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.
Tuesday Evening, 10/2/2018
Tanner didn’t like the video player that came with his laptop It was sort of clunky and didn’t have any advanced features. So he found the website for VLC then downloaded and installed the program. Then he played the video clip using VLC. He especially liked that it was easy to use, and it had a feature he wanted that his current program didn’t have: the ability to slow down and speed up playback.
Then Tanner went downstairs to the family room to see if his dad was home. He was.
“Hey, Dad. I have the clip showing Tom being attacked at the game Friday. You want to see it?”
“Sure. Can you play it on the TV?”
“I have to do it on a computer. Can you come upstairs? I’ll use my PC.”
John Knox watched the clip. “Amazing. Can you play it slower?”
“Sure.” Tanner played it at half-speed. While it was playing, he told his dad how there were three cameras, and the clip was from the Edison sideline that showed Tom being attacked.
When the clip finished playing, Tanner’s dad shook his head. “That will be excellent evidence. Did you send it to your Uncle Gerald?”
“Yes. And he said he thinks this is enough for Tom’s parents to take those guys to court.”
“Why do they make videos of the games?”
“We view them in team meetings so we can see everything we did that didn’t work and the coaches can figure out how to fix the problems.
“Dad, I need a favor. I want to bring the clip to Tom tonight. Can you or Mom drive me to the hospital? Visiting hours end at nine, but I won’t stay long.”
“Sure, I can drive you. That way I can meet Tom. How about right after dinner?”
“That’ll be great. Thanks.”
Tanner sent a text to Tom to let him know that they’d leave for the hospital after dinner.
After they finished eating, his dad drove Tanner to John Muir Hospital. They signed in and took the elevator to the fourth floor.
Tanner knocked on the doorjamb as they walked in.
“Hi, Tanner!” It was easy to see that Tom was enthusiastic and glad to see him.
“Hi, Tom. This is my dad, John Knox. Dad, this is Tom Harris.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Knox,” Tom said.
“It’s nice to meet you too, Tom. Tanner’s been talking a lot about you and what happened at the game. He’s eager to show you the video.”
“Where’s your laptop?” Tanner asked.
“In the drawer in the cabinet next to my bed.”
Tanner got it out, turned it on, waited a few seconds for Windows to start, then plugged in the flash drive. “This flash drive is yours to keep,” he told Tom.
He loaded VLC and opened the file on the flash drive. Tom watched the video play.
“Wow. I think I agree with your uncle. Man, this video is really clear. This is great evidence. Now the question is what to do about it. Maybe your uncle will give us some advice.”
“I sent the video clip to him and he gave me some good advice. He said this had enough evidence for your folks to sue Ealington High School, their coach, and have the official fired. And, most importantly, make sure Nick Poulter is kicked off their football team. Also, I’ll show the video clip to Coach Reynolds tomorrow during seventh period and ask him what he thinks you and your folks should do about Nick Poulter, the Ealington coach, and that official. I’ll let you know what I find out.
“So, is your doctor going to let you go home on Friday?” Tanner asked.
Tom grinned. “Yes. And… tah-dah! I can return to school on Monday.”
“When you get home, you should let both your mom and dad see the video. This will show them what happened to you. They’ll be on your side in anything that comes up against the Ealington High coach and Nick Poulter. And even fighting the NCS to get that official fired if a fight is necessary.”
Tom was chuckling.
“What’s funny?” Tanner asked.
“All this time and in all our discussions we’ve been talking about the Ealington football coach. But you know what? We still don’t know his name. Do you agree?”
“I never thought about that. You’re right. Let’s see if we can Google it. On your laptop go to Google, search for Ealington High School, and look for a link to athletics,” Tanner suggested.
“Found it.” What he saw on the Ealington website made Tom burst out laughing, and it took him almost ten seconds before he could catch his breath and tell Tanner and Mr. Knox what was so funny.
He almost shouted when he’d found the entry in Google. “The Ealington High School football coach’s name is Simon Poulter! I’ll bet he’s related to Nick Poulter. Probably his father.” That caused Tom to laugh again.
Tanner didn’t think it was funny. He was even more pissed than he’d been when he met with Coach Reynolds.
Tom realized that Tanner wasn’t laughing. “I take it you don’t think it’s funny,” Tom said. “Well, what I think is that the Ealington coach, Simon Poulter, didn’t know that we would have a video of what his son, Nick Poulter, did. Both of them are stupid fucking assholes. And I think that’s hilarious.”
John Knox cleared his throat. “Tom, are you saying the guy that attacked you is related to the Ealington High football coach?”
“Sorry for my language. I’ll bet the Ealington coach and Nick Poulter are related and it looks like they’re father and son. They have the same last name, Poulter.” He spelled it. “That’s definitely not a common last name.”
“That’s true. But until you have facts that prove that they’re related, you shouldn’t spread this story around.”
“We won’t spread it around,” Tanner said. “I’ll tell Uncle Gerald and Coach Reynolds and no one else. And Tom can tell his folks; is that okay?”
“Yes, of course. Tanner, why didn’t Coach Reynolds tell you the Ealington coach’s name? He must have known it was Poulter,” John Knox asked his son.
“That’s a very good question. I’ll ask him as soon as I get to school tomorrow morning. Right now I want to call Uncle Gerald and update him.”
“I think that’s a good idea,” his dad replied.
Tanner sat on one of the side chairs near Tom’s bed. “I’ll put the call on my speakerphone.” He dialed the number.
“Hi, Uncle Gerald. It’s Tanner. I’m in Tom’s room at John Muir Hospital. You're on my speakerphone. Tom and my dad are here listening in. We have some surprising news.”
“About Tom’s situation?”
“Yup. Tom realized there was one thing that we never knew. That was the name of Ealington High’s football coach. So he looked it up. Their coach’s name is Simon Poulter. The name of the kid who attacked Tom is Nick Poulter. We don’t know if they are related, but Poulter is not a common last name and they are spelled the same.” He spelled the name for his uncle.
“Well, that is interesting. Let me do some digging. I’ll get back to you, Tanner.”
“Okay, thanks.” Tanner ended the call.
“Tom, I need to get home because I have to get up early to be at school before collaboration period starts so I can to talk to Coach Reynolds. Then I’ll talk to your counselor and the teachers from your other three classes and ask them to post information about homework and tests on School Loop for you. I’ll tell them that you might be back at school on Monday instead of you will be back, so if something happens you’ll be in the clear.”
“Okay, thanks, Tanner. It was nice meeting you, Mr. Knox.”
“Nice meeting you, Tom. I hope you’ll be able to come and visit us once you get home.”
“I’ll definitely do that. Thank you.”
Wednesday Morning, 10/3/2018
Tanner got up early on Wednesday so he could be at school just before seven-fifteen. He moved the textbooks he’d used on Tuesday from his backpack to his locker and swapped them for the textbooks he needed for his three Wednesday block schedule classes, periods four, five, and six. Plus two study periods and lunch. He chuckled because he didn’t have any textbooks for those non-class periods. This semester he wasn’t taking any extra-credit classes.
Then he went to Tom’s locker. Using the text Tom had sent him he opened the locker and found the two textbooks Tom needed. It was easy; these were the only textbooks in the locker.
Then he headed to the gym to talk to Coach Reynolds.
The coach was in his office with Coach Oldham when Tanner got there. He knocked on the doorjamb and walked in. “I have the clip of the video that shows Tom being attacked by Nick Poulter.” He handed Coach Reynolds the flash drive. “I sent the file to my uncle Gerald Knox. He’s an attorney in Sacramento. I also gave a copy to Tom, and he’s going to show it to his parents.”
They watched the video.
“You didn’t enhance it, did you?” Coach Oldham asked.
“No. I don’t know how to do that, and I don’t have video editing software, anyway. If I did, it would probably be easy enough to learn how to enhance videos. Instead, I used a program called VLC to play the video. What I did was position the video at the start of the section where Nick Poulter attacked Tom and set a timestamp, then another timestamp at the end of the section. I clipped — that means copied — the part of the video between those two timestamps. Then I copied the clip of the video to four flash drives on my PC.”
“Looks good, Tanner. What’s your uncle’s opinion about what it shows?” Coach Reynolds asked.
“I sent it to him last night, and he said Tom and his foster parents can decide if they want to sue Ealington High and their football coach, and if they do this is enough evidence for them to do that.
“There is one more thing,” Tanner said. “Do you know the name of the Ealington High football coach?”
“It’s Bill Crenshaw,” Coach Reynolds said. “We looked it up on the NCS website before the game. This is the first time we’ve played Ealington High. It’s a new high school in Oakhill. My only contact with Coach Crenshaw is when we shook hands at the end of the game. He congratulated us for the win.”
“Bill Crenshaw. Hmm. That’s strange. Tom said he realized that we didn’t know the name of the Ealington High football coach, so he looked it up on their website. How about you go to the Ealington High website?”
“Is there a reason to do that?” Coach Oldham asked.
“Yes,” Tanner replied.
“Do you know the link?”
“Just Google Ealington High School. You’ll find a link to their website. Open it, then look under athletics then click on football. It will list the coaching staff.”
“Okay. Here it is. Under athletics it lists football… wait a minute. This isn’t…” Coach Reynolds looked up at Tanner. “…I don’t believe it.”
“What don’t you believe?” Coach Oldham asked.
Coach Reynolds turned his display around so both Coach Oldham and Tanner could see it. “Look. Right here.” He pointed to the screen. “Football Coach: Simon Poulter! That’s the same last name as the kid who targeted and attacked Tom Harris.” Then he looked at Tanner. “I’ll call the NCS office and find out if this is accurate. Then I’ll arrange to meet with Principal Freitas, Athletic Director Lowry and, the attorney from the school district, and our NCS division representative.”
Coach Oldham stared at the screen. “Now I know why the Ealington coach high-fived Nick Poulter when he ran off the field after attacking Tom.”
“What do you think the NCS will do?” Tanner asked Coach Reynolds.
“I won’t know until I talk to them and send them the video. Do you have another flash drive with this video?”
Tanner reached in his pocket and pulled out the extra flash drive and handed it to the coach.
“Thanks, Tanner. We’ll pay you for this flash drive.”
“Forget it. I bought a bunch of them at Fry’s out of one of their bargain bins. They were only a dollar ninety-nine each. This is my contribution.”
“There’s one more thing. The clip shows that fat official watching Nick Poulter clocking Tom, then jumping on him twice. And that official was observing all three flagrant fouls. He should be banned as an official.”
Coach Oldham shook his head and said, “That’s like getting whipped cream and a cherry on top of everthing else on the video.”
“Is there anything else?” Tanner asked.
Coach Reynolds replied, “No. You and Tom have provided us with enough information so we can insist that the NCS take action, and perhaps the CIF, too. I’ll be meeting with Principal Freitas and Athletic Director Lowry today to determine our next step. We’ll make sure you and Tom are both kept in the loop.”
“Great. Thanks, both of you. I’ve gotta head across campus for my fourth period class now.” Tanner turned and looked at Coach Reynolds. “I’ll see you seventh period tomorrow.”
“Don’t forget, we’re having a light practice since there’s no game this week.”
Tanner went to his first class of the day, Pre-Calc, which because of block scheduling was fourth period. Then to fifth period Digital Arts. Then to lunch.
Wednesday Noon, 10/3/2018
Tanner went through the lunch line, got a salad, then sat with the football team. They asked when Tom would return to school, and Tanner said maybe as soon as Monday, if his doctor released him. They all were glad he’d be back soon. He told them more about Tom and that he would be released from the hospital on Friday and would move back with the foster parents he’d had before he’d been moved to the illegal group home. Then there were questions about what a group home was, and what an illegal group home was. Tanner answered them based on how much he’d learned about the foster system and foster kids over the past two days. He was surprised when he realized that it had only been two days ago when things with Tom got started, and how much had been accomplished since then.
He decided not to tell the guys on the team that Ealington High’s football coach was Nick Poulter’s father. It was better that the story didn’t get spread around, and possibly back to Ealington High. Besides, despite the common last names, he didn’t have proof that the coach was Nick Poulter’s father. Tanner grinned. This was like watching FBI, CSI, or one of the other similar detective shows on TV.
After lunch he went to his sixth period AP U.S. History class, then to a light practice seventh period. Then the day was over, and he took the bus to the hospital to see Tom.
Wednesday Afternoon, 10/3/2018
When he arrived, the Jacksons were sitting with Tom, who was lying in his bed with his eyes closed. Tanner tapped softly on the door, which was open.
The Jacksons stepped closer to the door and whispered to him.
“Hi, Tanner. Tom fell asleep a few minutes ago,” Linda Jackson said.
Tanner whispered in return. “I don’t want to wake him. I can go to the cafeteria and have a snack and wait there. You can call me when he’s awake.”
“You don’t need to leave, Tanner,” Linda told him. “When Tom falls asleep, he doesn’t wake up as long as Paul and I are speaking softly like we are now.”
Paul Jackson added, “Before he fell asleep, Tom told us what you’ve been doing to help find evidence that would prove the Ealington player hurt him on purpose during your game last Friday, and showed us the video. Thank you for what you’ve done.”
“Maybe you can arrange for the Ealington player, Nick something or other, to apologize to Tom,” Linda said.
Tanner thought for a few seconds, and remembered he’d already thought about that. It was an excellent idea. “Okay, I’ll see what I can do. His name is Nick Poulter.” He spelled it for her.
“That would be good, sort of like making him do reparation for what he did to Tom,” Paul said.
Tanner grinned. “I have an additional idea. I’ll ask that they publish his apology in the newspapers in our area, the Chronicle and the East Bay Times.”
Paul chuckled. “I love it. Ask that he contact one of the high school sports reporters at each paper and send him the apology.”
Tom waved his hand and asked, “Anyone want my opinion?”
“I thought you were asleep. Your eyes were closed,” Tanner said.
“I was, but I woke up when you arrived. I like the idea to have them apologize. I think one of the sports reporters from the Times would be interested in writing an article about why calling a foul for targeting is important to prevent injuries like what happened to me.”
“That’s an excellent idea, Tom,” Tanner said. “I think our coaches would be able to give their opinions about targeting without having to talk about what happened to you.”
“Why shouldn’t they talk about what happened to Tom?” Linda asked. “It seems that would be appropriate.”
Tanner shook his head. “There are rules about what coaches can say about officiating, and a large part of what happened is because the official didn’t call the three targeting fouls against Nick Poulter. That’s when Nick injured Tom who was lying helpless on the field. They could talk about targeting in general, but not the details of what happened to Tom. We could insist that those details be in the apology.”
“What if they refuse?” Tom asked.
“Then, as Tom’s parents, we would sue Nick Poulter, the official, their coach, and Ealington High School. They’re in a different school district than Edison, right?” Paul asked.
“Yes, it’s a different school district in a different county,” Tanner said. “You’d take them to court?”
“Yes. I’m an assistant district attorney for Contra Costa County. I know a very good attorney who specializes in litigation. I can talk to him tomorrow and discuss if it makes sense to file a lawsuit and who we should consider suing, and who should be the litigants.”
“Wow, that means Tom’s very lucky that you’re his dad!” Tanner grinned.
“Yes. Sometimes it pays to have friends in high places.”
“Can I tell Coach Reynolds what we’re doing?”
“I’d rather you not do that, yet, Tanner. I don’t want to let anyone know that we are considering suing someone at Ealington High. What you can do is tell him you want to ask for an apology for Tom from Nick Poulter. Oh, and one from the coach of Ealington High School’s varsity football team, Simon Poulter, too.”
“Okay. That’ll work,” Tanner said. “I’ll find out what we have to do to ask for the apologies.”
“Perfect. Please let me and Tom know what you’ve found out.”
“Hey, you haven’t heard the latest news, yet,” Tom interjected. “I’ll have my final CT scan tomorrow, and I’ll be going home, my real home, with the Jacksons, when the scan is finished. Then on Friday Mom will take me to school and I’ll register to return to school on Monday. I’ll be going back to school!”
“That’s great news. If you’re back in school on Monday, that means you won’t need to stay home and be tutored.”
“Yes. I’d rather go to school and work with my teachers than have a tutor work with me for a couple hours two or three days a week. And if I’m in school, I can be with my friends, too.”
“By the way,” Tanner said, “I don’t want to forget. Here are your other two textbooks.” He pulled them out of his backpack and put them on Tom’s bed.
“We agree with Tom,” Linda said. “If he’s able to go to school, that’s what he should do. We’re glad the doctor said that Tom doesn’t need to stay home.”
“Are you certain the doctor will say that Tom can go back to school on Monday?” Tanner asked.
“Tom has recovered quickly. His doctor said he’s positive that he will be able to return to school on Monday,” Paul said.
“The hospital said they’ll give us a document that officially permits Tom to return to school and the date it’s effective,” Linda said.
“So, when will you ask about Nick Poulter and the Ealington High football coach to each write their apologies and what’ll they say?” Tom asked.
“I guess I’ll find out at school tomorrow,” Tanner replied. “I think that I’ll be able to meet with Principal Freitas, and that’s one of the things I’m going to ask her.”
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