Gina is frozen in her tracks. She’s sat in her car watching the old man across the road talk to her daughter. While she watches them, with her heartbeat in her throat, Gina can see glee and joy creep across the old man’s wrinkled face as he stands listening to her little girl. Then, what he did next changed everything.
The scream was an adrenaline shot straight to Gina’s body. But it wasn’t just any scream, it was her daughters. All it took was a mere few seconds and Gina jumped out of her car, her maternal instinct kicking in. She raced across the road but she had to be quick. Time was running out.
For Gina Jones, being a mom was the most important job she had ever had. Although she had previously been one of the most sought-after lawyers in her city, along came motherhood and Gina found herself as a stay-at-home-mom.
She loved it though, and with the help of her husband, she was able to raise a loving, sensible, and smart little girl called Audrey. But then one day, everything changed for this perfect family. And Gina’s world was left shattered into a million pieces.
Gina’s daughter, Audrey still had that wide-eyed wonder and optimism that most little girls have. She had no yet been jaded by the real world, so her view of it was still innocent.
She was a friendly girl, who would often strike up a conversation with quite literally anyone. People loved Audrey, they thought she was hilarious. But there was a certain someone that would take an eerily huge interest in the little girl.
You see, for a good week, Audrey arrived home from school beaming with happiness and excitement, as if she had just been given a $1000 gift certificate to spend at her favorite toy store! But the real reason for her happiness? Her new ‘friend’, Mr. Knuckles.
Gina knew the kind of imagination kids can have, so she just presumed Mr. Knuckles was an imaginary friend. But Gina had no idea how wrong she really was.
One afternoon, the clock ticked 4:30 PM and Gina frantically paced around her home. Audrey was supposed to be back 30 minutes ago from school, where was she? It only took 5, or 10 minutes if that to get back home.
Worst-case scenarios flood through her mind. Then suddenly, just as Gina was about to call her husband, Audrey walked through the front door. When Audrey told her mother the reason why she was late, she felt sick to her stomach.
“Sorry mommy,” Audrey said in her sweet voice. “I was just with Mr. Knuckles,” she said. Gina started to wonder if Mr. Knuckles was actually a real person. But when Audrey told her mom that Mr. Knuckles waits for her on the corner, every day to talk to her, Gina knew something was up.
She didn’t feel comfortable with this – and like any mother, she didn’t want her child talking to completes strangers. Especially strangers that wait around on school corners. No way. But Gina had no idea what was coming.
The next day Audrey arrived home from school, on time this time, but instead of the cheery smile and infectious laugh she usually brought home with her, today was a different story.
Audrey was clearly upset: her face was flustered and Gina could tell she had been crying. What had happened to her daughter? Gina shrugged it off and told her mom she was upset because of a test score. But Gina knew she was lying. Could it be because of Mr. Knuckles? She had to find out the truth.
Gina tried to reassure herself that her daughter Audrey was a clever kid and she would never do anything stupid. She raised her with good morals, ethics, and values. But still, Gina couldn’t ignore that loud and worried voice in her head.
She knew she had to meet this Mr. Knuckles for herself; to shake hands with the man her daughter was so adorned by. So the following day, once Gina dropped Audrey off at school, a plan popped into her head. But nothing could have prepared Gina for when she uncovered the truth about ‘Mr. Knuckles.’
The mom-with-a-plan pulled up to the school and waved her daughter goodbye. She watched as she ran towards the school, full of excitement and innocence. She sure was growing up!
Then, she waited and watched; trying to see this Mr. Knuckles for herself. A few minutes passed and then she saw it: an old man standing outside the school entrance. She squinted to get a closer look at him and saw Audrey approach him, and a terrible feeling hit the pit of Gina’s stomach.
The old man, Mr. Knuckles, was a short man; he was wearing a red baseball cap and he seemed to take delight in watching these school children pass by.
Gina watched her daughter walk up to the man and the two started talking. She couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but Gina could see glee and joy creep across the old man’s wrinkled face as he stood listening to the little girl. Then, what the old man did next left Gina racing out of her car and calling 911.
The old man and Audrey were talking for a few moments, then, as Gina watched, the old man started to raise his fist. As soon as she saw him do this, Gina raced out of the car, panic seeping into her body. She had seen enough.
She hopped out of the car, leaving the keys and the door open, but Gina didn’t care. She had to help her daughter.
Gina could feel her heartbeat pounding in her chest as she ran across the road to Audrey. Her maternal instincts had fully kicked in and there was no way this old man was going to get away lightly.
Very rarely did Gina panic; she often reveled in her laid-back attitude. But this time was different. This was her daughter. And he was a 90 something-year-old man. She feels sick to her stomach. She had to help her daughter, and she had to be quick.
As Gina sprinted towards her daughter, she saw that other school children had also arrived; huddling around the old man and Audrey.
Then, Gina heard the school children burst out with laughter and giggles followed by “Good morning Knuckles.” It was at that moment then, that Gina realized her worst nightmare was just that; a mere nightmare. Her prayers had been answered.
Wally Richardson, a.k.a Mr. Knuckles as the infatuated school children call him, was a 94-year old war veteran. Every morning he waited outside the school gates and spoke a few kind words to the children as they passed by, before giving them a handshake or a fist-bump.
He would give the excited school kids advice, ask them about their lives, and leave everyone – parents included – in awe of his positive personality. But why now? What does Mr. Knuckles get out of this?
You see, Mr. Knuckles wanted to make a difference in the children’s lives, and what better way to spend the latter years of his life than inspiring others!
The old man himself has even gone viral! A video of Mr. Knuckles greeting the school children has reached nearly half a million views! Although he has been spreading joy for an incredible ten years, thankfully he admits he’s not going to slow it down anytime soon!