Jason announces to his family that he’s gay. His sisters and his father tell him that it doesn’t make any difference, they love him regardless of whether he’s gay or straight or whatever. But what about his mother? Can she come to accept that her son is gay?
On their way home from the hike Jen suddenly stopped. Jason noticed and stopped just ahead of her and turned around.
“I’ve gotta stop at school,” Jen said. “I need my Algebra 2 textbook. Is that okay with you guys?”
“Uh, Jen,” Jason replied, “This is spring break. School is closed. You can’t get into the building.”
“Sure I can. The building is open because there are make-up classes and special interest classes like Astronomy all this week.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Ron whispered to Jason.
It was a longer walk home by way of Hillcrest High School, but not so long that neither Jason nor Ron complained about the additional distance.
When they arrived Jen led them to Building 300.
“My locker is in this building. You guys want to come in with me?”
“No way,” Ron exclaimed. “I see too much of the insides of these buildings to volunteer to go into one of them while I’m on break.”
“I agree with Ron,” Jason added. “We’ll wait for you out here.”
Jen opened the door to building 300, much to the surprise of Ron. She turned and grinned.
“See? I told you!” she said as she entered the building.
“Let’s find some shade,” Ron suggested.
“Sounds like a plan. How about over under those trees along the side of the Little Theater? We can see the entrance to the building from there.”
They walked to a bench in the shade of the trees and sat down.
Jason looked at Ron and grinned. “That was very cool of you to hook Jen up with your uncle. I wonder what her advisor will say when she asks for her transcript.”
“Good question. We should find out so if either of us wants to take a class at Valley College in place of one of our classes here then we’ll know what to do.”
“Good idea. Man, I’m thirsty. I’m glad I still have some of my water left.” Jason pulled out his water bottle and opened it. He peeked inside but couldn’t see anything, so he shook it back and forth and listened. “Not a lot, but enough.” With that he gulped down the balance that was left.
“You know, Jase, there’s a drinking fountain right over there.” Ron pointed to his right.
“But, Mr. Cantham, it’s way over there, not right here, in the shade, like my water bottle.”
“When did you get so lazy?”
“I’m not lazy, I’m efficient.” Jason grinned then poked Ron in his ribs. “So, how’d you like the hike today?”
“I liked it, but it would have been more fun it we’d taken a more strenuous route, I think.”
“Yeah, but we had Jen along. I don’t think she’d have enjoyed a heavy duty hike like to the top of Mt. Diablo.”
“You’re probably right. Still, she never seemed to be breathing heavy the way we were on some of the steep trails going uphill today.”
“Maybe she’d be interested in going with us on a real hike. I’ll talk to her later when we’re at home.” Jason looked across at the entrance to building 300. “Speaking of my sister, where the heck is she?”
“She’s a girl. They always take longer to do everything,” Ron replied.
“Still, all she had to do is go to her locker and get a book.”
“Maybe she met a friend. Maybe her boyfriend Tom.”
“Could be.” Jason’s noticed three guys walking from the quad toward building 300. “Who are those guys? You know them?”
Ron looked where Jason pointed. “That fat guy looks like Joe Turner. You remember him, he was in the eighth grade at Lomita when we were in the sixth grade. He’d been held back a year for being a jerk or something like that. Then he got expelled for slugging Coach Blackburn when he tried to break up a fight in the boys’ locker room that Joe started. Really stupid, slugging a teacher, and not just a teacher, a PE coach. I heard that he’s going to some private school. Those other two guys look older. Joe’s a badass, and they probably are too. We’d better watch each other’s backs if they come over here.”
Jason took out his cell and took a picture of the three guys, then sent it to Jen. Better to be safe and have some evidence if things got ugly.
Jason and Ron sat on the bench and purposely did not look at Joe Turner and his two buddies. But it became clear that they were, in fact, targets as the three older boys walked in their direction. When they got closer Joe Turner pointed at Jason and Ron and said something they couldn’t hear. Ron stood and Jason used that as his cue to stand as well.
“And who do we have here?” Joe asked, not expecting an answer. “I think we have a couple of fags, don’t you, guys?”
The blond haired guy grinned and replied, “Sure looks like they’re faggots to me. I’ve heard that Hillcrest is a nest of faggots. We gonna’ do somethin’ about that?”
The dark haired guy added, “I think we ought to beat the crap out of ‘em, if you ask me. They’re just polluting the whole fucking city.”
“You touch us and we’ll report you to the police,” Ron said very calmly. “Who do you think they’ll believe, three assholes like you or the two of us?”
“You call the cops on us we’ll have witnesses that can say we weren’t here. Then we’ll come back and beat you so bad you won’t be able to remember your names or ever talk to anyone ever again. So don’t fuckin’ threaten us!” Joe shouted. “You guys each hold one of these queers and I’ll go to work on ‘em.”
Jason and Ron tried to fight off the guys who grabbed each of them, but they were older and stronger and it didn’t take much to grab them and hold them so they couldn’t get away.
“I’m gonna start with loudmouth here,” Joe stated, meaning Ron. The dark haired guy who’d grabbed Ron held him from his back with his arms around Ron’s arms and wrapped so he was holding his hands clasped around Ron’s stomach. The advantage Ron had was height. He stood about three inches taller than the dark haired guy, who had the advantage of being stronger than Ron.
Joe walked up to Ron and stood about three feet in front of him.
“Hey,” Ron said, “how about backing off so I can avoid smelling your foul breath?”
Ron could see that he got to Joe Turner. That was his objective.
“You’ll be smelling your own vomit when I’m through with you, faggot!” He stepped closer to Ron who, using the way the dark haired guy held him as a pivot, swung his right leg up fast and his hiking boot struck Joe in his crotch. Hard. A loud crunch sound resulted, caused by the tip of his hiking boot colliding with Joe’s balls. Joe let out a scream and crumpled on the ground in the fetal position, his hands holding his crotch where Ron had apparently done some serious damage. Ron hadn’t finished, however. As his right leg swung back he pivoted on his left foot and, putting all his weight on his right leg, brought his foot down on the dark haired guy’s right ankle. He heard a satisfying crack sound and his captor released him, fell to the ground, grabbed his ankle, and started to cry. Ron wanted to make sure the guy was out of action for the duration, so he kicked the guy, as hard as he could, in his left elbow.
Ron quickly checked that Joe wouldn’t be able to get up and cause problems and saw that he remained huddled holding his crotch, and was moaning.
Now it was time to help Jason. He looked over to see that Jason had been able to get loose and had a choke hold on the blond guy from behind. The blond guy was heavier, stronger, and taller than Jason, and had grabbed Jason’s arm and seemed to be succeeding in his effort to get out of the choke hold. Ron walked up and kicked the guy in his crotch, hard, allowing Jason to regain his choke hold. The blond guy started to buckle, but Ron wanted him to be disabled so he kicked him in his left knee. Jason released his choke hold around the guy’s neck, and the blond guy fell to the ground out of commission.
He heard cheering. Jen stood a short distance from where the action had happened, her cell phone pointed at them.
“You got this on your phone?”
“Yup. Video and audio of the whole thing, starting when the guys threatened you and Ron up to just now. It proves what you did was done in self-defense. Where the hell did you learn to do what you did to put these three guys out of commission?”
Jason walked up and slapped Ron on his back, then pulled him into a hug.
“You, Ron Cantham, are freaking amazing. I don’t know how you did what you did but you did it and I, for one, am so glad. Those assholes would have done some real damage if you hadn’t, as Jen said, put them out of commission.”
“Jen, would you call the cops?” Ron asked. “I want these guys arrested.”
“I called them when I came out of the building and saw them hassling you. The dispatch woman said they should be here in about ten minutes.”
“So, Ron, when and where did you learn to do this stuff?” Jason asked. “I thought we were going to sign up for a self-defense class together.”
Ron blushed. This promised to be embarrassing. But ‘the tale had to be told’, as his English teacher, Mr. Lyon, said whenever he assigned an essay or a response to a story they had to read. Everybody in his English class would groan when they were told they had to write something for their homework.
“Well, in the seventh and eighth grades I took a self-defense class.”
“What!” Jason exclaimed. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?”
“Because it would have been embarrassing to tell you.”
“Embarrassing? Why would it have been embarrassing to tell me you were taking a self-defense class?”
“Because the class was for girls, that’s why!”
Jason looked shocked, then amused. “The class was for girls? Really?”
“Yes, girls. My mom had a friend at work who knew about this self-defense class, and it was for girls. Except that there was one boy in the class, her friend’s son Kenny. He was in the seventh grade at Gompers Middle School. He hated being the only boy in the class. So my mom decided I should take the class so Kenny wouldn’t be the only boy. It worked out okay, Kenny and I learned lots of great self-defense techniques. But it was too embarrassing to tell anyone about it, including you, Jase, because Kenny and I were in a class for girls.”
“So if you already know all of this self-defense stuff, why does your dad want you to take Tai Kwon Do?”
“Because Tai Kwon Do teaches you how to move and fake out a guy who’s coming after you. It’s not just fighting, in fact it’s not about fighting at all. It’s about how to control your body and use movement and leverage to control another person. It’s a different kind of self-defense.”
“Of course,” Jason responded with a grin, “kicking a guy in the nads seems to have helped you control Joe Turner and that other guy that had ahold of me.” He looked at Joe. He continued to be lying on his side in a fetal position, holding onto his crotch with both hands.
“You’re going to have to tell me all about this self-defense class for girls that you took. I want to know the details about that. And about that Kenny guy too.” He started to laugh.
“Jason Phillips, don’t you dare laugh at me because I took a class for girls. Just remember who saved your butt this afternoon!”
Jason started to say something but the sound of a siren approaching the school interrupted him.
“The police are here,” Jen said. A few seconds later a police car pulled into the school parking lot and two policemen stepped out.
“Over here,” Jen called out and waved her arm.
“I’m the one who called 9-1-1,” she added as the officers approached them.
The policemen looked at Jen, Jason, and Ron, then at the three older and larger boys lying on the ground, one holding his ankle and two holding their crotches. The taller of the two policemen, Sergeant Patrick Ryan according the name badge on his uniform, took a deep breath and asked, “Alright, who’s going to tell me what happened here, who the perpetrators are, and who the victims are?”
Ron looked like he was about to answer Sergeant Ryan, but Jen put up her hand and stopped him. “I think I should tell you since I’m the one who called 9-1-1 and took a video of the whole thing. Before I say anything I think you should look at the video I shot. Is that okay?”
“Video might be good; we’ll have to see it to decide. What is your name, Miss?”
“Jennifer Phillips. I’m a sophomore here at Hillcrest High. The shorter guy standing here is my brother Jason, and the taller redhead guy is Ronald Cantham. I took the video on my cellphone. I emailed a copy to myself.”
“Angelo, how about you watch these other kids and make sure no one gets away, and I’ll take a look at the video.”
The other officer, Patrolman Angelo Valle, nodded in response.
“Let’s do this in the shade. That way it’ll be easier to see,” Jen suggested.
They walked to the end of the bench where they were completely shaded, and Jen started the video from the beginning. When it finished Sergeant Ryan asked Patrolman Valle to handcuff the three boys who were on the ground, then he went to the police car and got a laptop computer.
After seeing it all the way through a second time, Sergeant Ryan asked if the video could be paused and reversed. Jen said she could do both of those things, and they watched the video again with a number of requests from Sergeant Ryan to pause the playback, and a few times he asked to back up and replay a section. Whenever he paused the video he wrote notes on the laptop.
By the time they finished the three handcuffed boys had come around enough to complain that they were the victims who had been attacked without provocation — that’s the word Joe Turner used, ‘provocation’ — and they had been injured and needed to be taken to the hospital, that they shouldn’t be handcuffed, that the handcuffs were too tight and hurt their wrists, and similar grousing and grumbling.
Jason wondered why the police didn’t show them the video, and out of earshot of Joe Turner and the other two guys, he asked Patrolman Valle that question.
“We collect evidence. We don’t show or discuss that evidence with either party in a dispute situation. This is a dispute situation, those three boys against the two of you. It’s up to the District Attorney to decide what evidence is to be used and when charges are made it’s offered to the defense attorney for each of the boys who are implicated as those who attacked you.”
“So it’s not quite like CSI?”
Patrolman Valle grinned. “No, it’s not quite like what you see on CSI.”
Sergeant Ryan was just about finished with Jen. What he wanted was Jen’s cellphone, and Jen was arguing that he didn’t need her cellphone, just the video.
“My cellphone is my entire life!” she argued. “Look, it has my schedule including tests in each of my classes, my study groups, our basketball games, my babysitting schedule, and parties and dances I’m going to. It has all of my contacts with their phone numbers, and I get and make calls and text messages all the time. If you take my phone away I’m going to be disconnected from everyone and everything! I’ll copy the video to the SD card in the phone and let you have that. Otherwise you’ll have to get a court order to take my phone.”
Sergeant Ryan grinned. “Are you studying to be an attorney?”
Jen grinned. “Maybe. For now, I’ll copy the video to the SD card. I’ll play it from the SD card so you know you’re getting the same video, then I’ll loan you the SD card. And I’ll keep my phone until the District Attorney can get a court order. Is that okay?”
“If you give me the video on the SD card, how will we play it back?”
“On any PC. Unless you already have one you’ll need to buy a micro SD card so you have the carrier to plug it in to the SD card slot on a PC or a Mac. Then you can play it back. Even on that laptop you’re using.”
“When you copy the video it will still be on your phone?”
“Yes, I’ll just copy it to the SD card. When I play it back I’ll show you that I selected the SD card and then I’ll step through the playback.”
“Alright, that’s a reasonable compromise. Go ahead and copy the video to the SD card and play it back for me.”
Jen made the copy and played it back for Sergeant Ryan. She opened the back of her smartphone and removed the micro SD card.
“Here’s the micro SD card with the video. There’s other stuff on the card, but think I copied what I need to the internal memory. I back up my phone to this SD card, so it has everything else like my contacts and schedule and apps. Don’t peek at any of that stuff, okay?” Jen grinned, and so did Sergeant Ryan. He pulled out an evidence envelope, dropped the micro SD card in it, sealed it, and wrote what the envelope contained on the front. He looked at Jen, then wrote something else and let her read what he’d written. Jen started laughing as he put the evidence envelope in his pocket.
“Now before I interview the two boys who I saw were about to be victims here, I have a few questions for you. Is it alright if I record the audio of this inquiry?”
“Sure, you can record your questions and my answers to them.”
“Alright, let’s get started. What is your name and address?”
“My name is Jennifer Phillips; I live at 1967 Linden Avenue.”
“Who was with you here at Hillcrest High School today?”
“My brother Jason Phillips and his friend Ronald Cantham.”
“Since this is your spring break and the school was closed, why were the three of you at Hillcrest High School?”
“It’s spring break, but the school isn’t closed. There are week-long special interest classes and some make-up classes this week. The three of us were coming back from hiking at Shell Ridge. I needed to get my Algebra 2 textbook to prep for a test I have to take when we get back from spring vacation next week. It was in my locker in Building 300. That’s the building over there. Jase and Ron decided they didn’t want to come in with me. So they waited outside.”
“What time did you come out of the building?”
“I’m not sure. There’s a time track on the video. If you want, I can look it up.”
“We can do that later. What did you see when you came out?”
“Jason and Ron were sitting here, on this bench in the shade. There were three older guys walking toward them. They were closer to me than to my brother and Ron, so I heard the fat guy tell the other two ‘it’s time for a little faggot bashing’. They couldn’t see me, so I followed them and pulled out my cell and turned on the video camera and the audio and started taking the video of what happened.”
“Do you know any of these three boys?”
“Do they go to Hillcrest High School?”
“I don’t know. I don’t recognize any of them.”
“You heard them threaten Jason Phillips and Ronald Cantham?”
“Yes, and it’s clearly recorded on the video I took.”
“Did either Jason Phillips or Ronald Cantham make any aggressive moves toward the other boys before they were assaulted?”
“No. If there had been it would be on the video I took. In case anyone questions the accuracy of the video, the time track will show that there are no breaks, and there’s no way I could have altered the video because there aren’t any apps to do something like that available for Android Ice Cream Sandwich, that’s the version of the operating system that’s on my cellphone. I made an exact copy of the video on the micro SD card, and that’s what I gave you.”
“Please describe, in your own words, what you saw happen when the three older boys approached Jason Phillips and Ronald Cantham.”
“This is all on the video. When I saw these older guys walking toward Jase and Ron I called 9-1-1 then started taking the video. They never saw me. The blond guy grabbed Jason from behind and held him. The short guy grabbed Ron from his right side and then said something like ‘I think we ought to beat the crap out of them’. The fat guy walked up to Ron and there were some words between them, then Ron said ‘You touch us and we’ll report you to the police’. Then the fat guy said something like ‘We’ll claim we weren’t here’ or something like that. then he said ‘You guys hold these queers and I’ll go to work on them’. Then as he moved toward Ron with his fist balled up ready to slug him, all of a sudden Ron held the arms of the guy holding him so he couldn’t let go, swung up and kicked the guy who was going to hit him in the crotch and that knocked him down. Ron was wearing hiking boots so the kick was pretty effective. The guy holding Ron started to pull his arms away and Ron smashed his foot down on the guy’s ankle. The tall blond guy holding Jase let go and turned to help the guy Ron was kicking. Jase got him around the neck in a choke hold from the back. Ron came over and kicked that guy in his crotch and his knee and he went down. Then it was all over.”
“Did you know that Ronald Cantham was trained in martial arts?”
“No. You should ask him about that.”
“Patrolman Valle is questioning Jason Phillips and Ronald Cantham.”
“Are we going to be taken into custody?”
“I don’t see any reason to do that. I assume that someone from the District Attorney’s office will want to interview each of you. I suggest that you clone your phone in case they get a court order to take your cellphone as material evidence.”
“That’s going to cost me a lot of money. They get $299.95 for my phone. Who’d reimburse me?”
“You’ll have to talk to someone in the District Attorney’s office. Remember, they might decide they don’t need your cellphone.”
“You’ve got my SD card and there’s lots of stuff on it that I need and isn’t on my phone. When can I get it back?”
“Again, you’ll have to talk to someone in the District Attorney’s office about that. You should also talk to your folks about getting a lawyer to advise you.”
Jen sat on the bench and pouted. She also mentally kicked herself for not backing up her SD and SIM cards to her PC. She’d have to ask Jase how to do that, she decided.
About a half hour later Sergeant Ryan gave Jen, Jason, and Ron his card and said they could go home. As they walked home they didn’t have much to say. As they approached Ron’s house, Jen shook her head.
“Earlier I said something about the hike we went on today being the best ever. That’s still true, but I’m not sure whether today was the best or worst day ever. As I think about it, it’s probably neither. What today turned out to be is the weirdest day ever.”
They stopped in front of Ron’s house. “I’m exhausted,” he said. “I’m going to take a shower and go to bed. I’ll see you guys tomorrow.” then he turned and walked to his front door, unlocked it, and went inside.
“I know how Ron feels,” Jason said as he and Jen walked home. “I think I feel about the same. All I want to do is go to sleep. But we’re going to have to tell our folks, just like Ron’s telling his folks. I’d rather skip doing that until tomorrow or next week, or even better, never.”
Jen thought for a couple seconds. “I agree, Jase. We had to read Dante’s Divine Comedy in my English class last semester. In the poem there’s a line that’s supposed to be above the gate that’s the entrance to hell. It describes exactly how I feel right now. It goes something like this: ‘Abandon all hope, you who enter here.’ I think we got ourselves involved in something that could be very complicated. I hope not. But it is important that we let the folks know what happened. And probably get a lawyer to advise us about what to say and what to do. That way we won’t have to abandon all hope.”
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