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
Tom looked at Tanner. “By the way, thanks for reminding me about my laptop. My CPS caseworker is bringing it to me this evening.”
“Tom, you’re the one who remembered your laptop and asked Ms. Parsons about it, and she said she’d bring it to you tonight.”
“Oh. I guess I was so excited about moving back to the Jacksons I got confused. Actually, you reminded me about my cellphone and using it to look up my homework.”
Tanner nodded. “Yes, that’s what I said. Now, back to your laptop. What kind is it?”
“It’s an Acer with a 15-inch screen, an i7 processor, 12 gigabytes of RAM, a one terabyte hard drive, and a 128 gigabyte Solid State Drive.”
“Wow, that’s a great configuration. You should be able to do anything you need to do for school and for fun.”
Tanner sat down and smiled. “It looks like this evening you’ll get two things you wanted”
“Yes. But one, moving back with the Jacksons, is so much bigger and better than my laptop. On the other hand, my laptop will give me something to do the rest of the time I’m here. And also when I get home, too.”
“Like your homework!” Tanner interjected. “And until you get it, there’s homework you should be able to do using your phone. Basically, it’s a computer, just a lot smaller — especially the screen — than your laptop.”
Tom stuck his tongue out at Tanner, then laughed. “I guess I’ll be stuck here for several days. So yes, homework. If it’s okay, I’ll wait until I get my laptop, though.”
“I’m glad you’re getting your laptop,” Tanner said. “But most important, congratulations on getting back with your real foster family.”
“Thanks. This is just such fantastic news, the best news ever. I’m thrilled I’ll see them tonight. I’ve really missed them.”
Tanner’s mother knocked on the doorjamb, then walked in. “Tom, how are you?”
“Great. My foster family, the Jacksons, are taking me back! Now all I need to do is find out when I’m getting out of here and can go home.”
“You should ask Dr. Hamilton. He will be the one to let you know.”
“The sooner, the better. I’m getting bored being stuck in bed.”
“Did someone show you how to use the TV?”
“Uh… no, they didn’t.”
“There’s a wired remote that has a built-in speaker. Let me find it.”
She located the remote at the back of Tom’s bed and handed it to him. “It’s easy to use. All the buttons are labeled. There should be a card with instructions about how to use it and what channels are available.” She found it and handed it to Tom.
“I have my phone, and I’m getting my laptop tonight. Is there Wi-Fi available?”
“Yes,” Danielle said. “There’s a card with the password. I’ll get one for you.” She stepped out to the nurses station and returned with the card and handed it to Tom.
“Thank you. I think I’m all set.”
“Tanner, are you ready to go home?” Danielle asked.
“Yes. Are you going to be okay by yourself, Tom?”
“Sure. I’m feeling better. I think it’s because I found out I’ll return to my real home with the Jacksons, and I’m not worrying anymore about dying or needing an operation.”
“I’ll be here after we have dinner tonight so I can meet your real foster family. Mom, can you drive me?”
“Yes. What time will they be here?” she asked.
“Uh… I don’t know,” Tom said. “Can we call Mrs. Parsons and find out?”
“Yes,” Danielle said, “I can do that now.”
She turned away and placed the call. The boys heard her ask what time Catherine Parsons and the Jacksons would be there, followed by, “Thank you, that will work out just fine.”
She turned back. “They’ll be here at seven-thirty. Visiting hours end at nine o’clock. We’ll get here at around seven forty-five so you can have some private time with the Jacksons first, and then we’ll leave early so Tanner can finish his homework.”
Tanner and his mom said goodbye to Tom, and they left for home.
When he got home, Tanner needed to plan what he’d do when he went to school on Tuesday. He knew it wouldn’t be the same as usual. He’d have to answer a lot of questions about what happened to Tom, so he’d need a way to tell the story about what happened to him. The best way would be to summarize it, then tell that version to everyone. He wrote what he wanted to say, then edited it and re-edited it a couple times. Then he committed the final summarized version to memory.
Then he worked on his homework assignments and studied for his Chemistry test.
Tanner and his family ate dinner and talked about what happened to Tom and what Tanner was planning to do about it.
“Tanner, I suggest that you wait until you’ve discussed this with your coach before contacting your uncle Gerald,” his dad said.
“Well, I thought Uncle Gerald could tell me if Tom should get a lawyer, if he thought it was something the NCS and the CIF should handle, or if he should also contact the police. When I see Tom tonight, I’ll have more information for him and the Jacksons. And I can tell Coach Reynolds what I’d found out when I see him during seventh period PE tomorrow afternoon.”
“Okay, that makes sense. Go ahead and make the call before you leave to visit Tom this evening.”
Tanner made the call to his uncle. He repeated the story about what happened to Tom, and that he’d talk to his coach on Tuesday about what the CIF and NCS would handle. The most important thing would be to get a copy of the video of the game and see if it showed what happened to Tom.
“What does Tom want to do about it? Does he have an idea?” Gerald asked.
“What he wants is to have Nick Poulter suspended, the Ealington coach and the official who watched Tom being targeted and fouled to both be fired, and to get restitution for Tom since he ended up in the hospital and wouldn’t be able to play football the rest of this season and maybe never again.
“Tanner, I think your friend Tom Harris could have a strong legal case to sue Ealington High School for monetary damages. Everything depends on the video. It has to clearly show Tom being attacked by Nick Poulter; it’s a key part of the evidence. One thing, you’ll be talking with your coach, but I think your school’s principal should be involved, too.”
“Okay, I’ll ask my coach about that.”
“I’m not that familiar with high school sports, nor the two groups you told me about, the CIF and the NCS. Again, what are they?”
“The CIF is the California Interscholastic Federation. The CIF sets the rules and regulations for all high school sports in California. It’s divided into sections. The NCS is the North Coast Section, the group that Edison High School, Ealington High School, and their leagues are members along with a lot of other schools and leagues in our area. The NCS hires the officials for football and other sports. I think they’re the ones who penalize coaches and players if they do something like what Nick Poulter and his coach did, but I’m not sure. I’ve made some notes, and I’ll ask Coach Reynolds tomorrow during PE seventh period. I’ll call you when I get the video — I suppose that should be if I get the video — and let you know if it shows what happened to Tom. Or not. I think I’ll find out on Wednesday or Thursday.”
“That’ll be fine, Tanner. I’ll look forward to seeing what’s on the video, assuming you get it and it shows Tom being fouled.”
“Thanks for your help, Uncle Gerald. I’ll be in touch later. Bye for now.” Tanner ended the call, and he and his mom left for the hospital.
On the way, she had questions about what Gerald told him.
“He said it sounds like Tom has grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against Ealington High School. He can sue because the injuries he suffered in the attack will prevent him from playing football this year and maybe in the future, too. It depends on the video. It’s gotta show Tom being attacked by Nick Poulter. I won’t know that until I see the video, and that assumes that it exists. We’re supposed to be making videos of our home games — this was a home game — so I have to ask Coach Reynolds about that. I assume the video was taken by students from the videography class, so I don’t know how good the quality would be.
“I’m not going to tell Tom anything about what I find out from Uncle Gerald. I’ll wait until I’ve talked to Coach Reynolds and Coach Oldham. They both saw what happened to Tom as it was happening, and I was right there next to them. They were livid, most of all because the official didn’t call a foul.
“The thing is, what’s needed is actual evidence that it happened, not just from those of us who saw it because we’re all connected to Edison High.
“Because he’s in Sacramento and we’re in Walnut Creek, Uncle Gerald said someone in our area should represent Tom. I think that makes sense because meetings between the attorney and Tom and witnesses will be easy to set up if Tom’s attorney is here compared to being two hours away in Sacramento.
“He said we should involve our principal in the decision to go to the CIF and the NCS and we should have her okay. So I’ll ask Coach Reynolds about that tomorrow when I see him.”
“Well, that was rather a long explanation. It shows that these things can get very complicated,” Tanner’s mom observed.
Monday Evening, 10/1/2018
When they arrived at the hospital, Tanner wondered if they were too early. He mentioned that to his mom.
“It’s ten minutes to eight, and you said his foster parents would be there at seven-thirty. I don’t think we’re too early. We can leave as soon as we think it’s appropriate,” she told him. “That way if they want to have more time to talk privately, we won’t be in the way.”
When they got to Tom’s room, the door was open and they could hear Tom talking. Tanner knocked on the doorjamb.
“Hi, Tom. I’m here with my mom.”
“Come in Tanner! I’ve been telling Linda and Paul Jackson all about you. And about you too, Mrs. Knox.”
They introduced themselves then, much to Tanner’s surprise, Linda Jackson grabbed him in a tight hug. She grinned when she saw that the hug confused him.
“Tom told us how you saved him. Thank you so much, Tanner.”
“Huh? Saved him? I didn’t save him. The doctors here at the hospital saved him.”
“I beg to differ,” Paul Jackson said. “You were at home and got a cab to take Tom to the hospital. And your mother, Mrs. Knox, was here to get him checked in and into an ER examination room right away. So, Linda and I agree with Tom that you saved him.”
Tanner suppressed a laugh because he recognized the Jacksons were serious, and he didn’t want to offend them. But he’d never agree that he had saved Tom. He hadn’t done much, just call a cab and make sure Tom got to the hospital.
“Thank you. Tom’s a great guy, and we’re best friends.” Tanner saw Tom’s pleased expression.
“We’re so glad to meet you, Tanner,” Linda Jackson said. “Tom has been talking about you all evening.” Tanner blushed, which was something he seldom did.
She turned to Tanner’s mom. “Mrs. Knox, we want to thank you too, because you contacted Catherine Parsons from Child Protective Services and got her involved. She told us that CPS has terminated both Mrs. Wilcox and Mrs. Strallen and renewed our fostering of Tom. We’re arranging to adopt him.”
“That’s wonderful,” Tanner’s Mom said. “Catherine told me that Mable and George Wilcox have lost their fostering license and can never again have foster children in their home. All of the eight other boys, who the Wilcox’s illegally fostered, are being moved with their clothes and other belongings to a legal group home and are available for fostering.”
“Mrs. Strallen pulled me and the eight other guys out of good foster families,” Tom said. “I hope those foster families will take them back like my foster mom and dad are doing for me.”
Tanner could see that Tom was tearing up. “Say, Tom, did the doctor tell you when he thinks you’ll be able to leave?”
“No, just the same as before. Several days until I’m not passing blood. It’s good that my urine is a pale pink instead of blood red now — sorry about the gory details. Anyway, Doctor Hamilton told me that’s a very good sign.”
“That’s great, Tom,” Tanner said. “The sooner you get back to school the fewer tests you’ll need to make up.” He grinned, and Mr. Jackson laughed and added, “That’s a very important incentive!”
“Did you get your laptop?” Tanner asked.
“Yes! Mrs. Parsons came to see me early this afternoon and brought it and the charger. I already used it to do most of my homework.”
“Tanner, tell us what you saw when Tom was hurt in the game Friday night,” Mr. Jackson asked.
So that’s what Tanner did. As planned, he left out that he had talked to his uncle, but talked about his plan to meet with Coach Reynolds during seventh period PE on Tuesday and find out if he could get the video, and what he hoped the video would show.
“I don’t know if the video will show what happened to Tom. But if it does, we'll have what we need to go after Nick Poulter and their coach and the official. We have witnesses, but they are all connected in one way or another with Edison High. The closest to being independent is Mike Eiland. He’s Bill Eiland’s dad; Bill is on the football team, so his dad has a connection with Edison High. He told us he saw the same things that our coaches and I saw.”
“I hope the video shows at least part of the details of what happened to Tom,” Paul Jackson said.
“I agree,” Tanner said. “I hope to find out tomorrow night. If I get the video, I’ll search near the end and see if it shows what happened.”
The adults chatted about school and living in Walnut Creek and the Knox’s recent move from Hayward, what Danielle Knox did at the hospital, Tom and Tanner’s plans for college. There was more general chit-chat of the sort that adults seemed to do all the time. To be polite, the boys listened with limited interest.
When the adult discussion wound down, Tom said that he’d had a visitor in the afternoon. “It was Calvin Alciano. He was one of my two roommates at the Wilcox’s.”
“I know him,” Tanner said. “He’s in my English 3 class.”
Tom continued. Anyway, Cal told me that he was so upset that he phoned CPS this morning while he was waiting for the bus to go to school. He talked to Mrs. Parsons and complained about how bad it was at the Wilcox’s. He told her that they wouldn’t take me to the hospital even though I was peeing blood.
“Cal said she told him to wait for her and she picked him up and took him to the CPS office. He said she was glad that he’d made a complaint about what was going on.”
“It’s great that he decided to call CPS,” Tanner said. “No wonder Mrs. Parsons came to the hospital when my mom called her. I think her meeting with Cal got the whole thing started.”
“I agree,” Tanner’s dad said.
“Tom, we should thank this boy when you get home,” Linda Jackson said. “We should have him come and visit us.” That started a general discussion about how much Calvin did that helped both Tom and the other boys.
“Well, it’s time for us to get home so I can get dinner ready,” Danielle said. “Tanner, I assume there’s homework you need to finish, too.”
“It seems I almost always have homework I need to finish,” he replied, and he and Tom both laughed. They said their goodbyes, and Tanner reminded Tom that he’d see him on Tuesday after school.
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