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 48 — Donís Verdict Announced
I took a deep breath. I looked across at Mrs. W and tried to pretend that she looked like my mom. I closed my eyes, and that helped. Now I had to decide how to start the conversation about me being gay. I opened my eyes.
“Uh, Mom uh, we need to talk. Is this a good time?”
“Sure, Curt. What would you like to talk about?”
“I have something I want to talk to you about that I think is really important for both of us. It’s sort of embarrassing, but it’s about who I am. Who I really am. You know that I’ve been seeing a counselor, Doctor Hillyer, to help me get over what’s happened to me the past few weeks. Also, there’s always been something in the back of my mind that’s nagged at me. What Doctor Hillyer said and what’s been in the back of my mind turned out to be just like adding two and two. Everything just clicked into place.
“You know that I’ve said that I’m straight, that I’m not gay. I have a lot of friends who are girls, but they’re just friends, and I’m not interested in them any other way than being just friends. Now I realize that I’m gay. You’re a nurse, so you know that being gay is in a person’s genes, so it’s not something I decided all of a sudden.”
“Now that the trial is over I’ll be moving back home. And part of what I’ll be bringing home with me is the fact that I’m gay, and I have a boyfriend. Otherwise I’m still the same son you had all along. I sure hope that you’re okay with that. Now I’d like to know if you have any questions.”
I stopped talking, and waited for Mrs. W to say something. I could see she delayed replying right away to think about what I said, and to compose her answer. I wondered if my mom would also take time to think of what she would say to me.
“I don’t know how to respond,” Mrs. W said in a tone of voice closer to my mom’s. “Have you met someone who’s convinced you that you’re gay?”
Whoa! That was a question I didn’t expect. I didn’t think my mom would ask that question, but what I think isn’t what my mom might be thinking.
“Nobody has convinced me that I’m gay. I came to that conclusion all by myself. I realized that I’m attracted to guys, not to girls. The stories about kids being turned gay by somebody are a myth. On my way to school recently I ran into a friend, and things he said helped me understand that I’m gay and that I’ve always been gay. Then my counseling sessions with Dr. Hillyer finalized it.”
“Being gay isn’t natural.”
“All of the scientific research shows that being gay is natural. It’s as natural as having green eyes, or being left-handed. Being gay isn’t right or wrong — it just is what it is.”
“Being gay is condemned in the Bible.”
“That depends on how you interpret the Bible. The Bible-thumpers you hear on TV say what’s in the Bible has to be believed literally. The trouble is the Bible wasn’t written in English. Every Bible we read today is a translation of a translation of another translation and so on. If you go back to the original documents, written in the original languages, many parts of the Bible are being misinterpreted. There are a lot of other thing the Bible says that you can’t do, like men can’t shave their beards, and you can’t wear clothes made of two fabrics, and you can’t eat pork or shellfish. The only one that’s yelled about from the pulpits and on TV is that it’s a sin to be gay.
“But I don’t want this to be a religious discussion. There are churches that condemn gays and churches that accept gays. There are religions that condemn gays and religions that accept gays. My own belief is that God made me and God had a purpose in making me gay.”
“The church says, ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ so you can be gay as long as you don’t have gay sex.”
“I don’t think God would punish me for being born the way he made me. I think that if what I might do is a sin or not is between me and God.”
Mrs. W grinned. “This is an aside, Curt. I think that’s a very clever answer. The ‘what I might do’ part is ambiguous. It implies that you’re not having sex, but it doesn’t say that you’re not having sex. Let’s see, what might your mom say next?” She sat and thought for a moment, then continued.
“It must be my fault!”
“Come on, Mom! It’s my genes, but it isn’t your fault. It's just like how my hair always looks like I have bed-head isn’t your fault either. Besides, no one has found a specific ‘gay gene’ and it appears that it’s a combination of genes.”
“We must not have raised you right. You didn’t have a father around when it was most important.”
“That says you think it’s not genetic, that it’s the way you raised me. It’s in my genes, not in the way you raised me which has nothing to do with my being gay.”
“There are camps where they teach gay kids to become straight. I could send you to one of those camps.”
“Those are X-Gay camps. You need to read the truth about them. They don’t work. Over seventy percent of the kids that go through those camps return to being the same gay kids they were before. The other thirty percent are mostly screwed up mentally by the brainwashing they went through at the camps.”
“Are you sure you’re gay?”
“Yes, I’m positive that I’m gay. I’ve been seeing a counselor, Doctor Hillyer. He specializes in counseling teens, and he’s really helped me understand how I suppressed knowing that I’m gay. He’d like to see you. He thinks it’s important that you meet with him so he can answer any questions you have.”
“Are you having sex with another boy?”
“Mom! That’s not something I’m going to answer. Maybe I am and maybe I’m not. I’m not about to tell you.”
“You’re too young to have sex.”
“Almost all boys, straight or gay, mess around, they have sex, with other boys. It’s experimentation. When a guy has a girlfriend and the relationship gets serious, they probably have sex with each other. When a guy has a boyfriend and the relationship gets serious, they probably have sex with each other. That’s the way it is today. So having sex isn’t that big a deal, especially between two guys because neither of them can get pregnant.”
“I’m stepping out of character for a minute, Curt,” Mrs. W said. “This is likely to cause you and your mom to get into an argument. It opens up the question of STDs and safe sex and lots of things you probably will get into with her later, when you tell her that you and Tom are boyfriends. I recommend that you don’t get into it now, Okay?”
“But how should I answer this question? You asked it, so you must think she might ask it when I tell her that I’m gay.”
“How about like this. ‘Almost all boys experiment with other boys when they start going through puberty. It’s just part of growing up.’ Does that work for you?”
“Yeah, that’s a much better answer. I already said something about not going to answer her question about am I having sex with another guy, and your answer fits with that other answer.”
“I agree. I’m still out of character. How are you going to remember your answers? I know you have a good memory, but it’s not that good! No one’s is.”
I pulled my micro recorder out of my shirt pocket and grinned. “I’m recording our session.”
“Ah ha! That’s a very good idea.” She sat for a few seconds.
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
There it is, the most loaded question. I figured a straightforward answer would be best.
“Who is it?”
“How long has this been going on?”
“About a week.”
“Stepping out of character again,” Mrs. W said, “this is a problematic question, Curt. That’s partly because of your testimony at the trial, and partly because you’ve been staying with us. I’m not saying you should lie, but I think maybe you could give a less direct answer.”
“Okay, how about this.
“I know a couple boys I like, but it’s too soon for me to say I have a boyfriend yet.”
I looked at Mrs. W and shrugged my shoulders, looking for her to comment.
“That’s an excellent answer, Curt. It’s not a lie, it’s what Michael would call ‘obscuration’. That means you’re obscuring, or concealing, a direct answer.”
I grinned. “Thanks. I’m going to have to remember that one.”
“I can’t think of any other questions, Curt. Maybe what you should to is transcribe what you recorded, then go over it with Tom and incorporate any ideas he has, then print it and show it to me and we can see if there’s anything that we missed.”
“Good idea, Mrs. W. I’ll have it ready to go over with Tom in a half hour, then maybe we can review it before dinner?”
“How can you have it transcribed so fast?”
I grinned. “Speech to text software. All I have to do is clean up the parts where it didn’t get exactly what we said.”
She shook her head. “This technology thing is moving so fast I can’t keep up. Just let me know, and I’ll make time to sit down with you.”
“Okay, thanks Mrs. W.”
I went upstairs to my bedroom and connected a USB cable from my micro recorder to my laptop. I imported the audio file and passed it through the speech to text program. There were a few places where it merged one of Mrs. W’s sentences onto one of mine. There were some places where words weren’t converted correctly, and some others where a word was missed or where two or more words were merged into one wrong word. I also made the change that Mrs. W suggested. After a half hour I figured everything had been transferred and converted, and I printed two copies.
I went across to Tom’s bedroom and looked inside.
“Hey, Tom, you have a minute?”
“For you, Curt, any time. What’s up?”
“Your mom and I practiced how I’d tell my mom that I’m gay, and how I’d answer her questions. Your mom played the part of my mom and asked the questions. I recorded what we said and converted it to text and cleaned it up. Then I printed a couple copies. What I’d like you to do is go through what’s there, and let me know what you think is missing, both in my answers and the questions.”
“Okay. Lemme go through this and I’ll make some notes. Oh yeah, and I’m glad you finally made something you wanted me to edit double spaced so I have room to write my comments.” Tom smirked.
“Hey, don’t make disparaging statements to your editor, Mr. Fischer!” Tom chuckled, and so did I.
“Thanks for helping me out, man.”
“Anything for you, Curt. You’re my boyfriend, and that’s what a boyfriend does for his boyfriend.”
“I’ll be in my room when you’re done.”
“Okay. Now, out, out, out! I’ve got some serious editing to get to here.”
“Your wish is my command. Boyfriend.” I stepped over to where he sat at his desk, leaned down and kissed him on his ear, then left his bedroom for mine and laughing because of his shout, “Tease!”
About a half hour later Tom came into my bedroom.
“I don’t see anything missing, but I don’t know your mother very well, so I don’t know what kind of questions she’d ask you.”
“Yeah, I guess. Still, I think I’ve left something out but I don’t know what.”
“Just to show you that I didn’t leave you high and dry, like on a desert island with nothing but one palm tree in the middle, I used my amazing prowess with Google and searched around for ‘coming out’ tips and found several websites you might want to check out. One of them, the first one, the PFLAG one, is for your mom to go to and get information that will help her cope with having a gay son.”
“Shouldn’t you give that one to your folks?”
“Probably, but let’s start small and you give it to your mom. Alright?”
“Yeah, alright. I guess. So what are the websites you found?”
He handed me a piece of paper with five websites listed:
“Thanks. I’ll check these out and see if they have anything I missed.”
“Okay, have fun.”
I did check out the websites. When I saw the website for the APA, the American Psychological Association, I figured it would be all technical jargon and stuff. The link Tom gave me was for a page with lots of information about coming out, coming out during adolescence, and what age to come out. The other three links were to articles written for kids about coming out, and had the same kind of information I’d already gone through with Mrs. W. Still, it was interesting to read these articles, and find that I was on the right track.
I checked the time. Mrs. W wouldn’t be starting dinner yet, so I printed another copy went downstairs to give it to her.
She was in the living room reading a book.
“Hi, Mrs. W. Here’s a printout of the questions and answers we practiced this afternoon. When you have a chance to look it over, if you find anything just write it on this sheet and I’ll update it on my computer.”
“I have time to review it right now. You can wait here, if you’d like.”
“Uh, no. I’ll go outside and sit in the sun for a while. That way neither of us will feel pressured.”
“Alright. I’ll bring it out to you.”
I went outside and sat in one of the lounge chairs and closed my eyes. The weather had cooled off and the big temperature dial on the pool house read 83 degrees. Perfect weather to get some rays. I pulled off my T and my shoes and socks and stretched out. I probably hadn’t been there more than a minute and I fell asleep.
Mrs. W woke me. “Sorry to wake you, Curt, here’s your list. I couldn’t find anything to change or add. It’s almost time for dinner, so you should come in and wash your hands. And put on a shirt, too.”
“How long have I been out here sleeping?”
“About two hours. Your chair is partly shaded by the trees, but I hope you didn’t get so much sun that you got a sunburn.”
“No worries, I never burn. My mom says I have a Mediterranean skin type, not nearly as dark as Tom but dark enough to keep me from getting sunburned.”
“You know that Tom can get sunburned too, don’t you?”
“No. Really? He always says he can’t get sunburned.”
Mrs. W shook her head. “Tom gets sunburn too. Anyone who tells you that black skinned people don’t get sunburn is just wrong. Melanoma, the most common and most severe form of skin cancer, is deadliest in black people. I’ll have a word with Tom and remind him about this, and that I’ve told him before. But Curt, you’re more susceptible to sunburn. You say you tan, but being out in the sun like you were today means that you’re damaging your skin. Then when you’re an adult you might find that you have skin cancer. And the same goes for Tom as well.”
“I didn’t know about that. I’ll start using sunblock when I go out in the sun.”
“And limit your exposure to the sun as well. It’s impossible to cover every inch of your skin with sunblock, and what you put on comes off as you sweat.”
“Okay, I hear what you’re saying. I sure don’t want skin cancer any time in my life.”
“Good for you, Curt. Now, I need to get to work on our dinner.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Thanks. If you could get the lettuce out of the refrigerator and break off enough leaves for our salad, maybe about half the head, then wash them and tear them into bite-size pieces. That would be a big help.”
“You got it, Mrs. W. What are we having for dinner?”
“I’m going to make a stew out of vegetables and the leftover pot roast and gravy from dinner last night. I’ll have it ready in about an hour.”
“Sounds great,” I told her. I got the lettuce ready for the salad and put it in a bowl which I put in the refrigerator.
“Anything else I can do? Cut up some of the vegetables?”
“Sure, if you’re volunteering. How about cleaning the carrots and cutting them in half-inch long slices?”
“Okay.” I got the carrots out of the refrigerator. “How many of these carrots do you want to use?”
“Four of them will be fine.”
When I finished with the carrots Mrs. W thanked me and said she had the rest under control, so I went upstairs and checked my To-Do list. There were some items that I’d completed, and a couple that needed action. The most important was seeing Ray’s dad and have my cast replaced. Ray gave me Doctor Curtis’s phone number at Laura’s party. That made me laugh. Doctor Curtis is going to change the cast on Curtis Fischer’s left arm. Sweet. I checked my cell and found it, so I dialed the number.
I got an automated attendant, and after pressing one for English, then four to make an appointment, then two because I’m a new patient, a live person answered.
“My name is Curt Fischer. Doctor Curtis’s son Ray said I should call and see his dad to have the cast on my left arm changed to one of the waterproof casts. I’m tired of putting a plastic bag on my arm so my cast doesn’t get wet. Can I make an appointment to come in and have that done?”
“I found your name in the computer, Curt. You’re listed as a current patient.”
“But I’ve never seen Doctor Curtis before.”
“That’s okay. You have a friend with a lot of influence, by the name of Ray Curtis, and Doctor Curtis added you to his patient list. Let’s see what his schedule looks like. We have an opening tomorrow at two p.m. Would you be able to come in at that time?”
“Sure. Uh, where is your office?”
“We’re in the medical office building at the corner of Main Street and Alhambra Avenue. Our office is on the second floor. There’s an elevator. Use the entrance on Alhambra.”
“Uh, so, I have an appointment tomorrow? At two o’clock?”
“Yes, you’re all set. It will take less than an hour. We’ll take an x-ray of your arm, then Doctor Curtis will check your existing cast and, assuming everything is alright, he’ll change the cast. I’ll need some more information. Do you have insurance?”
“Yeah, I’m on my mom’s insurance. I have my insurance card with me.”
“Alright, be sure to bring it with you when you come in for your appointment, and we’ll make a copy so we know who to bill. Now, who is your doctor, the one who put the cast on your arm?”
“Doctor John Leonard. The ambulance took me to Valley Medical Center, and he set the breaks in my arm and put on the cast.”
“Doctor Curtis knows Doctor Leonard. We’ll advise him what was done when Doctor Curtis finishes changing your cast, and send him a copy of the x-rays. Who is your family doctor?”
“I don’t have a family doctor.”
“That’s alright. We’re all set, and we’ll see you at two o’clock tomorrow afternoon.”
“I’ll have to arrange for a ride, but we have to be in Martinez anyway so getting there at two shouldn’t be a problem. Say, is there a BuyMart in Martinez? We need something from there, and we could go before my appointment.”
“Yes. The BuyMart is in the shopping center on Arnold Drive off of Highway 4. From downtown just take Pine south until you get to Howe, turn left, then make the first right. That’s Arnold. Follow that until you see BuyMart which will be on your left. Would you like me to repeat the directions so you can write them down?”
“No, that’s okay. There’s a GPS in the car.”
“Alright, Curt. We’ll see you tomorrow at two.”
Okay, that’s good. Tom will come with me and we can drag Mr. Williams to BuyMart and get him a smartphone. Maybe one of those Samsung Note 4 models that has a big screen and he could write whatever he wants using the stylus instead of always using the on-screen keyboard. Then I’ll get my cast changed.
I decided to see what Tom was doing. He was lying on his bed reading a Wired magazine. He looked up as I walked in.
“Hey, back at’cha. I have an appointment to have my cast changed at two o’clock tomorrow in Martinez. I think it’s near the courthouse, on the corner of Main and Alhambra. Because we’ll have a lot of time between the verdict hearing and two, we can get your dad to take us to BuyMart. Then we can get him to buy a smartphone for himself, maybe a Samsung Note. The BuyMart in Martinez is south of downtown near Highway 4, but I don’t know Martinez very well so I don’t what that means.”
“Me neither, Curt. But Dad will know, and he has a GPS so no problemo.”
“You know I’ll be seeing Doctor Curtis?”
“Yeah. That’s Ray’s last name, right?”
“Uh huh. I love it, Doctor Curtis is changing Curtis Fischer’s cast today.”
“Not as funny as if his first name was Curtis. Then he’d be Doctor Curtis Curtis. What are you reading?”
“It’s an article about how the brain works. It’s really interesting.” He tossed the magazine on the floor. “But now that you’re here, how about you close the door.”
I went back and closed his bedroom door. He moved over to his right and patted the bed to his left.
“Come on and lie down. We can cuddle for a while.” He saw my expression. “Just cuddling, nothing more. We have all night to do the more part.” He smiled.
“Okay. Your mom told me dinner would be ready in about an hour, so that give us until quarter after six. I took about fifteen minutes to call Doctor Curtis and make my appointment, so I’ll set the alarm on my phone for a half hour.”
I got in bed and turned onto my right side. Tom turned to his left side then snuggled close to me so we touching and put his right arm around my waist. We kissed, once, and I closed my eyes.
I woke when I heard an alarm and opened my eyes. Tom’s eyes were open, and he grinned.
“You must have been really tired, Curt. You fell asleep as soon as you laid down. You’re very cute when you sleep, did you know that?”
“No, I don’t think anyone’s told me that. You’re cute when you’re awake and looking at me, did you know that?”
“Nope. I don’t think I could be called ‘cute’. It’s more like I’m maybe… rugged looking.”
“You’re cute, and handsome, and beautiful.” I leaned over and kissed him, a long, soft, sensuous kiss.
“Enough of that, Curt. You’re gonna get me all hot and bothered and we’ll miss dinner, so save it for after we eat. Right now I’m hungry. What’s Mom cooking?”
“Beef stew with lots of veggies, and a salad partially prepped by yours truly.”
“What say, let’s get up and wash up and head downstairs and have dinner?”
“Sounds like a plan,” I replied.
Tom and I got up early the next morning so we would be ready to leave with Mr. Williams at nine. Because of the trip to BuyMart and to change my cast, Mrs. W said she'd take her own car. I called my mom to ask her if she’d like a ride, and she said she had to work so she wouldn’t be able to be there to hear the verdict. I told her I’d phone her as soon as we heard, and as soon as I could get out of the courtroom since cellphones aren’t allowed there.
We sat eating breakfast with Mr. Williams and Mrs. W. I wasn’t very hungry, but I ate a bowl of Joe’s Organic O’s cereal with sliced-up fresh peaches.
“Do you have the complete list of who’s coming to Kyle’s going home party?” Mrs. W asked.
“No change from the list I gave you yesterday. There will be fourteen of us, plus you and Mrs. Hutchins. Everyone except Mark, Kyle, and Mrs. Hutchins will be here by ten thirty. Mark’s going to tell Kyle they’ve been invited to come here to go swimming at eleven, and they’re going to walk over. After they leave, Mrs. Hutchins will drive here the long way around and bring Kyle’s laptop. She’ll park the next block up and around the corner so they won’t see her car, and she should be here before Mark and Kyle get here. We’ll do the Skype call at three, that way everyone will be finished eating.”
“That sounds good. I’ll talk to her and we’ll discuss the menu, what we want to have besides the pizza.”
Mr. Williams finished his cereal, and Mrs. W asked him, “What else would you like for breakfast, Michael?”
“Coffee and a bagel, please.”
“You want the bagel toasted?”
He checked his watch. “I guess I have time, so my answer is yes, please. And I’ll get the jar of peanut butter. That’ll give me some protein to balance the carbs.”
“Dad, do you have anything to do after we hear the verdict?” Tom asked.
“Beth has something for us. She left me a voicemail about the Colton Brown and Brian Cooley plea bargains.”
“Mr. Williams, I have a two o’clock appointment today with Ray Curtis’s dad. He’s a doctor in Martinez, and he’s going to change my cast to one that’s waterproof. Would you be able to take me?”
“The verdict hearing should be over by ten o’clock at the latest. I don’t know how long our meeting with Beth will take. Say, maybe an hour once we get to her office from the courthouse. So we have from eleven to have lunch, then it’s a long wait for your two o’clock appointment, Curt.”
“I have a great idea for you, Dad,” Tom said. “With all of that extra time, how about you take us to the BuyMart in Martinez. We can show you the smartphone we’ve been talking about for you to use. It has a stylus so you can write or print on it and it can convert it to computer text. You can still use the keyboard, but being able to take a note by hand is very cool.”
“And what do I do when I can’t find an important note?”
“It’s easy. They’re saved like pages in a spiral notebook, each one on a separate page. You can add a title to each page. Of course, you can also add to existing notes if you want. They’re stored in the order you write them, you can sort them by title, you can search for notes that have specific words like ‘buy Tom a car’ or ‘increase Tom’s allowance’ for example.”
“Well, those are two very good reasons for not having a smartphone.”
“Ah, Dad, I was just kidding. Right?”
“Maybe. Anyway, going to BuyMart to see those phones would be a good idea. If I don’t like what I see, you forget the whole thing, both of you. If I do like what I see, I’ll buy it and you two will put on a class to teach me how to use it, and you will act as technical support staff for me when I have any kind of question or problem with my smartphone. Deal?”
“Ya got it, Dad!” Tom agreed.
“Uh, I guess so,” I said, “but I’m going to be moving home and if I’m not living with you that’s going to make it a hassle getting to your house from mine and if it’s at night I’d need my mom to drive me here and back and if….”
“Curt, you can provide top level support, available on Saturdays and Sundays only, only on things that Tom can’t handle. Acceptable?”
“Acceptable,” I replied. I really, really, wanted to say ‘I guess’ but I suppressed it. I needed Mr. Williams’ good will to take me to my appointment with Doctor Curtis.
“Time to leave,” Mr. Williams told us. “It’s almost nine, and we want to be in court before the hearing starts.”
We got to Martinez, parked, and were in the courthouse by nine twenty. We saw Beth Wolman waiting for us in the lobby.
“Michael, Curt, and Tom. I’m glad you’re here. There’s been a delay. Judge Rae was called away because of a family emergency. The verdict hearing will be at ten thirty. Judge Rae will be back by then.”
“So, I guess we can go home now,” Tom said.
“No,” Beth replied, “we have the Colton Brown and Brian Cooley plea bargains to discuss. Instead of doing that later, we can do it now. The paperwork is on its way here, and I’ve arranged for a room where we can meet and talk about what’s going on. Follow me.”
Mr. Williams followed Beth, and Tom and I followed him.
“Man, Beth is totally pissed,” I whispered to Tom. “I wonder what those two guys did to get her so mad.”
“We’ll find out in a couple minutes,” he replied.
We arrived at a room near the end of the lobby, and Beth stormed in. We followed.
“You might as well sit down. You’re not going to like hearing what I have to say. We had the plea bargains for Colton Brown and Brian Cooley wrapped up. They consented, in writing, to the terms of the agreements that you reviewed. So Colton Brown comes to my office this morning as I’m about to leave to hear Donovan Clarey’s verdict read. He has Aaron Chesterfield with him. He’s some slimeball attorney from Los Angeles. Do you know him, Michael?”
“Yes. He’s a very expensive liability attorney, I understand.”
“Well, he tells me that Colton Brown is rescinding his consent to the plea bargain, and that he wants to go to trial. Trial? For what? He hands me a subpoena that claims that Colton Brown was slandered by Tom and Curt, and by me. What bullshit, pardon my French. I’m going to switch the filing we originally planned to take to the court from a misdemeanor to a felony. I’ll show that son of a….”
She saw me grinning, and realized what she was about to say was improper. At least that’s what I assumed when she cut off her description of Colton Brown, a description that if it’s what I was thinking then I totally agreed with.
“Anyway, Brian Cooley is sticking with his plea bargain, and has agreed to be a witness against Colton Brown. I’m having copies of the subpoena made in my office for you. Tom and Curt, I think you can expect to have Mr. Chesterfield or one of his minions serve you with your own named subpoenas. In the meantime, I’m going to Judge Prather with the subpoena and a motion to quash. What’s your opinion about this, Michael?”
“I think you’re going to find that Colton Brown is going to want to reduce the penalties stipulated in his plea bargain. Aaron Chesterfield has done this before, not in this court but in Sacramento. It’s a gimmick. Tell them that the plea bargain has been rescinded and you will be taking Colton Brown to trial. Also, file a Friend of the Court brief with the Bar Association suggesting that Colton Brown should be disbarred.”
“Oh, I love it! Do you really think that’s what this is?”
“I think so, but you’ll have to see his reaction to rescinding of the plea bargain. If he doesn’t care, then maybe it’s something else, like he wants you to dump this case so it doesn’t cost the District Attorney’s Office a lot of time and money to press prosecution. He might think you’d acquiesce to his changes to the plea bargain.”
“And there’s nothing illegal about what he’s doing, is there,” Beth stated. “Well, I’ve discussed this situation with the D.A. and he agrees that we should take him to trial.”
“I have a recommendation, Beth. Give him fair warning that’s what you and the D.A. have decided, and tell him he has one day to decide to accept the plea bargain or go to trial. I think he’ll capitulate. That will save you the cost of a trial. For him it will eliminate the possibility that he’ll be found guilty of a felony charge, or the possibility that the judge might retain the misdemeanor charge but stipulate higher penalties.”
“How about I give him until five p.m. today? I don’t want this running over the weekend. That will give them too much time to come up with a different strategy.”
“Good point. I forgot that today is Friday. But how about you go with four p.m. instead of five? That way you won’t have to work late on a Friday.”
Beth laughed. “You’re as sneaky as me, Michael. That’s probably why we get along so well.”
“Let me know how it goes.”
One of the staff members from Beth’s office came in with the documents, and Beth gave us our copies.
“I need to take these documents to Judge Prather who's waiting for me in his office.” She got up and left, and we read the copies of the subpoena she gave us.
“This is nonsense,” Mr. Williams said. “Any judge would throw this out.”
“What should we do now, Dad?” Tom asked.
“It doesn’t make any sense to drive home and back because we might be late for the new scheduled time for the verdict to be read.”
“How about going somewhere and getting something to eat?” Tom suggested.
“You just finished your breakfast,” Mr. Williams said, shaking his head.
“I’m just a growing boy,” Tom responded, “and the walk there and back will help work off whatever we eat.”
“The walk back might help work it off, but the walk there will have no impact on what you eat.”
“Sure it will. It’ll make room for part of what we eat. Then the walk back will walk the rest of it off.”
“That sounds suspiciously like circular logic to me, but I don’t know what else we can do for forty-five minutes. Let’s go, but we’ll need to pick the closest place to eat so we can be back by twenty after ten.”
We found a little breakfast and lunch place a block from the courthouse. I had a breakfast burrito and Tom had what the restaurant called a two-fer, two eggs, two slices of bacon, and two pancakes. Mr. Williams had a latte.
When we got back to the courthouse we saw Beth Wolman, grinning like that cat from Alice in Wonderland.
“Judge Prather quashed the subpoena. I gave my ultimatum about accepting the plea bargain by three p.m. as written or I’d see them at trial. Mr. Brown seemed shaken by the developments, so we’ll see what happens.”
“I see that you decided on an even earlier time for their response,” Mr. Williams said.
Beth just grinned.
We entered the courtroom. There were a handful of people sitting in the gallery. I didn’t recognize any of them except Kyle and Mrs. Hutchins. I waved, and they waved back. Beth had me and Mr. Williams sit at the Prosecutor’s table with her and her assistant. Don and Lawrence Wilde sat at the Defense table, and when I looked over there Don seemed very nervous. That was a good thing, in my opinion.
The Bailiff made his announcements and we stood as Judge Young entered from his chambers. He was no-nonsense, and immediately called upon the spokesperson for the Judicial Panel, Judge Evelyn Wood, for their decision. She handed several sheets of paper to the Court Clerk who handed them to Judge Young. He handed all but one copy back to the Court Clerk, and turned to the Judicial Panel.
“Judge Wood, will you please read your verdict.”
Judge Wood, who had remained standing, cleared her voice and read the verdict.
“By unanimous agreement, we find the defendant, Donovan Clarey, guilty of felony aggravated assault and battery on the minor Curtis Fischer.”
She sat down, and the Court Clerk distributed copies to the Defense table then to each of us at the Prosecutor’s table.
Judge Young banged his gavel. “I wish to thank the members of the Judicial Panel for their time and contribution to the citizens of the State of California, and for their attention to the testimonies of the witnesses and the Statements and Arguments pleaded by the Prosecution and Defense. To comply with the wish of the Defense for a fast-tracked trial, I am scheduling the sentencing hearing for Monday, the sixth of August at eleven a.m. in this courtroom. Until that time Mr. Donovan Clarey is released on his own recognizance.” He banged his gavel again. “Court is adjourned.”
We all stood and the Bailiff made his announcement and Judge Young left the Bench and went into his chambers. Don and Lawrence Wilde got up and left the courtroom.
I leaned back in my chair. “That was quick,” I said. “It seems to me that Judge Young must have already decided on Don’s sentence, because he’s having the sentencing hearing on Monday.”
“That is very fast,” Mr. Williams responded. “There were only a few possible verdicts, and Judge Young would have reviewed the trial transcript and the charges brought by the Prosecutor, and could have made one or more preliminary sentencing decisions based on that.”
Beth added, “What I’m about to say is my personal conjecture, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the way the Judicial Panel made their decision. There were only three possible verdicts. Not guilty, guilty of a misdemeanor, or guilty of a felony. There were several options for a guilty verdict. Aggravated assault and battery, aggravated assault alone, or battery alone. They could have included the child endangerment charge, but probably decided that since the police arrived during the time the assault and battery occurred that Curt wasn’t left in a dangerous situation. They could have included the child abuse charge, but probably decided that it didn’t apply since this was a single incident and no abuse had occurred previously.”
She turned and looked at me. “Does that make sense to you, Curt?”
“Yes. I’m just glad that they decided it was a felony instead of a misdemeanor. So, what do you think Judge Young will do about Don’s sentence?”
“This is also conjecture,” Beth said. “I’m sure Lawrence Wilde will plead for time served and one year probation with the requirement that Don move to Southern California and not return to the East Bay, or possibly to the entire Bay Area, during the term of his probation. I’m going to ask for six months in County Jail less time served, plus a two year probation requiring that Don move out of the Bay Area and not return during the term of the probation. I’m suggesting the less stringent location in exchange for the six months incarceration less time served.”
“What do you mean when you say ‘less time served’? I didn’t know Don served any time except when he was being held waiting for his bail hearing.”
“That is the time served, Curt. It’s only a few days, so it doesn’t reduce my request for six months incarceration by much at all. I’m sure Lawrence Wilde will plead that those few days of incarceration plus the probation are a sufficient penalty.”
Beth looked around, and out of curiosity so did I. We were the only ones left in the courtroom. I wondered if Kyle and Mrs. Hutchins had left, or were waiting for us in the lobby.
“Let me return to the Colton Brown situation. I’ll tell you what I think Aaron Chesterfield is going to do next,” she said. “I think he’s going to ask for a meeting with me prior to three p.m. and that he will try to change the terms of the plea bargain, reducing the probation and eliminating the fine. I’ve discussed this with the District Attorney and he agrees with me that the terms of the plea bargain are not negotiable. Either they accept the plea bargain as written, or we’ll go to trial. If it goes to trial, the District Attorney doesn’t want to change the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony, and I agree. Colton Brown doesn’t want to go to trial and lose. The Bar Association would probably censure him, though he wouldn’t lose his license to practice as an attorney, or to be suspended, which it would be if the charge was changed to a felony. But anyone looking for an attorney who goes to the Bar Association website will see that he’s been censured. That should cause potential clients to look for a different attorney.”
“Do we need to be there for the meeting with Colton Brown and his attorney?” Tom asked.
“That’s not necessary,” Beth replied. “In fact it’s a bad idea. They could serve you with their subpoenas. And the meeting, from the District Attorney’s perspective, is strictly procedural. Accept the plea bargain the way it was originally agreed to by Colton Brown or go to trial. Now I need to get back to the office and attend to the usual pile of paperwork my inbox has waiting for me.”
“Thank you, Beth,” Mr. Williams said. “You’ve done a great job with Don’s trial and the Colton Brown and Brian Cooley situation.”
“Thanks, Michael.” She turned and looked at Tom, then at me. “And you two have been great to work with. I’d guess that you have learned a lot about jurisprudence in California, and how victims are protected by the judicial system.”
“I know I have, Beth,” I replied.
“Me too,” Tom said. “In some ways it’s been a real eye-opener.”
“I sure agree that it’s been an eye-opener,” I added. “We’re never taught anything about how trials work in school. I think they should take a couple days in our California Government class to have someone from the District Attorney’s office, and maybe a lawyer too, come in and tell us how the court system works. And have a Q and A session. I think there’d be so many questions that it would fill up another class, making it three days.”
Beth left to get back to work, and I phoned my mom to tell her the verdict, and that the sentencing hearing was scheduled for Monday.
“Thank you, Curt. Don’s attorney called to let me know a short while ago. I’m not surprised.”
“Do you think it was the right verdict?” I asked.
“Yes, I do. I realize that I made a mistake in doubting what you told me. The evidence was overwhelming, and it’s obvious that Don was guilty.”
“Do you plan on being at the sentencing hearing?”
“No. Will you be there?”
“Yes. I’ll phone you after and let you know what Don’s sentence is.”
“I will probably be at work and may not be able to answer your call. Please leave a message.”
“Thanks, Curt. I’ll talk to you soon.”
When we got to the lobby I looked for Kyle and Mrs. Hutchins, but they weren’t around. They must have gone home, maybe to celebrate the verdict.
We walked to the garage and Mr. Williams drove us to BuyMart. Tom and I and the salesman talked Mr. Williams into buying a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphone, with a T-Mobile no-contract network access with unlimited data. While they were putting one of those high-definition Invisible Shields on his phone, Tom and I wandered around the computer department then went over to look at the big screen LCD TV’s.
When Mr. Williams found us we drove back to downtown Martinez. He was hungry, so we went to the same café where we’d eaten earlier. Mr. Williams ordered a bacon cheeseburger with a salad on the side. Tom and I weren’t that hungry so we both ordered sandwiches. I got tuna and Tom got grilled cheese. When we finished eating we still had a half hour before my two o’clock appointment time, so we checked their desserts.
The waitress said they make their own pies, so we decided that’s what we’d have. I ordered cherry pie, Tom ordered hot apple pie, just out of the oven, with vanilla ice cream, and Mr. Williams ordered the hot apple pie but without the ice cream. They were excellent, and by the time we finished it was time to find Doctor Curtis’s office.
I checked Google Maps on my cell. It was only a few blocks from the café so we decided to walk. We were about ten minutes early when I checked in.
“I’m Curtis Fischer. I have a two o’clock appointment to see Doctor Curtis.”
“Curtis, may I have your insurance card and a picture ID. I’ll make a copy of them for our files.” I gave her the insurance card and my Los Arcos High School ID card, and she handed me a clipboard. “Please fill out the top two forms, and read and sign the two other forms. You’re a minor, so we need a parent or guardian to co-sign for you. Is that person here?”
“Yes, Mr. Williams is my guardian.”
She called him over and had him sign what she called a responsibility form.
The questions were easier to fill in than the ones that were on the forms I had to fill out for Doctor Hillyer, and it took me less than five minutes. I returned the clipboard and forms and she gave me my insurance and ID cards and one of the two forms I’d signed.
“This form is for your records, Curt. Now we’ll need x-rays of your arm. The Radiology Lab is on the third floor, right across from the elevator. Here’s a signed prescription for your x-rays, take it upstairs and give it to the receptionist. I’ve notified them that you’ll be coming up so they’ll be expecting you. They’ll need to make copies of your insurance and ID cards, but you won’t have any forms to fill out.”
They took me right away to get my x-rays. They took several views of my arm, then they told me that I had to wait while they checked to make sure that the x-rays were clear and the breaks in my arm was visible in each view. Then they said that I could return to Doctor Curtis’s office.
When I got there he had another patient so I had to wait about ten minutes. Then a nurse came out and called my name.
Doctor James Curtis, like Doctor Hillyer, was younger than I expected.
“Hi, Curt,” he said. “Ray said you’d be coming to see me to have the cast on your left arm replaced with one that’s waterproof. I see that you wrote that you got your cast on July thirteenth, so you’ve been wearing it for about three weeks, and you’re scheduled to have it removed on August twenty-seventh, that’s almost another three weeks.
“Let’s take a look at your x-rays.”
He had a big video monitor on the wall connected to a PC and a keyboard. Very cool!
“I have your records from Doctor Leonard at Valley Medical Center and they indicate that you had a comminuted fracture in your forearm with the radius bone broken in three separate places. You might also hear it called a displaced fracture. You can see it in the x-ray. This is the fracture in your radius that had been displaced, and here you can see the white lines which is where the bone is growing back together.” He pointed to the three white lines running across the thinner bone in my forearm. “That means your fractures are healing. The growth looks well formed.”
He pointed to the larger bone in my forearm. “There’s another fracture here, a hairline break in your ulna, and it appears to be healed. Based on what I see in your x-rays your cast should be able to be removed as scheduled. However, you will need to continue to be careful for the next three weeks and not reinjure your arm, especially if the fractures in your radius separate again. That would lengthen your recovery. An even more serious fracture might mean surgery to make the repairs. Any questions?”
“No, you’ve done enough to scare me so I will continue to be very careful about what I do with, or to, my left arm.”
“Good, part of my job today has been a success.” Now he grinned.
“What I’m going to do first is cut off and remove your old cast. We’ll clean off your forearm, apply an antiseptic and anti-itch solution and let it dry, wrap your arm in water repellent padding, then put a new waterproof fiberglass shell over the padding. It will be lighter and stronger than your old cast. You can get it wet when you take a shower. When your new cast gets wet, just hold your arm pointing down so the water will drain and the material and your arm will dry in one to three hours. If you want it to be dry sooner, you can use a blow dryer on cool setting. Don’t use the heat settings. If you're in a hurry, like you need to leave immediately to get to school, use one of those protective bags on your arm. You should continue avoiding your PE class until the cast is removed at Valley Medical Center in three weeks.
“I’ll give you an instruction sheet that explains the material and how to dry your cast when it gets wet.
“So let’s get started. It should take less than forty-five minutes to remove your old cast and put on the new one. But first, what color do you want? I have red, orange, yellow, maroon, and blue.”
“I like to wear black clothes a lot, and our school colors are orange and black, so I’ll pick orange.”
It took a little more than forty-five minutes. He said it took longer to remove my old cast because the cotton wrapping got stuck to my arm in a couple places and he used something that he let soak into the stuck parts before removing it so the skin wouldn’t tear and bleed. I sort of freaked when I saw my left arm. It had shrunk and my skin had turned to a pale white color. He told me that was normal, and I could avoid that by avoid breaking any of my bones in the future.
He put on the padding and the new cast. It did feel lighter, and the orange color was excellent.
When he finished I thanked him and walked into the waiting room.
“That’s one hot cast, Curt!” Tom exclaimed when he saw me. “You gotta wear a black T to go to school on the first day. That’s the Los Arcos school colors.”
“That’s what I told Doctor Curtis,” I said.
“What did your arm look like after he took off your old cast?”
“Pretty much not pretty. In fact, I’d call it awful. The skin’s all puckered and pale, and there were some red patches where they had trouble removing the cotton wrapping around my arm. I can shower with this cast, and all I have to do is make sure to let the water drain out. He said I can help it dry out by using a blow dryer set on cool. So I’ll do that when I start school.”
“When do you have this cast removed?” Mr. Williams asked me.
“On August twenty-seventh. That’s only like three days at school with my great new cast because school starts on the Thursday the twenty-third.”
“Hey,” Tom said, “how about asking if you can have it removed here? Say, on the Friday of that week. That would be the… thirty-first.”
“Let me check.”
I walked over to the receptionist and asked if I could talk to Doctor Curtis for a minute. She said to go on back.
“Hi, Curt. Is there a problem?”
“No, not really. I’m supposed to have my cast removed on the twenty-seventh at Valley Medical Center. Could I have it done here on the thirty-first instead?”
He grinned. “So you want to show off your new cast longer than a couple days, is that it?”
“Yeah. It really looks cool, and wearing it when school starts and then for only two days isn’t long enough. Besides, it's easier for me to get a ride here than to Valley Medical Center.”
“Let’s go out and see what my schedule looks like on the thirty-first.”
We walked out to the receptionist’s desk.
“Susan, what do we have open on Friday the thirty-first, in the late afternoon?”
“You have openings at three-thirty o’clock and at four.”
“Can you be here by three-thirty?” he asked me.
“I don’t think so. School gets out at three-ten, and by the time I get through the mass of students trying to escape for the weekend and to the pickup area it would probably be almost three-thirty. How about at four?”
“That should be okay.”
“Removing the cast, especially this kind of cast, will be straightforward. Susan, please set an appointment for Curtis from four to four-thirty in the afternoon on August thirty-first. I’ll contact Doctor Leonard and let him know that I’ll be removing your cast on that date.”
“Oh, one more thing. Can you give me a permission slip so I won't have to take PE for the rest of the fall semester? Doctor Leonard said that’s how long it should be. Except he wants me to swim to build up my muscles, so saying I can take swimming only for physical therapy during PE would be great.”
“Sure, we can issue that now. Susan, please do that and I’ll sign it.”
She filled out a permission slip and Doctor Curtis signed it. I looked and it said I can attend PE after my cast is removed on August thirty-first but only to do swimming for physical therapy, through the end of the fall semester. Then she filled out a reminder card and handed it to me.
“Great! Thank you, Doctor Curtis,” I said.
After we got into the car Tom asked me, “How are you going to get here for your appointment?”
“Good question. By then I’ll be living at home again, probably. I’ll ask my mom to take me.”
“If she can’t, maybe my mom can take you. And I can go with to watch how it’s done.”
“That should be fun, Tom,” Mr. Williams told him. “What about your aversion to blood?”
I saw him smiling, but Tom’s the one who responded. “There’s no blood when a cast is removed. So, no problemo.”
“I didn’t know you were afraid of blood, Tom.”
“I’m not afraid of blood. When I was nine years old I fell off my bike and got a big scrape on my knee, and the combination of hitting my head on the sidewalk and seeing my knee bleeding made me pass out. It hasn’t happened since then, but some people seem to think it’s funny to keep reminding me about it even though it was almost seven years ago.”
“I guess playing baseball you see some blood, like when someone gets hit by a pitch or a batted ball, or slides into a base and scrapes some skin off.”
“Yeah, there is some of that. But not all that much. The biggest problem is when someone gets pegged in the head by a ball. They have to come out of the game and be checked by a doctor before they can play again.”
“I thought you guys have to wear helmets.”
“Not the guys playing infield or outfield. They’re only required for the catcher, batters, and base runners. I think if a pitcher wants to wear a helmet he can do that, but I’m not sure. I don’t remember reading it in the rules.”
“It’s probably a good idea if pitchers wore helmets,” Mr. Williams said. “What about using aluminum bats?”
“There’s a new rule,” Tom replied, “making it required that wood, aluminum, and composite bats have a special logo that says they’ve been tested and meet some new standard. We called it ‘babycore’ but it’s actually the initials BBCOR, but don’t ask me what it stands for.”
“What’s a composite bat?” I asked.
“It’s some special kind of aluminum bat that has something else inside that’s supposed to create the boomerang effect. That’s how the bat bounces back after the ball hits it, making it have more power and giving the batter a huge advantage. Anyway, it has to do the same as a wood bat.
“It doesn’t make any difference to me, I use whatever they give me to use. They all seem to work the same. I guess that’s what the new BBCOR is all about, taking away the advantage of using something like an aluminum or a composite bat or a bamboo wood bat.”
“Can’t you just bring a bat from home?”
“Nope. Every bat is checked by the officials prior to the game, and if they find an unofficial bat being used the player is kicked out of the game and maybe off the team.”
“Whoa! That’s harsh. Pays to follow the rules, right?”
“Right,” Tom replied.
“Curt, are you going with me to the sentencing hearing on Monday?” Mr. Williams asked.
“Absolutely. I’m real curious about the sentence Judge Young decides for Don. I hope it includes some jail time, but on the other hand, I’d like to see him out of the Bay Area sooner and hope he gets a real long probation. How about you, Mr. Williams? What do you think his sentence will be?”
“I’d rather not speculate. I’ll just wait until Monday. Right now I want to get home and see if Beth left a message for me about Colton Brown.”
“Yeah, me too,” I said.
“And especially me too,” Tom added.
We got home around three forty-five. Mrs. W thought my new cast was very colorful, and that she liked it because orange is her favorite color. That was something I hadn’t known.
Mr. Williams called to us, “Come on into my office, guys. There’s a message from Beth Wolman asking that I phone her.”
Mr. Williams placed the call and put it on his phone’s speaker.
“Michael, thanks for calling me back.”
“I assume you have something interesting to tell us.”
“Yes, I do. First, I want to thank you for telling me what you thought would happen.” She laughed. “You got me thinking and I told them the deadline was three o’clock. They contacted me at one thirty and asked for a meeting at four o’clock. I gave them my three o’clock deadline again, and that it was non-negotiable, so if they wanted to discuss the plea bargain versus a trial I was available at two thirty. Aaron Chesterfield told me that I was impeding the ability of his client to defend himself. I told him that his client could defend himself in court, and that the plea bargain would be off the table as of three o’clock. He complained and blustered for about one minute, and I simply restated that the plea bargain would be off the table at three p.m. several times. Finally I said I had more productive things to do on other cases, said goodbye, and hung up.
“Aaron Chesterfield called back about five minutes later and told me that he and Colton Brown wanted to meet and that two thirty would be acceptable. They arrived a few minutes early and I made them cool their heels until exactly two thirty and had Susan escort them into the small meeting room where I joined them. I told them that Susan would record the meeting, and if that wasn’t acceptable the meeting was over. After a whispered conversation with Colton Brown, Aaron Chesterfield said that would be acceptable.
“Aaron Chesterfield tried, as you told me he would, to reduce the probation period and the fine. The only thing I told him after each of his attempts was that the plea bargain was not available for renegotiation, that the original plea bargain, as signed by Colton Brown, was the only plea bargain the District Attorney would accept.
“They gave up, and agreed to the plea bargain Colton Brown had signed. I had him re-sign and date every page of every original copy of the plea bargain, all eight of them required by the department and the court. I gave them each their copy, had Susan file two original copies with the court, and we retained the other five copies for our department. Since there are no changes, the copies you have don’t have to be replaced. I assume that is acceptable?”
“Yes, that is acceptable,” Mr. Williams replied. “So what about the subpoenas for Tom and Curt?”
“Since Judge Prather quashed the subpoena, Aaron Chesterfield had to issue a recall so the additional subpoenas won’t be served. If for some reason they are served, ask the process server to show you his identification, which he is required to do whenever it’s requested, and write down his name and ID number on each subpoena for your records.”
“Alright. Anything else?”
“No. The cases against Colton Brown and Brian Cooley will be closed as soon as the judge approves the plea bargains.”
“When will the judge do that?”
“So it looks like the two cases Curt is involved in, and the one Tom is involved in, will be closed as of Monday.”
“Yes, they should both be closed on Monday.”
“Is there anything that we might have forgotten?”
“I don’t think so. But life sometimes has a way of biting you in the butt when you least expect it. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to either of these cases.”
“Yes, let’s hope.”
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