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.
It seemed like I'd been sitting on my bed waiting for a long time, but I checked my watch and it had only been five minutes. I got up and started unpacking the stuff I’d brought from home. The dresser drawers were all empty, so I picked the one at the top and put in my T’s, briefs, and socks. I hung my pants, shirts, hoodie, and jacket in the closet.
I checked the desk. There were two drawers in the pedestal on the left and one in the center below the top. All three were empty. I began unpacking my backpack. My laptop, power adapter, and mouse went on the top, and my papers and pens and other stuff in the top drawer. There wasn’t a bookcase in the room so I opened the upper pedestal drawer. It was tall enough that I was able to stand the books with the spine facing up. They all fit. I stood my Algebra 2 book on the top of the desk next to the lamp. There was an electric outlet on the wall next to the desk, so I plugged in the power adapter and connected it to my laptop. I turned it on and waited for the Windows 7 login screen and signed in. There were several wi-fi connections, but I didn’t know which one was the Williams’ and even if I did they’d still have to enter their password. I put my laptop back in hibernate and shut the lid.
I looked at my watch. All that had taken another twenty minutes. I leaned back and closed my eyes. I started to fall asleep, so I moved to the bed to lay down.
I felt something shaking my shoulder. “Hey, Curt. You awake?” It was Tom. He was kneeling on the bed next to me, smiling.
“Uh… hi. I guess I dozed off.”
“Tell me about it! I’ve been trying to wake you for the last five minutes. You were dead to the world, man.”
I grinned. “Help me up, would you? My arm’s hurting again.”
He walked around to the other side of the bed, grabbed my hand, and pulled me up.
“Thanks. Um… I assume you talked to your dad… right?”
“Yeah. That was a very interesting conversation. He told me to keep my grubby paws off you, and especially to keep it in my pants. What a crock!”
“He had more or less the same conversation with me. It totally embarrassed me. I understand why we have to be careful. I might have to go on the witness stand and Don’s attorney will ask me if I’m gay, and might ask if you’re gay, and we both need to say ‘no’ to those questions without lying.”
“Yeah, I know. It just pisses me off that you’ve gotta be circumspect until the trial is over.”
“Circumspect? Is that what your dad said?”
“Nah. I decided that’s the right word for you and me until all this crap is over.”
“I think we need to be more than circumspect. We need to be celibate.”
Tom let out a big sigh. “Okay. Celibate. Totally, absolutely, completely celibate. So, what do you want to do today?”
“I don’t know. If we play any video games you’ll win because I only have one hand. In fact I don’t even know how I’d use a controller with one hand. How about a movie? You have anything good on DVD? Or I suppose we could go to the mall.”
“Come on downstairs and let’s see what we have on DVD. And we can connect to Vudu and Netflix and see what they have.”
That’s what we did. Tom decided we’d watch ‘Holes’ — even though it’s not very current — because neither of us had seen it. It was okay. When it was over we walked into the kitchen. Tom’s mom was fixing dinner.
“What’s for dinner, Mom?”
“Hi, guys. We’re having pot roast with mashed potatoes, carrots, and green beans.”
“Ice cream. You can make sundaes if you want.”
“That sounds great, Mrs. Williams,” I told her.
“It’ll be on in about ten minutes. How ‘bout you two set the table?”
I nodded my agreement, and Tom and I walked into the dining room.
“You eat dinner in the dining room?”
“Yeah. We always do that on the weekends. Mom likes it to be more formal, like my grandma had their family dinners back when Mom was a kid.”
“That’s nice. I like family traditions.” It made me sort of sad because we never had any family traditions at home after Dad died.
We set the table, with Tom getting the plates and stuff and I moved it around where the four of us would be sitting.
“Hey, Curt, what do you want to drink? Milk, water, soda?”
We walked into the kitchen. Tom asked his mom, “Can we do anything else?”
“Yes. Curt, please take these hot pads and serving spoons and put them on the table, and Tom, please take in the vegetables. If you want milk bring the open carton from the refrigerator. Then you can sit down. I’ll bring in the pot roast. Oh, and let your dad know we’re ready to eat. He’s still in his office.”
All of that was accomplished, and we were sitting down to dinner. We served ourselves, passing the dishes of food around. It smelled fantastic, and it was. Unlike my mom and Don, the Williams were the kind of people I’d heard about, the kind that has real conversations at the dinner table. And they talked about everything and anything. For example, was everything okay in my room, the new building going up at our high school, what movie we watched and did we like it, where they might go on vacation, what universities Tom and I were considering, my summer school class, Tom’s baseball practice, what classes we’d be taking when school started, current events, and lots more. But nothing about my mom, or Don, or the bail hearing. I guess Mr. Williams wanted that to be off-limits. Or maybe they thought I wouldn’t want to talk about it, and if so they were right about that.
After we were finished eating, Mrs. Williams let me know about dessert. “Curt, we have dessert in the breakfast room, and we have it about an hour after we finish cleaning up from dinner. And now that I’ve mentioned cleaning up, that’s going to be a job for you and Tom.”
“That’s okay, Mrs. Williams. I always clean up at home so I’m used to doing it.”
“I’ll give him a break, Mom. He can’t do much with one arm so I’ll let him help clear the table and load the dishwasher. Then he can watch me do the hard parts, washing and wiping the pots and pans and putting them away.” He looked at me and grinned.
“Thanks, Tom. I’ll do anything I can. By the way, Mrs. Williams, this was a great dinner. That pot roast was fantastic.”
“Thank you, Curt. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I like cooking for kids who appreciate what I do.” She stared at Tom, trying to suppress a grin but not doing a very good job of it.
“Hey, I say thanks about your cooking. You guys have been talking so much that I didn’t have a chance, and I didn’t want to butt in. That wouldn’t have been polite. So as usual, thank you for a wonderful dinner, Mom.”
He looked at his dad and said, “Ahem.” I swear, he said ‘ahem’ and I almost busted out laughing but I suppressed it.
Mr. Williams glared at Tom, but I could tell it was in a joking way. “Thank you, Barbara. And thank you for reminding me, Thomas.” He emphasized the ‘Thomas’.
“Oh, Curt, shame on you! When Dad calls me ‘Thomas’ I know that I’m really in trouble. And it’s all your fault.”
“My fault? My fault? Exactly how is it my fault?”
Mr. Williams was grinning. “Yes, Thomas, I’d also like to know exactly how this could be Curt’s fault.”
“Curt,” Tom ranted, “if you hadn’t been extra polite no one would have noticed that I wasn’t extra polite.”
I lost it, and started laughing. Then Mr. and Mrs. Williams started laughing. But Tom sat there with a pouty expression, looking back and forth at the three of us.
When I calmed down I looked at Mr. Williams. “Can I sue Tom for perjury?”
“Curt,” he replied, “there isn’t a court in the land that wouldn’t convict him for perjuring himself. Unfortunately, I can’t represent you because of a familial tie to the accused. That’s a real disappointment.”
Tom stood. “Well, since I’m not going to get any help clearing the table and thus it’s going to take much longer than it should, I’d better get started.”
I stood and picked up my plate and knife and fork. “I am going to help you, Thomas, despite my grave injuries.” I smiled at him, and he poked me in my arm.
“Let’s do it, bro.”
After cleaning off the table and putting the dishes in the dishwasher, Tom washed the pots and I supervised.
“Good job, Tom.”
“Yeah, I cleaned this up real good.”
I shook my head. “I wonder how you ever passed English.”
“Perseverance, bro. Perseverance. That’s what it takes when you’re stuck with Mr. Stokes. Awful, horrible, useless English teacher. Be glad you haven’t had a class he taught, and pray every night that you don’t get stuck in one in the future. If you do, you’re only out is to change schools. Move away. Drop out.”
“He sounds bad. If he really is that bad, why doesn’t the school board fire him?”
“He’s got tenure, man. All he’s gotta do is sit there on his fat ass and not do anything that would get him fired. The school board’s stuck with him until he retires.”
“Okay, here’s an idea. Why not give him early retirement?”
Tom looked at me. “Damn. That’s a great idea. I wonder why no one’s ever thought of that. I’m going to talk to Mr. Tomkins and see if he thinks that would work. I’ve heard that he’s been trying to get rid of Stokes for years.”
“Well, good luck with that. I hear Tomkins is a hard-ass.”
“Nah. We know him. He lives next door.”
“You gotta be kidding!”
“Nope. Mr. and Mrs. Tomkins and their three kids.”
“He has kids? I heard rumors that he hates kids. There’s another rumor that he ate two ninth grade boys last year.” I grinned.
“Come on, Curt. He’s actually a nice guy. What say I introduce you to him and his family tomorrow?”
“Uh… I don’t think so.”
“Haven’t you ever heard of sleeping with your enemies? Get to know Tomkins and if you have a problem at school he’ll take care of it for you. Maybe even eat a few kids if that’s what it takes.”
With that we started laughing.
“Okay, let’s be serious now. What do you want to do tonight? Watch TV, look at a vid, listen to some sounds, what?”
“I’m sorta tired and my arm’s aching. Maybe some mindless TV show.”
“How about a CSI marathon? It’s on channel 960 all this weekend.”
“Okay, lemme run downstairs and convince Mom that we need our dessert early and up here.”
After a few minutes Tom returned with two big bowls filled with vanilla ice cream and covered with butterscotch syrup, a lot of butterscotch syrup. It was delicious.
The first in the CSI marathon was an old classic show I’d never seen. We both like CSI, especially the original series set in Las Vegas.
About half way through the third hour of CSI I realized I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open.
“Hey, Tom. I’m tired and hurting. I think I’ll take a pain pill and go to bed.”
“Yeah, I’m tired too. What do you want to do tomorrow?”
“I have some algebra homework to finish, and I’d like to just hang and do some reading and try to stay calm for Don’s bail hearing on Monday. Is that okay?”
“Sure. Oh, Mom asked me to ask you if you wanted to go to church with her and Dad tomorrow morning. So I’m asking.”
“I don’t think so. I’m not much of a going-to-church sort of person. Can you tell her ‘Thanks but I think I’ll pass’ for me?”
“I can do that. BTW, I don’t go to church with them either.”
Sunday was lazy. Mr. and Mrs. Williams came back from church around ten and she fixed breakfast, bacon and eggs and homemade biscuits.
After breakfast Tom and I cleaned up the kitchen.
“Tom, can you get me set up on your wi-fi?”
“Sure. Let’s go up to your room and I’ll do that.”
We sat down at my desk. That really seemed funny to me, ‘my desk’ and ‘my room’ were in the Williams’ home. It wasn’t really my room. But it was my room, at least temporarily.
“Okay, your laptop has wi-fi, right?”
“Yeah. When I turned it on earlier it gave a list of accounts to connect to. I cancelled that and put it in hibernate. Let me restart.”
Once Windows 7 loaded the same list of accounts popped up.
“Okay, this is ours here, the one labeled wfn105. That stands for Williams Family Network and our street number. It’s protected, so let me enter the password and set it so it doesn’t have to be re-entered each time.”
Once that was done I got the connected dialog box and it faded away.
“The network is really fast. Open up espn.com and you’ll see how fast.”
I opened up the Chrome browser, entered espn.com, and pressed Enter. The site popped up almost instantly.
“Oh my god! That is so fast. When I’d go to espn.com from home it would take a long time before everything was displayed. Of course, our connection was the cheapest that the phone company offered.”
“We’re on cable, and our connection is eighteen megs download and four megs upload.”
I laughed. “I’m embarrassed to say that ours was one and a half megs down and about 320 K up. What you’ve got is wonderful. Thanks, Tom. Now I’d better finish my homework assignment.”
I sat at my desk and worked on finishing the twelve algebra problems that were due on Monday. I was going to miss the class because I’d be at Don’s bail hearing, but Tom said he’d tell Mrs. Gibbs why I missed and turn in my completed homework assignment, and ask her for the assignment for Tuesday’s class. I figured she’d give me a pass for missing the class.
Then I got out a book I hadn’t started but wanted to read. It was ‘The Golden City’ by John Twelve Hawks. It’s the third book in his Fourth Realm trilogy, and I loved book one ‘The Traveler’ and book two ‘Dark City’ and was eager to read the conclusion to this long and complex story. I got through chapter seven when Tom walked into my room and announced it was time for lunch.
“My folks went to the mall to do some shopping. They’ll be back this afternoon. Dad said I should remind you that he wants to meet with you to go over some things for the bail hearing tomorrow. So, what d’ya want for lunch?”
“Hmm… what are my choices?”
“Let’s go see what’s in the fridge.”
We went downstairs and Tom raided the fridge. That’s what it was, a raid, because he brought out more food than his whole family including me could possibly consume at any meal.
I grinned. “Isn’t that quite a bit of food for us to eat for lunch?”
“No, dufus. This is to let you select what you want to eat. Just pick and choose.”
“Oh. Okay, lemme look.”
Tom waved his hand over the array on the counter. “Okay, this is a self-serve kitchen. You get to make your own.”
I picked some lunchmeat and rye bread for a sandwich and made it, including a slice of cheese and some mustard and lettuce.
Tom looked at my plate. “That’s all you want to eat? Geez, no wonder you’re so skinny.”
“You sound just like your mom. And I’m not skinny, I’m just right.”
Tom reached over and started feeling my sides and stomach. I’m very ticklish, and I started laughing and tried to get away from him. He decided this was fun and wouldn’t stop.
“Stop! My arm’s hurting!” It wasn’t really, but I figured that would make him stop tickling me.
“Oh, man, I’m sorry!”
“That’s okay. I just need to be real careful. It’s time for another pain pill anyway. Maybe that will help.”
I took my pill and we ate our lunches. Tom made two ham and cheese sandwiches and we shared a pint of potato salad. I was full, and I guess Tom was too because he leaned back and burped twice, really loud burps. “That means I enjoyed the meal. It’s supposed to be a compliment to the cook,” he said.
“So I have to burp too?”
“Nah. Since I didn’t make your lunch you don’t need to burp for me.”
“Tom Williams, sometimes you’re just weird, ya know?”
“Yup. And I’m proud of it. Just think how boring I would be if I wasn’t weird.”
“You don’t have a thing to worry about. You’ll never be boring, that’s for sure.”
“Aww, Curt, you always say the nicest things to me. Now, let’s clean up the kitchen and go do whatever we were doing.”
I got back to my book. It’s amazing that no matter how much I might like what I’m reading, I can get bored with it. So at the end of chapter 28 I put in a bookmark and closed the book. It was actually a good place to stop because I was about two-thirds finished, and the chapter ended where Matthew tells his son Gabriel that the gods have left the universe and from now on what’s going to happen is up to the two of them.
I stood and stretched. It was almost five o’clock and I had to meet with Mr. Williams. I walked downstairs and looked into his office, then in the kitchen, and it looked like they weren’t home yet. I walked out the back door and saw Tom practicing pitches against a target he’d leaned against the side of the garage.
“Wanna play a little baseball?”
I held up my left arm with its cast. “I don’t think I’d be very good with one arm. How about I just sit here and watch you pitch. I can keep score if you want.”
“Hey, good idea. There’s some paper and a pen on the table here, and I’ll call out what kind of pitch I’m throwing, or that I’m trying to throw, and you can check that off and write which circle and quadrant on the target I hit.”
“Geez, that’s something I could do with one arm in a cast!” I grinned.
Tom laughed. “And you call ME weird? Let’s get started. Fast ball.”
“Seven J.” I wrote it down.
“Fast ball.” “Two C.”
“Fast ball.” “Three E.”
That went on for about twenty minutes. Then we heard the garage door opening. Tom’s folks were back. I looked what I’d recorded for him.
“Man, you were fantastic on pitch placement.”
“Lemme see. Wow. My pitching is getting a lot better. I can see my fast ball is down a few times more than I’d like, my curve ball is getting better, and my slider is a mess. I’ll take this to Coach Cameron and we can work on how I can improve those pitches. My fast ball is my best weapon, but if that’s all I’m using pretty soon the opposing hitter will have my number and my effectiveness will be in the crapper.”
“You have until next spring to do some fine tuning. I’m looking forward to seeing you pitch. You said your fast ball is your best weapon, and that’s true for pitching, but your hitting is even better than your pitching. That’s gonna be one a hell of a weapon, Tom. It’s unusual to have a great pitcher who’s also a great hitter.”
I saw Tom blush, and that’s something to see on a guy with such a dark black complexion.
We went inside and Tom excitedly told his dad about his pitching practice, and showed him the list I’d written down.
“That’s great, son. I’m impressed by the improvement you’re making.”
“Now, Curt, let’s go into my office and review what the bail hearing is going to be like, and what you can say and not say if you’re called to be a witness for the prosecutor. “
First, Mr. Williams went over all of the details and steps of any bail hearing. Then he got into specifics of Don’s bail hearing.
“Curt, the single most important thing for you to remember is to avoid getting mad. I know that will be difficult, but it’s essential so the prosecutor can present the case for denying bail to Don. Do you understand how important this is?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Good. Let me go into some detail. First, we’ll be sitting in the spectator section. Don’t make any comments, groans, or laughing. Don’t shake or nod your head. Don’t make any facial expressions like disgust or surprise. Keep your mouth closed. Don’t fidget in your seat, sit still. Sit up straight, don’t slouch. Remember, the judge will know who you are, and he will form an impression from your body language. If you have a question about the proceedings, you can whisper it to me and I’ll answer. But please don’t overdo questions.
“Next, if you’re called as a witness, be polite. If you’re asked a question, answer it clearly and truthfully. If a question requires that you provide information, provide exactly what was asked for, and don’t embellish your answer or add information that wasn’t asked. For example, the prosecutor might ask you, ‘What did Donovan Clarey say to you when he entered your bedroom?’ you’d answer, ‘He said Shut the fuck up! Don’t say another fucking word!’ Don’t add that you said something when he came into your bedroom. That’s not what you were asked. Now, if the question was worded ‘What was said between you and Donovan Clarey when he entered your bedroom on Friday, the thirteenth of July, 2010?’ then you’d give the full conversation as best you remember it. Say the exact words as you remember them, including swear words. Don’t worry about embarrassing anyone in the court. What you’re attesting to is what was said, including profanity.
“You will be asked questions that require a yes or no answer. For example, you might be asked, ‘Did Donovan Clarey call you a faggot?’ answer ‘Yes’ and not ‘Yes, and he called me a queer too’. If you go on the stand Don’s attorney will probably ask you questions that can be phrased to confuse you or make you mad. For example, you might be asked, ‘Did you and your friend Thomas Williams give Mr. Vanvelick the finger?’ In this case you would not answer yes or no. You would answer ‘Tom Williams gave Mr. Vanvelick the finger, but I did not.’ You might be asked, ‘Did Thomas Williams threaten Mr. Vanvelick?’ you would answer ‘I don’t know.’ Don’t answer “I don’t know because I was on our driveway across the street’ or ‘He wouldn’t do that’ or ‘He told me he didn’t’ or anything like that. You don’t know what Tom said to Mr. Vanvelick because you weren’t there. Don’t embellish if you don’t know something. It’s the attorney’s job to ask questions, and if they are incomplete or misstated somehow it’s not up to you to help them by giving more information.”
“There’s so much to remember. What if I screw up?”
“You’ll find the both the prosecutor and Don’s attorney will object to some questions the other asks. Also, remember that you might not be called to the witness stand. Most of what I’ve told you is common sense if you think about it for a few seconds. And do that when you’re asked a question that’s not straightforward or confusing. Nothing says you have to have an answer ready to give instantly. Okay?”
“Okay. I like the common sense thing. I think I have good common sense, so I’ll be sure to use it.”
“A few final rules. If the judge addresses you, refer to him or her as ‘Your Honor.’ Refer to the prosecutor and Don’s attorney as ma’am or sir. Now, the judge may want you to show your injuries. I expect that this will done in the judge’s chambers, with the prosecutor and Don’s attorney present. Also, there’s no jury. A bail hearing is done before a judge or magistrate who will make the decision. Finally, if bail is granted I don’t want you to make any comments out loud in the court or to anyone, period. Hold your comments and complaints to yourself until we’re in my car. This is very important because it might prejudice the battery case against Don. Any questions?”
“Just one. What’s a magistrate? Is that another name for a judge?”
“In some jurisdictions an officer of the court who is not a judge might be given the responsibility to grant or deny bail and if granted establish the amount. In our jurisdiction bail is always granted or denied by a judge.”
“I guess I understand. What you’re really saying is I don’t have to worry about a magistrate because that’s not used around here. Right?”
“Right. Now, if you have any questions now or later tonight or tomorrow morning, until we arrive at the courthouse, please ask me.”
“I will. How likely do you think it is that I’d be called as a witness?”
“I think there’s a reasonable chance of you being called to express your fear of Don, and that you think he might attack you again. I think there’s a slim chance of you being called only to show the injuries Don inflicted on you. I don’t think you’d be questioned anything else.”
“It’s too bad my bruises have faded.”
“Remember, the police have pictures of the bruises on your face and chest, and your broken arm including the x-rays, all of which Beth Wolman will enter into evidence. Don’s attorney might want to call you to show how quickly your bruises they’ve faded. I can see your face still shows considerable bruising, how about your chest?”
I pulled up my T and showed Mr. Williams where Don had slugged me. “I think it looks worse than my face, don’t you?”
“Actually, your face looks worse than your chest. It's because of your eye because it still looks like a black eye. Regardless of which is worse, I think the pictures will be the most effective evidence why Don shouldn’t be granted bail.”
“Okay. I guess all I have to do now is wait until tomorrow.”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Forgetting Can Be a Big Mistake
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