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 3 — A Big Argument
I woke up with the sun shining through my bedroom window right into my eyes. I looked at the clock; a few minutes after eight. Normally I’d never get up this early on a Saturday, especially a Saturday when I wasn't feeling great. I thought about going back to sleep, but I had a bunch of things I needed to do. First, my arm, cheek, and chest hurt a lot and I needed one of those pain pills. Second, I had to take a leak. Third, I wanted to call Officer Brady and tell him about old man Vanvelick talking to Don. Fourth, my stomach finally realized that all I ate was a bowl of soup last night, and now it was complaining about being hungry. And fifth, the most important and the hardest, I had to figure out how to talk to Mom. I had to decide if I should talk to her at all, and if I did what I would say. I felt nervous about what she’d say to me. We’d really gotten into it last night, with me yelling at her because she didn’t believe me.
I let those thoughts simmer in a corner of my brain and I got up and went to the bathroom to take care of need number two on my list. Afterwards I looked at myself in the mirror. My face looked like a freight train had run into it. The bruise covered the entire left side of my face in an ugly combination of black, blue, red, purple, and yellow. I looked at my chest and the six-inch diameter bruise right in the center that was mostly black and blue now. I looked under the gauze that covered my left arm and the swelling seemed about the same except it had turned dark purple. Everything hurt like hell. I really, really needed one of those pain pills.
My mouth felt like fur covered the entire inside. I rinsed and gargled, then brushed my teeth. You ever try putting toothpaste on the brush with one hand? Trust me, it’s almost impossible. I held the end of the brush in my teeth, and got some of the toothpaste on the brush and a lot more all over the sink. Brushing with my right hand didn’t work very well because I’m left-handed, but I got it done without damaging any teeth. I pretty much sprayed a mixture of toothpaste and spit all over the mirror, so I cleaned the mirror and the toothpaste off the sink. No way to take a shower with the cast on my arm, so I wet my facecloth and wiped it over my face. I ran my fingers through my hair to sort of move it around so it didn’t look totally bed-head. I pulled on some clean boxers and board shorts, and with a lot of difficulty socks and my flip-flops.
You ever try to pull on a T when you have one arm in a cast that’s in a sling? For a minute there I thought I’d never get it over my head. Then it looked and felt totally weird with my left arm inside the T. That would never work, so I decided to take it off and cut out the left sleeve so I could slip it under and over my sling. Getting the T off took about twice as long as putting it on, but I finally succeeded. What a freakin’ hassle trying to cut the sleeve off. Using scissors right-handed just didn’t work at all, I couldn’t hold on to the T so the scissors wouldn’t cut and I got really frustrated. I sat on the bottom of the T, put the neck part between my teeth, and stretched it tight. Then I could cut out the sleeve but man, what a ragged hole. I took off the sling, very carefully, slipped the cut-off sleeve over my cast, then over my head, and finally it was on with both arms on the outside, the way they’re supposed to be, and my left arm back in the sling. I took a couple of deep breaths and went downstairs.
Mom had my pain pills, so that meant my fifth thing on my to-do list about talking to her had to be a ‘yes’ because I had ask her for the pills. She was in the kitchen, sitting at the table. Her eyes were all red and puffy like she’d been crying, and her hair was definitely bed-head. She looked awful.
“Uh, hi, could I have my pain pills? My arm is killing me and so’s my cheek and chest wh….” I’d planned on adding ‘where Don slugged me’ to the end of my sentence, but decided at the last second that would be a bad idea.
“I’m sorry, Curt. I should have trusted you, I should have believed you.” She started to cry. Then I started to cry. Then we were standing there, hugging, and my arm and cheek and chest were hurting even more but I let her hug me. Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore.
“Mom. MOM! Please let go. It hurts….”
“Oh, I’m so sorry Curt….” and that started another round of her crying.
“Mom, please, can I have my pain pills?”
I guess she realized that I really, really needed my pain pills.
“Oh, of course, I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” I sat down and she went into the living room and brought back her purse. She handed me the bottle, and I read the label. ‘Take 1 tablet orally every 4 hours for pain’. I tried to open the bottle, but it had one of those safety caps and I couldn’t open it with one hand.
“Would you open it for me? Please?”
Mom opened the bottle and shook one tablet into my hand. She got up and got me a glass of water, and I took the pill.
“I hope this starts working like right away. I feel like everything hurts.” That was absolutely the truth, too. I sat down, carefully. She’d put the bottle of pain pills on the table, so I picked it up and shoved it into my pocket. When I looked up Mom stared at me for a couple of seconds, then started talking.
“You know I love you, Curt, don’t you?”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
She had a really sad expression after I said that.
“You have to realize that I’m in love with Don. We’re in love. He’s my husband, Curt. It’s hard for me to believe that he did what you and the police say he did. Now he’s in the County Jail for assault and battery on a juvenile and resisting arrest. Since it’s the weekend, he won’t have a bail hearing until Monday morning…”
I interrupted her. She hated when I interrupted, and I seemed to do that a lot since I got home from the hospital.
“Bail? If he gets out on bail he can’t come back here! He can’t live in the same house with me. I won’t live in the same house with that bastard!”
“Curt, he’s my husband. He’s your father. This is his home, too. Don’t call him that.”
“He is NOT MY FATHER! He will NEVER be my father! My father died in fucking Afghanistan. If Don is going to come live here I’m moving out. I’ll go to Tom’s or Greg’s. I’ll go to the police. I’ll go to a youth shelter. Anywhere but here. I am NOT going to live in the same house as him. He busted my arm, slugged me in the face and chest, called me a ‘fucking nigger-loving faggot’ and I don’t want him within a mile of me, ever. He’d have killed me if the cops hadn’t shown up and arrested him. Next time he probably will kill me. Do you understand that? If he’s going to come back here, I’m moving out. I don’t care where I go, I’m not going to let him anywhere near me! EVER!” It seems like yelling is our normal conversation mode now.
“Curtis! Don’t talk like that, please! Don would not have killed you or anyone else. I’m sure this is just some huge misunderstanding. I’m going to the jail to see him at ten o’clock this morning. I’ll find out exactly what happened….”
I couldn’t believe what I heard. “A huge misunderstanding? God DAMN IT, you still don’t believe me, do you. Why can’t you believe me? I told you what happened.” I held up my cast. “You can SEE the god damned evidence of what he did to me.” I pointed to my cheek, and pulled up my T so she could see the huge bruise on my chest. “You think I did this to myself? If you believed me you wouldn’t be talking about bail and how this is all some misunderstanding and having him come back here to live. That’s total BULLSHIT.”
I sat glaring at Mom. She looked at me and sighed.
“Please give me a chance to hear what Don has to say. Especially about the bat. When I get back we’ll talk. If he’s lying then we’re through. You’re my son. You’re the most important thing in my life.” I guess she saw my unbelieving expression. “Yes, you’re more important to me than Don. So at least give me a chance to talk to him. Nothing can happen until Monday anyway.”
That’s when I decided that I would go to that bail hearing to tell my side of the story. I wanted that bastard to be kept in jail until his trial, and then be convicted and rot in jail for years and years. But I sure wouldn’t say that to Mom. She was still hung up on Don being a nice person, the person she thought he was when she married him. And she still didn’t believe me about what he did to me. There was a TV show, CSI or Law and Order or one of those, where they said the wife of a murderer on the show was in denial. That’s Mom, in denial about that asswipe Don.
“Okay, you go see him. Then you come home and tell me what he told you. And we’ll see if you believe what I told you happened. Or not.”
I got up and went to my bedroom and closed the door. I grabbed my cell and found the card Officer Brady had given me and dialed his number. After a couple of rings I got one of those automated attendant things and had to key in the first few letters of his name. I heard ringing, and he picked up.
“This is Officer Brady. Who’s calling?”
“Curt Fischer. Uh, you were at my house when my stepfather beat up on me and then you saw me in the hospital.”
“Yes, Curt, I remember. How are you feeling?”
“Okay, I guess… no, not really. I hurt a lot when I woke up, but I took a pain pill and I hope it’s going to start working. Uh, I remembered something that happened yesterday. You said to call.”
“Absolutely. What did you remember?”
“I was in my bedroom doing my homework when Don got home, and he was still in his car in our driveway and this old guy from across the street, Mr. Vanvelick, he’s mean to every kid around here, anyway he and Don were yelling about something. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, then Don came in and started calling me a nigger loving faggot and beating on me.” I told him about what happened between Tom and Vanvelick, and how Vanvelick had called Tom a nigger and how he should go back to the projects where he belonged.
“Okay, thanks for that information. We’ll take it from here. Anything else?”
“Yeah. My mom still doesn’t believe me about what Don did to me. She said he’s in jail through the weekend and would be having a bail hearing on Monday. Is that something I can go to and tell what happened, what he did to me?”
“A bail hearing doesn’t usually have witnesses. But the D.A. might want you to be there, in court, to bolster their case that your stepdad is a threat to your wellbeing. That would be up to whoever from the District Attorney’s office is assigned to this case. Let me check and see who that is.”
There was a delay, I guess while he was looking up something on his computer.
“Because it’s the weekend I don’t think there’s any way to contact Beth Wolman, the attorney from the D.A.’s office who’s assigned to the case. You can call her first thing Monday morning. She should be in her office by 8:30.”
He gave me the phone number and her extension. I had trouble writing it down right-handed because I couldn’t hold the paper steady, but he was patient and I finally got it.
“Here’s the information about the bail hearing. It’s in the County Courthouse, courtroom 107. It’s scheduled for the afternoon, that’s from two o’clock to 4:30. Donovan Clarey is scheduled to be the second hearing on the afternoon docket, so it should be held shortly after two.” This was way too much info way too fast for me to write down, so I memorized it then repeated it back and he said I had it right.
“Do you have a way to get to the Courthouse?”
“I’ll ask my mom since she’s gonna be there, but if she won’t take me I’ll find a way. I’ll see if I can find a friend to take me, or I’ll take the bus or a taxi.”
“How old are you, Curt?”
“In order to be at the bail hearing you’ll need to be accompanied by an adult, like your mom, or an attorney who would be there representing you, or to be called by the D.A. to be present or to be a witness. Be sure to phone Beth Wolman first thing Monday morning. You’ll like her, she’s a straight shooter. She specializes in child abuse cases.”
“Okay. Thanks. Oh, will you be at the bail hearing?”
“Probably not. I’ll submit my report this morning. That’s why I’m in the office today. If they have any questions I’ll be contacted by Beth or someone on the D.A.’s staff Monday morning. If they do call me I’ll mention that you want to be at the hearing.”
“Thanks. And thanks for the information. I’ll be sure to phone her right at 8:30 Monday.”
“Good luck, Curt. Call 911 or me if there’s any problem with your stepfather in the future.”
“I will. Thanks again. Bye.”
I closed my cell, then reopened it and programmed in Officer Brady’s name and phone number and assigned it speed dial number 9. Even though my cell has the star key as speed dial for 911, if I ever needed him I wanted to be sure I could call him fast. Then I saved Beth Wolman’s number, but I figured I didn’t need to give her a speed dial slot. I grinned. My friends would totally freak when they saw that I had a DA’s phone number on my cell.
Before I could put my cell in my pocket, it rang. It was Tom. Shit, I’d forgotten about Tom. He’d be wondering why the cops called about the bat.
“Hey, Curt. What the fuck’s going on, man?”
“Too much to tell you over the phone. Can I come over now?”
“Sure. My dad’s here too, he’s almost as curious about the cops calling as I am. Maybe more. Typical lawyer, right?”
“Okay, give me five and I’ll take off for yours. I’ll see you in about fifteen. You’re not going to believe what I’m gonna show you and tell you. That’s why I have to be there. Later, man.”
I closed my cell and shoved it into my pocket along with the bottle of pills. I decided to write down the time of the bail hearing in case my pain pill made me forget what Officer Brady told me. I put a heavy bookend on the top of the sheet of paper and that made it a lot easier to write it down. I folded the paper and put it in my pocket.
I checked the time. Ten minutes after nine. I’d done everything on my list except eat. I went downstairs and grabbed a couple toaster strudels out of the box. I’d eat them on the way to Tom’s house. Maybe I could get something more like breakfast when I got there. His mom was always worrying about how skinny I was and I guess she decided it was because I didn’t eat enough. I thought I was just fine, but her cooking was great, just like Mom’s. That thought made me sad and then mad again. Why the fuck wouldn’t she believe me when she could see what Don did to me?
Mom was in the living room, just sitting, staring at nothing.
“I’m going over to Tom’s house.”
She turned and looked at me, then got up and walked over and stared at my face.
“Shouldn’t you stay home and rest? That bruise on your face looks a lot worse than last night.”
She reached out her hand like she was going to touch my bruise, and I flinched. “It still hurts whenever it’s touched.”
She dropped her hand and looked sad. “I’m so sorry you had to go through all this. I just don’t understand.” She looked like she was about to cry again.
“I need to tell Tom about what happened. He called me, he and his dad are wondering why they were called by the police. I need to explain it to them.”
Mom took a deep breath and sighed. She’d been sighing a lot since we got home. “Alright. But take your pain pills with you. And don’t be too long. You do need to rest so you’ll heal.”
“I have ‘em. I’ll see you later.”
“Do you have your keys with you? And you cell phone if I need to get in touch with you?”
“Yeah, Mom, I do. Later.”
I turned and walked out of the house. When I got to the sidewalk I turned around and looked back. This had been my home once. Now to me it seemed like it was just another house like any of the others on our street. It was a stranger’s house. I thought about it and realized that when Don arrived this had stopped being my home. Now it was a house that wasn’t connected to me anymore, just someplace where I slept and ate. That made me feel sad.
I saw Mom looking out the window, watching me. I waved and turned, and started walking to Tom’s. As I walked I thought about her visiting Don at the jail. That’s probably why she asked about my cell. I always carry my cell no matter where I go. She knows that. She planned to call me when she got home to tell me what other lies that piece of shit Don told her about me. I’d rather not be at home when she told me. Maybe I could just stick around at Tom’s until then.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Forgetting Can Be a Big Mistake
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