When you’re a teenager it’s easy to be led astray. What’s hard is getting out of a bad situation.
Mature or distressing themes and strong language. This story deals with issues that are, unfortunately, true to life for some teens.
In keeping with our policy of not running from real life issues, we are hosting Bad Boy Gone Good with this advisory.
Greg unlocked the front door and walked in. No one was home. As usual. His folks had gone to Toronto on business. They were always going somewhere on business, so Greg was used to being at home alone. He walked to his bedroom, slammed the door closed, hard, and fell onto the bed on his back. He closed his eyes.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” Even though he’d closed his door, his shout echoed through the house, bouncing off the wood floors and open-beam ceilings. The shouted expletives weren’t heard by anyone. But it felt good, fucking good, to shout, to let his frustrations out. Greg thought back over what had happened this week. This totally, horribly, massively fucked up week. Fucked up by Jado. His now former friend Jado. Fucking Jado. Fuck fuck fucking Jado!
Everything started to go into the crapper starting when Greg got to school on Tuesday. It was going to be a really shitty day anyway. Greg was going to have to take the fucking high school exit exam. He would’ve probably done okay. He would’ve passed the fucking test. But that test was a pile of crap! So he caved when Jado sucked him in. “Hey, Greg, screw the fucking test. I got some great new shit. Ya gotta try it! C’mon, let’s split this fuckin’ shithole and lemme show you what I got!” That’s what he’d said.
Greg’s mistake, his first on a whole huge list of mistakes, was to listen to fucking Jado. To be taken in by Jado’s shit.
He thought about Jado. They’d met when Greg moved to San Bruno and transferred to Aston High School in the middle of the semester. Aston was clique hell. Everyone was in a clique. The only thing was, there was no clique for new kids. So he was basically ignored by everyone. A fucking outcast. Until one day when as usual he was sitting eating his lunch all by himself. Jado sat across from him, smiled, said “Welcome to Asshole High School” and started laughing. Greg busted up laughing, they talked the rest of the lunch period, and they became friends.
But Jado was a punk, a stoner. And, Greg now realized, a shithead. A fuckin’ freakin’ shithead. And Greg had always gone along because Jado was his only friend at Aston. And when Jado did stupid fuckin’ shit, Greg was right there with him. You don’t abandon your best friend, your only friend, even if he’s a fuckin’ punk stoner.
So Greg listened to Jado, and said “Fuck the test” to himself, and went with Jado to see what kinda great new shit Jado’d gotten. Jado drove them to the hills in back of San Carlos. He drove into Whistler County Park and turned off onto the fire road that worked its way deep into a thick grove of old oak trees.
Jado’s great new shit was a gray powder. Jado rolled a joint after sprinkling some of the gray powder on the weed. They lit up and Greg took a deep drag and handed it to Jado, waiting to feel the feeling, whatever that was going to be. The smoke from the weed started to do its work, making Greg a little dizzy, and his vision blurred a bit, but just for a few seconds. The fun high took over and held for a few more seconds. Then Jado’s great new shit kicked in. Greg felt like the top of his head was gonna blow right off. His ears hurt, on the inside. His heartbeat got real fast and he could feel it beating hard in his chest. He was dizzier than he’d ever been in his life. He felt sick. He felt like he was gonna hurl.
Greg got the car door open just in time. He threw up his breakfast, a couple Pop Tarts and some OJ.
Greg felt worse than he’d ever felt in his life. He didn’t know how he’d gotten there, but he was lying on the ground next to Jado’s car. His head hurt like hell, and he was even dizzier than before. The back of his head felt wet, and everything smelled like vomit. He turned so he was lying on his right side, then pushed himself into a sort of semi-sitting position. He felt the back of his head. Was he bleeding? OH, FUCK! He’d been lying in his own vomit. Shit!
Greg moaned, and struggled to get up. It was hard, his head felt like it was going to explode, his vision was blurred, and every time he moved the dizziness seemed to increase.
“Jado, you fuck, what the fuck was that? I feel like I’m gonna die, you shithead!”
His question was answered by a groan, and the sound of Jado throwing up. That was enough to make Greg hurl again, but there was nothing left to throw up, nothing to make his stomach feel better. Greg slumped with his back against the fender, and leaned his head back against the metal. It was cold, and it felt good. He kept his eyes closed. If he opened them he felt like he needed to hurl. The dizziness seemed to increase, and Greg realized that he was blacking out, like the time when he was ten and he fainted in the doctor’s office getting a shot. And then everything went black.
Greg started to wake up. Someone was shaking him, and he could hear words but couldn’t make out what they were. He tried to open his eyes, to see what was going on, but couldn’t. Then everything went black again.
The next time he woke he was lying down, but everything was shaking. He tried to open his eyes, and this time he was successful. Everything was a blur, but he realized he was being carried on a stretcher. What the fuck? The stretcher was put into a box of some kind. He looked around. It was an ambulance. He was being put into an ambulance! He tried to say something, to tell whoever was putting him in the ambulance that he had to get back to Jado’s car. To get back to school. There was a loud wailing noise which resolved into a siren and it hurt his ears big time. The ambulance began moving and started shaking like it was driving over lots of big rocks, and that made Greg feel like he had to hurl again. He tried to turn his head so he wouldn’t hurl onto himself, but he didn’t because there was nothing left to hurl. Then everything got smooth, and the urge to hurl went away. Once again Greg fell into unconsciousness.
Greg woke up. He was able to open his eyes, but closed them immediately. There was a bright light overhead, too bright to look at. It felt like he was lying on a bed. He turned his head to one side and realized it hurt to move his head. He opened his eyes. He was in a hospital room. What was he doing in a hospital room?
Greg tried to think about why he’d be in a hospital. He remembered getting up and riding his bike to school to take his exit exam. He couldn’t remember anything after that.
He was thirsty. His mouth tasted like he’d been eating dirt.
He tried to call out. “Hey!” But it came out like a frog croaking. But it must have worked. A nurse came over to where he was lying in bed.
“Would you like some water?’
Greg nodded his head, even though it hurt to do it.
The nurse rubbed his lips with some sort of soft sponge thing. It was wet, and cool, and felt good. He opened his mouth, and she let him suck on it, and it made his mouth feel better. But there was almost no water, almost none to swallow.
The nurse took the sponge out of his mouth, did something with it, and put it back on his lips. It was wet again, and Greg eagerly opened his mouth and let the nurse rub his tongue with the wetness. He sucked on it, and it felt so good. There was even a little bit to swallow. The nurse removed the sponge thing, and he saw her looking at him real close. She picked up his left arm, and held his wrist with her thumb on the bottom side. He realized that she was taking his pulse.
“How do you feel?”
“I’m going to take your blood pressure then I’ll get the doctor. He needs to talk to you.”
She stepped away, and in a few seconds returned and put a blood pressure cuff around his bicep. When she was finished taking his blood pressure, Greg was more awake. He tried to think why he was here, he remembered getting to school, but everything after that was a blank.
He looked at the nurse as she removed the cuff from his arm. “Why’m I here?”
She looked at him. “Doctor Jenkins will be here in a few minutes, and he’ll tell you.” Then she walked out of the room.
Greg closed his eyes. Doctor Jenkins. Why’d that name sound so familiar? Jenkins, Jenkins. Jado! Everything flooded back into Greg’s consciousness. Jado talking him into skipping school, skipping the exit exam. Saying he had some sort of great new shit they had to try. Then smoking a joint with this shit sprinkled on the weed. And getting sick. And passing out. Even the ride in an ambulance.
“Well, it looks like you’ve returned from the dead! I’m Doctor Jenkins. And you’re Greg Cameron. And you’ve been very sick, young man.”
“What happened? I remember Jado giving me a joint with something in it, and getting sick. I felt awful, and blacked out. What the fu… uh, what was that shit?”
“We think it might be a new designer drug. We sent it to the lab to have it analyzed, and it’s a very powerful one, based on baclofen and l-deprenyl. These designer drugs are very dangerous, and the one you took seems particularly problematic. We think that you’re lucky that you came out from the effects of whatever this drug was. You almost didn’t make it, son.”
“I almost didn’t make it? You mean like… like… I almost… died?”
“That’s what I mean. Your blood pressure and pulse were out of control. When you arrived at the hospital, your blood pressure was 186. It’s down to about 145, still way too high, and there’s an irregularity in your heartbeat. We need to watch that. Your pulse was 121 and now it’s 90, and that’s also much too high. Fortunately, we were able to use an intravenous ACE inhibitor that was effective in dropping your blood pressure and pulse. They are not down to what’s normal for a healthy teen, and that’s why you’re getting an oral ACE inhibitor and we’re observing you until they are both in the normal range.”
Greg was stunned by what the doctor told him. He almost died? Oh, my God! He didn’t want to die. He was way too young to die. It was that fucking Jado and his always wanting to try some new kind of weed. So where was Jado? He looked at the doctor.
“Jado? What about Jado?”
“Is that your friend?” Greg nodded a ‘yes’. Doing so didn’t hurt his head like it had earlier.
“Your friend is here, he was sicker than you were. But he’s coming out of it as well. Not nearly as quickly as you, though. Now, how are you feeling? Do you still feel like you need to throw up?”
“Uh-uh. Umm, better, feeling better. I was so dizzy, my head really hurt, and had to throw up. That was some really bad shit. I only took one drag on the joint, and got sick right away. Am I gonna be okay? Can I go home?”
“We’ve been trying to call your parents. No one’s home. Are they at work? We’ll try again this evening. Or can we call them at work?”
“They’re in Toronto. I’ve got the phone number for where they are, but it’s at home. They won’t be back until next weekend.” Greg looked at the doctor. “I just wanta go home.”
“Greg, I don’t think you realize just how sick you were. As I said, you need to stay here so we can continue the medication to lower your blood pressure and avoid the possibility of a stroke, and observe you for 24 hours once it’s back to normal. We also need to watch your kidney function for renal impairment. We need to talk to your family doctor to see if you’ve had the irregular heart rhythm or if it’s something caused by the drug you took, and update him on your condition. That reminds me, what’s your family doctor’s name?”
Greg lay there, trying to think of his doctor’s name. “Doctor Cardin. He’s in San Bruno.”
“Okay. Let me go phone him. I’ll be back in a while. There’s one other thing, Greg. When you were found by the park ranger, she called an ambulance and the police. There’s an officer here who’s going to talk to you. I recommend that you tell him exactly what happened, where you got the drugs, who gave them to you. Otherwise you’ll probably be in a lot of trouble. You look like a nice boy. Don’t ruin your life now.” Doctor Jenkins turned and walked out of the room.
Greg was scared. The police! And drugs! Oh, shit, was he in for it now. His folks would kill him. He’d be locked in his room like in a prison cell. He’d be grounded for life. Tears started to run from Greg’s eyes into his ears. He put his arm over his face, using the hospital gown to soak up his tears. Fucking shithead Jado! Him and his fucking great new shit. How could he have been so stupid, so fucking, fucking stupid, to let Jado talk him into cutting and trying that shit.
Greg pulled his arm away, and saw a policeman standing next to his bed.
I’m officer Lowenthal. I have some questions I’d like to ask you. Are you ready to answer my questions? Would you like to wait until your parents can get here?”
“Um, my folks are in Toronto. They won’t be back until next weekend.”
“Do you have their phone number?”
“Yeah, but it’s at home.”
“Do you want a lawyer?”
Greg stared at the cop. Oh, shit! A lawyer! This is some serious shit I’m in. “I don’t know any lawyers. Do I need a lawyer?”
The policeman looked at the now very scared teenager. His student body card listed his age as 16. He was a cute kid, he didn’t look like a druggie. He had no record with the department. This boy’s friend, in another section of the hospital, Jaydon ‘Jado’ Oron, was known to the San Carlos police and the sheriff’s department. He had been arrested several times for minor drug infractions, small amounts of marijuana. He’d never been held. His parents didn’t seem to care much, they always seemed to be more upset that their routine had been impacted by Jaydon being arrested. The DA’s office never pressed charges. There wasn’t enough time for the badly overworked district attorney staff. So Jaydon had never been held, never been turned over to the juvenile court system. But he was considered to be a troublemaker, cutting school on a fairly regular basis and getting other kids involved.
“I don’t think so. That’s up to the district attorney’s office. But it depends on whether you’re cooperative with our investigation.” That looked like it worked. The kid looked panicked.
Greg was panicked. His heart was beating so hard he could feel it all over his body. He’d done some stupid shit before, but this was the worst ever. Why was he such a stupid shit? Why did he listen to Jado? He looked at the policeman. “What do you want to know?”
Officer Lowenthal pulled out one of those micro tape recorders, asked Greg for and got his permission to record the interview, and began asking his questions. And Greg, much to his own amazement, answered them truthfully. Fuck Jado! He was the one that got Greg fucked over. Now let him find out what it was like to get fucked over!
“Okay, Greg, that’s all the questions I have. Now, let me tell you what’s next. I’m going to turn this over to the district attorney’s office. I’ll tell them that you were cooperative. You didn’t have any drugs in your possession when you arrived at the hospital. You’re not being arrested. You can go home when your doctor releases you.”
“Uh, will you have to tell my folks?”
“Your parents will probably be contacted by the district attorney’s office. I don’t know when or if that will happen.”
Greg thought about that. The cop had said ‘when or if’ so maybe it wouldn’t happen. Oh, shit, if they didn’t call his folks he might slip out of this mess.
“Will you call my school?”
“No. This isn’t a school matter. You cut your classes, but that’ll be handled by the school administration.”
Greg relaxed a little. Maybe he wasn’t gonna be in deep shit here after all. Officer Lowenthal saw the reaction on Greg’s face. He was a juvenile officer, and he could read kids like a book.
“Greg, I recommend that you tell your folks what happened here. You know they’re going to find out. And if they find out from someone else, instead of from you, you’re going to be in a lot more trouble with them than if you fess up and tell them the first opportunity you have. It’s going to be tough to do, but think about how it would go down if you don’t tell them.”
Greg’s panic was back. The cop was right. His folks would go ballistic if he didn’t say anything and the cops or the district attorney called and told them. It would be bad if he told them, but he wouldn’t be totally fucked like he’d be if he didn’t tell them and they found out from someone else.
“Thanks. You’re right. I’ll phone them as soon as I get home. They’re gonna be totally pissed at me, but not as bad as they’d be if the cops or someone called and told them.”
Officer Lowenthal smiled. “You just made a good decision. I knew you were a smart kid. Now, I’m going to get out of here and write my report.” He put out his hand, and for a second Greg wasn’t sure what he was doing, then he realized that the cop wanted to shake his hand. He extended his arm, and they shook hands. The cop’s grip was firm. For some reason it made Greg feel safe.
As they released their grips, Greg felt tears running down the sides of his face. Shit, why did he have to start crying now? The cop looked at him, smiled, and patted him on his shoulder. “You’re basically a good kid, Greg. Think about it. You’ve been running with a troublemaker, and that’s why you got in trouble. Good luck, son.”
Greg lay in the hospital bed thinking about everything that had happened, and what the cop had said. He was a good kid! His mom had commented once about Jado, that she thought he was a bad influence. Greg thought about that. His mom was right. Jado was a bad influence, a fucking creep who didn’t give a shit about anyone but himself. Why the hell hadn’t he realized it?
His head ached, and his stomach felt like a semi had rolled over it and then back again just to make sure it hurt like hell. He looked at the clock on the wall next to the TV. Shit, it was only noon. Seemed like this morning was days ago. Hell, maybe it was, he didn’t even know what day it was. His mind in a turmoil, Greg fell asleep.
Someone was shaking him.
Greg opened his eyes, and after a few seconds his vision cleared enough to see a heavy-set woman standing next to his bed.
“I’m Ms. Pittman from St. Mark’s Hospital administration. You were brought in through emergency, but now that you’re in the in-patient section and finally awake, we need to complete your admission paperwork. Do you have an insurance card?”
“Uh, my folks take care of that.”
“How can I get in touch with your parents?”
“They’re in Toronto, won’t be back until next weekend.” Greg’s headache was coming back, big time.
“Do you have a phone number where I can reach them?”
“Yeah, but it’s at home.”
She looked at Greg with a scowl on her face that didn’t do anything to make Greg feel comfortable.
“Do you have a major credit card?”
“No, I don’t have any credit card. I’m only 16.”
“A check?” That was a big ‘no’ so Greg shook his head and sneered.
“How much cash do you have available?”
“I don’t know. About fifteen bucks and some change. Why, what’s this all about?” Greg was starting to get pissed at this woman.
“If you’re unable to provide insurance information or pay an admission prepayment, you are an indigent person. And because your condition is not critical or life threatening, we’ll need to release you immediately.”
“But I feel awful! And the doctor said I had to stay here and be observed for 24 hours after my blood pressure gets back to normal.”
“If you can provide your insurance information or provide a cash prepayment, you can be readmitted.”
“How am I supposed to get home? You said this is St. Mark’s, that’s in San Carlos. I live in San Bruno. I don’t have a car, and my bike’s at school.”
“There are taxis available at the hospital entrance. If you walk up to El Camino there is a SamTrans bus that you can take to San Bruno. Now, I’m going to get your release paperwork expedited. You can dress and that way you’ll be ready when I come back.” She turned and walked out.
Greg couldn’t believe what had just happened. As he tried to think about how he’d get home, Doctor Jenkins returned.
“Greg, I contacted Doctor Cardin. He said…” Greg interrupted him.
“A woman came in and said since I don’t have insurance I’m being kicked out of here. I still feel awful. I don’t have any way to get home. I don’t know what to do. She said she’s getting some paperwork and I have to be ready to leave when she gets back.”
“Calm down, Greg. Who was this woman?”
“Uhh… she told me her name, but I don’t remember. She was fat, and what she was wearing looked sort of like a man’s suit.”
Doctor Jenkins looked at Greg. He didn’t look happy, no, not at all. “I’ll be back in a couple of minutes. I’ll straighten this out.”
A few seconds after he walked out Greg heard loud voices.
“I have a job to do. That’s what I was hired to do. If this… boy… doesn’t have insurance, he’s being discharged. I have his discharge papers, and the order form to have him released.”
“You do not have the right to discharge any patient in this hospital without the attending physician’s signature. Do you understand me? Now, leave this floor. That’s an order!”
“He has no insurance. He’s an indigent. This is not a charity hospital. We’re not San Francisco General where they take every drug addict and bum that wanders in. Gregory Cameron is being discharged, immediately. Now!”
There were a few seconds of silence, long enough for Greg to start feeling worried, like the doctor had lost the argument. Then he heard the doctor’s voice. He wasn’t yelling, instead he sounded like Greg’s dad when he was really, really pissed about something.
“Vic? Lyle. I want you to confirm that no one from admissions has the right to dismiss any patient, including any of my patients, without the attending physician’s written approval, regardless of whether a patient has insurance or not. Is that correct?” There was a short pause. “That’s what I thought. Will you please tell Ms. Pittman from admissions? She’s trying to discharge one of my patients without my permission. No, he should not be discharged. His blood pressure and pulse are dangerously elevated. Okay, I’ll give her my phone.”
“Ms. Pittman, I just called Victor Everington. You might have heard of him. He’s the Managing Director of St. Mark’s Hospital. He wants to have a few words with you. Now!”
Greg couldn’t hear any more of the conversation; someone closed the door to his room. After a couple of minutes Doctor Jenkins came in, slipping his cell into his pocket. He was smiling.
“Am I being discharged? Will I have to leave like that woman said?”
“No, you’re staying here until your blood pressure returns to a normal range, and then another 24 hours. I want you to eat something. I’ve ordered a light lunch for you, and it should be here in a few minutes. How are you feeling?”
“Better. My stomach still hurts a lot, and my headache’s worse. And… I’m mixed up. What day is it? Today?”
Greg took a deep breath. It was Thursday. What the fuck happened to Tuesday and Wednesday? “Shit! Uh, sorry… I wasn’t sure how long I’d been here. It felt like a long time, and I guess that’s what it’s been.”
“I talked to Doctor Cardin. You’re in… no, you’re normally in good health, at least when Doctor Cardin saw you. He uses the same patient tracking system we use here at the hospital, so I sent him your medical file. He said his files show that you had no record of an irregularity in your heartbeat. He’s concerned about that and about your blood pressure, and I am as well. You’re on a blood pressure monitor so we can watch it. Fortunately, your blood pressure and your pulse have gone down since I last talked to you, but you’re still not near what should be your normal range. As for your stomach, I think you’ll will feel better after you eat. I’ll come back in a couple of hours and see how you’re doing. For right now, I’ll have the nurse give you something for your headache. That could have been caused by the drug you took, or it’s sometimes a side effect of the medication we’re giving you. Did you have a headache while smoking the dosed marijuana?”
“Yeah. Almost right away. It felt like my head was going to explode. I never want to feel that way, ever again.”
Doctor Jenkins smiled and squeezed Greg’s shoulder. “That’s a great decision. Have your lunch, and I’ll be back later to see how you’re doing.”
Greg looked at Doctor Jenkins and grinned. He seemed like an okay guy. “Thanks. And thanks for taking care of me. I appreciate it. I really mean that.”
A cute nurse came in with a tiny paper cup on a little tray. She was carrying some sort of scanning thing, and she held Greg’s forearm as she pointed the scanner at the barcode on the band on his wrist. Then she pointed it at a form on the tray, and a green light on the scanner lit and it beeped. She filled the plastic cup on his bedside table with water, handed it to him, and grinned.
“Here’s your medication, Mr. Cameron.”
Greg grinned back at her and took the cup. He noticed that her name badge read ‘Donna Lindstrom’.
“Thanks, Miss Lindstrom.”
She handed him the tiny paper cup. There was a purple and gray capsule laying at the bottom, and he popped it into his mouth and drank all the water.
“All done, Miss Lindstrom.”
She laughed, and Greg did as well. It felt good to laugh. He couldn’t remember how long it had been since the last time he had laughed.
He grinned, and wiggled his eyebrows. “Next time you can call me Greg.”
“And next time you can call me Donna. See you later, Greg.”
She turned and walked to the door, then turned around, looked at him, smiled, then disappeared into the hall.
Greg took a deep breath. That was nice. Donna was cute, and a lot friendlier than the other nurses.
A little later an orderly came in with Greg’s lunch. He was friendly, too. His name badge read ‘Scott Garcia’. He also had one of those scanner things, and he scanned Greg’s wrist tag and a label on the lunch tray.
He set the lunch on the tray table and positioned it over Greg. “Should I raise the top of the bed so you’re more upright?”
“Yeah, thanks, Scott.”
Scott looked at Greg and smiled. “Most patients refer to me as “hey, you” so it’s nice to hear someone use my name.”
“Earlier I probably wouldn’t have paid any attention, but I’m starting to feel better now. And if I’m nice to you maybe later I can talk you into slipping me something good instead of the normal hospital food. You know, like a big burger with bacon and cheese and fries, or maybe a giant burrito.”
Scott grinned and adjusted the back of the bed. “Now, now, there is a huge staff of chefs who’ve slaved all day making a true gourmet feast for you, Gregory. Let’s see, this is number eleven. Oh, my, you are so lucky.” He read from a card on the tray, “This is identified as light diet, low sodium. Chicken broth with noodles, soda crackers, pudding — otherwise known as ‘chef’s special mystery surprise dessert of the day.’” Scott looked at Greg, laughed, and looked back at the card, “And hot tea. Well, probably sort of lukewarm tea.”
Greg laughed, the second time in less than a half hour. It felt nice to laugh. “Thanks, Scott. I don’t really care what it is. I’m so hungry my stomach hurts.”
“Or maybe your stomach hurts because, according to your chart, you haven’t eaten anything since Tuesday morning.”
“Yeah, and I barfed all of that, not that it was some sort of gourmet breakfast. And my name’s Greg. I’m definitely not a Gregory.”
“Greg it is. I’ll be back in a while to collect the tray. Enjoy lunch, and take it easy, dude.”
The soup and crackers were good, and neither the hot tea nor some kind of pudding had much taste. There wasn’t much to eat, but the doctor was right, Greg’s stomach started feeling better. The headache was more of a dull reminder of a headache, so the pill seemed to be doing its job.
What Scott had said about not eating since Tuesday made him wonder. Today was Thursday so this was the first food he’d eaten in two days? He’d have to ask the doctor about that.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Bad Boy Gone Good
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