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 27 — Mark is Injured
I picked up the phone. “Hi, Mom. Mrs. Williams said you had something very important.”
“It is very important, Curt. Do you know where Kyle is? His mother’s been trying to reach him but his cellphone transfers to voicemail.”
“I left Laura’s party early, but Mr. Williams took Kyle and Mark home and he and Tom are back, so let me ask Tom if he knows where Kyle is. Hold on, okay?”
I pressed the Hold button and went looking for Tom. I found him in the family room watching TV.
“Tom, it’s my mom. She got a call from Kyle’s mom in Chicago asking where he is. She’s been trying to reach him and his cell goes to voicemail. Did your dad drop him and Mark at Mrs. Hutchins’ house?”
“Yeah, it was what, about an hour ago. You could call Mrs. Hutchins and find out if he’s there.”
“It’s easier to have Mom walk next door. Remember, Mrs. Hutchins lives next door to my mom’s house.”
I took the call off hold. “Mom, you there?”
“Yes. What did you find out?”
Mr. Williams dropped Kyle and Mark off at Mrs. Hutchins’ house about an hour ago. She lives next door to you. Just walk over there and ask for Kyle.”
“Mrs. Hutchins moved into that house that’s to the left of our house?”
“Yes, that’s it, the light yellow house with grey shutters.”
“Alright, thank you, Curt. I’ll go over there right now. Bye.”
I went in the kitchen and hung up the phone, then returned to the family room. “Man, that was sure a non-event.”
“What was it about, Curt?” Tom asked, just as Mrs. W walked into the family room.
“Did you talk to your mother, Curt?”
“Yeah, it was nothing. Seems like Kyle’s mother is trying to get ahold of him and his cell was shut off so calls went to voicemail so I guess she got worried. We all turned off our cells when we put them in the lockers in the pool house at Laura’s. He must have forgotten to turn his back on. I told Mom that she could see Kyle at Mrs. Hutchins’ house and reminded her that it’s right next door to her house. She’s going over there right now to tell him to call his mom.”
“Well, I hope that it turns out to be nothing serious.”
“Yeah, it’s probably about his textbooks for fall semester. Or maybe she wants to find out about what’s going on with the trial.”
Tom looked at me. “Damn, I’d forgotten about the trial, and that it’s on Tuesday. That’s like day after tomorrow. I’ve gotta talk to Dad about what to say if I’m called as a witness.”
“You should do that right now,” Mrs. W told him. “And don’t swear.”
“I didn’t swear!”
“Oh, yes you did,” I told him. “You said the D-word.” I grinned and looked at Mrs. W who was trying to stifle a grin.
“Oh. Maybe I did. Sorry about that.” He got up. “I’ll go see if Dad’s in his office so we can talk about the trial.”
“I’m going to call Laura and suggest that we go to El Ribolo in Clayton. Hmm… I wonder who’ll drive us there. Laura has her learner’s permit but she can’t take passengers under 18 unless there’s an adult in the car.”
“I think you’ll like it,” Mrs. W said. “If you need a ride, let me know. I’ll drop the three of you off and visit my sister and have lunch with her.”
“Okay, I’ll let you know if we need to have you drive us. And thanks for offering to do that.”
I discovered that I’d left my cell in my bedroom, so I went upstairs to get it. I decided that I might as well call from there, so I laid down and dialed Laura. After about six rings she picked it up.
“Hi, Laura. We decided where we’d like to go to lunch tomorrow. Ruth’s Chris Steak House. How’s that?”
“Dufus! We can’t go there.”
“Hey, you said anywhere! Why can’t we go there for lunch?” I tried to stifle my laughter.
“It’s not open for lunch, that’s why.”
We both were laughing, and finally I stopped. “I was just kidding. Someday I want to go to Ruth’s Chris and have a huge steak but there’s no way I could afford to do that now. Maybe when I’m rich and famous. Anyway, how about El Ribolo instead? Tom’s mom suggested we go there.”
“Yes! That’s a great Mexican place. You’ve never eaten there?”
“No. My mom doesn’t like spicy food, so that meant no Mexican, Thai, Indian, anything spicy. I love spicy, and Mexican is my favorite. Mrs. Williams said she could drive us.”
“My mom’s right here listening to what I’m saying, and she said she’ll drive us wherever. Mom loves El Ribolo so I know she’ll want to have lunch there.” There was a brief pause and I heard Laura talking to her mother.
“Mom says she’ll meet a friend of hers for lunch who lives near Clayton so that’ll work out perfectly. And don’t worry, I’ll make sure that she’s at a table on the other side of the restaurant so we can talk all we want.” I heard her mother laughing in the background. “We’ll get a booth so it’ll be more private.”
“What time do you want to pick us up?”
“Lemme ask Mom.”
I heard her talking to her mom in the background and it sounded like they’d decided.
“We’ll pick up the two of you at twelve thirty. That way most people will be finished by the time we get there and it won’t be as busy and it’ll be more quiet for us to talk.”
“Okay, hang on. I’m sure it’s okay with Tom, but let me check.”
I went downstairs and didn’t see Tom. I found Mrs. W in the family room reading.
“Excuse me, do you know where Tom is?”
“I think he’s still in the office with his dad.”
“Oh, that’s right. Okay, I’m going to tell Laura that they can pick us up at twelve thirty tomorrow. Do you know of any reason that wouldn’t work for Tom?”
“I think that should be fine, Curt. I’m sure he doesn’t have anything planned.”
“Thanks, Mrs. W.”
I sat down at the table in the kitchen.
“That’s who you’re talking at!”
“Twelve-thirty is fine. We’re going to dress casual, is that okay?”
“Sure. El Ribolo isn’t a fancy place. The guy who runs it is Manuel Ribolo, and he’ll come to our table a couple times to make sure everything is okay. I think it’s the best Mexican food anywhere. There’s real fancy places in the city like Luna, and the food’s great but it’s expensive. El Ribolo is like home cooking Mexican, and everything is fantastic. I’m looking forward to taking you guys to lunch there mañana!”
“We’re looking forward to lunch too.”
“Well, I’ve gotta run. Sara and I are going to watch a movie on pay-per-view. I love you guys, I hope you know that.”
“We love you too, Laura. I’m glad our little argument is over.”
“Me too. Especially me too. See you tomorrow. Bye.”
I hung up and put my cell in my pocket. A couple seconds later it played my ringtone. I pulled it out and looked at the caller ID. It was Mom calling.
“Hi, Mom. Did you find Kyle?”
“No. There’s no one home at Mrs. Hutchins’ house.”
“Maybe they went somewhere, like to a movie or shopping or something. You know, I have Mark’s cell number. Let me try to get ahold of him and I’ll call you back.”
“Thanks, Curt. Call me no matter whether you were able to reach Mark or not.”
I hung up and dialed Mark’s cell number. It went to voicemail. I left a message asking him to call me back and to have Kyle call his mother right away because she needed to talk to him. Then I called Kyle’s cell number and it went to voicemail so I left a message for him to call his mother and then to call me back.
I called Mom.
“Curt? Did you reach Mark?”
“No, my call went to voicemail. I asked him to call me back and to have Kyle call his mother right away because she needed to talk to him. Then I tried Kyle’s number and it went to voicemail too, so I left a message for him.”
“I’m going to watch Mrs. Hutchins’ house to see if anyone comes home or if the lights turn on. If you hear from Kyle or Mark will you please call me?”
“Sure. Mr. Williams is in a meeting right now. When he’s finished I’ll ask him about dropping off Kyle and Mark at Mrs. Hutchins’ and I’ll call you if he noticed anything when he dropped them off.”
“Alright. Thank you, Curt.”
“Do you know why Kyle’s mom wanted to talk to him?”
“No, she just said that she needed to talk to him. Do you know of any reason she’d try to reach him?”
“The only thing that Kyle told me is that his mom would probably have to go to the school to get his textbooks for fall semester. Maybe there’s a problem with that. If you’re going to phone her, why don’t you ask her?”
“That’s rather personal. I’d feel uncomfortable doing that. Still, I need to phone her to give her an update, so I suppose I could ask.”
“If you find out anything, let me know, okay?”
“Yes, I will. I’ll call her now. Bye, Curt.”
I closed my phone and put it back in my pocket. I went to the family room and updated Mrs. W.
“Curt, I think this is serious enough for you to interrupt Tom and his dad. I’ll go with you.”
Mrs. W knocked on Mr. Williams’ office door then opened it.
“Michael, can we interrupt for a minute or two?”
“Yes. Is there a problem?”
“Yes. Kyle’s mother called Curt’s mother and told her she needed to talk to Kyle, but his cellphone went to voicemail and he never called her back. Curt, why don’t you continue.”
I summarized what I knew about what we’d done to find Kyle. I finished by telling what I’d just talked to my mom about.
“My mother is going to call Kyle’s mom and tell her what I just told you. She’s also going to ask her why she needs to get in touch with him. I think if we know that it might help, though it’s probably about getting his textbooks for the fall semester.
“I’m wondering if you and Tom noticed anything maybe unusual about Kyle and Mark too when you picked them up and drove them home.”
“They seemed to be fine,” Mr. Williams said. “They were laughing and joking, and told me everything about Laura’s party, especially the part when she unwrapped her birthday presents and the food. I didn’t notice anything unusual about either of them. Tom, you know them better. Did you notice anything?”
“Nope. I agree with you, Dad. They were happy and both said that they had a great time and that it was the best birthday party ever.”
“Michael, did you watch them go into Mrs. Hutchins’ house?” Mrs. W asked.
“Yes. Mark unlocked the door and they both went into the house and closed the door.”
“Did you see Mrs. Hutchins?” I asked.
“No. Tom, did you see her when they went into the house?”
“No. I got out of the car when they did, said bye to them, and watched them go to the door and inside. I saw Mark ring the doorbell and then unlock the door. I thought he probably wanted to let Mrs. Hutchins know they were home.”
“Were there any cars in the driveway or parked out front?”
“None in the driveway and not right in front, but there was a car parked across the street in front of old man Vanvelick’s place. It probably doesn’t mean anything. I noticed it because it’s the first Chevy Volt I’ve seen. Also, I didn’t see anyone walking on the street,” Tom replied.
“You know,” I said, “one thing I can do is ask my mother to check with the hospital and see if any of them are there, like in emergency. Maybe Mrs. Hutchins got sick or fell down.”
Mrs. W said, “That’s a good idea, Curt,” as I pulled out my cell and speed dialed my mom.
“Hi, Mom. Mr. Williams and Tom both said they watched Kyle and Mark go into Mrs. Hutchins’ house, and that they kept talking about how much fun they had at Laura’s birthday party. I wondered, could you call the hospital and find out if maybe Mrs. Hutchins or Kyle or Mark was brought into emergency? I thought maybe one of them is sick or fell down or something.”
“That’s an excellent idea, Curt. I’ll call right now and find out. I’ll call you back.”
“Great. Thanks, Mom. Oh, wait. Did you talk to Kyle’s mom?”
“No, she wasn’t home so I left a message. It’s two hours later there than here, you know.”
“Okay, bye.” I ended the call. I wasn’t sure why being two hours later made any difference because it would only be about nine p.m. there.
I told Mrs. W, “My mom’s going to call the hospital and find out if any of them checked in. She called Kyle’s mom but she wasn’t home so she couldn’t ask why she wanted to talk to Kyle,”.
“Well, there’s no reason to wait in here for her to call back about the hospital. I’m going to fix a light snack, and why don’t you go into the family room and watch TV. Michael, sorry for the interruption. You and Tom can coninue now.”
As usual I couldn’t get interested in anything on TV, so I went upstairs to my room and got my laptop and took it downstairs. I opened the Kindle app and started reading the Midnight Dude collection of short stories. The first story, Please Come With Me by Douglas Grant, was scary as hell. It’s about a time when most of the states have laws against gays, and two gay teens are trying to escape to California where being gay is okay.
Tom and Mr. and Mrs. Williams came in and Tom turned on the TV. Mr. Williams asked, “Curt, will the TV bother you?”
“Nope. When I read I sort of shut out everything going on around me. That also helps me study. But thanks for asking.” I got back to the story.
It must have been at least twenty minutes later when I got a call from my mom on my cell. I turned on the speakerphone so the Williams could all hear.
“Hi, Mom. I’ve got my speaker on so Mr. and Mrs. Williams and Tom can hear what you say. Did you find out anything?”
“Mark took a shower and slipped in the bathtub and banged his head against the faucet and was bleeding. Kyle heard him call for help and got him out of the tub, then he helped him get dressed. Mrs. Hutchins bandaged his head and drove them to Valley Medical Center. He’s still in emergency. He’s scheduled to have an MRI brain scan and they’re waiting for that.”
“Wow. If they want to do one of those tests they must be worried that he has a brain injury, right?”
“That’s why they want to do the test. It’s unlikely, but it’s best to be sure.”
“If I went to the hospital would I be able to see Mark?”
“Well, I could get you in. Normally relatives are the only ones allowed in the emergency examination rooms. I think Mrs. Hutchins would like to have company while she’s waiting for the test to be over, so I’m going to go. If you’d like, you can come with me and see him.”
“Hang on a minute, Mom.” I put the phone on hold.
“You want to go too, Tom?”
I got back on my cell. “Mom, can Tom come along?”
“Okay. But no one else; I’m already bending hospital rules.”
“That’s okay. Can you pick us up at the William’s?”
“Yes. I’ll leave in about five minutes, be there in ten.”
“Okay, thanks. Bye.”
Mom did arrive in ten minutes and took me and Tom to Valley Medical Center. She was wearing her Valley Medical Center badge. She parked in the staff lot and we walked toward the entrance.
“Alright. I don’t want you two to say anything when we get inside. I’m not sure who is on duty at the admissions desk tonight. If it’s someone I know, I’ll be able to get you in. If it’s not, then I’m going to have to leave you in the waiting room and go find someone who can get you in. Okay?”
I smirked. “Yes, Mommy!”
She scowled at me, shook her head, and said, “Boys!”
We walked in and I tapped Tom on his shoulder and pointed to two unoccupied chairs next to each other, and we walked over and sat down. Mom walked up to the admissions desk and talked to the girl sitting there. They were smiling so it seemed like they knew each other. Mom turned and pointed at us, then turned back and spent a couple minutes talking to the admissions girl. I guess they were done because Mom walked over to us and grinned.
“Here, put these around your left wrists and snap them closed, and attach these labels to the outside of your jackets. Let’s go. You can visit with Kyle and Mark until Mark has to go in for his MRI, then both of you and Kyle will have to return here to the waiting room, and so will I and Mrs. Hutchins. It will take about an hour for the scan to be finished and a preliminary analysis to be prepared, and there’s no need for you to wait around here while that’s happening. In that case I’m going to take Mrs. Hutchins home with me. I recommend that the three of you come along and go home. After that, once I hear about Mark I’ll let you know. Okay?”
“I guess so. It just seems like we’re abandoning him here in the hospital, but if we can come back when he’s finished getting his MRI then that’s okay.”
“You might not be able to see Mark if he’s admitted to the hospital. You’ll have to wait until he’s assigned a room. That would be overnight and you can visit him in the morning.”
“Are you saying that Mark isn’t going to be able to go home after his MRI?”
“That’s a possibility, Curt. The doctor decided that he should have an MRI instead of a CT scan which takes much less time. He would do that if he felt there is a chance of brain damage due to the fall. But note that I said a chance, so there’s also a chance that Mark can come home tonight.”
“Okay, can we go see him now?”
“Yes. Let’s go. He’s in examination room fourteen.”
We walked down a hallway that had examination rooms along both sides with odd numbered rooms on the left and even on the right. Exam room fourteen was at the end where the hallway joined another hall. A curtain blocked the door. It looked like they made it from the same crummy fabric as hospital gowns.
“Wait here, guys,” Mom told us. “I’ll check to make sure Mark can have visitors right now.”
Mom pushed the curtain aside and walked in. A couple seconds later she pulled the curtain open.
“You can come in. They’ve given Mark a pain killer in his IV, so he’s a little groggy. Kyle said he’s asked for the two of you.”
We walked in. I compared the exam room to my hospital room when I was here with my broken arm. The exam room could have fit in the bathroom of my hospital room. I could see why Mom said no more than me and Tom could come to see Mark. Kyle and Mrs. Hutchins were standing next to Mark’s bed. Mom stood at the other side but away from the bed.
Kyle turned and saw us come in.
“Hey, Mark! Curt and Tom are here to see you.”
“Uh… hi, guys.”
“Hi, Mark,” I said. “I guess you’re not feeling so good.”
Mark’s speech was soft and slurred a bit. “Uh-uh. I have a headache that won’t quit. They gave me a pain killer in my IV but it hasn’t helped yet.”
“Man, that must have been awful, slipping in the tub and hitting your head like that,” Tom said.
“Yeah. I’m glad Kyle heard me ‘cause I couldn’t yell very loud.”
“I heard you loud and clear, Mark. I’m glad I did hear you over the sound of the water still running in the shower.”
“How’d it happen?” Tom asked.
“I turned around to get the shampoo and my foot slipped and I fell backward. I think I passed out for a few seconds ‘cause I don’t remember anything between slipping and lying in the tub bleeding. It was so stupid.”
“It wasn’t stupid, Mark.” Tom and I turned around to see this huge guy in a doctor’s white coat standing at the entrance to the exam room. His badge read ‘Dr. John Nordine’. “Slipping in the bathtub is the second most common cause for falls by teens in the home. Number one is falling down stairs.”
“Hi, doc. You here to make my headache go away?”
“You’re receiving a mild sedative already. That should begin to help. Right now what we’re going to do is take you down to the imaging department and you’ll have your MRI.”
“Isn’t an MRI very noisy, doctor?” Mrs. Hutchins asked.
“We have an Open-MRI scanner here at Valley Medical Center. It doesn’t have the loud banging noise that’s common with standard MRI equipment. Instead, Mark, you’ll hear tapping sounds as the images are taken. It’s very comfortable, and it doesn’t hurt.
“Now, I’m going to ask that you finish chatting with Mark and we’ll take him for his MRI. He’ll be back in about forty five minutes. In the meantime, I’d like to chat with Mrs. Clarey for a few minutes, if that’s okay with you, Virginia.”
“Sure. Where would you like to go?”
“We can step into exam room twelve. There’s no one there right now. That will let Mrs. Hutchins and Mark’s friends finish their visit and return to the waiting room.”
Mom and Doctor Nordine left to have some sort of discussion. I planned on asking her what they talked about. I worried that Mark’s injury might be very serious.
Mrs. Hutchins took Mark’s hand. “This is quite an adventure, isn’t it, Mark?”
“I suppose. I’d rather not be having an adventure in the hospital, though.”
“Well, they’re taking good care of you here. You’re lucky that we have such a good hospital right here in town. Now I’ll go out to the waiting room and try to save seats together so you boys can chat.”
With that she left the exam room and the three of us moved as close as we could to Mark’s bed just as an orderly came in.
“I guess we’d better get out of here so we’re not in anyone’s way,” I said
“I’m glad you guys came to see me. The three of you are my best friends. And Parker too, of course.”
“We are best friends,” Tom told him. “Remember, as best friends we’re always here for you.”
“Thanks, guys. I think the orderly wants you out, right?” Mark said to the orderly.
“I have some things to do that’ll take a minute or two,” the orderly replied. “When I want you three out of here its because I’ll be moving the patient to Medical Imaging, and I’ll let you know.”
The three of us chatted with Mark for a couple minutes about Laura’s birthday party, about school, about Mark’s summer session classes and what he should do about letting the teachers know and how to get his homework.
Too soon, the orderly asked us to leave, and we walked to the waiting room. Now there were lots of empty chairs, and Mom and Mrs. Hutchins were sitting together. We took the three chairs next to Mrs. Hutchins.
Then I remembered something I’d forgotten about. “Kyle, you need to phone your mom. She’s been trying to call you but your phone goes directly to voicemail. She called my mom and it seemed important, right Mom?”
“Yes, she became worried when she couldn’t get either you or Mrs. Hutchins using your cellphone numbers and the house number. What happened to your cell?”
“Nothing. It should be working fine.” Kyle took his phone out of his pocket and stared at it for a couple seconds, then he pushed a button, probably the power button. “Damn, I guess I forgot to turn it back on after I got it from the locker at Laura’s party.”
“Happened to me too,” Tom offered. “But I couldn’t get Mark’s cell and my mom couldn’t get Mrs. Hutchins’ cell either.”
“I guess the call came after Mark fell,” Kyle told us. “His cell is probably in his bedroom. I think with all the excitement getting Mark to emergency Mrs. Hutchins forgot her phone.
“Guys, I’m going outside to call my mom before she calls out the air force to rescue me. Save my seat, okay?”
Mrs. Hutchins replied. “Yes, we’ll hold your seat. Go on and make your call.”
Mom stood up and looked at me. “Curt, can we talk privately for a few minutes?”
“That’s okay, I guess. Where do you want to go?”
“There’s an office past the examination rooms. Let’s go there.”
I followed her past the exam rooms then we made a right turn and continued until we got to an office on our left. Mom opened the door and checked if it was in use. It wasn’t, so we went in and she closed the doors.
“Curt, I have something to tell you. I’d like for you to keep it confidential, just between you and me. I went to see a divorce attorney two weeks ago, and he completed the papers. I’m divorcing Donovan Clarey. I’d like you to come home, to move back home, Curt.”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Forgetting Can Be a Big Mistake
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