Reparation by Colin Kelly

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.

Chapter 10

Tuesday Morning, 10/2/2018

When Tanner got to school Tuesday morning, he discovered that somehow the story that he’d spent Monday at the hospital with Tom had spread via the Edison rumor mill. His friends and other kids, and some teachers, too, asked him lots of questions about Tom. How was he doing? How long he would be in the hospital? Could he have visitors? And, what happened to him during the game Friday night? He was glad he worked so hard to come up with what to say, and he told the memorized version with minor alterations each time. That way he figured it wouldn’t sound too rehearsed.

He planned to meet with the teachers for Tom’s classes during lunch. Easiest were the two classes (other than PE) that they had together, Spanish 3 and Digital Arts. He talked to the teachers at the end of each class. The teachers said they’d post information for Tom on School Loop.

Trying to meet with Tom’s other teachers during lunch wasn’t very successful. He only met with one, Mr. Flynn, who taught Tom’s Algebra 2 and Trigonometry class. He decided that he’d try to meet with the other teachers Wednesday morning during the 7:30 AM Collaboration period.

During lunch he didn’t tell anyone what he planned to do. Even when questioned by other members of the football team. They talked about what happened, but Tanner didn’t go beyond that.

The most important thing on Tanner’s schedule was to meet with Coach Reynolds during PE seventh period and talk about the video. He wanted the video, needed the video — that was absolutely the most important thing on his list. He hoped he’d get the support of both of the Edison varsity football coaches, especially Coach Reynolds.

Tanner was able to talk to Cal Alciano before their English 3 class started. He told Cal some of the things he was planning to do, based on getting the video of the game. Cal was pleased that the list included apology letters from Nick Poulter and the Ealington coach.

“How are you doing?” Tanner asked.

“I’m being fostered by a couple who has two little girls and were looking for a teenage boy to add to their family. They are great foster parents, the girls are a blast, and they have a pool, Tanner. Imagine that! It’s the best situation I’ve ever had. I couldn’t be happier.”

“Cal, I’m glad it’s so much better than when you were stuck in that other place with the… hmm… I don’t remember that woman’s name.”

“You mean the woman who’s name cannot be spoken, right?”

Tanner laughed. “Yeah, that’s the one!”

When the English 3 teacher, Ms. Harrington, arrived Tanner asked her if he could leave class a little early because he was meeting with his coach about Tom Harris. She said it was okay, so he took a seat near the back of the classroom where he could slip out without disturbing the class. When it was time, he quietly left the room through the back door then walked across campus to the gym.

Coach Reynolds smiled when he saw Tanner, and asked, “How’s Tom doing?”

“Better than they thought at first. Turns out that the injuries are serious enough to keep him in the hospital for a few days; he has internal contusions in his bladder. The doctor said that they’ll watch him for a couple more days until there’s no blood in his urine; then he can go home. The doctor didn’t tell him yet when he’ll be able to return to school. The one thing he has been told is that he won’t be able to play football for the rest of this season. It depends on how his bladder’s healed whether he can play next season or not.”

“Well, most of that is good news. How does he feel?”

“He’s able to eat now, and he’s on what they call a regular soft diet.”

“So, what’s next?” Coach Reynolds asked. “You know, I watched Tom from our sideline. After he lateraled to Jake Ormsley, I didn’t follow the ball. I was watching Tom because of how hard he went down as he was hit helmet-to-helmet.¬† I wanted to make sure he was okay. Because of that, I saw everything. Trouble is, he wasn’t okay.”

“I agree that he wasn’t okay,” Tanner said. “Tom can hide it when he’s hurt.” Then he described, in detail, what he saw as Nick Poulter fouled Tom.

“Poulter ran at Tom and did a helmet-to-helmet hit on the back of Tom’s head knocking his helmet off,” Tanner said. “Tom ended up on the field flat on his back.

“Poulter watched us score the winning touchdown. He turned and looked at Tom who was lying in the same place, face-up. As Tom started to get up, Poulter ran at him and drove his knee into his lower abdomen then jumped up and did it again. He turned and looked at the official, the fat one, who watched everything that happened and didn't call any fouls. The Ealington coach also watched from their sideline.

“First, when Poulter slammed his helmet into Tom’s and knocked it off, that was targeting. Then when he jumped on Tom, twice, both were clearly flagrant personal fouls. In fact, any of the three things Poulter did to Tom should have resulted in a fifteen-yard penalty and Poulter being ejected from the game. That official should be fired and never allowed to officiate in any high school sport again, ever.

“Nick Poulter got up, turned around, and ran off the field. The coach of the Ealington football team was smiling and stepped off the sideline onto the field. When Poulter got there, the coach did a high-five then slapped him on his back as he walked him to their bench. It was like he was saying congratulations for injuring an opposing player.

“I ran up to Tom and saw that he was woozy. He told me that the guy who hit him had almost knocked him out. That was a clear targeting foul on a defenseless player. Poulter should have been ejected from the game and a fifteen-yard penalty assessed on the kickoff after our touchdown and point-after.”

“Yes, those are the same things that we saw, too,” Coach Reynolds said. “When our on-field doctor examined Tom, I didn’t realize how bad he’d been injured. Neither did the doctor. Still, we wanted to be cautious so Coach Oldham drove him home.”

“Coach, I’ve never in my life seen anything like what was done to Tom by an opposing player in any of our games. And I’ve never been so pissed about something in any of our games. My Uncle Gerald is an attorney in Sacramento. I want to borrow the video of the game, and I’ll see if it shows the attack on Tom — and that’s what it was, an attack. If it’s on the video, I’ll copy that sequence to my PC then I’ll email it to my uncle. After he gets back to me with his legal opinion, what I want to do is send it to the CIF and the NCS and demand that Nick Poulter, the coach of the Ealington High School varsity football team, and the official that ignored what happened to Tom, all be suspended.

“So, what I need in order to get this started is a copy of the video of the game. Do you know how I can get a copy? Can you get it for me?”

Coach Reynolds sat staring at Tanner for a few seconds, then he slowly shook his head. That made Tanner worry that the coach wouldn’t agree with the plan he’d come up with to deal with what happened to Tom. And that he wouldn’t help him get a copy of the video, either.

Instead, Coach Reynolds grinned, then said with a chuckle, “Tanner, remind me to never get on your wrong side.”

“Hey, you’ll never get on my wrong side,” Tanner said.

Coach Reynolds opened his desk drawer and handed Tanner a DVD. “Go ahead with what you want to do. This is a copy of Friday night’s game. It has the entire game with Ealington. It’s yours. You don’t need to return it.”

“My uncle wanted to know something, and I didn’t know the answer. Is it the North Coast Section that would penalize officials, coaches, and players, or is it the California Interscholastic Federation?”

“The NCS would penalize officials and, depending on what they’d done, coaches, too. It’s left to the schools and the leagues to penalize players and usually to penalize coaches. It’s doubtful that the CIF would get involved unless there was a lawsuit.”

“My uncle also said we should get Principal Freitas involved in sending the video to the NCS and CIF.”

“Athletic Director Douglas Lowry and David Wells, he’s the attorney for the school district, will also have to be involved. They will work with Principal Freitas to decide what to do about what happened to Tom Harris.”

“There’s one more thing,” Tanner said. “When I was with Tom in the hospital yesterday, he had to have a CT scan. While we were waiting, we were talking about what happened. Mike Eiland was there. He’s Bill Eiland’s father. He came up when he overheard us talking. He said he had his binoculars and watched the play where Tom was injured, so he was a witness to what happened. Here’s his business card.”

“This is getting better and better,” Coach Reynolds said. “How about you hang on to this and give it to Tom’s foster parents. It’ll be more useful if they decide to sue.”

“Okay, I will. And thank you for supporting us and giving me the DVD. I know Tom will thank you, too. I’m going to the hospital to see him this afternoon when seventh period is over and tell him I have the DVD.”

“Please tell Tom that I said hello and that he should take it easy and get well. Do you want to leave early?”

“I don’t need to. I’ll take the first bus that leaves school and goes out Ygnacio Valley Road. There’s no earlier bus.”

“Okay. You ready for our team meeting? It’ll be in the gym. We’ll use the bleachers on the away side. You can wear what you have on.”

“Okay, I’ll see you there, Coach.”

Tuesday Afternoon, 10/2/2018

After the team meeting, Tanner got the textbooks he’d need from his locker and took the bus to John Muir Hospital.

As usual he had to register to see Tom Harris and get a sticker to put on the outside of his jacket. They inspected the contents of his backpack; he told them he was helping the patient he was seeing in room 482 study for two tests he’d have as soon as he returned to school. They let him keep his backpack.

“Hey, there!” Tanner called out when he got to Tom’s room. “How you doing?”

Tom was smiling. “Great. There’s no sign of blood in my urine today. They’ll probably kick me out on Thursday. I can’t ¬†wait!”

“When will you be able to get back to school?”

“Maybe on Monday. Doctor Hamilton will let me know after more tests today and tomorrow to see if my urine stays clear.”

“That’s great! I talked to three of your teachers. The two that teach the classes we’re in together, Spanish 3 and Digital Arts. The other is your Algebra 2 and Trig teacher, Mr. Flynn. All three said the assignments are on School Loop. You can log on and see the homework that’s due. They all said they’d give you extra time to get caught up.

“You missed an Algebra 2 test on Monday, and there will be another test next Monday. Mr. Flynn said you can take those tests when you get back.

“Mrs. Acero said she posted extra Spanish homework for you. That will take the place of the in-class translating that you missed.

“As usual, there are no tests in Digital Arts. Mr. Farinholdt said you can do the assignments either when you get back to school or, if you can access the class server from your computer, you can do them when you get home. Your choice.

“I’ll meet with your counselor and your other three teachers during Collaboration period tomorrow morning. I assume there are assignments you’ve missed that are on School Loop. If there are any textbooks in your locker that you need, I can get them and bring them to you tomorrow.”

“Most of my textbooks are in my backpack. It’s in the cabinet next to my bed. I’ve gone onto School Loop, and I can get my homework assignments. Now that I have my laptop I can get to work and start with my easier homework first.”

Tanner got the backpack and put it on the bed next to Tom.

Tom pulled his books, one at a time, from his backpack. “The most important is my Algebra 2 and Trig workbook. It has the homework problems we get on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Here it is, so I’m good.” He set it aside. “For Spanish I need my Spanish-English dictionary; I have it, too. There are two textbooks I don’t have but need to do homework. They are the ones for my Physics and World History and Geography classes. If you can get those out of my locker and bring them to me tomorrow that’d be a big help; I’ll text you with my locker number and combination. With those two, I’m good to go until I get back to school, and I’ll be able to keep up with all of my homework.”

“I’ll get those textbooks for you, and I’ll bring them when I come to visit tomorrow.”

Tom opened his laptop. He logged on and read through his homework assignments. “Ugh! I know what I’ll be doing until I get back to school, both while I’m stuck here and when I’m back at home.”

Tom shed a few tears, and he turned and looked at Tanner. “That’s the first time I’ve said ‘when I’m back at home’ in a long time. Tanner, you’ve been an important part of my being able to return to a real home with people who care for me and want me there because they love me. It’ll be a huge improvement compared to the eight months of hell I had to live through in that Wilcox dump where I was moved. Because of you, I’m still alive and I’m back with my real family where I belong. Thank you, Tanner.”

“I’m glad that everything is coming together for you, Tom.”

“Tanner, pull your chair over and sit next to my bed. Oh… one good thing, the doctor told me I can get out of bed and sit in a chair starting in the morning. Adiós cama, no te extrañaré en absolute!”

Tanner translated that out loud: “Goodbye bed, I will not miss you at all!” That made both boys laugh.

“What I said is really true,” Tom said. “Why are hospital beds so damned uncomfortable?”

“You’ll have to ask my mom. I don’t have a clue.”

“Maybe it’s because they hope patients will end up with back problems so they’ll need expensive back surgery before they can go home.”

“That makes sense to me. I suggest that you don’t ask my mom about that part. Anyway, it makes it even more important that you’re released ASAP so you can go home and sleep in a comfortable bed and recover.”

“I agree, Tanner. I agree.”

They sat and talked about what Coach Reynolds talked about during today’s team meeting, what Tanner learned about their next opponent, Oak Glen High School, and that lots of kids and teachers at school were asking about how he was doing and wondering if they could visit him in the hospital and when he’d be able to go home. Those last items surprised Tom and made him feel happy that he was recognized by other kids.

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