A week later Zoey was on her way home from school and about ten minutes away from home her bike tyre got a puncture. She got off to try to see if she could pump it enough to get home.

“What’s the problem?”

Zoey looked up and a friendly-looking man was speaking. He was walking a Dachshund, only it was black and brown, not just brown like Mickey.

“Nice dog,” she said, standing up. “I think I ran over a nail. The hole is too big to pump, the air comes right out.”

“My house isn’t far. I could fix the puncture and have you on your way.”

Zoey hesitated and then thought, based on nothing but air: if he has a Dachshund, he must be alright. She stood up and followed him, pushing her bike.

“Have you had your dog long?”

“Yes and no. I was away and he was staying with my family. I just got him back. He’s called Beemo.”

“Hey Beemo,” Zoey said, and the dog wagged his tail. “I’ve got a Dachshund too. Maybe they can have a play date.” They both laughed.

“Here we are.”

The man stopped and a cold chill went through Zoey. He stopped in front of the house on Makoro Drive.

“You can wait out here,” he said. “I’ll go and fetch the patching kit.”

Despite her instinct to run, she waited. She remembered what her mother had said. Maybe he got fixed in the hospital, maybe they needed to give him a chance. He reminded her of her dad, how could someone like that be a murderer?

The man was back in minutes with the patching kit and a bucket of water. He must have noticed something had changed in Zoey because he said, “Yes, I live here. I’m the man. If you want to go you can. I understand.”

There was heavy sadness in his voice and Zoey knew now she definitely could not go. What if it had been a chemical problem in his brain that led to a psychotic break like her mother said, something he had no control over and now his wife and daughter were dead because of it?  She wondered how it was when the cloud of chemical misfiring cleared and he realised they were dead and he had murdered them. What a horrible weight he must carry for the rest of his life.

“No…I’m just…it’s fine,” Zoey said.

The man held out his hand to her. “I’m Kopano, by the way.”

She shook his hand. “Zoey. I live around the corner. I pass this house all of the time.”

“I’m trying to sort it out. It gone run down when I …was away.”

Zoey played with Beemo while Kopano fixed her tyre. After a few minutes, he pumped it and handed the bike to Zoey. “Good as new.”

“Thanks. That was really kind of you.”

“Not a problem.”

Zoey got on and rode home thinking how all of this time she thought the man who lived in that house was a monster, but he wasn’t. He was kind and had a dog. She told herself she would try harder not to judge people before getting to know them.

***

Tell us: Do you think Zoey should be friends with Kopano? Do you think she should give him a chance?