Curt's life takes a turn that he never expected, and he realizes that it's because he forgot something that didn't seem important at the time. He also discovers that others have forgotten things that are important and that turns out to both help him and hurt him.
Mature or distressing themes. This story deals with abuse.
Chapter 2 — Waking Up in the Hospital
I must have passed out because that’s about all I remember until I woke up in the hospital with my arm in a cloth sling that was strapped around my shoulder and chest. Inside I could see one of those plastic casts that have holes in them, and inside that lots of gauze wrapped around my arm. My arm didn’t hurt. I couldn’t feel it at all. But my face and chest where Don had slugged me sure did. I still felt lightheaded, and couldn’t focus my eyes very well. To make things even worse, I felt like I might puke. My mouth was dry, and I couldn’t swallow. I moaned.
A nurse pulled open the curtain that was around my bed and looked in. “Let’s get you a little moisture.” She had a thing that looked like a stick with a little square sponge at one end. She dipped it into a glass of water, and rubbed my lips with the sponge. I opened my mouth.
“I’m going to twirl this around in your mouth for a few seconds. Please don’t bite down. Then I’ll remove it, and get a little more water on the sponge just to wet the inside of your mouth. We don’t want you to drink anything yet. The pain medication you were given might upset your stomach.”
While she said all of this, she did the bit with the sponge and the water, and oh, my God, it was wonderful. There wasn’t enough water to swallow, but it got rid of the dryness in my mouth.
“She’s on her way.”
“She should be here in about twenty minutes.”
“Uh, no, I mean how long have I been here?”
The nurse looked at some sort of computer terminal about the size of an iPhone, then at her watch. As she did, I saw her name tag. ‘Karen Carpenter’, and ‘Registered Nurse’, and a number. “You’ve been here a little over two and a half hours.”
“Uh, what hospital is this?”
“Valley Medical Center.”
“My mom is Virginia Clarey. She works here!”
“Yes, we know. You’re Curtis Fischer. Your mom talks about you all the time. I’m Karen Carpenter. And no jokes, please. I’m not that Karen Carpenter, and you absolutely don’t want to hear me sing. Make that ‘try to sing’.” She laughed, and that made me smile even though I didn’t know who that Karen Carpenter was supposed to be.
“I’m glad you’re able to smile, Curtis.”
“Please call me Curt. I hate being called ‘Curtis’.”
“Okay, Curt. Anything else?”
“My mom works here, so why isn’t she here to see me?”
“She was at a meeting in San Jose. It’s a long trip in rush hour traffic.”
“Oh. Okay. I feel really sleepy. And my head is woozy. And I feel like I might throw up.”
“You had a general anesthetic when your arm was set. We’ve started a pain killer in your IV drip, and that will make you both sleepy and woozy. I can ask for something to help settle your stomach, and that woozy feeling will go away.
IV drip? I looked around, slowly ‘cause I still felt like puking, and sure enough, there was a tube running from my right hand to a couple of plastic bags on a rack next to the head of the bed.
“How long am I gonna be here?”
“That’s up to your doctor. They’ll talk to your mother when she gets here and decide.” She looked back at the computer terminal thing. “Now, how’s your cheek feel?”
“It’s sore as hell. That’s what hurts now, and my chest.”
“The pain medication should help. You should also fall asleep.”
“Okay, thanks, Karen Carpenter. How ‘bout you try to sing me a lullaby to put me to sleep?”
I grinned at her, and she rolled her eyeballs at me. “I’m glad you’re feeling better enough to joke around. Let’s just let the pain medication put you to sleep.”
I said ‘okay’ and laid there just staring at the ceiling for a while. I don’t remember anything more because the pain medication must have kicked in and started doing what it was supposed to, to make me go to sleep as promised.
I had weird dreams. A man in a white suit came in and talked about me with someone I couldn’t see. Then Officer Brady, the policeman who’d rescued me, came in and asked if I was awake, but I wasn’t so I didn’t answer him. Then I relived the whole episode with Don, except now old man Vanvelick was with him and he was beating on me with his garden hose. In my dream I was screaming and crying and thrashing around trying to get away from Don and Vanvelick. Some other person came in and started shaking me and saying something I couldn’t understand. I heard someone calling my name.
Suddenly, I woke up. A doctor and Nurse Karen and Officer Brady and my mom were all there. I was shaking and crying from the dream, and Mom kept saying “Curt, wake up, you’re fine, it’s just a dream, Curt,” which was a lie because I knew I wasn’t fine. She kept wiping my tears and running her hands through my hair like she used to do when I was little.
The doctor looked down at me. “Are you all right, Curtis? You must have been having a nightmare.” His nametag read Dr. John Leonard.
I took a deep breath. I felt sort of logy, but the wooziness had gone away and I didn’t feel like puking. My cheek and chest didn’t hurt, or at least I couldn’t feel the pain. Ditto my broken arm. Nurse Karen rubbed that sponge thing on my lips, and around inside my mouth. That helped a lot, and I was able to answer the doctor.
“Nothing hurts right now, so I guess that’s good, right?”
“Yes, that’s good, Curtis. We’re waiting for some blood test results, and if they are clear then you’ll be able to go home.”
For some reason the idea of going home scared me. I looked at Mom. She looked like she’d been crying.
“I’m right here, Curt. I’m right here. You’ll be just fine.”
I started to blubber. “Mom, he beat me up. Don beat me up. For no reason. He called me a faggot. I’m not a faggot, Mom! He slugged me in the face and dragged me into the living room and hit me again and I fell and hit my arm on the coffee table and I could hear it break and it hurt so much, then he grabbed my arm where it was broken and pulled me up off the floor and it hurt like hell and I started screaming and this policeman, the one right here, Officer Brady, came and rescued me.” Shit. I didn't want to, but I started crying.
Mom was holding my shoulder, I guess because one arm was in a cast and the other had the IV hooked up to it. She looked at me with that very serious expression she gets when she has something important to ask me.
“Curt, why did you hit Don with your baseball bat?”
What the fuck? “I didn’t hit Don…”
“Curt, I talked to him at the jail and he said that he went into your room to talk to you about mowing the lawn and you hit him with your baseball bat.”
“He’s lying! He’s a liar, Mom. I never did that. I couldn’t do that, I don’t even have a bat.”
Mom looked very upset, like she was mad at me. “Now you’re lying, Curt. We gave you a baseball bat last Christmas, an aluminum baseball bat.”
“I don’t have it any more.”
Officer Brady stepped closer to the bed and looked right into my eyes. He started questioning me. “What happened to it, Curtis?”
“I traded it to Tom for a Supertramp CD.”
“And when did you trade it to Tom, Curtis?”
“July fourth. Tom got two “Best of Supertramp” CD’s for his birthday. His birthday is July fourth. He asked me if I wanted to trade my bat for it. I never used the bat, I don’t play baseball. He does, he’s on the team. So we traded.”
I looked at Mom, and she looked real pale.
Then Officer Brady was writing something in a notebook, one of those little spiral kinds. He looked up.
“What’s Tom’s last name, and where does he live?”
“Tom Williams. He lives on Penrose Court, near school. Uh… 105 Penrose Court.”
“Do you know his phone number?”
“Uh, yeah.” I was trying to think of his number, but I was still kind of ditzy and couldn’t remember. “I can’t remember it. Oh! Wait! It’s in my cell phone. I had my cell in my pocket. Where’s my clothes?”
Nurse Karen opened a door on the cabinet that was next to the bed, and pulled out a plastic bag. It had my jeans, T, briefs, shoes and socks. She handed the bag to the Officer Brady.
“Do I have your permission to search your clothes and use your cell phone, Curtis?”
He patted down my jeans and found my cell and pulled it out. Because I couldn’t use my hands, I told him my password and how to look up Tom’s name and how to view his number. He wrote something in his notebook, Tom’s number I guessed, closed my cell and put it back in the pocket of my jeans, and gave the bag back to Nurse Karen.
“Excuse me. I’m going to step out for a couple of minutes.”
I figured that he was going to call Tom. Tom’s like me, his cell is with him wherever he goes, except when he’s swimming or playing football.
I looked back at Mom. “See, I told you he was lying! I couldn’t have hit him with a bat. And I never would. Look at me! I’m five-nine and weigh one hundred fifty five pounds sopping wet. Don’s huge. He could break me like a twig.” I stopped and closed my eyes. “He tried to break me like a twig, and he did.” I held up my broken left arm, lifting it a couple of inches off my chest where it had been laying.
Mom shook her head. “Curt, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to think. I have to believe you about the bat. What I don’t know is why Don would lie about something that….” She turned away and started to cry. She had married Don and now he’s lying to her and to the police. Not good.
She turned back, her cheeks wet with tears.
“…I love you, Mom.”
She rushed over to the bed, put her hands on my shoulders, and kissed me on my forehead.
“I love you too, Curt. You’re my boy!” That’s what she always calls me when she’s being sentimental. I started to tear up. When she says that it always turns me into an emo.
Just at that moment, Officer Brady returned. He looked at me then at Mom.
“I talked to Tom Williams, and then to his father, and they both corroborate what you told me, Curtis.” He turned to Mom. “Mrs. Fischer, I’ll pass your son’s description of the event, and the information he and Mr. Williams and his son provided about the baseball bat, to the Assistant D.A. Mr. Clarey is being held at the County Jail. He’s being held without bail because he’s charged with physical abuse of a minor. If you wish any further information, you can contact the District Attorney’s office. I’ll write their number on the back of my card. If there’s anything you’d like to tell us, please call this number and ask for me. If I’m out, I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible. If there’s an emergency, please call 911.”
Suddenly I remembered something I’d wondered about in the back of my head. It was the 911 comment.
“Uh, Officer Brady, can I ask you a question?”
“How did you know to come to my house? And so fast?”
“We got a call from one of your neighbors. They reported to Dispatch that there was a lot of yelling and screaming coming from your house, and then it sounded like there was a major fight going on and it sounded like a juvenile was being beaten. The call was routed to our car, and we just happened to be on patrol a couple blocks from your house when we received it.”
“Which neighbor called?”
“I can’t give you that information, Curtis. It’s confidential. Perhaps they’ll let you know. That way you’ll find out who called.”
He handed a business card to Mom and one to me. “If you think of anything else, please phone me. Even if you think it’s not important, let me know. Okay?”
Mom said ‘Alright’ and I said ‘Okay’ and he left.
The drive home was way weird. I wanted to talk about Don, but wanted Mom to start the conversation. She didn’t say anything, so there was no opening for me to tell her what a fuckturd he is and that I didn’t want to see him again, ever. Then I remembered old man Vanvelick yelling at Don just as he got home. I’d forgotten about that. I almost started to tell Mom, but instead I decided to call Officer Brady and tell him. Maybe Vanvelick said something that set Don off on me. I thought about it for a while and remembered the hassle Tom had with him. Maybe he saw me holding Tom back to keep him from going across the street and getting into it with Vanvelick. He could have told Don that we were hugging and that we were faggots. That means Vanvelick’s not just a racist, he’s a homophobe too. Exactly like Don. No surprise there.
As Mom pulled into the driveway she finally broke the silence. “Are you hungry, honey?”
“Uh, yeah. All I had was a meatloaf sandwich with Tom after we finished shooting some baskets after school. Maybe some soup?”
Well, that was short and sweet. But I figured she had a lot on her mind.
After we got into the house and I sat down at the kitchen table she heated up some chicken noodle soup. Why is it that when people aren’t feeling so great that they’re made to eat chicken noodle soup? I mean, it’s okay, but it isn’t at the top of my list. It’s just dried-out chicken and skinny noodles and it’s real salty, no veggies or anything to make it interesting. But I ate it, even though it was hard eating right-handed, and it felt good going down, so I guess it was okay.
Mom hadn’t said a word since her ‘Okay’ in the car. I wasn’t going to make it easy on her by going first. Finally she broke the ice.
“How’s the soup? Do you want some more? Would you like something else? A sandwich? I could make you a grilled cheese sandwich. Some crackers and cheese or some chips?”
Why do mothers always do that, ask a whole series of questions without giving you time to answer?
“The soup was fine. It was good.” Not really, but I didn’t want to dump on her the moment that she started talking to me. “I’ve had enough. I don’t want to eat a lot, my stomach’s still a little weird.”
“Do you want something for it? We have some Alka-Seltzer.”
“No. Thanks. I’m starting to get tired. Maybe I should lie down.” That was true, and I wanted to add that it had turned into a totally fucked-up day for me, but then she would’ve yelled at me for swearing.
“Curt, we need to talk. About what happened today.” She sighed. “I’m having a lot of trouble coming to grips with everything you said happened.”
I was pissed, and interrupted her. “What I told you and the cops is exactly what happened. It’s the truth. Do you think I’m lying to you? You said I was lying about the bat but I wasn’t and you heard that everyone said that it’s the truth. You can see my arm and my bruises. And you still don’t believe me?” I was sort of shouting by the end, and I could feel myself getting ready to cry, which I really, really didn’t want to do.
Mom let out a big sigh. “I heard what you said about the bat, and what you said Don did to you, and I see your broken arm and the bruises on your face, so I guess I have to believe you…”
“You GUESS you have to believe me? That’s so bogus!” I started to cry. “That shithead beat the HELL out of me. If a neighbor hadn’t heard the yelling and screaming, and I WAS SCREAMING because he grabbed my broken arm and yanked on it hard to pull me off the floor where I was because the bastard slugged me hard with his fist in my chest…” I pulled up my T to show her where my chest was bruised, and she let out a gasp which made me wonder just how bad it looked… “and that made me fall and break my arm on the coffee table and he looked at me like he was gonna KILL me and all you can do is GUESS I’m telling the truth?”
I stood up fast, which made my chair fall back and crash into the floor, and Mom looked totally shocked. I’d never yelled at her before. “I’m going to my room and go to bed.”
“Curt….” she started to say, but by then I’d stormed out of the kitchen and into my room and slammed the door shut. I undressed to my briefs and got into bed and started crying. Shit! I’m fifteen years old and I didn’t want to cry, but I realized that my mom still didn’t believe me and the waterworks started.
A few minutes later I heard my door open. Mom didn’t enter my room, but she started talking to me. It sounded like she was crying, too. I couldn’t roll onto my left side, which I wanted to do so my back would be to her, so I turned my head to the left so she couldn’t see my face and I couldn’t see hers.
“Curt, I just want to say how sorry I am. I know you’re upset with me about this, but it’s something that’s so hard for me to accept…”
“JUST GO AWAY. Please.”
I heard her sob, which made me feel awful, but until she could give me a real, true, honest apology and say she believed me, I didn’t want to talk to her or listen to her. I heard the door close, and I cried myself to sleep.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Forgetting Can Be a Big Mistake
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