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.
The pill that made Greg’s headache go away also made him fall asleep. When he woke a nurse stood at the side of his bed, smiling.
“You seemed to be sleeping so peacefully that I didn’t wake you until now. We have to take your vital signs and I have two pills Doctor Jenkins wants you to take.”
“Okay.” She had a hospital badge with her name, Connie Garcia.
Using a scanner she read the barcode on Greg’s wrist. She asked him to tell her his full name and birthdate, then she gave him a little plastic cup with two pills. The cup had a capsule with one half sort of a purple color and the other half bright yellow. The other was a white pill, just like an aspirin tablet. She handed him a cup with water and he took the two pills. Then she checked the readouts on the bank of machines on the wall behind his bed. She pushed a button and one of those blood pressure thingies wrapped around his left arm began squeezing his bicep. After a few seconds it released its hold and she entered his blood pressure and pulse in a computer terminal opposite his bed.
“Uh, Connie, what time is it?”
“Seven minutes after six p.m. Your dinner will be arriving in the next few minutes. In the meantime, there’s water in the jug on the tray, and I can bring you soda crackers or a shortbread cookie. I’d recommend the cookie.” She grinned.
“Thanks. That cookie sounds good. Is there anything I can drink other than water? Like a soda, maybe?”
“Yes, you can have 7-Up or ginger ale. They’ll both help calm your stomach. Which would like?”
“Okay. I’ll be back in a minute.”
When she returned she had a stubby, half-size can of 7-Up with a straw and two little packages of cookies. Greg could see that there were two cookies per package, and that made him realize that he was hungry.
“Thanks, Connie. Those cookies look good. I’m hungry.”
“Now, now, are you absolutely, positively sure that if you eat these delicious cookies you won’t spoil your appetite for dinner?”
“I don’t think so. I’m starving.”
“Think of the cookies as your appetizer, then. Your dinner will be brought in about…” she looked at her watch, “twenty minutes.”
“Am I still on a liquid diet, or whatever it was that I had for lunch?”
“Let me check.” She keyed something into the computer terminal.
“You’ve been upgraded to a low sodium standard diet. I think you’ll like it a lot better than the soft diet.”
“I will, but why low sodium?”
“Low sodium will allow your blood pressure to return to normal sooner than if you were on a normal sodium diet. I don’t think you’ll notice that much difference in what you’ll get to eat.”
“I guess that means it’s not going to be very good, whether it has salt or not,” Greg said, then he grinned.
“For hospital food, I think what we serve is pretty good. Most of the patients say it’s okay. You’ll have to let me know after dinner.”
“Uh… can I ask you a personal question?”
“I suppose, but I might or might not answer it depending on what you ask.”
“Are you related to Scott Garcia? He’s the one who brought me my lunch today.”
She grinned. “No, Scott and I aren’t related. Garcia is a common Hispanic family name, like Smith in English speaking countries.”
“Okay, thanks. I was just curious. You know, I’ve met a lot of kids named Garcia, but I’ve never met a kid named Smith. I think the thing about Smith being so common is wrong.”
“Maybe it’s because of where we live. There are probably a lot of people named Smith in other parts of the country.”
“Could be,” Greg said. “And maybe fewer named Garcia. And almost none named Cameron.”
“Well, Mr. Greg Cameron, I’ll be back to see you later this evening to take your vital signs and bring some more pills.”
Greg smiled. “See you then, Ms. Connie Garcia!”
He opened both little packages of cookies and ate them and sipped the 7-Up. Like Connie had said, this was just an appetizer.
After a few minutes an orderly came in with his dinner. His badge showed his name, Kelvin Tang. Greg had chicken noodle soup just like the kind that comes in a box (dull), roast beef (very good) and mashed potatoes (blah) and gravy (double blah), with broccoli and carrots (good but overcooked). All of the dull and blah things were that way because they needed some salt. But because Greg had been put on a low salt diet there was no salt packet on his tray, just a couple packets of pepper. He used them on the mashed potatoes and gravy and that helped a little. He had chocolate ice cream for dessert (excellent). To drink he had a cup of tea (boring) and a little carton of milk (good).
Greg discovered that when you’re in the hospital there isn’t much to do. The TV had only a few channels, mostly the network and local stations plus several dumb cable channels. He could understand that; they didn’t want to pay cable bills for every patient room.
A candy-striper came around after dinner with some paperback books, magazines, and Thursday morning’s San Francisco Chronicle. Her badge had her name: DeWanna Williams. He took the newspaper.
“I won’t be in the hospital long enough to read a book. Most of these magazines don’t look that interesting.”
“You might like Wired. It’s an interesting magazine with articles about what new things will be coming out in electronics and technology and how lots of different things work. I think you’d enjoy it. My brother is about your age, and he asked our dad to get him a subscription for his birthday. He lets me read it.” She grinned.
She was cute, so Greg decided to let her leave the magazine.
“Okay, that sounds good. Thanks, DeWanna.”
“You’re welcome. Maybe I’ll have something more interesting for you tomorrow evening.”
He read the Chronicle sports section and comics, then opened the Wired magazine to the table of contents. He saw an article titled ‘Inside the Secret World of Stolen Smartphones’ that sounded interesting so he read it. When he’d finished that article he’d started scanning the magazine for something else when Nurse Connie returned with his pills. This time there were three, two like those she’d brought him before dinner and one more, a small, oblong, white pill.
“What’s this extra one for, Connie?”
“You’ll have to ask Doctor Jenkins.”
“Okay.” Greg figured she actually knew the answer, but hospital policy must restrict that kind of information so only doctors were allowed to tell patients what medicine they were getting.
After taking his pills and saying goodbye to Connie he tried watching some TV. He was always amazed that there was so much on TV and it was all so lame. He turned it off and read some more of the magazine and the newspaper, then realized that he had to pee.
Greg had been told to call a nurse whenever he needed to use the bathroom. ‘NFW that I’d go into the bathroom and let a nurse see my private parts,’ he thought. So he carefully got out of bed and started toward the bathroom. A heavy set nurse came running into the room.
“And what do you think you’re doing? When you got out of bed you set off the alarm! You know you’re supposed to call for a nurse to help you go to the bathroom!”
“I want to use the bathroom all by myself.”
Greg realized that he’d blushed because she started laughing.
“Honey, I seen more dicks and balls in this job than you’ll ever see in your entire life. I’m here to help you get into the bathroom and if you’re able to do your business by yourself than that’s what I’ll let you do. Thing is, sometimes patients get dizzy or even faint when they’re making their contribution to the sewer system. I have to be there ready to grab them so they don’t damage themselves. So you just let me hold your arm and we’ll go into the bathroom and I’ll help you get in position and if you can do it by yourself then that’s what Nurse Araria Booker, that’s me, is going to let you do. If you need help, I’ll be right here. Understand?”
“Yes sir, ma’am.” Greg saluted her, and she started laughing. Then, still laughing, she guided him into the bathroom.
“I’m gonna like you, honey. You have a sense of humor. Most patients around here don’t have that. Now, you need to do a number one or a number two?”
“How about a number three. That’s a one plus a two.”
“Oh, that’s rich. I’m going to have to remember that one, a number three.” She laughed for a bit then she continued, “Just pull your gown up so you can sit on the throne, and make sure all of the gown is on the outside. Don’t want it to get all wet ‘cause then I’d hafta change you. Go ahead and do your business and let me know when you’re done. I’ll wait over here.”
‘Sit on the throne?’ Greg thought to himself. ‘Now that’s funny!’
After he finished and Nurse Araria got him back in bed, he was alone again. With nothing to do except read or watch TV. That made him wonder, ‘Why did they put me in a private room? I thought hospitals all had rooms with two or three beds. How will I pay for it? Or, more correctly, how will my folks pay for it? Will the insurance pay for a private room? I’ll have to ask Doctor Jenkins the next time I see him.’
He learned that hospitals seem to like to wake patients during the night to take their vital signs. He guessed they wanted to make sure they’re still alive. ‘I’ll bet they don’t want to have to fill out a bunch of paperwork if someone actually died unexpectedly when they were in a hospital room,’ he thought.
Friday morning he got pills, then he got breakfast. It was pretty bad. Soggy toast, soggy eggs, and soggy bacon. Perfect… not! Then a new nurse — his name badge said Sidney Ehlers — took his vital signs. He’d have to look up ‘vital signs’ when he got home to see what it meant. That made him start worrying about how he’d get home. Then how he’d tell his folks about what happened. Then when he went back to school how would he be able to prove that he’d been in the hospital and not just skipping class.
Greg thought about that. ‘Hmm… being in the hospital would be the perfect excuse why I didn’t take that fucking high school exit exam. Maybe at least one thing could work out good for me.’
He lay in bed staring at the ceiling. Then Nurse Sidney came in and gave him his pills, but instead of two or three the little cup held only one, a round white one.
“How come there’s only one pill now?”
“It’s for your blood pressure. You’re much closer to normal now. This pill will make sure that your blood pressure returns to normal and stays there.” He hoped it would.
Then he wondered why Sidney could tell him what pills he was taking but Connie couldn’t.
Greg lay in bed staring at the ceiling. Again. Nothing to do; at least nothing he wanted to do. No, that wasn’t right. He did want to do something — to get the hell out of this hospital and go home.
Most of all he was tired of being surrounded by people but being so alone. That thought made him realize that was what had defined his life since he and his folks moved to San Bruno. No friends, boring school, parents who traveled for their jobs and were seldom home. But mostly no friends. ‘That totally sucks,’ he thought. ‘That’s why I hooked up with Jado. Same story there, he doesn’t have any friends either. What a fucking bad idea to hook up with him. Man, I must have been totally desperate trying to find a friend. That’s so fucking lame!’
Greg sat up. ‘When did I start feeling so sorry for myself?’ he thought. ‘What can I do to fix my totally fucked-up life?’ He flopped back down and closed his eyes. Unbidden, tears began to flow. He put his arm across his face. ‘Why the fuck am I crying again?’ he asked himself. He realized that there was no good answer.
He fell asleep, and sometime later woke when someone shook his shoulder.
“Greg? Are you awake now?”
He looked up. “Oh, hi Doctor Jenkins.”
“Sorry to wake you, but I want to give you a checkup and see how you’re doing.”
After the exam was finished Doctor Jenkins reviewed the printout.
“Greg, you seem to have come out of the problems that designer drug caused. I think you can be discharged this afternoon.”
“Man, that’s great. I really want to get out of here and go home.”
“A few things. Even though it has returned to normal, I recommend that you take some medication for the next month to help stabilize your blood pressure. I’ll give you a prescription for this medication, and your parents can get it filled for you. I’ll also give you 10 tablets that will last until your parents return. Take one tablet a day, in the evening. Normal activities, like walking and easy cardio exercise in your PE class, will help. There’ll be a physical therapy plan with your discharge documents. You can take that to your PE teacher so they’ll know what you can do and should not do. I’d like you to see Doctor Cardin in thirty days and have him give you a thorough physical exam.”
“Okay. I guess I can do that. I’ll have to talk to my folks about it.”
“Doctor Cardin said he’ll be glad to talk to them to bring them up to date on your condition and what you’ve been through.”
Greg’s face blanched. Shit! He had to talk to his folks. The cop said so, and now Doctor Jenkins make it clear that he had to tell them what happened so he could go see Doctor Cardin. And he did want to see Doctor Cardin. Doctor Jenkins told him he almost died. He didn’t want to die! He was too young to die. He still had his whole life to live.
“Greg? Are you okay?”
Greg took a deep breath and nodded his head. He looked at Doctor Jenkins. “I was just thinking about what I have to do. First, tell my folks what happened with Jado. Then tell them about being in the hospital and almost dying. Then tell them I need to take the prescription for thirty days, and next month go see Doctor Cardin and time it so I see him when my prescription runs out.”
“That sounds like a good schedule. Talking to your folks first might be difficult for you, but it’s the right things to do.”
“I have to get back to school too. I need something to show the admin office that I’ve been in the hospital and not just a truant. Is there something I can get when I check out?” That made Greg remember that woman who tried to kick him out the day before. “How can I check out if I don’t have any money or an insurance card? Is that woman going to give me shit when it’s time for me to leave?”
“You’ll be discharged later today. Don’t worry about that woman. She’s no longer in admissions. You’ll have to sign the papers for your discharge. You’ll need an adult to countersign the papers. Because your parents aren’t here and can’t be reached, if you agree then I’ll do that for you.”
Greg’s eyes opened wide. “You’ll do that for me?”
“Yes. Also, I know that you don’t have any transportation, so I’ll drive you home. There are two things that I need you to do in return. First, when we get to your house I need you to get your insurance card so I can copy the information and give it to the admissions department. Second, I need your promise to see Doctor Cardin next month. Third, if you start feeling strange, I want you to go to the school nurses’ office and have someone bring you here to St. Mark’s Hospital and ask for me.”
Greg laughed. “Okay for all three of the two things you want me to do.” Doctor Jenkins smiled. He was pleased that Greg noticed. It had been a little test to see if he was paying attention to what he’d been told.
“You asked about how you can return to school. With your discharge papers there’ll be a form for you to give to the school’s admissions office so you can return with an approved absence. I suggest that as soon as you get home you phone Aston High School and tell them you’ve been in St. Mark’s Hospital and you’ve been released by your doctor, Lyle Jenkins, to return on Monday. I’ll also give you a letter you can give to the admissions office that states you are able to return to school on Monday.”
Greg felt the tears and he couldn’t stop them.
“You’re being so nice to me and here I got into this big fucking mess all by myself.”
“I think you’re basically a good kid, Greg. What I don’t understand is why you got into what you describe as a mess. But that’s not my business so….”
Greg interrupted him. “I want you to know. My folks are always busy with the family business. They travel a lot. In fact, they’re gone more than they’re at home. We’d lived in Bellingham Washington and I went to Sehome High. I liked it there, and I had a lot of friends. My folks wanted to set up a new headquarters for the business here in the Bay Area. We moved here a few months ago and I transferred to Aston High in the middle of the semester. Everyone there is stuck up and in cliques. I was ignored, like I was some sort of outcast. The only person to ever talk to me was Jaydon Oron. Sometimes Jado and I would get together after school. I never invited him to my house because I didn’t want my folks to meet him and I didn’t want him at my house when I was there alone. That was okay because he never asked me to go to his house, either. He didn’t talk about his family, so I didn’t talk about mine. Thing is, Jado’s a stoner. I’m not. I’ve smoked a little weed with him now and then, in his car — Jado has a car, a rust bucket but a car — and we’d get together and drive off to one of the parks once every couple weeks and smoke a joint. We’d split the cost of a dime bag; five bucks was no problem for me. He’d take most of it. I’m not lying about that. The smoke makes me cough. You probably found out from Doctor Cardin that I had asthma when I was a little kid. I still can’t breathe like I should and that’s really fucked up… uh, sorry about my language.”
“I was a teen once,” Doctor Jenkins said. “Your language doesn’t bother me.”
“Anyway, on Monday my folks phoned me from Chicago. Instead of coming home this weekend they said they had to go to Toronto and wouldn’t be home until next weekend. That really pissed me off. When they’re gone I have to ride my bike to Safeway, buy my own food, and do my own cooking. I’m not paying out of my allowance, I have a credit card for buying groceries, but my folks have been gone for over two weeks and now they’re going to be gone for two more weeks. Not only am I left alone at school, I’m left alone at home.
“So Tuesday morning Jado grabs me in the hall and says he got this really good shit and I gotta go with him and try it out. I had the high school exit exam to take that morning and that pissed me off because I’d already taken it at Sehome High but someone at Aston High decided that wasn’t good enough and I had to take it again. So having to retake the exit exam and my folks not coming home and no friends at school and Jado saying he had some great new shit, it all came together and I ended up here in your hospital.” Greg took a deep breath then let it out, leaned back, and relaxed.
“Greg, it seems that you’re glad that you told me about your situation. Did it help you feel better?”
“Yeah. It did. You know, even when my folks are home they’re always busy. So I don’t have anyone to talk to, other than Jado every week or so.” Greg felt tears coming so he blinked several times to head them off. “Being able to talk to you and tell you what it’s been like really helped.”
“How about your counselor at school, or one of your teachers. Can you talk to any of them?”
“I haven’t met my counselor yet. She seems overworked because I can’t get on her schedule. I don’t know any of my teachers good enough to want to confide in them. Besides, they’re probably too busy to listen to some new kid who just showed up in their class.”
Doctor Jenkins stood and looked at Greg. He thought about how he might be able to help Greg.
“After lunch I’ll have your discharge papers ready for you to sign. My shift today will be over at three thirty and I’ll drive you home.”
“You know, you could just drive me to school and I’ll get my bike and ride it home. It’s there, locked up. Unless someone stole it. You’ve got my address, so you could meet me at home.”
“How far is it from Aston High to your house?”
“About three miles.”
“Greg, you’re not ready for a three mile bike ride. I have a better idea. I have a pickup that I use for commuting. I can drive you to Aston High, we can get your bike and put in the truck bed. I’ll drive both you and your bike to your house.”
“That’s cool. Thanks.”
“Other than lunch, do you have anything to keep you occupied until three thirty?”
“I’ve got a magazine, and the TV, and maybe DeWanna, she’s the candy-striper who came around yesterday, will have something more interesting for me to read.
“Hey, I just thought of something. Where are my clothes and stuff?”
“They should be in a bag in the closet. Let me take a look for you.”
Doctor Jenkins opened the closet.
“I found your jeans and shirt on hangers, and there’s a plastic bag on the top shelf with your underwear and socks. Your tennis shoes are in a separate bag on the bottom of the closet. There’s a sealed bag with what was in your pockets including a handkerchief, some change, a wallet, and a cellphone. All of your clothes and your shoes were washed because you’d vomited on them.”
“They washed my clothes? I didn’t know the hospital would do that,” Greg said.
“I’m sure once they smelled them they decided they’d either have to throw them away or wash them.”
“I’m glad they washed them. Otherwise I’d have to wear this hospital gown home. Do they charge for that?”
Doctor Jenkins laughed. “Yes, they charge for everything. It’ll be itemized on your hospital bill.”
“Uh… can I ask a question?”
“I’m not his doctor, but when he came in to the emergency room he was sicker than you. I assume he’ll be here through Monday. Did you want to see him?”
“NO! I don’t want to ever see him again. I was just curious.” Secretly, Greg was glad that Jado had been sicker. ‘Serves him right,’ he thought.
They got to Aston High around four o’clock.
“You can get your bike and bring it to the truck,” Doctor Jenkins said.
Greg looked at him. “Would you come with me, please? There’s a guard and after school is out he makes sure no one is taking a bike or anything else that isn’t theirs.”
“Okay. Where’s the bike rack you use?”
“They’re all by the admin building.”
They walked to where Greg’s bike was still locked to the rack with a U-frame and what looked like a very sturdy padlock. Greg pulled his keys out of his pocket.
“Here comes the guard,” he whispered to Doctor Jenkins.
“Is that your bike?” the guard asked.
“Yes. I have the key to the lock, and my name and address are on the tab riveted into the frame there.” Greg pointed to the tab.
“Do you have ID?”
“Yes,” Greg replied and pulled out his Aston High student ID card.
“Okay, thanks,” the guard said, returning the ID card to Greg. “We had a bunch of bike thefts last school year and we want to make sure there’s no repeat of that this year.”
“I appreciate that,” Greg told him.
The guard turned to Doctor Jenkins. “Your son is polite and understands why we have to make sure every bike that’s taken after hours is taken by the owner. This bike has been here for several days, and that seemed strange.”
“He’s been in St. Mark’s Hospital since Monday.”
The guard turned to Greg. “I hope you’re feeling better. Do you have a way to get your bike home?”
“We have my pickup truck over there,” Doctor Jenkins said.
“Okay. You two have a good day,” the guard responded, and then he turned and walked away.
“Okay Dad, I’ll wheel my bike to your pickup,” Greg joked. Doctor Jenkins just laughed. They loaded the bike into the truck bed and tied it down, then following Greg’s directions drove to his house where they pulled the bike out and Greg moved it into the garage.
Greg found his insurance card and copied it for Doctor Jenkins.
“Do you have enough food in the house to last you through the weekend?” he asked Greg. “If not, I can drive you to Safeway.”
“Yeah, there’s a bunch of dinners in the freezer that I can heat in the microwave. I’ll have one of the turkey dinners tonight. They’re pretty good. That and a glass of milk. And a dish of vanilla ice cream for dessert. A big dish of vanilla ice cream.”
Greg seemed to be waiting for Doctor Jenkins to tell him that wouldn’t be good for him, but instead the doctor surprised him. “Sounds like a good choice. Phone your school before everyone’s gone to let them know that you’ve been in the hospital and that you’ll return on Monday. I suggest that before you eat you phone your folks. If they’re in Toronto it’s about seven twenty there right now. And Greg, stay home over the weekend and take it easy.”
“Thanks, I’ll do all that and in that order. Thank you for being so nice, Doctor Jenkins. I really appreciate that you took care of me in the hospital and cleared up that I didn’t have to leave on Thursday the way that woman said. And especially thanks for driving me to school and getting my bike and driving me home.”
“You’re welcome, Greg. If you have any questions or any problems, give me a call, okay? Here’s my card. Use the cell phone number to reach me. The hospital number will usually just take your name and phone number for me to call back.”
Greg wanted to hug Doctor Jenkins, but somehow it didn’t feel right to do that. So they just shook hands and said goodbye. Greg watched the doctor’s pickup drive out to the street and downhill toward San Bruno. What he didn’t know was that Doctor Lyle Jenkins had devised a plan to help Greg make some friends.
The phone call to Greg’s parents in their Toronto hotel room at ten p.m. Toronto time didn’t go well, but it didn’t go as badly as Greg had expected. He told them an abbreviated summary of what happened to him.
“You smoked marijuana?” his mother yelled over the phone. “What in the world would induce you to do something that stupid? Don’t you know that it’s illegal? You could have been arrested and thrown in jail. Your name is in the police records now. That could prevent you from getting into a major university like Stanford. What’s your school going to say about you being away from your classes for a week? How are you going to maintain an A average if you’re not keeping up with your schoolwork?”
She would have gone on for much longer, but Greg’s dad broke in and took over the conversation.
“Are you feeling okay?”
“Yes. Doctor Jenkins, he’s the doctor who took care of me at St. Mark’s Hospital, gave me an exam today and said my blood pressure was back to normal. He gave me ten of the pills and a prescription for twenty more. I need to take them for thirty days to maintain my blood pressure. He wants me to go to Doctor Cardin in a month for a complete physical.”
“Who’s Doctor Cardin?” his dad asked.
“He’s the new family physician who we went to for Greg to have the exam needed to be able to enroll in the high school,” his mother replied. “If you were in the hospital that long,” she continued, “you must have had more wrong with you than just high blood pressure.”
“The doctor told me that my blood pressure and pulse were dangerously high, 206 over 132, and my pulse was 121. That’s when I woke up yesterday. I was out for three days.”
“You were in a coma?” his mother asked.
“They didn’t say that. I just didn’t wake up.”
“Anything else?” she asked.
“Doctor Jenkins told me I almost died.”
There was silence for a few seconds, then his mother said, “You’re kidding.”
“No, Mom, I’m not kidding. That’s what they told me in the hospital. You can phone Doctor Jenkins and ask him.”
“Blood pressure of 206 over 132? That sounds very dangerous,” his dad said.
“The designer drug in the weed… uh, the marijuana we smoked is what was most dangerous. Doctor Jenkins said they didn’t know what it was or how to stop it from messing with my blood pressure and heart rate. I was lucky that the drugs they gave me worked.”
“What did they give you?” Greg’s dad asked.
“I’m not sure. I think Doctor Jenkins said it was an ACE inhibitor. Whatever it was it brought my blood pressure down to normal.”
“You seem to like this Doctor Jenkins,” his mother said.
“Yeah. He was great. He fixed my blood pressure and he brought me home tonight.”
“He brought you home?” she asked.
“Yes. Otherwise I wouldn’t have had any way to get home. I was at St. Mark’s Hospital, and that’s in San Carlos. He took me to Aston High and I got my bike. He drives a pickup to work, so we were able to put it in the bed of his truck and he brought me and my bike home.”
“When are you going back to school?” his dad asked.
“Monday. Doctor Jenkins doesn’t want me to do anything but rest over the weekend.”
“What about making up your classwork?” his mother asked.
“I phoned the school right after I got home and let them know I’d been in the hospital and I’ll be coming back to school on Monday. They said I have to talk to each teacher about making up my homework and any tests, and the lab experiments I missed in AP Chemistry. They also said I’d be given time to make up homework and assignments and to take tests.”
“Let us know what the teachers tell you. Okay, Greg?”
“Yeah, I will, Dad. Did you know they’re going to make me take the high school exit exam over? That’s so bogus since I just took it at Sehome High.”
“I didn’t know that. When did you find out?”
“On Monday. I missed it because I was in the hospital. I’m going to find out when I can retake it. But I don’t see why I should have to retake it. I’m going to talk to someone at school about that.”
“What does your counselor say about it?”
“I’ve asked to meet with her, but they haven’t been able to fit me into her schedule. I guess she’s overbooked.”
“When you talk to them, insist on meeting with her or with any of the other counselors. This seems to me to be something that is very important,” his mother said.
“Okay, Mom, I’ll do just that. I don’t think it’ll work though. I already tried it last week.”
“Well then, try this,” she said. “Tell them when I get back from Toronto I’ll be at the school to meet with the principal and whoever is the head of the counselors and find out why you can’t get in to see someone since you’re a transfer student. I read the student handbook, and it says transfer students are assigned a counselor who will meet with them to plan their class schedules. And tell them that I want to know exactly why the high school exit exam you took in Bellingham can’t be transferred here. Say I told you that I expect them to be ready for you to talk to a counselor and to answer my questions,” she said.
“Mom! I’m just a student. I can’t threaten them.”
“You’re not threatening anyone. You’re making some reasonable requests. Just say what I just told you and make sure you convey my meaning and that they understand.”
“Okay. I’ll do my best.”
“What about this other boy, the one who had the marijuana and that drug that made you sick?” Greg’s dad asked.
“I think he’s still in the hospital. I don’t really care. He’s a jerk, and I should have been smarter than to go with him. But I was sort of pissed with my life at that point.”
“Greg, watch your language,” his mom said.
“Greg, what do you mean when you said you were pissed with your life at that point?” his dad asked.
So Greg told them. He didn’t hold anything back. He hated to leave Sehome High where he had lots of friends, he ended up in a school that was all about which cliques you were in, he wasn’t in any of the cliques so he was ignored by the kids at school. As a result he didn’t have any friends and his parents were away most of the time. He was alone at school and alone at home and he was lonely and he didn’t know what to do to fix it. Jado had come along at exactly the wrong time, a time when Greg was feeling sad and depressed about his life and offered him marijuana as an out. And Greg took it, as stupid a decision as that turned out to have been.
There was silence for a few seconds, then his dad said, “Greg, I’m sorry we’ve left you on your own like this. We never realized what was going on. We uprooted you and dropped you into a situation where you ended up floundering. We’re going to come home this weekend, we'll try for this Sunday. The Toronto reorganization can be handled by the local staff, and they can call if they have any problems. What’s most important right now is that we get back and give you the support that you need and that we should have been giving you.
“Do you agree, Beth?” he asked Greg’s mother.
“Yes, I do. I’m so sorry, Greg. We’ll make it up to you and help you in every way we can.”
“Thanks, Dad. Thanks, Mom.”
“We’ll email our flight information as soon as we have it,” Greg’s dad said. “Follow your doctor’s instructions and rest up tomorrow and we’ll see you sometime on Sunday.”
“We love you, Greg,” his mother said.
“And that goes for both of us,” his dad added.
“I know. I love you guys too,” Greg told them. And he meant it.
A few minutes after he hung up the doorbell rang. Greg wondered who it could be. He sure wasn’t expecting anyone. Shit! Maybe it was the policeman who talked to him in the hospital.
He ran downstairs and opened the front door. He saw the last person he expected or wanted to see: Jaydon Oron.
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