAT DAY SO THAT HE COULD GIVE IT TO HIS FRIEND.  

DANNY'S MOM ANSWERED THE DOOR AND TOLD HIM HE COULD GO ON IN TO SEE DANNY.  WHEN BILLIE WALKED INTO HIS ROOM, HE FOUND HIS FRIEND LYING ON HIS BACK IN HIS BED.  HE WORE A BANDAGE WHICH WAS WRAPPED AROUND HIS FOREHEAD, AND BILLIE COULD SEE TRACES OF CUTS AND BRUISES ON HIS FACE AND SHOULDERS. HIS RIGHT EYE WAS COVERED BY A BANDAGE TOO. BILLIE WAS TRYING NOT TO STARE AT WHERE DANNY'S ARM WAS MISSING.  HE WAS STANDING BESIDE HIS BED, BUT NEITHER OF THEM HAD SPOKEN YET.  IT WAS DANNY WHO FINALLY BROKE THE ICE.

"HEY, BILLIE, HOW'VE YA BEEN ?"  AT THIS POINT, BILLIE WAS ALREADY FIGHTING BACK HIS TEARS.  HE TOOK A DEEP BREATH. HE SURE DIDN'T WANT TO START CRYING RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF DANNY. GOSH, THAT'D BE THE WORSE THING HE COULD DO.  HE ASKED DANNY IF HE WAS HURTING OR IN ANY PAIN.  HIS FRIEND ANSWERED THAT HE WASN'T.  BILLIE STAYED FOR A GOOD TWO AND A HALF HOURS AND THE TWO OF THEM CHATTED AWAY, JUST AS THEY ALWAYS HAD.  AS BILLIE WAS ABOUT TO LEAVE, THE SUBJECT OF THE NEW FISHING POLE CAME UP.  DANNY ASKED HIM HOW HE LIKED IT AND ASKED IF BILLY HAD BEEN OVER TO SMITH'S POND TO TRY IT OUT, YET.  

BILLIE ANSWERED, "WELL, I CHANGED MY MIND ABOUT GETTING THAT OLE'  FISHING POLE, I MEAN, I REALLY DIDN'T NEED IT, COZ I ALREADY HAVE ONE, YOU KNOW." "I DECIDED NOT TO WASTE MY MONEY ON IT, AFTER ALL."  "I  DIDN'T REALLY WANT IT THAT BAD, ANYWAY, COZ I'VE GOT BETTER THINGS TO DO WITH MY MONEY THAN THAT."

DANNY SEEMED SURPRISED AT HEARING THIS, BUT HE DIDN'T ASK ANY MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT IT.  THEN DANNY SAID SOMETHING THAT REALLY TOOK BILLIE BY SURPRISE.  "YOU KNOW AT FIRST, AFTER THE ACCIDENT, I WAS MAD, BILLY." "I WAS REAL GOOD AND MAD," DANNY CONTINUED. "I THINK I WAS MAD AT GOD."  "BUT THEN AFTER I GOT HOME FROM THE HOSPITAL, MY DAD HAD A LONG TALK WITH ME, AND HE READ SOME SCRIPTURES TO ME FROM THE BIBLE," DANNY WENT ON.  "I THOUGHT A LOT ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO ME, AND I  REALIZED THAT I JUST HAVE TO ACCEPT IT."  "I KNOW IT'S NOT GONNA BE EASY GETTIN'  USE TO HAVING JUST ONE ARM, AND THEN TRYING TO LEARN HOW TO USE THAT NEW ONE THAT I'LL BE GETTING." "BUT I'M GONNA BE OKAY." "MY DAD READ TO ME FROM THE BIBLE ABOUT HOW GOD HAS A REASON FOR EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS TO US, AND ABOUT HOW MUCH GOD LOVES ME, AND ONE DAY WHEN WE GET TO HEAVEN, I'M GONNA HAVE A TWO ARMS AGAIN AND NONE OF THIS WILL MATTER,"  DANNY SAID. "AND I'M NOT MAD AT GOD ANYMORE, EITHER."  "MY DAD SAYS THAT I'LL BE ABLE TO DO A LOT OF THE THINGS I USED TO DO, BEFORE THE ACCIDENT," DANNY ADDED.  "I  GUESS I WON'T BE ON THE SWIM TEAM ANYMORE, BUT YOU AND I CAN STILL GO FISHING TOGETHER ON WEEKENDS."  "MY DAD SAYS THERE'S NO REASON WHY I CAN'T STILL GO FISHING!"  "OH SURE DANNY, WE'LL GO FISHING ALL THE TIME,-YOU'LL SEE", BILLIE TOLD HIM.

BILLIE TOLD HIM IT WAS TIME FOR HIM TO BE GETTING ON HOME.  HE PROMISED DANNY THAT HE'D BE BACK TO SEE HIM AGAIN IN A COUPLE OF DAYS.
 

NEARLY SIX MONTHS HAD GONE BY, WHEN EARLY ONE SATURDAY MORNING, BILLIE JUMPED ON HIS BIKE AND HEADED FOR SMITH'S POND.  HE HAD HIS OLD FISHING POLE WITH HIM AND A CARTON OF ORANGE SODAS.  WHEN HE ARRIVED AT THE POND, DANNY WAS ALREADY THERE, SITTING ON THE BANK.  HE WAS WEARING HIS ARTIFICIAL ARM AND HOLDING ONTO HIS FISHING POLE WITH IT.  HE WAS HAVING A HARD TIME TRYING TO BAIT HIS HOOK. BILLIE COULD SEE THAT THIS WAS A DIFFICULT TASK FOR DANNY, SO HE WALKED OVER TO WHERE HE SAT, TO HELP HIM.  BUT HIS FRIEND LOOKED UP AT HIM AND SAID,  "NO BILLIE, I DON'T NEED ANY HELP,- I CAN DO IT BY MYSELF."  

THE TWO BUDDIES WERE SITTING ON THE BANK, EACH HOPING TO CATCH A FISH. "IT SURE WAS GOOD TO BE BACK AT THE POND, FISHING AGAIN," BILLIE THOUGHT TO HIMSELF.  SUDDENLY DANNY JUMPED WHEN A FISH BIT ON HIS HOOK !  BILLIE DIDN'T TRY TO HELP HIS FRIEND THIS TIME. HE WATCHED HIM STRUGGLE TO REEL THE FISH IN.  DANNY FINALLY DID MANAGE TO GET THE FISH REELED IN, ALTHOUGH IT TOOK HIM A WHILE.  BILLIE COULDN'T HELP BUT NOTICE THE PROUD LOOK ON DANNY'S FACE FOR HAVING ACHIEVED THIS ALL BY HIMSELF.  

TWO HOURS LATER, THE TWO BOYS WERE STILL SITTING ON THE BANK, DRINKING THEIR ORANGE SODAS, AND EATING THE SANDWICHES THAT DANNY'S MOM HAD MADE FOR THEM.

"I NEVER DID TELL YA BILLIE, BUT I KNOW WHY YOU NEVER BOUGHT THAT NEW FISHING POLE YOU WANTED SO BAD", DANNY SAID TO  HIM.

"MY MOM TOLD ME JUST AFTER I GOT FITTED FOR MY NEW ARM,"  "I KNOW HOW BAD YOU WANTED THAT SHINY RED FISHING POLE... AND WELL, I KNOW IT TOOK YOU A LONG TIME TO SAVE UP ALL THAT MONEY"  HIS FRIEND CONTINUED. "I NEVER DID THANK YOU FOR GIVING ALL YOUR MONEY UP JUST TO HELP MY PARENTS TO BE ABLE TO BUY ME MY NEW ARM." "SO, THANKS BILLIE....AND I WAS THINKING THAT MAYBE NEXT SUMMER I CAN HELP YOU WITH YOUR PAPER ROUTE."  "THAT WAY WE CAN SAVE UP ENOUGH MONEY- TWICE AS FAST -AND THEN YOU'LL BE ABLE TO GO AHEAD AND BUY THAT NICE FISHING POLE !"  

BILLIE HAD TEARS IN HIS EYES NOW. "GOSH, THANKS, DANNY !  THAT'D BE GREAT!"  "AW, THAT'S OK BILLIE, THAT'S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR !"