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 4 — Curt Hires an Attorney
Tom opened the door when I got to his house. His expression became one of total shock. “Oh, my god, what happened to you?”
“Lemme come in and sit down, okay? I’m still sore. I’ll tell you all about it.”
Tom’s dad was sitting in their living room reading, and he looked up and then stood when I walked in. “Were you in an accident, Curt?”
I gave them the long version of what happened. When I told about Don beating on me, Tom started saying how if he saw Don he’d smash him, which both his dad and I told him that would be a very bad idea. When I told about how Don had lied about me hitting him with the bat they finally understood why Officer Brady called them.
I could tell that Mr. Williams got upset when I told them the part about Mom not believing me.
“Mom told me about the bail hearing on Monday. I called Officer Brady and found out that it’s going to be the second hearing at two o’clock. I asked him if I could be there, and he said I should call Beth Wolman first thing Monday morning, that she’s the one from the D.A.’s office who’s assigned to the case.”
“Curt, I know Beth Wolman, and she’s an excellent choice,” Mr. Williams told me. “You’ll need an attorney so you can attend the bail hearing and make a statement. I recommend that you have your own attorney. You need someone to look out for your interests, not those of your mother or Don or anyone else.” I remembered that Officer Brady said something about having an attorney at the bail hearing when I talked to him this morning.
“I can’t afford an attorney. I don’t have any money.”
“I’m willing to represent you, Curt. I’ll do this pro bono. That means it won’t cost you anything,”
“Man, that’s great, that’s generous. But what will you do for me?”
“I’ll contact Beth Wolman and tell her I’m your attorney, and that you want to make a statement at the bail hearing. I’ll escort you to the bail hearing. If Don makes bail, I’ll petition the court for a restraining order. That means he can’t live in the same house as you, and he can’t come within a reasonable distance of you, your house, your school, anyplace it would be reasonable to expect you would go.”
“What’s ‘reasonable distance’ mean? How far would he have to stay away from me, like maybe a mile? Ten miles? Another state?”
Mr. Williams laughed. So did I, and Tom too.
“No, I’m thinking more like 200 yards, that’s 600 feet. It would have to be something reasonable. If necessary, I can work with CPS to have you moved somewhere where you’d be safe.”
“Child Protective Services. I’d work with them to find you a temporary foster home.”
Tom grinned. “How about Curt staying here, with us? My room’s plenty big for the two of us. And he’s slept over a bunch of times.”
Mr. Williams didn’t say anything for a few seconds. I guessed he was thinking about what Tom said.
“Mr. Williams, that sounds great to me. If it’s okay with you and Mrs. Williams, of course.”
“It would be up to CPS, it’s their decision. They might go for you living here, but they require that a foster child must have their own bedroom.”
“That’s probably better anyway. If I stayed with Tom his snoring would keep me awake.”
“Snoring? I don’t snore!”
Mr. Williams and I said “Oh, yes you do!” at exactly the same time. It was funny, just like we’d planned and practiced it. Tom got a pouty expression and sort of whispered “I really don’t” which made me laugh. Tom did snore, but not so much and it wasn’t loud. Still, it was fun trying to embarrass him.
“Okay, let’s get serious about this.” Mr. Williams turned to me and put on what I guessed was his ‘official’ voice. “Curtis Fischer, do you want to hire me to act as your attorney and represent you in these matters we’ve discussed, and anything related that might arise, on a pro bono basis?”
“Sure. Uh, I mean, yes sir.”
“I need a binder, even though I’m representing you on a pro bono basis. Do you have a dollar, Curt?”
“Yeah… what for?”
“I want you to pay me one dollar to bind me to be your attorney. I’ll write you a receipt for the dollar.”
I pulled out my wallet and handed him a dollar bill. That left me with six bucks.
“Thank you. You are now my client, and I am your attorney. Now, let’s talk about what we’re going to do. I’ll draw up an agreement that describes that I am representing you as your attorney, which we’ll both sign. I’ll phone Beth Wolman at home either today or tomorrow and discuss what happened to you, and I’ll make an appointment for us to see her Monday morning before the bail hearing. Right now I’d like to have you repeat what you told me about what happened, except this time I’m going to record it. I’ll pass it through a speech recognition program, you and I will edit the results, and I’ll print it. We’ll go to a notary I know and you’ll sign it in front of her so it will be notarized, then I’ll make copies. Finally, I’ll prepare a request for a restraining order. I think that’s enough to occupy my weekend.”
I was stunned. “That sounds like a huge amount of work. You sure you want to do this? For free?”
“I get very upset whenever I hear of a kid who’s been physically or mentally abused. Your situation is physical abuse, and I want to put an end to Donovan Clarey’s ability to do anything like what he did to you. Do you carry an ID with your picture?”
“Yeah, I have my student ID from school and it’s got my picture.”
“Good. You’ll need to show that to the notary. And about school, I don’t want you to go to school on Monday because of the bail hearing. I’ll phone your principal and have you excused for Monday and optionally for Tuesday and Wednesday as well, in case Don’s bail is approved and you have to move.
“There might be a story about Donovan Clarey in the Sunday paper. It won’t name you, but it might name your mother, and perhaps your street. It’s possible that some kids at your school could make a connection to you, especially when they see your injuries. By Tuesday the kids will have totally forgotten about it, and that would be the few that read it or even heard about it. Do you read the newspaper?”
I grinned. “Sure, I do. I read every page. Of the sports section and the comics.”
Tom started laughing. “Yeah, me too, except usually only the sports. There’s enough funny hah-ha stuff going on at school that I don’t need to read the comics.”
I put on my ‘shocked’ expression and turned to Tom. “You mean that you don’t read Zits? Man, my day isn’t complete until I’ve read Zits. It’s just too real, man!”
We both broke up laughing.
Mr. Williams cleared his throat, like really loud. “May I have your attention, Curtis?”
“Uh, sorry, yeah.”
“Let’s go into my office and we’ll record your statement. Okay?”
“Yeah, sure. I’m ready.”
“You don’t mind being recorded?”
“No. I recorded a weekly sports report for the school radio station last semester. I’m used to being recorded, so no problem.”
Mr. Williams smiled. “That’s good. Let’s get this done so we’ll be ready Monday morning.”
We got up, I said ‘Later’ to Tom and he gave me a thumbs-up, and I followed Mr. Williams into his home office. I looked forward to making my statement. Anything I could do to make sure that Donovan Clarey paid for what he did to me. Like going to prison for a long, long time. And most important, I wanted Mom to finally realize that he’s a big fucking sleazebag.
Like I said, telling the story for what, a third or fourth or fifth time, wasn’t a problem. I even remembered a few details I hadn’t told Officer Brady including when Don slugged me in the chest and I fell and hit the table and the doorbell rang how he threatened me that if I moved I’d be sorry.
Mr. Williams prepared a list of questions to ask me, so it was really well organized. When I finished he played it back.
“Curt, did you forget anything, or do you want to add, change, or delete anything?”
“No, it’s all good.”
I looked at the clock on Mr. Williams’ desk. It was a few minutes after ten-thirty. The whole thing took just over an hour.
“I have a question about the jail. I’ve never been inside a jail, so what I knew is from TV and the movies. My mom is visiting Don in the jail. She said visitor hours start at ten o’clock. How long do they last?”
“They shouldn’t be called visitor ‘hours’, Curt. Family visitors are only allowed thirty minutes, and each inmate can only have two family visits per week.”
I looked at his clock again. “That means if my mom got there at ten o’clock, her visit’s over, right?”
“That’s exactly what it means.”
“I don’t want to be at home when she actually gets there. If I stay here I should get a call from her and she’ll tell me about what excuses Don he told her for what did to me. Can I ask her to come here, and you listen in? I’d rather do it that way, if it’s okay with you.”
Mr. Williams took a deep breath.
“Curt, you can ask your mother to come here to talk to you. But as soon as she arrives I have to advise her that I’m your attorney, and that anything she says could be entered in evidence against Donovan Clarey. You might get more information if you went home to have her tell you about the jail visit.”
“I don’t care about that. I just don’t want to get into a shouting match again, like we’ve already had a few times. If she comes here I don’t think that will happen. Besides, if I went home I’d tell her you’re going to be my lawyer anyway.”
“Curt, I’m not going to be your lawyer. When you paid me that dollar I became your attorney representing you in this case.”
Mr. Williams stopped and thought for a few seconds, then continued.
“As your attorney my advice is that you should ask your mother to come here. I’ll be interested in her reaction. Do you expect her to call you?”
“Yeah. She asked me if I had my cell when I left, but she knows that I always have it with me, always. She said she’d call when she got home. Uh… could I lie down for a few minutes? I’m sore and I don’t think the pain pills they gave me work very well.”
“I’ll have Tom show you to the guest bedroom. That’ll be better than his room. You wouldn’t get any rest if you were in there.” Mr. Williams grinned. “Besides, Tom’s not the neatest teen on the planet. You probably know that already.”
I grinned. “Yeah. Compared to him I’m the neat freak of the century.”
Tom led me upstairs to the guest bedroom. I’d never seen it before, and for some reason I expected it to be all old fashioned furniture with frills and purple and pink colors, but it was modern. The furniture had that modern look like they got it at Ikea. The bed had a red and black bedspread, and looked really inviting.
Tom started to pull off the bedspread.
“I don’t need to get into the bed. If it’s okay I’ll just lie on top. I expect my mom to call me in a little while.”
“Okay, just take off your shoes first. Mom would have your head in a basket it she caught you on the bed with your shoes on.”
“No problem.” I toed off my shoes then pulled my cell out of my pocket and put it on the nightstand so I wouldn’t have to fumble trying to get it out of my pocket when Mom called. I laid down and went to sleep immediately. It seemed like I’d only been asleep for a few minutes when my cell’s ringtone woke me. The call was from our home number.
“Curt? Honey? Why aren’t you home? Where are you?”
“I’m at Tom’s.”
“Can you come home? We need to talk.”
“I’m groggy from the pain pills. And they’re not really working very well ‘cause I’m still really sore, especially my chest. Can you come to Tom’s house? We can talk here.”
There was a long pause. “Mom?”
I heard a sigh, then she answered. “Alright. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“Bye, Curt. I love you.”
She probably hesitated because she wouldn’t want to talk to me in front of other people. Besides, she knows that Mr. Williams is a lawyer. I had to remember when I talk about him I need to call him ‘my attorney’. Maybe that had something to do with it, her not wanting to talk with someone who’s an attorney listening. I wondered how she would react when I told her he was my attorney.
Reluctantly, I got up, slipped on my shoes, and went to the bathroom to take a leak and check my hair. Jeez, bed-head again. The bruise on my face looked the same as this morning. I lifted my T and the bruise on my chest looked the same too. Everything was aching, but now it was mostly my arm. There was a clock on the counter. I couldn’t believe it. It was almost noon. I’d slept over an hour. I still felt groggy and tired, and I decided that I looked the way I looked and I wasn’t going to do anything about it.
I went downstairs, and stood waiting for Mr. Williams to look up and see me. He had a bunch of papers spread out on the dining room table that he was reading, and every so often he’d write in a spiral notebook. He looked up and smiled.
“Hi, Curt. Did you enjoy your nap?”
“I still feel like I could use some more sleep. My arm is really hurting, but I can’t take another pain pill for about forty-five minutes.”
“That’s not unusual right after a break. When Tom broke his wrist it was painful for several days.”
I turned to Tom. “You broke your wrist? I didn’t know that. I don’t remember seeing you in a cast. When did you break your wrist?”
“In fourth grade, when we lived in Pleasanton. It was a minor fracture. Anyway, it was no big deal.”
“Mr. Williams, my mom called and she’s gonna be here in a few minutes. She seemed reluctant to come over, but I said I was groggy and hurting so she agreed. I think I should tell her that you’re my attorney as soon as she gets here, and you can tell her why I need an attorney. Is that okay?”
“Yes, that’s what we’ll do. I’m surprised that she agreed to come over. I would have thought she’d say that she’d drive over and pick you up. She didn’t say that?”
“Hmm. Well, what I don’t understand will hopefully become clear when she arrives.”
Mr. Williams had just finished that sentence when we heard the doorbell.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Forgetting Can Be a Big Mistake
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