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 7 — What to Tell Kids at School
Mr. and Mrs. Williams were sitting at the kitchen table. They looked up as Tom and I entered, still holding hands. Mr. Williams grinned, but Mrs. Williams raised her eyebrows.
“It certainly took a long time for you boys to get down here.” She smiled. “Are you hungry?”
Tom sat down and pulled me down so I had to sit in the chair next to him.
“I’m famished, Mom. Any of that fried chicken left? Maybe a drumstick?”
“I think so. It’s in the refrigerator.”
Tom turned to me, grinning. “You want a drumstick, Curt?”
“Uh…” I looked at Mrs. Williams, and she looked back at me with a strange smile and tilted her head to her right. I turned back to Tom. “Yeah, I guess.”
He got up, went to the refrigerator, and returned with a plate with two chicken drumsticks and two napkins. It took less than five minutes for us to polish them off, during which no one said anything. When we finished and had wiped our hands, Tom looked at his mother.
“You need to put that plate in the dishwasher.” Then she started to laugh, and so did Mr. Williams.
“You think you can shock me, Thomas,” his mother said, “well, you can’t.”
“I know that. I’d never try. You know that.” Tom grinned. “Well, Curt, what do you want to do the rest of the afternoon?”
“Uh… I guess we could talk about what I should say about my broken arm and bruises when I go back to school Tuesday. We didn’t do that yet. I’m not sure what else.”
“Good idea. Mom, can we stay at the kitchen table to talk?”
“As long as you’re finished by 6:00 so I can set it for dinner.”
“That should be more than enough time, you agree, Curt?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Curt,” Mr. Williams said, “after we’re finished with this you and I need to go to my office so I can tell you what I discussed with your mother while you were collecting your clothes and other things from your bedroom. I’d like to get that and a couple of other items out of the way before dinner.”
“Okay, Mr. Williams.”
“Then tomorrow I want to spend some time during the afternoon talking about what will happen during the bail hearing.”
“Okay. Mr. and Mrs. Williams, I really appreciate what you’re doing for me.”
Mr. Williams replied, “You’re welcome, Curt.”
And Mrs. Williams added, “Yes, you’re very welcome. You’re part of our family.”
Tom took over. “Okay, let’s figure out what you’re going to say when you go back to school on Tuesday,” “First, I think you have to tell the truth about what happened, that Don beat you up.”
I started to object, but Tom held up his hand palm-forward, stopping me. “You should say he was arrested, and you shouldn’t say anything else. If anyone asks why he did it, just say you don’t know. If they try to pump you for information, tell them you have been advised not to discuss it.”
“Why should I say he was arrested?”
“Because it’s going to be in the newspaper. Arrests are listed in the Journal on Thursdays. If you don’t say he was arrested, then kids are going to wonder why when they read about the arrest in the newspaper or if they hear about it from someone else.”
“Tom, kids at school don’t read the Journal. I know I don’t, and I don’t think you do, either.”
“Some do, like the ones on the school newspaper staff and the ones who are taking journalism or current events classes this summer. Some parents will read it, and ask their kids about it. Might as well head off any curiosity that would otherwise end up starting rumors.”
“Curt, Tom’s giving you very good advice. As your attorney my advice is that you should do what Tom is suggesting,” Mr. Williams added.
“I guess you’re right. I just don’t like putting my life out there in front of the whole school.”
Come on, Curt,” Tom said, “this isn’t your life. This is notoriety about one event. It’ll blow over until there’s more news, like when your case goes to trial.”
“I forgot about that.” I looked at Mr. Williams. “There will be a trial, won’t there.”
“Yes, there will. And you’ll be a witness at that trial. That will be big news around here, and it will get covered in the Journal and I’d guess in the Times and Chronicle as well. I expect that it will be on TV newscasts as well.”
“Curt, this will be a major event,” Mr. Williams added.
“Hey, don’t forget bro, all the notoriety will improve your rep around school. You’re gonna be popular. Until the day after the trial’s over.” Tom busted up laughing. He obviously thought that was hilarious. It worried me. That was something I was definitely going to talk to Mr. Williams about.
“Another thing,” Tom added, “you’re going to summer session. There aren’t many kids around school like there are in fall and spring semesters. That will keep the amount of discussion down.”
“There may be fewer, but there’s a bulletin posted in the attendance office that says that it’s just over 750 kids.”
“That’s only about a third of the school. Better than all 2,300 that’d be there if it was the regular school year.”
“Yeah. I suppose so.”
“Okay, you need to think about how you’re going to word what you’ll say about what happened. Like, ‘My stepfather beat me up for no reason, and he was arrested.’ Oh, I just thought about another question kids will ask. They’ll want to know what happened to your arm. Tell them it was broken by your stepfather. Same with the big bruise on your face. No one will see the bruise on your chest ‘cause you’re not taking a gym class this summer.”
I sighed. “You make it sound so easy. I wish you were the one explaining it instead of me.”
“It is so easy! Just say what I said, and only answer the questions I said you can answer. The rest of it is that you have been advised not to discuss it.”
“You sound like your dad.” I looked at Mr. Williams. “Do you agree with saying it that way? I hate referring to Don with the word ‘father’ even if it’s ‘stepfather’. Isn’t there some other way of saying it? Like asshole?”
Mrs. Williams gasped. “Curt!”
“Oh. Sorry for using that word, Mrs. Williams. But that is what he is.”
“No, ‘stepfather’ is what will be in the news,” Mr. Williams replied. You need to use the same title. I think Tom has given you good advice.”
“See? I’ve been around him and listened to what he says long enough to be able to give you these suggestions. Which are only the opinions of the speaker who is not a legal professional and thus should not be construed as legal advice.”
All three of us laughed at that. “You will make a good lawyer, Mr. Thomas Williams.”
“Not for me, bro. I’m going for the big bucks. Multimedia.”
“Yeah, don’t quit your day job.”
“Fugget it. Not my cuppa tea.”
I looked at Mr. Williams. He shrugged his shoulders. “There’s an old saying, Curt. ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.’ I show Tom the advantages of being an attorney, and all he wants to do is play with computers making animated comic strips all day. It’s so sad.” He looked down, picked up his napkin, and pretended to wipe a tear off his cheek.
“Yeah, well, you guys just wait. When I’m rich and famous I’ll send you tickets to my latest film.”
“Are you through, Tom?”
“Yeah, dad, I am. Unless Curt has any questions?” I shook my head. “Okay, I’ll key in the wording I suggested and print it out and give it to you later. Then we can practice tonight. See ya, bro.”
Tom got up and left the kitchen. Mr. Williams said we should go to his office. He closed the door and we sat down.
“I’ve documented the conversation I had with your mother. It’s probably easier if you read it yourself.” He turned his laptop around and I pulled it closer to me and read:
Meeting with Mrs. Virginia Clarey on Saturday, July 14 at 3:30 p.m. at her home, 216 Pauley Court.
She informed me that she has hired Lyle Harris as her attorney to represent her rights in relation to her son, Curtis Fischer, and the physical abuse case against her husband, Donovan Clarey.
She informed me that her attorney advised her against attempting to overturn the decision of CPS in relation to moving Curtis Fischer from his home at 216 Pauley Court to an undisclosed licensed foster home location, because of the cost and time. He advised her to wait until Donovan Clarey’s bail hearing and determine what further legal steps might be taken.
She informed me that he further advised her that after reviewing the case against Donovan Clarey his advice is that at this time she not file a demand with CPS to have them release the licensed foster care location where Curtis Fischer has been moved.
She informed me that she was following her attorney’s advice in these matters.
She advised me that Curtis Fischer has a key to his home at 216 Pauley Court and that he can enter at any time to take whatever else he needs while he is at a licensed foster care location, as long as he phones her in advance.
“That’s it, Curt.”
“So her attorney seems smart, doesn’t he, Mr. Williams.”
He grinned. “Yes, he does. Actually, I know Lyle. His office is in a building near the courthouse, about a block away from mine. He’s reasonable, and a very good choice for your mother. I expect that he will give her good advice.”
“So, that’s all you talked about with Mom?”
“Yes, that’s all we discussed, other than suggestions about what you might need that you didn’t take today.”
“What did she suggest?”
“Your medical insurance card, your school ID card, and a box of toaster pastries.”
“You have gotta be kidding! Toaster pastries?” We both laughed at that.
“Curt, I’d say if your mother can joke, she might be coming around. We’ll see following the bail hearing on Monday. What about your insurance and school ID cards?”
“I have those. They’re always in my wallet. I almost always carry my wallet with me.”
“That brings up something I was thinking about. Do you need any cash?”
“I have eighty or ninety dollars. I carry ten or twenty with me, and keep the rest in my… well, in the bedroom I’ll be using here. I have a savings account at First City Bank. So I’m good.”
“While you’re here, if you need cash just ask. Of course, I’ll want to know what it’s for, but as long as it’s reasonable…”
I interrupted. “I really don’t need you to give me money.”
“Actually, Curt, it’s your money. CPS provides a monthly stipend for us to have you here under the CPS foster care system. We don’t need any of that money. So, you can have what you need up to the stipend amount, and I recommend that you put the most of it into your savings account.”
“Uh… what’s the amount?”
“Twelve hundred dollars.”
“Twelve hundred dollars? That’s huge!”
“Actually, it’s not. That has to cover all of your expenses. Food, clothing, the cost of housing, school expenses, books, entertainment, travel, an allowance, whatever is needed. We don’t need any of that money. I want to cover your expenses because you’re my son’s best friend.”
“Wow. That’s amazing. It’s fantastic that you’re doing that for me, that you’d do it for me.” I stopped and took a deep breath. “But what I want most is to have Don Clarey put into prison and out of my life and my mom’s life forever. Then I can go home.” I started crying. “Shit! I hate it when I cry. I’ve been crying a lot lately.” I looked up at Mr. Williams. “I love my mom, the Mom I used to have before she married Don. I want to go home to that Mom. Most of the time now I don’t think that will ever happen. That makes me real sad.”
He got up and walked around his desk. He stood in front of me and put out his arms. I got up and hugged him with my right arm, and he carefully hugged me back. We stood there for about a minute until my crying jag ended. I pulled back and looked at him. “You and Mrs. Williams and Tom have helped me so much the last couple days. You really didn’t know me, but you took me in and you’re treating me like one of your family. You’re fostering me while this whole bail and trial thing are going on. Thank you! I love you guys.” I grinned. “You even let me get your shirt all wet from my tears.”
“Any time, Curt, any time. We do know you. You’re Tom’s best friend, and I know that’s very important for him. And I hope that’s very important for you, too.”
“It is important for me. Tom is my best friend, and always will be.” I sat down and held my cast up with my right hand because it was starting to hurt. Mr. Williams leaned against the edge of his desk.
“Even though we’re not related, Tom’s my brother and I’m his brother. I know I can tell him anything and he can tell me anything, anytime. He’s my go-to guy and I’m his. His just being near me makes me feel safe, to feel good. I hope he feels the same about me. I think he does.”
“Curt, I can tell you that Tom does feel the same. Maybe even more. I think you discovered the even more part this afternoon in your bedroom.” I guess I looked shocked because Mr. Williams quickly continued. “Whatever way the relationship between you and Tom turns out, it’s fine with me and his mother. What we want is to make sure neither of you gets hurt. It’s also something that relates to Don’s upcoming trial, so this is a good time to talk about that.
“I don’t know if you’re gay, and I don’t care. My only worry is that you will be called as a witness, and you will be asked by the defense if you are gay. The reason for that question is that Don made homophobic remarks when he started attacking you. You were asked by the police if you were gay, and you said no. I want you to answer that question truthfully on the stand. If you say you’re gay that changes the nature of the trial somewhat. If you say you’re not gay, and you are, that’s perjury and is a crime. I want you to know that the outcome of the trial doesn’t depend on whether you’re gay or not. I just have to know the truth, and you need to tell the truth if you’re asked that question on the witness stand. As an officer of the court and your attorney, if I know you’re perjuring yourself I have to report it to the judge.”
“Mr. Williams, my arm is starting to hurt. Can I get one of my pain pills? After that we can talk about this some more.”
“Sure. Go ahead and take one of your pills. I’m going to get a Coke. Would you like one?”
“Could I have a root beer?”
“Sure. In a glass with ice or just a can?”
“A can’s fine.”
I went upstairs and got my bottle of pills. I pried the top off with my teeth and shook one out, the replaced the cap. I decided that I would take it with a mouthful of root beer, so I went downstairs to Mr. William’s office.
Mr. Williams saw I was about to take the pain pill. “Don’t you want some water, Curt?”
“Nah. I’ll use some root beer to help swallow it.” That’s what I did, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. The fizz from the root beer kept me from swallowing the pill. But I finally got it down.
“Are you ready to talk, Curt?”
“Yes. Okay, first, I’m not gay. I’ve never had sex with a guy. I like girls, but I’ve never had sex with a girl either.” I blushed. “Today when we got back I was feeling really down. Just like a few minutes ago, I started crying and Tom pulled me into a hug. I was thinking about everything that had happened to me and my mind was all confused. When he pulled back from the hug we stood there looking at each other for a while. I got this sudden urge to kiss him, so I did. It was just a quick kiss, but on his lips. He asked me if that was the first time I’d ever kissed a guy and did I like it, and I said it was the first time and that I did like it. Actually, I liked it a lot because it was him, my best friend, who I kissed. Then Tom leaned in and kissed me on the lips, and I was kissing him back when you came in. I was so embarrassed I tried to pull away, but Tom wouldn’t let me and we kept kissing and it was wonderful. It was what I needed right then after getting back from Mom’s and wondering why she didn’t love me anymore. That kiss meant that Tom loved me, and that I love him. It’s that we’re best friends, as close to brothers as two guys who aren’t brothers can be. I don’t think that makes me gay, do you?”
“No, I don’t think that makes you gay. You and Tom are very close, you’ve been best friends since we moved here and you guys were in middle school. The two of you are even closer than brothers because you don’t fight. I can remember how my two brothers and I would argue and fight all the time about the dumbest things. It’s wonderful how you and Tom get along so well. You’ve never had the sibling rivalry that comes with being related. Curt, what I want to make sure is that you and Tom each take a deep breath and step back a bit. No more kissing. Go back to being best friends but without anything else until after the trial, okay? Then after the trial if you and Tom want to experiment, that’s fine with me and with Tom’s mother. Until then, you and Tom keep it in your pants.”
I couldn’t believe that he actually said ‘keep it in your pants’ and I think my eyes totally bugged out. I blushed majorly, I could feel my ears heat up and start burning. I guess it was so obvious that Mr. Williams started to chuckle.
“Curt, don’t be embarrassed. You and Tom aren’t the first teenage guys to kiss each other. Now, I need to talk to Tom about this, and afterward the two of you can sort things out, and decide how you’re going to relate to each other until Don’s trial is over. Would you go up and tell Tom that I’d like to talk to him?”
‘Don’t be embarrassed’ just wasn’t possible, but I realized that he was right. “Okay, I’ll ask him to come down to your office.”
When I got upstairs I stuck my head in Tom's door. He looked up. “Hey, how’d it go?”
“Okay. Your dad asked me to tell you that he wants to talk to you in his office.”
I turned and went into my room so he wouldn’t see how embarrassed I was. I heard him running downstairs, the way he normally did. I wondered if he’d be as embarrassed by what his dad had to say as I was.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Forgetting Can Be a Big Mistake
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