Tom Harris is injured in a high school football game and ends up in the hospital.
Tanner Knox says he’ll make sure Tom receives reparation for what happened.
Monday Afternoon, 10/1/2018
Tanner asked Tom, “Do you want to rest for a while?”
“I think so, but after I eat. I’m starving. I haven’t had anything to eat since lunch on Saturday.”
“You didn’t have dinner last night?”
“No. I didn’t feel like eating. That’s when I had a lot of pain in my abdomen and blood in my urine.”
“You should have told the doctor that. Maybe they’d give you more to eat than just a standard lunch.”
“Maybe. Let’s see what they give me, and if it’s not enough, I’ll ask for more.”
Tanner grinned. “Like in Oliver Twist?”
Tom laughed. “Maybe. As long as it isn’t gruel.”
“In a hospital, you never know what you’re going to get. And gruel would qualify as something on a soft diet.”
“I suppose. This is the first time I’ve ever been in a hospital.”
“Yeah. Well, except when I was born, I suppose. How about you?”
“Besides the being born part, I was in a hospital twice. When I had my tonsils out, and when I broke my arm.”
“You broke your arm? When was that?”
“When I was six. A friend’s brother had a skateboard, and I tried to ride it without knowing how. Just like Bill Eiland’s sister. I fell and broke my right arm. It was a closed compound fracture. That means the bone separated at the fracture but didn’t come outside of my skin.”
“Wow. What did they do to fix it?”
“They set the bone and put in pins to hold it in place until it healed, then about a month later they removed the pins. I have a scar where the incision was.”
“Can I see it?”
“Sure.” Tanner rolled up his sleeve and showed Tom the scar in his forearm.
“It’s not very big.”
“Yeah. I guess that’s because my arm was a lot smaller back when I was six. As I grew up, the scar didn’t seem to get much bigger.”
“Do you have any problems with that arm?”
“Nope. Not at all. Except for the scar it was like it never happened. When I was a freshman at Cathedral High and wanted to go out for football, I had to have it X-rayed. The orthopedist said he couldn’t see any sign it had been broken.”
“That was lucky. I didn’t know that you went to Cathedral.”
“Yeah. We had a good year when I was a sophomore. It wouldn’t have been good this year when I would have been a junior. But my dad got a new job, we moved to Walnut Creek, and here I am.” He spread his arms and grinned.
“So you’re glad you switched to Edison High?”
“Yes. I was about to quit the team at Cathedral, and I would have if we hadn’t moved.”
“Wow. That’s unreal.”
“Because I can tell from the way you play that you love football.”
“I love football as long as I’m having fun. My junior year at Cathedral would have been hell. When I was a sophomore a lot of the guys on the team were seniors, and the next year the guys from the JV team who moved up thought they didn’t need to work at all. It’s like they felt they had a God–given right to the positions they played on the JV team and the guys who’d been on the varsity team the prior year that were sophomores weren’t important. Including me.”
“What’s their record this year?”
“Well, they’ve played three games so far, like us, and they’ve lost them all and by big margins. My guess is they won’t win very many games this year. A bunch of the sophomores from the prior year dropped off the team. That’s what I would have done if we hadn’t moved.”
“What was the team record when you were a sophomore?”
“Twelve wins and one loss, and that loss was the third game in the CIF playoffs, and it was to St. Francis; they won the state Division 3 championship.”
“What did the coach think about all this?”
“He’s totally pissed with the guys from the JVs. I heard that he’s planning to retire at the end of this year.”
“Would that be a big loss for Cathedral High?”
“Yes. He’s been a very successful coach, and his teams at Cathedral almost always had winning records.”
“That would be too bad for the school.”
“Have the guys from the JV team lost some of their attitude?” Tom asked.
“I’ve talked to one of my friends who’s still on the team. He said the guys from the JV team had been trying to blame the guys who were on last year’s varsity team. So six of the holdovers, including the best defensive linemen, walked — just up and quit the team. All of a sudden the JV guys are keeping a low profile, and they aren’t doing any boasting or blaming anymore. They tried to talk the six guys who quit to come back. My friend said the six of them just turned around and walked away. He also said some of them left Cathedral High and switched to Hayward High where they were warmly received.”
They continued to talk about school and football, the games they had coming up, and who would fill in for Tom for the rest of the season.
Then an orderly brought in a late lunch for Tom.
“Hi. I have some lunch for you. I’ll move the tray table over and raise the back of your bed. Is that okay?”
“Sure, I guess. Can I sit in the chair to eat?”
“I can check with your nurse.”
He put the tray of food on the tray table and went out to the nurses station. When he returned, he was shaking his head.
“Sorry, the doctor wants you to stay in bed.”
“What am I getting to eat?”
“Cream of chicken soup, soda crackers, orange sherbet, and ginger ale.”
“Actually, that sounds good,” Tom said.
While he was eating Tanner asked Tom if he wanted him to check with his teachers about getting homework assignments he could do while he was in the hospital.
“That’s a good idea. If you don’t mind.”
“I’ll need your schedule. Except for the three classes we have together.”
“Spanish 3, Digital Arts — which will be Web Design next semester — and PE.”
“You don’t have to bother finding out what assignments Coach Reynolds might have had for me. I don’t think I’ll be doing anything in PE for a while.”
“It isn’t finding out what assignments the coach would have had for you. It’s what I’m going to do about Nick Poulter. Tomorrow I’ll talk to Coach Reynolds about what happened to you and what we can do about it, find out about getting a copy of the video of the game, or at least of the part where you were fouled by Nick Poulter and the Ealington coach giving him an attaboy when he ran off the field. I also want to know if there’s any way to find out who that official is.
“Then tomorrow night I’ll call my Uncle Gerald in Sacramento — he’s an attorney — and see if he knows what can be done, and let him know that we have Mr. Eiland, who was in the stands, as a witness, and that we might have a video of the game.”
Tom laughed. “I like those things, but I’m glad they’re all assignments for you, not for me. I don’t have any relatives who are attorneys.”
“Maybe you’ll be interviewed by someone from the NCS and even the police, and you’ll be able to tell them what happened from your point of view.”
“You think we can get something on those guys?”
“I don’t know, Tom. But I sure as hell want to try.”
“Works for me. If you have some paper, I’ll write down what my other classes are.” Tanner found a tablet and a pen in the stand next to Tom’s bed. “Besides the classes we have together, I have World History and Geography, Physics, Algebra 2 and Trig, and English 2,” he said as he wrote.
Tanner asked, “Say, how’s your soup?”
“It’s good. It’s sort of thick and has a lot of flavor. The crackers are good, too.
“Here are my classes and the period, classroom, and the name of the teacher for each of them.”
Tanner took the list and put it in his pocket. “You want to watch some TV?”
“Nah. I’ll be watching a lot of TV tonight. You know what I’d like to have is my laptop.”
“You have a laptop?”
“Yes. The Jacksons bought it for me, and they said I should keep it when Donna Strallen pulled me out of their home.”
“Man, that’s really generous. You’re right-on when you say they love you. I’ll bet they’ll be willing to take you back.”
“I don’t know. With this injury to my bladder, they might think I’ll have other health problems.”
“Bullpucky! I think they love you, Tom. No matter what.”
Even though Tom was laughing, he was able to ask, “What the hell does ‘bullpucky’ mean?”
“It’s a euphemism for bullshit.”
“And… remind me what a euphemism is…”
“A substitute for a word that’s vulgar. Like in class, you can’t say bullshit, but there’s no reason you can’t say bullpucky — try it sometime.”
“Yeah, I think maybe I’ll pass on doing that. My teachers might know what it’s a euphemism for.” Tom chuckled.
Tanner sat thinking for a few seconds. “Say, where’s your phone? You can use it to read books, surf the net, look at YouTube videos, and listen to music. And log on to your School Loop account and see what homework you have.”
“I need you around to remind me of things I should have remembered. It’s in one of the yellow bags. I saw the orderly put the bags on the top shelf in the closet.”
Tanner found the bags and the one with Tom’s phone. He handed it to him. Tom turned it on. “The battery’s good to go; it’s at 98%. Thanks, Tanner.”
It was quiet for a few minutes as Tom finished his lunch. Then they continued to talk about school.
“Have you been at Edison since you were a freshman?” Tanner asked.
“Yes. I went to elementary and middle school in Walnut Creek, too.”
“Is it okay if I ask you a personal question?” Tanner asked.
“How long have you been in the foster care system?”
“Since I was ten years old. The day after my tenth birthday. There was a traffic accident. My folks had serious injuries. They died. My injuries were minor. I survived. My grandparents took me in. But my granddad came down with Parkinson’s disease so I couldn’t stay with them. So I was moved to a group home for foster kids. It was okay, but not like living with a family. When I was fourteen, the Jacksons fostered me. They’re the foster family I told you about that’s so nice. They wanted to adopt me. Then Donna Strallen moved me to the Wilcox’s. And you know the rest.”
“You don’t have any other relatives?”
“Not in California. I have two uncles back east, but it didn’t work out for either of them to foster me.”
“I hope you’ll be able to go back to the Jacksons.”
They heard a woman’s voice say, “I can guarantee that he will.”
They both turned to look at the door to Tom’s room. Catherine Parsons from CPS was there, and she was smiling as she entered and walked up to Tom’s bed.
“What did you say?” Tom asked. He was holding his breath, hoping that he hadn’t misunderstood what she’d said.
“You’re going to be fostered by the Jacksons, again. This time, it will be permanent.”
Tom almost jumped out of his bed. “Really!? It’s certain!?” he shouted.
She grinned. “Yes. It’s certain.”
“When you’re released from the hospital. And they’re coming to visit you this evening.”
“Oh, my god! Thank you, thank you.” Tom had tears running down his cheeks. Tanner knew they were tears of happiness. Seeing them, he teared up a bit himself.
“I thought you’d like to hear some good news,” Mrs. Parsons said.
“That’s the most wonderful news ever,” Tom told her.
“I wanted to tell you in person. I’ll come back this evening with the Jacksons. Right now I need to get back to my office.”
“Excuse me,” Tanner said. “Tom asked if he could have his laptop to use while he’s in the hospital. Can someone bring it to him with the charger?”
“Yes. Tom, we have your things in the storage room in our office. I’ll find your laptop and the charger and bring them to you this evening.”
She turned to Tanner. “Will I see you when the Jacksons are here this evening?”
“Yes. If it’s okay, I’d like to meet them. I’ll ask my mom to drive me.”
She smiled. “It’s okay, as long as it’s okay with Tom.”
“Of course! I want them to meet my best friend.”
“Then I’ll see you both tonight.” She waved to the boys. “Bye for now.”
“Thank you, and I’ll see you tonight,” Tom said, as she walked out.
“Did you mean the part about telling the Jacksons that I’m your best friend?” Tanner asked.
“Yes… I hope that was okay.”
“It’s more than okay. You’re my best friend, too. Even if you are just a sophomore,” Tanner said, then he grinned.
“What, does the grade difference worry you?” Tom asked.
“Nah. I don’t care about age and grade and that sort of thing. I like you, Tom. Even though I’m still new at Edison High, I don’t think there’s anyone better than you to be my best friend.”
“I need a hug,” Tom said.
Tanner got up and walked to the side of Tom’s bed, then leaned down and hugged him, being careful so he wouldn’t squeeze him too tight.
“Thanks. That was nice.”
“I’m surprised you don’t already have a best friend,” Tanner said. “You’ve been going to school with most of these kids from the start.”
“There’s a reason, but I don’t want to get into that right now. Maybe later. A hospital room doesn’t seem like the right place. Maybe when I get out of here.”
“Okay. Whenever you want to talk about it is fine with me.” Tanner didn’t have any idea why Tom was reticent. He knew that whatever it was, it wouldn’t make any difference.
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