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.
Tom went upstairs to his room. I sat down on the sofa, and Mr. Williams went to open the door. I was sure it was my mom. It was.
“Good afternoon, Virginia. Come in, please.
“Thank you, Michael. Is Curt here?”
“Yes, we’re in the living room.”
They walked in and Mom looked at me. She definitely didn’t look happy.
“Curt, I think we should go home so we can talk. In private.”
“No, I can’t do that, Mom. Mr. Williams has to be here when we talk.”
Mom turned to Mr. Williams. “What’s going on here? Curt’s my son, and if I say he is to come home so we can talk in private, that’s exactly what he has to do.”
“I’m sorry, Virginia. I am Curtis Fischer’s attorney, and I have advised him that I am to be present during any conversations you have with him about Mr. Donovan Clarey.”
“What? You can’t do that. He’s a minor, and I’m his mother. He comes home with me now.”
“Mom, I’m not going home with you until you tell me and Mr. Williams what you wanted to talk to me about, and what you found out from Don at the jail.”
“I’ll call the police! We’ll see who has rights here.”
Mr. Williams got very lawyer-like. “That’s fine, Mrs. Clarey. And while you’re calling the police I’ll call Child Protective Services and request that they put Curt under protective custody. Instead, I suggest that you sit down and think about this situation. Donovan Clarey is in jail because he physically abused Curtis Fischer, causing serious injuries. Curtis Fischer has stated that you don’t believe what he told you about what Donovan Clarey did to him. He fears that if Donovan Clarey is released on bail that he will be in grave danger. You had a jail visit with Donovan Clarey this morning. If you are willing to tell Curtis what you discussed with Donovan Clarey, then Curtis will decide if he feels safe enough to return home with you. Otherwise I will immediately contact CPS on his behalf.”
Mom turned to look at me, and now she looked sad.
“I don’t understand. Why are you doing this, Curt?”
“Because you won’t believe me. I told you the truth about what Don did to me. You said you’d go to the jail and talk to him this morning, and come back and tell me. You said that if he lied to you then you were through with him. Now you don’t want to tell me and my attorney, Mr. Williams, what Don said to you. I’m tired of arguing with you. If he gets out on bail I think he’ll attack me again if he gets a chance. I don’t want him anywhere near me. I’ve told you that, and you still won’t listen to me. I don’t trust you any more, Mom. That’s why Mr. Williams is my attorney, to make sure I’m protected so Don can’t ever attack me again.”
Mom closed her eyes and sighed. “Alright, if that’s the way it’s going to be, so be it. I’ll tell you what we talked about.”
Mr. Williams stood. “Let’s go into my home office. Our discussions will be private there.”
Mr. Williams sat behind his desk. Mom and I sat in the two chairs on the other side. He did something on his laptop. “I’m recording a meeting between Mrs. Virginia Clarey and her son Curtis Fischer. I am Michael Williams, attorney for Curtis Fischer who is a fifteen year old minor.”
“This session is being recorded, Mrs. Clarey. I’ll provide you with a copy on a flash drive. I assume that’s acceptable?”
“I suppose. Why not.” Mom sighed again. “Why don’t I start. I visited Don in jail this morning. He’s very upset about being in jail, especially all weekend.” She turned and looked at me. “He said that you tried to fight with him and caused your injuries yourself. He said that you hit him with something. He thought it was the baseball bat, but it must have been something else. He said that you tripped when you ran out of your bedroom, and that’s how you bruised your face and your chest. He thought you were going to run out of the house so he stood in the way and you tripped and fell and that’s when you broke your arm. He tried to help you up and you started screaming and that’s when the police came. You lied to them about him attacking you.”
I just sat there looking at her. “And you believe him?”
“I don’t know who to believe.”
“So, I caused all of my injuries. He didn’t touch me. Oh, excuse me, he generously tried to help me up after I broke my own arm. And you actually think it’s possible that he’s telling the truth.”
She repeated, “I don’t know who to believe.”
Mr. Williams asked Mom, “You support Mr. Donovan Clarey being released on bail?”
“Of course. He’s my husband. I know he didn’t, and wouldn’t, harm Curt.”
I turned and looked at Mr. Williams.
“Mr. Williams, please contact CPS. I don’t feel safe returning home. I want to stay somewhere else until the bail hearing is over. And if Don is released on bail I want to live somewhere else permanently and want a restraining order so he can’t come anywhere near me.”
Mom sort of growled at Mr. Williams. “I won’t let that happen. Curt is my son. I love him. I’ll fight to keep him with me.”
“Then I think we’re finished here, Mrs. Clarey.” Mr. Williams switched off the recording, pulled out a flash drive and copied the recording, and gave the flash drive to Mom.
She sat there, holding the flash drive, and looked very confused. “What do I do now?”
Mr. Williams answered her question, “You can leave. However, I recommend that you stay while I phone CPS. I’ll put the call on the speakerphone. They may have questions for you and for Curt as well. What I ask is that none of us interrupts anyone who’s speaking. Do you both agree?”
I said “Yes.” Mom sat there for a couple of seconds before replying “Yes” as well.
The call to CPS was interesting. After a series of those “press this for that” automated voices, the man who eventually answered the call said he was Brian McEwen. From what they said to each other he and Mr. Williams knew each other. Mr. Williams said he was my attorney, and summarized what he’d said to Mom about CPS earlier. He described what happened to me. I could tell that Mom wanted to interrupt several times, but she didn’t.
Mr. McEwen asked me the first question.
“Curt, tell me what happened, in your own words please.”
“In the late afternoon I was working on the homework for my summer session class, Algebra 2. Don came into my bedroom and called me a nigger loving faggot and slugged me hard in my face, dragged me into the living room, slugged me in my chest and knocked me into the table next to the sofa and that broke my arm. He grabbed my broken arm and lifted me off the floor and it hurt like hell so I started screaming. If the police hadn’t come to the door right then and arrested Don I think he would have hurt me a lot more. I’ve never been so frightened in my life. A policeman asked me if Don had broken my arm, I said yes and then I passed out. I woke up in the hospital. They fixed my broken arm. I’m on pain pills because my arm and where Don punched me in the face and chest all hurt so much. He claims that I hit him with my baseball bat but I don’t have it, I’d traded it to a friend for a CD. He lied about that and now he’s lying about everything that happened.”
“Would you feel unsafe if you stayed at home with your mother?”
“Yes, I would. She doesn’t believe my story even though she can see my injuries. She visited Don in jail this morning and he fed her a bunch of lies that I attacked him and did all of my injuries myself by falling down in the living room. She believes him. I’m only five-nine and skinny and Don’s about six-two and huge, he was a football player in college. No way I’d ever attack someone as huge as he is.”
Mom started to interrupt, “I said I...” but Mr. Williams raised his hand and she stopped.
I continued, “I don’t trust Mom anymore. She wants Don to get out on bail and come home. I don’t want that to happen. I’m afraid of him, I think he’d try to find me and beat on me some more. If he does get out on bail I don’t want him to be able to come anywhere near me. He might have killed me if the police hadn’t come and stopped him. If he gets out Mr. Williams is going to get a restraining order to keep him away from me. A long way away from me.”
“Are you gay? Is that why he called you a faggot?”
“No, I’m not gay.”
After a pause Mr. McEwen began to question Mom.
“Mrs. Clarey, do you think Curt will be safe if he’s living at home?”
Mom replied, “Of course. He’s my son and I love him.”
“Do you believe Curt’s account or Donovan Clarey’s account about what happened?”
“I don’t know. It’s very hard for me to believe that Don would do something like this. But it’s also hard to believe that Curt could injure himself that way just by falling.”
In my opinion, the most important question was the one Mr. McEwen saved for last.
“Mrs. Clarey, if he is released on bail, will Donavan Clarey return to your home?”
Mom replied, “Yes. He’s my husband. It’s his home and mine. And it’s Curt’s home too, of course.”
Mr. McEwan asked for a private conversation with Mr. Williams. Mom and I went into the living room, and Mr. Williams closed the door to his office.
Mom turned and looked at me. She had a sad expression, and looked like she might start crying.
“Curt, you know I want you to come home.”
“Mom, you know that I can’t do that. It’s part because you don’t believe me, and part that you want Don to come home. I want him to stay locked up. I hate that son of a bitch. I’ll never live with you as long as Don might be there, either living there or just visiting. I want you to tell me that you believe me, not the lies that Don’s been telling you.”
“You’re asking me to choose between you and Don. You should know I can’t do that. I love you Curt, and I love Don. I want all of us together, as a family.” She started to cry.
“I do want you to choose between me and Don. You don’t even recognize that Don told you another set of lies about what happened yesterday. You told me this morning that when you went to talk to Don and he lied to you then you’d be through with him. You said I was more important to you than him. I guess I’m really not important to you. You’ve made your choice, and it’s Don. I can’t fucking believe it.”
I got up off the sofa and moved to a chair on the other side of the room. I picked a magazine out of the basket alongside the chair and pretended I was reading. It was a Time magazine, and it had an article about bullying. I read the article, and recognized a lot of the things in the article applied to Don. After I finished reading I folded the magazine open to the beginning of the article. I walked over to the sofa and handed the magazine to Mom. She’d been crying again.
“You need to read this article about bullying. Don is a bully, only he beats on kids a lot younger and smaller than him, and like a bully he does it for no reason.”
She looked at me and took the magazine, and started to say something. Just then Mr. Williams opened the door to his office.
“Virginia, Curt, please come into my office.”
He closed the door and we sat down.
“CPS has just faxed an Emergency Protection Order to me. It turns custody of Curtis Fischer over to the protection of CPS. He will be placed in a temporary foster home until the bail hearing, and any extension of it, is resolved. If Donavan Clarey is released on bail Curtis Fischer will remain in foster care. A hearing will be held in thirty days to reconsider this order.”
He handed a copy of the order to Mom, and one to me.
“I’d like to add that if Donavan Clarey is released on bail I will plead the court to issue a restraining order preventing him from approaching Curtis Fischer or being in any location that Curtis Fischer would normally be expected to be, such as his school and the streets where he walks to and from school.”
Mom started to cry. “I don’t understand how all of this got started. I don’t know if it’s my fault or Don’s fault or if there’s some other reason.” She turned and looked at me. “I love you, Curt. I hope you still love me, too.”
“I love the Mom I had before Don beat me up. Right now I don’t think I love you very much. You know the reasons why.”
There were tears in my eyes, but I willed myself not to cry.
Mom took a tissue out of her pocket and dried her eyes.
“Mr. Williams, where will Curt be... I don’t know what to call it. When he goes into this temporary foster care, where will he be?”
“That information will remain confidential.”
“I won’t know? But I’m his mother!”
“I recommend that you read the Emergency Protection Order. It will clarify Curtis Fischer’s rights in this matter, and defines the rights of all others including your rights.”
“So, you’re taking my son away from me.” Now Mom sounded mad.
“No, CPS is placing Curt in a temporary foster home for his protection.”
“But I can protect....” Mom stopped, stood and glared at me, then at Mr. Williams. “I can see that you’ve convinced CPS and Curt that I can’t protect him. I disagree with that, but I don’t know what to do. Actually, I do know what to do. I will find an attorney of my own and get custody of Curt away from CPS.”
She turned and stormed out of Mr. Williams’ office, and out the front door not even closing it.
Mr. Williams headed to the front door as his wife came out of the family room.
“What was all the shouting? Wasn’t that Virginia Clarey? What’s going on, Michael?”
“I’ll explain it in a few minutes.” He closed the front door then turned back to his wife. “I have to talk to Curt for a few minutes first.”
I sat across from Mr. Williams. “Is there anything you have questions about, Curt?”
“Where is this temporary foster home I’m being sent to? What’s it like? How long will I be there? How will I get to school? What about seeing my doctor about my arm? What about my backpack and books and computer? How...”
Mr. Williams interrupted me.
“I think the answer to your first question will also answer most of the others. You’re temporary foster home is where you’re sitting.”
He grinned. Then I got it and I grinned.
“How did you arrange to be a foster home for me so quick?”
“We’ve been a registered foster home with CPS for the past two years. That’s how I met Brian McEwen. There was a situation that I can’t discuss that made it possible that we’d need to foster a child for a period of time. So, we are registered. CPS will still perform an inspection visit to verify that you’ll have your own room and what bathroom you’ll be using. While that’s being scheduled we don’t have to wait to have you stay with us.”
“Oh, okay. Good.” Then I asked him an important question. “Does your wife know I’ll be staying here?”
He chuckled. “She will. She’ll say yes. Now, you asked some other questions. I will phone your mother and arrange to pick up the clothes you’ll need, your backpack, your computer, pens and pencils and paper, everything you need for school. You and I will go there when she’s home.”
“I’ve got a key, can’t I just go pick it up myself?”
“No, we don’t want any reason for her to say that you stole something.”
“Oh. What if she doesn’t agree?”
“A CPS staff member will go with us. She’ll get a call from CPS and she will be told when we’re going to come, and that she has to agree.”
“Can Mom prevent me from getting my clothes and books and computer?”
“No. CPS operates under the authority of the courts. A policeman will accompany the CPS staff member to ensure that you and I are provided access.
“You asked about seeing your doctor. CPS will cover your medical expenses while you’re under their custody. Anything else?”
“Not that I can think of. Oh, yeah. What about Tom? He should give his okay that I’ll be living here, don’t you think?”
Mr. Williams laughed out loud. “You really don’t think Tom will agree to having you stay here? The only argument we’ll get from him is that he’ll want you to stay in his room so you guys can talk and play video games all night every night. That’s one of the good reasons for you to have your own room.
“I’d better go talk to Barbara. You can sit in the living room while I explain what’s going on. It will take a few minutes.”
It seemed to take less than a few minutes. Mrs. Williams rushed into the living room. I stood and she put her hands on my shoulders.
“How are you, Curt? Are you tired? You look awful. Do you hurt? Are you hungry, as usual?” She grinned. She knew me very well.
“I guess I can be talked into having something to eat. If it’s no trouble.”
She stared at me, then stepped back and looked up and down.
“You’re too skinny. When was the last time you ate?”
“Uh, this morning. I had two toaster pastries. Strawberry. Fruit. Healthy.”
“Healthy, I don’t think so. Come on. I’m going to fix you some lunch. And it’s no trouble. You’re living here now.”
We went into the kitchen and sat down. She brought me a glass of water.
“Take a pain pill. Even if it’s early.”
I looked at the clock above the sink. “I’m a half hour late.” I pulled out the bottle of pain pills and looked at the cap. “Can you take the cap off for me, please?”
“Why do they make these caps that are impossible for people to open? Yes, I know it’s to keep children out, but there are better ways to design these caps, I’m sure.” She handed me the opened bottle.
I took the pain pill and set the bottle on the table. She scooped it up and put the cap on. “I think we’ll find another kind of cap around here somewhere.”
She busied herself making sandwiches in pita bread. She told me they’d be easier for me to eat.
“Will Tom be coming down to lunch?”
“Don’t worry about Tom. He has a well-trained nose. He’ll appear as soon as his plate in on the table. Michael told me what happened to you. That’s a shame, nice boy like you. You can stay here as long as you need. The guest room upstairs is yours. You’ll need clothes and your books for school from your house. Do you have a computer?”
“Yes. A netbook. And Mr. Williams and I will get all of the things I’ll need.”
She set four plates on the table, a large platter filled with sandwiches, a bag of potato chips, and a bag of tortilla chips.
“What will you like to drink?”
“Water will be fine, thanks.”
“I’ll have a Coke, Mom!” Tom pulled out a chair and sat down, grinning at me.
Mrs. Williams looked at me and shook her head. “I don’t know how he does it. Sometimes I think he must have a camera hidden in the ceiling so he can see when food is on the table. Get up, Tom, and go tell your dad that lunch is ready.”
When Tom and Mr. Williams sat down Tom looked at me and grinned.
“Dad told me that you’re going to be staying with us for a while, at least a month. That is so cool! You’re going to be in the guest bedroom, but you can sneak into my bedroom and we can spend the night playing video games and listening to music.” He looked at his mom and dad, “and doing our homework, of course.”
Mrs. Williams glared at Tom. “We’ll just see about that, young man!”
We all laughed, and then started eating. I didn’t realize how hungry I was, and I dug into a ham sandwich and then a turkey sandwich. Oh, man, how good they tasted. I sat back and looked at the three people who were going to be my temporary foster family. They’d been like a second family to me anyway, but I realized how generous they were to let me stay with them for at least a month and maybe longer.
Mr. Williams looked up. “We have some things to do. I need to phone your mother and arrange for us to pick up the clothes and other items you’ll need. I phoned the notary and she can see us this afternoon and we can sign my binder. If your mother agrees to let you pick up your things this afternoon, I’ll contact CPS to have someone meet us there. That way we can do both as soon as we finish lunch. Okay?”
I grinned. “Okay!”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Forgetting Can Be a Big Mistake
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