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Roses & Thorns This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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The bike was as red as a rose. It glowed just like the smile his face had on that fateful day. Speeding down that small town street Jimmy loved so much simply because of the hill it was placed on. With the houses of friends on either side of the road and the park at the end, Jimmy would pedal to the top of the mound, and as soon as his bike would hit the highest point of the incline, he'd be lurched forward with the air rushing through his stringy hair. Flying down that road was always his favorite.
The leaves had fallen and covered the beaten grass, giving the park a vibrant and colorful appeal. Many families were out that day. Enjoying picnics, playing games, taking walks. Few people were on the road on such a beautiful afternoon. Unlike most other boys his age, Jimmy woke up that morning and rushed outside, while the others stayed in enjoying video games or watching the same old television shows day after day. Out through the back door he'd run, you could hear his feet rush across the porch, and not a moment later he'd be pulling that little bike out of the old shed. One leg over. Both feet on the pedals. And the gravel spitting out the rear end of the wheels.
His mother was inside the kitchen, as she was every day, beginning to make lunch for Jimmy and his two younger sisters. She knew more than half the town was down at the park and that meant little traffic to worry about with little Jimmy flying down the streets. Everything had come on so unexpected, like things tend to do in life, and the end of the day brought both thankfulness and grief.
In a flash-moment William's life flashed before his eyes as he jumped in front of the speeding car to save the little boy. Didn't even know his name. But he was a man who had a love for life and made a difference whenever possible. Moments before the crash, Will was standing by the big oak tree, just taking a breather from his daily run, watching a little boy dash down a street on a bright red bicycle as he let the gravity pull him down the hill. It reminded him of his son back home, especially the way he laughed so loud as he sped down the street.
Will was a businessman from out of state, in town only for a couple days. Just passing through to get to the next big city. Had a family down south, with a dog and a picket fence, too. They wouldn't be able to understand after hearing the news, it wasn't something many people would do. But his ears, his eyes, his feet, pushed him forward onto the street and moved the boy aside. The car pummeled into his right side and slammed the man's body between the car and a streetlight.
Dennis had been out the whole night, drinking down at Joe's bar in town. He hated his life and it was beginning to show to those around him. Dennis' wife had left him a week ago, taken the kids with her, and ever since he had hated spending time at the house that was left empty all because of him. It was my fault, he'd say to himself, though really it was the alcohol that she left him for. He needed help, but refused every time she'd try. But that day, even though the sun was shining and the birds singing, he felt like he was driving home in a thunderstorm. His vision was blurry and he wasn't paying as much attention as he should've been, especially to the speedometer. But no one was on the road and Dennis was on his way home to drink the rest of the wine and the rest of his life away, so what did the speed limit matter anyway?
In a flash Will pushed Jimmy to the side, as his body was hit by the car that Dennis was driving. The boy fell onto the sidewalk with just a few minor scratches on his legs and hands. He was puzzled and didn't quite understand what had just happened. The driver was left with a head concussion and a big DUI on his hands. And if he had wished his life to end before, he'd be wishing it even more now since his life would soon end up being Hell because of the accident. The man who saved the boy from the incident was killed on impact. His family would soon be left in sorrow and agony as they try to focus more on the fact that he saved a kid's life, though he was giving up his own in the process.
Little Jimmy was scared to say or do anything at the scene of the crash. He laid there with not a thought of the blood and gravel on his knees and palms, but kept his eyes on the unknown man who had just saved his life. He felt no pain, only numbness and confusion. Who was this man and why did he rush to push me out of the way when he could have just watched me get hit? It was at that moment when Jimmy quickly began to grow up, though he was only eleven years young. It was within those minutes that passed by, while the townspeople ran to the scene and stayed by his side until the paramedics arrived, that he learned things most people never discover. The years that passed on after the incident never could erase the memory of that day on Rosebush Lane, but rather made the meaning so clear to him.
Jimmy later joined the Army at age nineteen and was soon sent out of the country to join the war in the Middle East. The man that had saved his life eight years before had made a big impact on his decision to join the military. No one knew this, as he was quite a reserved young man, but his family was quite proud of the man he was becoming. They would send him letters with comforting words, thoughts, and prayers. His mother stuck by his side and knew he had taken on a big responsibility even if it meant he could lose his life in the process.
“My son is going to make a difference somehow, some way. And that's something all mothers hope for.” She would tell this to anyone and everyone who asked about how she felt with him gone. She made a promise to herself not to lose faith.
In the middle of a war that had long since been titled as a mistake, Jimmy still felt like he was fighting for something. From the deepest pits in his heart and soul, he knew there was an impact he could have and was taking that thought with him everyday. In the streets of a rugged, small town, there he stood with all his gear. He liked how he had seen a change in this community already, even if it was a small one.
Some of the young kids would run around, chasing each other in the hot dirt. Jimmy would watch as the dust of the ground would lift up in clouds as they sped, and the laughs that radiated from their chapped lips. That rich sound would send him back in time, to the streets of his hometown. Where the days flew by like minutes, almost as fast as he could fly down that hill. Back to the day when he could've been hit. This was why he was here. To finish the promise he made that day.
After months of praying the day would never come, Jimmy's mother saw them coming from the view of the kitchen window, and suddenly her eyes filled with tears. The two suited men approached her door. Her body fell to the floor in front of them, along with her delicate heart, and in more ways than one, she broke into pieces. It would be hard for her to understand, just like Will's family, and would be in disbelief for days. But unlike Will's family, she had a letter addressed to her. One that was written soon after Jimmy had been shipped out.

By the time you read this, you will have heard the news. I won't say sorry, because I won't be sorry that I've done anything I might do. I'm here for a purpose. I have yet to know what it is, but God knows. I've left myself in his hands and what he plans to do with me is at his will.
Remember that day the man died trying to save me from being hit by that car? I'm sure you do. I kept that newspaper article on him in my room for years. I made a promise that day. I spoke to God, telling him that if I ever had the chance, I would do the same thing he did for me. I'm hoping that if I do die here, it will have been for someone to have a second chance at life. This is why I will not be sorry.
I will be with you, by your side, as you read this. I will be with you, by your side, each and every day, until we meet again. You were by mine through everything. Now it's my turn to be by yours.

Jimmy was shot in an attack on a small village in Iraq on September third, in the year two-thousand seven. He helped six innocent families escape the attack, and brought two injured members of his team to safety. On his way to help a bare-footed child hiding behind a pile of rubble, two bullets hit his left leg, and another hit his side. Besides a picture of his family at home, an old article was found folded up in his pocket.



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