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As the light blue pickup drove off in a cloud of dust, the barefoot boy raced after it as fast as he could. “Hey, look, guys, he’s following us!” one of the occupants yelled to his friends.
The boy’s single unfastened overall strap failed wildly with his motion. “Wait up, you guys, wait up!”
The driver chuckled and put the full weight of his foot on the accelerator.
“Hey, Quincy, how much time you reckon we got left?” The young unshaven man sat on the porch fiddling with the soft drink machine. “Dang thing’s broke again.”
The wizened black man in the rocking chair made no motion. “Two, three more hours, I guess.”
“Dangit, Quincy, why don’t you get a watch?”
“Don’t need one. ’Sides, where’s yours?”
“At the shop,” Zebedee muttered, returning to the drink machine.
Daniel was still chasing the truck when he noticed an unusual lightness on his left wrist. “Aw shoot, I lost my watch.” He stopped running. “I know I had it on before I passed the general store.” He began to make his way back to town. “They promised they would take me to Atlanta. Why’d they drive off like that? They didn’t even give me time to dress.”
“That was real funny, the way we left him,” one of the boys in the truck said to everyone.
“Yeah, what made him think that we would even consider taking him to Atlanta with us? The boy just didn’t think it through.” And having said this, the driver fell silent, then quickly turned back towards the town.
“Uh, Bill, what are you doing?”
“I’m going back to explain.”
“Explain what?”
“Explain what we did. If he thinks we forgot him, he might tell mom. Then I’d be in for a world of hurt.”
“Oh …” They pondered this for a bit and it seemed to make sense.
So they went back.
“I’m going outside for some fresh air,” Quincy told Zebedee after he had restocked the shelves. “I’m tired of this stuffy general store.”
“Okay,” responded Zebedee, immersed in the drink machine.
As he stepped out into the noonday sun, something glared into his eye. “Ow, gosh,” he exclaimed as he tried to look at what was causing the light. He walked over to the source and found it to be a wristwatch. “Hm,” he thought, “Zeb does say that I need a watch.” He picked it up and began to study it.
Daniel’s feet were caked with dust and dirt when he approached Main Street. Just then, in the distance, he saw a man bend over and pick something up, look at it, and then walk into Quincy and Zeb’s General Store. He stopped for a moment. “I wonder if that was my watch. I could ask Quincy or Zebedee once I get there.”
“Hey, Zebedee, you’ll never guess what I found in the street just now,” Quincy said as he entered the store.
Zebedee didn’t even look up from his work. “A new soda machine that works?”
“No, goofy, a watch.”
“Let me see it.”
Quincy handed Zebedee his discovery. After looking at the face for a while, Zebedee turned it over and inspected the back. On it were the initials “D.P.N.”
“D.P.N. Now who could that be?” Zebedee searched his mental phone directory for any possible matches in their small Georgia town. “The only D.P.N. I can think of is Daniel Nichols. Let’s close the store for a bit and see if it’s his.”
So they turned off the lights, locked the doors, and set off for Daniel Nichol’s house. Before they got too far, they met Daniel, barefoot and out of breath, running towards them. “Hey guys,” he panted with an expectant look in his eye, “how’s it going?”
“Fine, fine,” Zebedee replied. “Say, Dan, have you—”

Just then a light blue pickup truck pulled up beside them in a cloud of dust. It was Bill and his cohorts. “Daniel! We been looking’ all over for you!” he lied through the driver’s side window. “Where were you?”
“You know dang well where I was,” retorted Daniel. “I was chasing after you.”
“Well, that’s kinda why we were looking for you,” one of the young men in the truck interjected.

Bill shot him a silencing glance and continued. “Y’see, Daniel,” he began, his lie in place, “we were joking when we said you could come to Atlanta with us. And we thought you knew … y’know, that you were in on the joke too, and were just playing along.” Bill hoped his attempt at deception would not backfire. “Now, you know Momma wouldn’t let you go to Atlanta with us until you are a lot older, dontcha?”
Daniel shuffled his feet and looked at the ground “Yeah,” he said, a perfunctory admission.
“Okay, then,” Bill concluded, his plan going quite well, “now get on home before Momma starts to worrying.”
“Okay.” Daniel started to go to his house.

“Hey now,” interrupted Quincy, “I can tell when a person’s been a-fibbin’, and boy, if lies were peanuts, you coulda just choked an elephant!”
“What’d you say to me?” Bill was red with incredulousness, and his voice rose in volume and quivered with anger as he spoke.
“He was that you been lyin’ to Daniel here,” Zebedee joined in. By now, Daniel had stopped walking and was watching intently.
“Zeb, Quincy, you—” Bill trailed off into silence. Shaking his head, he clenched his teeth and turned the truck around yet again.

The trio watched as Bill and his friends drove off in another cloud of dust to Atlanta.
“This watch yours?” Zebedee asked Daniel.
“Yep. Thanks. Where’d you find it.”
“Outside the store. In the street.” Quincy had a faraway look in his eyes.
They stood in silence for a moment.

“Want a drink, on the house?” Zebedee offered.
Daniel’s face brightened up. “Sure!”
“Anything but a soft drink,” Zebedee added.