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 19 — Tomís Deposition
As I watched the car, unable to move and freaked that it was Don, whoever was inside opened the driver’s side window. It was an old man and he looked at me.
“Son, can you tell me how to get to Mulberry Avenue from here? We are totally lost and I don’t have a map.”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, then opened them and grinned.
“You need to go in the other direction. Go back about a mile or so and you’ll come to Mulberry.”
I heard a woman I hadn’t noticed say, “See, all you had to do is ask, George.”
The man looked at me, grinned, and shrugged his shoulders. The signal changed and he made a U-turn and headed back down Homestead in the direction that would take him to Mulberry.
I crossed the street and sad down on a bus bench. I thought about what had just happened and how I’d almost freaked thinking that it was Don driving that car. Shit. I had freaked. I was a basket case and I needed to see a counselor sooner instead of later. I thought about turning around and going back to The Williams’ house, my home now, and forget about the wrap to keep my arm cast dry. I could stay out of the pool. But I wanted to be in the water, and because I was messed up in my head about Don shouldn’t keep me from being normal about everything else.
I got up and continued to the drugstore. They had the arm cast wraps, in fact several different sizes. There was a tape measure attached to the edge of the shelf so I stood there and followed the instructions to measure my arm. It was a good thing it was already set up so it worked with my right arm. The medium size seemed to be a bit too long, but the instructions on the box showed how it could be cut to fit. It was $6.99 plus tax for a box of five. That seemed to be sort of expensive but I bought it anyway. The only thing that couldn’t be reused was the tape to seal it to my arm. So I bought a couple rolls of four inch wide waterproof adhesive tape so I could try to reuse the wraps. The total came to $13.51 with tax. Hey, nothing but the best for my broken arm! On the way out I stopped to look at the magazine rack. I liked to check out the latest computer magazines, but they only had a few and I’d seen them already, so I headed back.
I walked in at exactly twelve thirty.
I went upstairs to drop off my purchase and went to the bathroom then washed my hands. I walked downstairs to the kitchen.
“Hi, Mrs. W. I’m back.”
“Perfect timing, Curt. I hope you like egg salad sandwiches. That’s what you and I are having for lunch.”
I replied, “I love them,” as I walked into the kitchen. It was true, egg salad sandwiches were among my favorite kinds of sandwiches. I set my bag with the box of arm cast wraps and the adhesive tape on the floor. “After lunch I’ll show you what I bought.”
“Alright. Now, do you want potato chips or corn chips?”
“Potato chips, please. I like them better with egg salad sandwiches.”
“How about a pickle?”
“No thanks. I don’t like them with egg salad. Too much vinegar.”
“This is the first time I’ve heard you be a bit fussy about your food. But I understand exactly where you’re coming from. I prefer potato chips and no pickles with egg salad sandwiches myself. Maybe we’re related.”
“Okay, Mom.” I grinned at her, and she put a plate with two egg salad sandwiches on wheat bread in front of me. I picked up one half and took a bite.
“Oh, these are perfect. You put chopped celery in the egg salad, and lettuce and tomato on the sandwich. That’s exactly how I like them.”
“Thank you, Curt.”
“Where’s Tom ?”
“I think he’s been feeling left out with you and his dad spending so much of your time on the trial. That includes not going out to a restaurant for lunch. He talked his father into taking him to that Barbeque place just off the freeway. He’s going to reek of barbeque sauce when he gets home.”
“Mmm! Barbeque sauce!”
“Goodness, Curt. You too?”
“Yes, ma’am! There’s nothing like good barbeque, and the sauce is what makes it good.”
“I’d put the sauce second and the quality of the ribs first. The meat should fall right off the bone and be tender and succulent. Oh, I don’t believe it! Now I’m getting into the barbeque mood.”
“Well, I say that your egg salad sandwiches beat their barbeque lunch all to heck.”
“Why, thank you, Curt.”
We both dug into our sandwiches and they were delicious. There’s nothing like good egg salad sandwiches, and these were the best. Much better than what my mom or I could make.
When we finished lunch I showed Mrs. W the arm cast wraps. She read the instructions on the box.
“This looks easy, just like the bag you put around your arm so you can shower. There’s tape with each wrap, but this wide adhesive tape might be easier to apply, and it says it’s waterproof. How are you going to put it on at the party?”
“I’ll ask Tom to do it for me. I think he’ll do a good job.”
“Make sure he doesn’t wrap it too tight, don’t tense your biceps, and be careful and try to not get your cast wet.”
“As soon as I feel water on my left arm I’ll get out of the pool and take the cast wrap off. It would really suck if I had to have the cast redone.”
After I helped Mrs. W clean up the kitchen I got my books, binder, and laptop and went back to the kitchen and spread them out and started in on the Algebra 2 homework I hadn’t finished. It was about twenty minutes later when Tom and Mr. Williams arrived home.
“Hey, Curt! Oh, man, you missed such a great slab of ribs at the Backrib House.”
I laughed. “I can tell how good it was in two different ways.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Number one, you reek of barbeque sauce. Number two, you have barbeque sauce on your shirt.”
He looked down and saw the two places where he’d dripped barbeque sauce on his shirt. “Oh, shit! I’d better get the shirt taken care of right away. But you’ve gotta go with us to that barbeque place real soon. It is fantastic.”
He started unbuttoning the shirt and I grinned. Tom and food always had a close personal relationship.
“How did your deposition go today?”
“Piece of cake. She was late so we just sat there and I read a magazine. Once she got to us it only took about twenty minutes. Just like the time you said it took Mark and Kyle.”
“Now you’ll have something to tell everyone at school.”
“Yeah, that! Now I’ve gotta find Mom and find out how to soak this shirt. I just knew I shouldn’t have worn a white shirt today.”
Tom walked out and I went into the family room. Mr. Williams was sitting reading some papers, probably legal stuff.
“Uh, Mr. Williams, can we talk privately for a few minutes?”
“Sure, Curt, let’s go to my office.”
When we sat down I told him what happened today. “I think I need to talk to a counselor. I was walking to the drugstore and I saw a car parked on Homestead. The sun was shining on the driver’s side window. It looked like Don was in the car.” Mr. Williams started to say something but I put up my hand to stop him and continued. “I froze. I couldn’t move. I just stood there for seconds staring at that car. The driver opened his window and I saw it wasn’t Don. It was an older man and he asked me for directions. It really bothered me that I froze. It was just like when I saw Don near the courthouse. I sat at a bus stop for a few minutes to get my head straight. I decided that I need to see a counselor, and soon.”
“Curt, this morning I phoned a counselor I know. I want you to know that I represented him in a real estate matter, so he is one of my clients. You need to consider whether that’s acceptable to you.”
“Sure, I don’t care.” I saw his expression. “I’m too young to figure out if that’s a big deal or no problem at all. I vote for the no problem at all. Can you call him and make an appointment for me?”
“Yes, I’ll do that right now.”
Mr. Williams spent a few minutes on the phone arranging an appointment for me with Doctor Hillyer at four thirty on July 30th. That’s a Monday, so if the trial was still on Mr. Williams said it would be over by four and it’s only a five minute walk to Doctor Hillyer’s office. It was funny that making the appointment was such a huge relief. I smiled, and Mr. Williams noticed that.
“Feeling better now, Curt?”
“Yeah. It’s funny, but knowing I’m going to see a counselor made me feel so much better. Thanks. You’re fantastic. You’re like a replacement Dad for me.”
“Thank you, Curt. You are a wonderful young man and I’m glad you’re living here with us.”
Once all the mushy stuff was over I went back to the kitchen and finally got back to work and started on my Algebra 2 workbook. I looked at the class calendar then counted up the problems I had to solve. There were about ninety of them. I took a deep breath and got to work on them.
I was surprised that it took me just under two hours to finish all of the problems, including those where Mrs. Gibbs wanted proofs. I stood and stretched. Now I needed to study for the final. I looked at the kitchen clock. It was three fifteen. That gave me about three hours before dinner, and maybe a couple of hours after dinner if I needed it.
I walked to the refrigerator and got a root beer, opened it, and returned to the kitchen table and opened my textbook, Algebra 2: Concepts, Skills and Problem Solving, California Edition. It had 873 pages — I’d checked the last page in the book — and that sucker weighed over five pounds. Man, when are they going to have our textbooks on a Kindle? That’s something I’d love, and the school district would probably love it too because they’d save a ton of money.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to start on page one. I’d used those little colored Post-it flags to mark the pages I needed to read and study. I also had all of my quizzes and exams, the ones that I’d already taken, that I could use as a study guide. “If it’s on a quiz or an exam, then you know it’s going to be on your final.” I remembered Mrs. Gibbs telling us that. I was tempted to go directly to my quizzes and exams. But I figured that I’d do better by going through the pages I’d marked in a chapter in the textbook then go over the problems and questions on the quiz or exam related to that chapter. That’s how I started.
I looked up. Tom was standing next to me in shorts and a T that read:
I did a double-take then busted up laughing. “You gotta be kidding. Your mother let you buy this?”
“She hasn’t seen it.”
“Oh. My. God.”
“You think this is going to be a problem?”
“I don’t know your mother well enough to say. It’s pretty gutsy of you, though. Make sure you don’t wear it when you’re called to testify.”
Mrs. W walked in the kitchen. “What’s pretty gutsy of Tom?”
Tom turned so she could see the front of the T and held his arms out. “Ta Da!”
Mrs. W started laughing. When she calmed down a bit, she called out, “Michael, come in here. You need to see this.”
Mr. Williams didn’t laugh, but he grinned and shook his head.
“Very clever, Thomas.”
“Oops,” Tom replied, “you don’t like it?”
“I don’t have an opinion. I’m sure when you wear it to school you’re going to get a lot of amused comments and you’re likely to be categorized in a way you don’t like.”
“Why would I be categorized? It means some girl’s boyfriend thinks I’m hot which means he’s probably gay. And anyway, nobody cares if you’re gay or straight or bi or whatever anymore.”
I looked at Mr. Williams and nodded. “That’s true, at least at Los Arcos High.”
“What about the school staff? There are rules about inappropriate clothing. You had to sign the agreement that you wouldn’t wear inappropriate clothing, and your mother had to sign the same agreement. I’d suspect that they would include that statement on your t-shirt in the inappropriate category.”
“I don’t think so. It’s not about sex, it’s not profanity, and it doesn’t include any inappropriate words, so why would they tell me I can’t wear it?”
I was curious. “When were you planning to wear it?”
“First day of school. That’s always a laid back casual day where we can wear T’s and shorts, and we have short schedule and not much gets done.”
“Tom,” Mrs. W told him, “I don’t want you coming home and telling us that you were suspended on the first day of school.”
“Won’t happen. If they tell me to take it off, I’ll just turn it inside out like this.” He pulled off the T, turned it inside out, and it was just a plain black T. You couldn’t see any words showing through, just the manufacturer’s label at the back of the neck.
“Well, we’re not going to tell you what to wear. But as your mother told you, it’s up to you to stay out of trouble, especially on the first day of school.”
“Okay, I can deal with that. Uh, when’s dinner?”
“In about an hour. We’re having lamb chops, baked potato, and green beans.”
“That sounds great. Hey Curt, you ready for a little snack?”
All three of us, not including Tom, groaned.
“You can’t be hungry after that huge lunch!” His dad exclaimed.
“Sure I am. I’m a growing boy and I have to feed this magnificent body. How about it, mom?”
“There are some apples in the refrigerator.”
“Okay, that’s good. Healthy, too. How about you, Curt?”
“No thanks. I’ll wait for dinner. Mrs. W, I’ll move my stuff to the dining room if that’s okay.”
“We’re having dinner in the dining room tonight, so you can leave your things right here.”
“I won’t be in your way?”
“Not at all.”
I got back to my textbook and quizzes and exams. I figured that if could get in another hour I’d be about half way through. I was planning on going in on Monday and taking the exam I’d missed and the current quiz. Mrs. Gibbs had told me that I could skip the two quizzes I’d missed and she wouldn’t count them in my grade.
Mrs. W started dinner. After about forty-five minutes the wonderful smells of her cooking, especially the lamb chops, were too much for me. I stuck a sheet of paper in my textbook to mark where I was and gathered up my stuff.
“Mrs. W, I’m going to head upstairs and stow my stuff and wash up for dinner.”
“Alright, Curt, We’ll be eating in about twenty minutes.”
“I’ll come down and set the table in the dining room.”
“You don’t have to do that, Curt.”
“Since I’m eating your food and living in your house I should do the same sort of thing I did when I was living with my mom.”
“Thank you. You know where everything is?”
I set the table and Mrs. W brought out the food.
“Wow, those lamb chops smell so good.”
“They are loin lamb chops from New Zealand. They’re expensive but are worth every penny. I marinated them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary from our garden. Do you like lamb, Curt?”
“Oh, yeah! I like almost everything to eat. Sort of like Tom but more restrained.” I grinned.
“Yes, I’ve noticed you’re more restrained. I guess because Tom is an athlete he needs to eat more, but good grief, sometimes I wonder.”
“I wouldn’t worry about him. He’s not fat, even though I joke about his big butt and gaining weight. He is getting bigger, but in a good way. Taller, broader, and more muscle.”
“Well, he certainly didn’t get any of that from my side of the family. We have a tendency to just gain weight in improper places like the waist, hips, and as you said, the butt. I’m proud of Tom. He’s a great boy, the best that we can afford.” She grinned and I laughed.
“I think he’s a great guy. He and I are best friends. It’s tough being a best friend, and I can say from experience that he does that job exactly right. I wouldn’t want anyone else that I know to take that over from Tom. I hope he feels the same way about me.”
“He does, Curt. I think it goes beyond just best friends for Tom. I think he loves you like you were his brother. He always wanted a brother, but that didn’t happen. So you’re filling that void for him. He’s lucky that it’s you who’s filling that role.”
“You know that I feel the same about Tom. We do love each other like brothers, and he fills that role for me, too.”
“You are a good person, Curt.” She pulled me into a hug and kissed me on the cheek.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Forgetting Can Be a Big Mistake
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