Jamie joined the boy scouts to fit in, but his parents didn’t want him to go on a forest hike. He went anyway and discovered a bunker deep in the woods, but he soon realized the danger he put himself in when a strange, big man shut the bunker door and stared at him grimly.
“Jamie, I don’t know if that’s a good idea. I know your father being part of the boy scouts was great for a growing boy, but a forest hike? With a public school teacher? I don’t know,” Bridget told her son when he asked her to sign the permission slip for their hike.
“But everyone’s going, Mom. All the other parents let them go. Please!” the teenager begged.
“I don’t think so,” Bridget was still shaking her head, and Jamie wanted to huff, throw a tantrum, and do whatever else necessary to get her to agree. This was his only shot.
He put his ear to the door and leaned closer. Nothing.
Jamie was already an outcast at the public school because of his background. His parents used to have money, so he was used to private schools, uniforms, and luxuries. However, his father, Oliver, lost his business, and their entire lifestyle changed.
However, the teenager wasn’t angry about that. He loved attending a regular school, having normal friends, getting rowdy and dirty, and finally feeling like a child – not a spoiled little prince like the kids he had known.
Sadly, the boys at the new school didn’t like him. Despite their new lifestyle, his parents made him wear fancy clothes on his first day, and they wouldn’t budge. So, Jamie was mocked, and one classmate called him “fancy pants.” The nickname stuck, and everyone called him that.
His parents were still forcing him to wear nice clothes, but Jamie started bringing a regular outfit and everyday sneakers to change into every day right before he walked through the doors. Doing this stopped the nickname somewhat, but he had no friends yet.
All he had known before, such as traveling to exotic locations, practicing fencing, and eating expensive food, was utterly foreign to his new classmates. He couldn’t find common ground to befriend until he saw a sign-up sheet for boys scouts.
His father encouraged joining the team. “I was a boy scout, too, Bridget. It’s great. It teaches boys wilderness skills, teamwork, and independence. It’ll be great for Jamie,” he said after seeing Bridget’s hesitation.
His mother was unsure, but she had to relent since their boy scouts meetings were right there at school. “It’s better than sports with those rowdy boys, right?” she conceded.
Jamie was doing well on the team, but they were now going on a forest hike, and his mother was hesitating.
“Mom. Please, the entire team is going. I have to go, or I’ll be left behind. I won’t earn my medals unless I go on these trips,” Jamie explained. Bridget was still shaking her head when Oliver walked through the door.
“Dad! Dad! Please, you need to sign this, please!” Jamie went up to him quickly.
“Wait, wait. What’s that?” his father asked, putting down his briefcase and grabbing his reading glasses. “Hiking trip?”
“Yeah. The boy scouts are going,” Jamie nodded.
“He’s not going!” Bridget interjected, crossing her arms.
“Mom!” he whined.
“You don’t want him to go?” his father asked Bridget.
“No! It’s dangerous. I don’t know this teacher, and I don’t know those boys. He can’t go,” she answered. Her tone was authoritative and final.
“Mom!” Jamie whined again.
“Son, maybe, you can go next time. When we have time to meet your troop leader and such,” Oliver said. He didn’t exactly agree with his wife, but he had no choice.
“NO! This is not fair!” Jamie added.
“Our decision is final, Jamie. One more complaint, and we’ll have you removed from the team altogether,” Bridget threatened, pointing at her son and raising her eyebrows.
“YOU’RE RUINING MY LIFE!” Jamie half-yelled, half-cried, running to his room and slamming the door.
He refused to eat or leave his room that day, even when Oliver knocked to talk to him.
“Let him have his tantrum. He’s not going. I hate that he had to quit fencing. That was so much better for him. Safer and around real professionals,” Bridget complained in their bedroom.
“I’m sorry I lost everything, Bridget. I’m sorry we can’t have our old lives back. But this trip is not dangerous. If you keep trying to protect your child from normal things, he’ll be a useless adult. And he’ll hate us for it,” Oliver tried to reason, but his wife didn’t want to hear it.
“He’s not going. Period,” she said, plopped on the bed, covered herself with the sheet, and turned to her side, looking away from Oliver.
Jamie hit the man to get him off, but a crack echoed through the forest.
“Fine,” he sighed. They would have to work on things, and Jamie might be able to go on another hike in a few months.
“Jamie! Enough of your tantrum! Time for breakfast! Come on!” Bridget shouted, pounding at his bedroom door. She rustled the doorknob, but it wouldn’t budge.
Oliver came out of the bedroom and worried that his wife was treating their son too harshly. “Let him be. He’ll come out eventually,” he suggested.
“No! He needs to stop this now!” Bridget said petulantly. “JAMIE! JAMIE! If you don’t come out right now, I will sell your phone and PlayStation online! Is that what you want?”
“Please, go. I’ll try to talk to Jamie,” Oliver said, and she pulled away from the door. He tried using a coaxing voice and telling his son that everything would be alright. “Please, Jamie. Let’s have breakfast.”
Nothing. Jamie was not answering at all. But Oliver frowned. He put his ear to the door and leaned closer. Nothing. The silence was more than just a teenage ice treatment. It was like he was gone. “Get me the keys, Bridget,” he requested, and her eyebrows raised.
“Oh no,” she said and ran to find the keys. They unlocked the door quickly and saw their fears confirmed. Jamie was gone.
Jamie had to forge his mother’s signatures and run away. He felt guilty about that, but this was the only way.
“Hey, Fancy-pants! I bet you’re going to pick the safest route! You wouldn’t dare go through the long trail!” one of the boy scouts, Carter, taunted, and the others laughed. They were all in most of Jamie’s classes at school.
None of them had come up with the nickname, but they weren’t keen on being friends with him either. “Why? Are you going on the dangerous route?” Jamie taunted back, knowing full well that they wouldn’t go either.
“No, but I’m not a little prince like you, am I?” Carter retorted, and they all laughed again.
Their forest hike was going to divide into two routes at some point. The more experience scouts were supposed to go with Mr. Bennett, their team’s leader. The newer scouts were going with Jackson, a college student who volunteered to help Mr. Bennett as he had been part of their team years ago.
However, the boys could pick with whom they wanted to go, and Jamie needed to prove his bravery. “I’m going with Mr. Bennett. Why don’t you join?” he shrugged at Carter and his friends.
Jamie went up to Mr. Bennett, who agreed to have him join. The other boys saw his actions and decided to go the dangerous route. Soon, they separated and started working on what they had learned.
“Guys, follow me closely here. Several half-trails here might confuse you, but they are much harsher paths where people get easily lost,” Mr. Bennett warned, and all the boys nodded.
“I bet you wouldn’t go on those trails, right Fancy-pants?” Carter began his taunting again, and Jamie was tired.
“Shut up. Of course, I wouldn’t. I’m not an idiot who wants to die,” he rolled his eyes.
“Oooooh, so you’re scared of the forest?” The boys laughed again.
“Fine. I’ll go if you go,” Jamie suggested.
“No. Why would I go with you?” Carter asked, frowning.
“Oh, so you’re the one who’s scared?” Jamie taunted this time.
The boys were in a standoff, and finally, Carter agreed. They waited for Mr. Bennett to get distracted and took one of the other trails.
A few minutes after losing the troop, Carter asked, “All these trails led to the same place. Don’t they?”
“I think so,” Jamie replied, but he wasn’t sure.
After a few more minutes, Carter said, “I’m going back. This is stupid.”
Jamie turned, saw him running back where they came from, and laughed. “Look at the chicken running away!” he called out jokingly and continued walking. He was determined to finish the trail, which had to connect with the others at some point.
It didn’t. The trail ended at some point, and there was nothing around. Jamie was in the middle of the forest, lost, hungry, and scared. But he grabbed a power bar from his back and thought quickly. He could go back through the trail and try to find his troop that way. Perhaps, he could cut through the trees and see them halfway.
But he wasn’t sure what to do. Suddenly, it got very dark, and the teenager grabbed his phone only to realize hours had passed. It was almost nightfall, and the hike was supposed to end earlier.
His phone had no notifications because he had placed it on airplane mode, but he activated it now to call for help. However, he was so deep in the forest that there was no signal. Therefore, Jamie moved around and around and around, trying to get reception so he could call his parents.
A drop fell on his phone, and he realized it was about to pour rain. Jamie looked around, remembering what they had been taught about shelter, safety, and warmth. But there was nothing he could use until he ran further and spotted a door in the middle of the forest.
“That’s a bunker,” he said quietly, running towards it as the rain fell harder. Luckily, the door was open, and he went inside, going down three steps and turning on his phone flashlight to see in the dark. He found a light switch, which worked, but he was shocked by the bunker.
At home, they both started lecturing, but he asked them to sit down like grown-ups, which took them aback. But they did.
It was filled with paintings, paint buckets, brushes, and more. Even the walls had drawings, although they were abstract work that Jamie couldn’t decipher. Someone owned this place, and he thought it might not have been a good idea just to burst inside. The teenage boy was about to leave and try to find someplace else when he heard boots coming down the steps.
At first, Jamie thought it was a bear – the silhouette was so huge – but a man came down and closed the bunker door behind him. Jamie was about to scream when the man rushed forward and covered his mouth. “Don’t yell! Scooter doesn’t like yelling,” the man told him in a deep, bass-like rumble.
Jamie hit the man to get him off, but a crack echoed through the forest. A scorching pain went up his hand, and he and the man looked at his hand. He twisted his little finger in the oddest position, and the teen boy started crying.
“Oh, look what you did,” the man commented, sighing, and went to a corner to rummage through something. Jamie couldn’t open his eyes from the pain, but he felt a nice warm body get close and realized it was a dog. That must be what the man was talking about, he thought as he breathed through the pain and felt the dog’s fur.
“Come on, kid. Sit down,” the man said, and Jamie blinked. He saw the man sitting on a stool with another in front, so he had no choice but to sit there. The stranger grabbed his hand and inspected it. “This might hurt.”
“Ahh!” Jamie cried out. But the man had arranged his twisted finger and was wrapping it in cloth.
“Thank you, I guess,” Jamie said, still crying from the pain.
“You have a lot to thank me for, kid. You should never leave a bunker open like that. I have food here, and I saw a wild bear sniffing around right after you came in. I ran to close the door,” the man said.
Jamie’s eyes grew big, as he had no idea. “Thank you… for real this time. I’m Jamie,” he said, breathless.
“I’m Noah,” the man nodded as he patched the teen boy. “What are you doing here?”
“I…I’m a boy scout,” Jamie started and told him what happened, ending with, “I was so stupid.”
“Yes, you were, kid. You can’t fall for taunting or bullying. Who cares what others think?”
“You don’t know everything,” the teen boy mumbled, looking down.
“Tell me. It will rain for a while, and I can’t guide you back to safety until it stops,” Noah urged. Jamie told him everything else, including his parents, their lifestyle, money troubles, the change, the new school, how he wanted to be an ordinary boy, his mother’s over-protectiveness, etc.
Noah listened, and it felt great.
“So, is this your bunker?” the teen asked curiously.
“Yeah, and my home.”
“Did you paint those? What’s the story behind them?” Jamie continued.
“It’s a long story.”
“It’s still raining,” the boy added, smiling.
Therefore, Noah told him about his life. “My fiancee and I were both deployed in Iraq. I saw her… die… I won’t get into details, but it was bad. I was discharged later, and it was like I had lost my mind. I found this bunker and just hid here, not wanting to deal with the world at all,” the man explained.
“But you were out right now.”
“After all these years, I had a dream. My fiancée was there, and I realized I was wasting my life when she lost hers – like I was ungrateful for this chance that others didn’t get. So, I decided to get a therapist, and I have weekly appointments now. The doc convinced me to start painting my emotions. That’s all this,” Noah nodded.
Jamie smiled crookedly. “They’re nice, but it’s only colors.
“Emotions have no shape. I guess,” Noah nodded. “You know, kid. You’re lucky your parents want you to be safe. I don’t have anyone to come home to or anyone who cares about me except maybe my therapist. But I bet your mother is now moving heaven and hell to find you.”
“Yeah, probably,” Jamie agreed, and just then, a loud pounding shook the bunker.
“Police! Open up!” a male voice called.
“See?” Noah leaned his head at Jamie and opened the bunker.
Jamie stood up, and suddenly, his mother was flying down the steps toward him. “Oh, my baby! My baby! Mommy’s here! You’re safe!” Bridget said, rocking him in her arms. “I want that kidnapper arrested!”
“Mom! No! This man protected me from a bear! He also fixed my broken finger,” Jamie added, showing his mother.
“Meeting you inspired it,” he said.
“Oh, Oh. I see. I’m sorry, sir. Thank you. I was just so worried,” Bridget said, slow tears falling from the corners of her eyes.
Oliver was also there, and Jamie saw him talking to Noah and finally shaking his hand. “Let’s go,” his father said after a while, and they all made their way out of the bunker. Luckily, the rain had stopped, and everyone had flashlights.
“Thank you, Noah,” Jamie said as they walked away.
“Stay safe, kid. And know what you have,” Noah said.
Jamie smiled at the man and continued his walking. His mother wouldn’t let go of his hand. At home, they both started lecturing, but he asked them to sit down like grown-ups, which took them aback. But they did.
“I know I did wrong, but Mom, this trip was important. I need to be a normal kid. I know you both love me and want me to be safe, even after we lost so much. But I’m fine. I always hated my preppy classmates,” Jamie revealed.
His parents were worried but told him to go on.
“I only wanted to run and get dirty with other kids. I’m fine at this school, and I’m a teenager. I need to learn about the world. Meeting Noah today was the most interesting thing that’s ever happened to me. I learned so much from him in just an hour of being around him. You can’t coddle me. I can’t be protected from real experiences. I need room to grow. Please,” the teen boy begged.
Oliver looked at his wife and leaned his head to the side. He had already scolded her earlier about this situation, but during their search for Jamie, he added that he wouldn’t have run at all if she wasn’t overbearing.
“OK,” Bridget finally said. She and Oliver agreed to let Jamie have more room as long as he still followed the rules and behaved appropriately. That wasn’t a problem for him. He only needed them to stop overprotecting him or thinking that not having their old luxuries was more dangerous somehow.
Jamie also started seeing Noah in town and loved speaking to him about his life. He told his parents all about him and how he had no one. Therefore, they invited him over for dinner several times. One day, Noah brought over a new painting.
“Meeting you inspired it,” he said, and Jamie felt wonderful about that because the colors were bright and winding through the canvas poetically. Bridget loved the painting too. Soon, Noah became like a big brother to him.
His stories of the way and trying to recover inspired Oliver to launch a new company and chase his dreams once more. Jamie could talk to Noah about everything, especially stuff his parents wouldn’t understand, although they were trying hard to improve.
“You’re a good listener, Noah,” the teen boy told him, and Noah took that to heart. He started a support group for his town where other veterans and people who had experienced great loss came, shared, and realized they weren’t alone.
Jamie convinced his teacher to let Noah come to talk to his class, and his new friend impressed everyone, especially when he finished his speech with a few powerful words.
“My buddy, Jamie, is the reason I was brave enough to come here and rejoin the world fully.”
After that day, the nickname Fancy-pants disappeared. Jamie finally made real friends, continued hiking with the boy scouts, joined the basketball team, and became a regular teen boy. Even when his father got successful again, he remained the same kid who wanted to experience everything in life. And Noah healed by helping others.
What can we learn from this story?
Overprotecting your children is not going to help them when they grow up. Every parent wants their child to be safe, but shielding them from typical experiences deprives them of opportunities to grow.
You can heal your emotional wounds by sharing them. Thanks to his support group, Noah learned that sharing pain is the best way to heal.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.