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.
Thursday Afternoon, 10/4/2018
When Tanner got to the hospital, he registered and took the elevator to the fourth floor and walked down the hall to Tom’s room. He stepped in without knocking on the doorjamb.
“Hey, Tom! What’s up?”
Tom looked up and smiled. “I’m outta here mañana! Officially! I’m going home, my real home with the Jacksons! My mom will be here at ten o’clock in the morning.”
“Excellent! When will you be able to come back to school?”
“Monday. The doctor gave me the okay. My mom will take me to school so I can get registered to return.”
Tanner grinned. “Which Monday?”
“The one that comes after Sunday.”
“Is that the Monday that happens right after this Friday?”
“Well, no… I’m pretty sure it’s Saturday that happens right after this Friday.” Tom couldn’t suppress a grin.
“Wiseass! You better tell me exactly when you’re getting out of here, or you might just find yourself in here for another few weeks. In traction.”
By then both Tom and Tanner were laughing out loud. A nurse came in and suggested they hold it down, and when she left, she closed the door.
“The doctor said my urine is 100% normal again today,” Tom said. “I had a CT scan, and it showed the contusions had healed and there isn’t any swelling. My blood test shows I don’t have any infection. So, they confirmed that I’m being released to go home tomorrow. And on Monday, the day that’s three days from today, I will return to school.
“The doctor said they’ll prepare my paperwork showing I can be released. There’ll be instructions about PE. That’s the one bad thing. The only thing I can do in PE is swimming. My doctor wants me to do that to keep my muscles in shape.”
“Well, you like to swim. How often will you be able to do that?”
“The doctor wants me to swim three days a week. That means I’ll have PE sixth period, so on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the only thing I’ll do is swimming.”
“Could you use the weight training room on Tuesdays and Thursdays?”
“No, not yet. He doesn’t want me to do exercises that could cause problems with my bladder. Also, my abdominal muscles were severely strained and the doctor said it could take six to twelve weeks to heal. So, only swimming until then.”
“How about your classes? Won’t you have to rearrange them since you’ve been taking PE seventh period this year?”
On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays I’ll have English 2 seventh period instead of PE. That means I’ll switch English 2 from sixth period. I’m lucky. Mr. Kohler teaches English 2 both sixth and seventh periods so I’ll have the same teacher. That’s going to make it a lot easier for me than if I had a different teacher.
“My mom’s taking me to Edison at seven a.m. on Monday to register and swap my sixth and seventh period classes. Mrs. Parsons from CPS is going to meet us there to confirm that I’m legally the foster son of the Jacksons. I’ll get my schedule and a new student body card and I’ll be all set to return to class starting first period on Monday.
“I’ll have another CT scan at the end of November, and they’ll see if my contusions are still okay. Depending on what the scan shows they’ll decide what sort of PE I can take starting in spring semester.”
“Maybe all the swimming you’ll be doing between now and then will encourage you to join the swim team. If your doctor approves it, and if you can qualify,” Tanner said.
“Could be. I really like to swim so, maybe by then I’ll be good enough to do that.
“So, Tanner, what’s new?”
“Coach Reynolds asked me to pass on his thank-you for figuring out who the Ealington coach is. Principal Freitas asked me to tell you she said hello and that she’s glad that you’re returning to school on Monday.
“I have the letters that Mrs. Freitas wrote with Coach Reynolds and Athletic Director Lowry and the school attorney. One was sent to the principal of Ealington High School, and two were sent to officials at the NCS, and a copy to the CIF. Here are two envelopes with copies of the letter, one addressed for you and one for your parents.”
Tanner handed the letters to Tom.
“Wow!” Tom said after reading the letter. He looked at Tanner. “So, when are these being mailed?”
“They were mailed this afternoon. This is Thursday, so they should have them by Monday.”
“What do we expect the principal of Ealington High will do?”
Tanner smiled. “That’s a question I asked Principal Freitas. She assumes he’d turn it over to the attorney for their school district. She said that’s what she’d do if she got this kind of letter. Assuming that’s what they’ll do, then their next step is to decide how to respond.
“Another thing I found out is that the letter to the Ealington High principal isn’t being mailed to Nick Poulter or their football coach, Simon Poulter. The attorney for our school district said that should be left to the principal of Ealington High and probably their school district’s attorney to notify both Nick Poulter and Coach Poulter.”
“Okay,” Tom said, “but while Coach Poulter and Nick Poulter aren’t getting copies of the letter, they’re named in a bunch of places in the letter. That seems strange. At least it does, to me.”
“Tom, that puts the blame where it should be. They’ll certainly get copies of the letter. And we’re asking to have Nick suspended from any Ealington High School football team for the rest of this season.”
“But this says his dad is only out for three games, and then he’s back coaching them again. Shouldn’t he be fired or something?”
“He probably didn’t tell Nick to target and jump on you. I think that was all Nick’s idea. A really dumb idea. That’s why we’re asking that Nick be dropped from their football team immediately and for the rest of this season. And notice it says he can’t be on any Ealington High School football team. That way they can’t just move him to the JV team. That’ll end his high school football career since he’s a senior.”
“Good!” Tom growled.
“Look at the cc list at the end of the letter,” Tanner said. “In addition to the two going to the NCS and the one to the principal of Ealington High, each of those people is getting a copy of the letter. I’m on the list, you’re on the list, and the Jacksons are on the list. So’s my uncle. I have my copy, and you have yours and the one for the Jacksons. The rest are in the mail.”
Tom finished reading. “I’m named in the letter because they’d know who I was anyway as the attackee. But I’m surprised your name is on the list. I would’ve thought you wouldn’t want your name in front of anyone from Ealington High.”
“I don’t have any problem having my name on the cc list.”
“Hey, is this a valid word?” Tom asked.
“What word?” Tanner asked.
“Yes, it is. It’s in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary. It means a person who has been attacked, like attacker versus attackee. I asked Principal Freitas about it, and she told me that she checked and it’s a valid word.”
“Okay. More important, when do you think we will get a reply to the letter?” Tom asked.
“Everyone involved in drafting the letter said it should be the Ealington principal and their school district’s attorney that should decide how and when to reply. But, notice that number five says they have to send the apology letters to Principal Freitas by the 24th. That’s two weeks from when our letter was put in the mail. She never said it, but I think that really puts a fire under their collective butts to decide how to respond to all five demands. And they have to get coach Simon Poulter and Nick Poulter involved ASAP so they can write the apology letters and have them reviewed before they mail them.”
“Do you think they’ll write the letters and mail them by the date Mrs. Freitas had in the letter?”
“Principal Freitas said that if they don’t, she’d expect the principal of Ealington High to contact her and let her know there’s a delay and why. Maybe they’ll ask for more time. Or, maybe they’ll do the apology letters first. Then they’ll suspend Nick Poulter and Coach Poulter.”
“What about the NCS? What do you think they’ll do?” Tom asked.
“That they’ll demand that Ealington High comply with what’s in our letter, and they’ll fire that official. Our five points are supported by the video clip. The NCS can download the entire video of the game from our server. There’s a link in the cover letter with the link to the video and the password to open it.”
“And after they review it, they should come down hard on that official and on the Ealington coach and his son,” Tom growled.
Two Weeks Later,
Monday Morning, 10/22/2018
It was just over two weeks since the letters had been mailed to the principal of Ealington High School and to the NCS. Tom and Tanner got to school early so they could go to Principal Freitas’ office. They were eager to find out if Ealington High had sent the apology letters to Tom.
Jennifer Thomas, the principal’s assistant, smiled when she saw them.
“Good morning, Tanner, good morning, Tom. Are you here to see Principal Freitas?”
“Yes, if she has a few minutes.”
She stepped into the principal’s office then returned. “She will see you. Go on in.”
Principal Freitas stood as soon as they entered her office.
“Have a seat, Tom, Tanner.” She handed each of them a sheet of paper without an explanation. They looked at what she’d given each of them. It was a copy of a hand-written letter from Nick Poulter. It read:
October 11, 2018
I want to apologize for what happened in our game with your team August 31st. I was really upset that we were losing the game, and being totally outplayed by Edison. When you saw me coming you were able to lateral the ball to one of your guys and I saw that he’d probably score a TD. We lost the game because you guys are a lot better team. You guys deserved to win.
My frustration took over and I slammed into you. I didn’t see that I knocked off your helmet. I got up and you were starting to get up and I jumped on you with my knees. That was bad enough but then I jumped on you a second time. I looked at the official and he didn’t call a foul, but what I did was a foul. Actually, I fouled you three times. I should of been called on them. For some reason I was not. I saw you starting to get up so I ran off the field. I didn’t know that you were hurt so bad, that you were seriously injured. I am so sorry I did that to you. You didn’t deserve to be treated that way by me.
I have been cut from the Ealington varsity football team so I won’t be able to play football in high school any more. I deserve being cut from the team for what I did to you. I will use this time to think about what I did and why I did it. I need to understand so I will never do anything like that again.
You probably hate me for what I did. If you do I absolutely do not blame you. But this is not who or how I want to be. My mom and dad are making me take an anger management class. It is helping me understand what I need to change in the way I think about things when I’m playing football. This is the only sport I want to play. But I have to learn how to control my frustration when something doesn’t go the way I want it to go and not turn it into anger.
Some day I would like to sit down with you and tell you these things in person. Maybe you will see that I am truly sorry and maybe you won’t hate me as much any more.
“Wow! That’s more than I expected from him,” Tom said. “Reading this hand-written letter makes me think he is really sorry. Do you agree, Tanner?”
“Yes. It sounds real. What do you think, Mrs. Freitas?”
“I agree with both of you. I think the way he wrote his letter shows that he’s sincere.”
“Did you receive Coach Poulter’s letter?” Tom asked.
“What’s his letter like?”
“It sounds like it was written by a lawyer. I’m not surprised by that. You can read it yourself.” She handed each of them a copy of a page written and printed on a computer on Ealington High School letterhead.
Mrs. Ana Freitas,
Principal, Edison High School
Walnut Creek, California
October 16, 2018
During the incident that happened at the varsity football game between Ealington High School and Edison High School on August 31, 2018, I was watching the Edison ball carrier and my defense players, who were not able to stop the Edison ball carrier, during the play that gave Edison the winning touchdown.
I did not see what happened to Thomas Harris. I’m sorry that he was injured and that my son, a member of our team, was the one who apparently injured Thomas Harris. His mother and I have decided to send him to after-school anger management classes over the next six weeks.
I do not understand why you are saying that I was complicit in regard to the incident that occurred to Thomas Harris, and that what happened is my fault due to a failure to properly coach and manage the Ealington High School varsity football team, and that I should be penalized for our next three games. I do not accept these assertions.
I am awaiting a decision by the Oakhill School District administration so this situation can be resolved.
Varsity Football Coach,
Ealington High School,
226 Oak Hill Road,
“His letter doesn’t have a ‘Dear Tom Harris’ or even a ‘Dear Mrs. Freitas’ at the beginning,” Tanner said. “It should have been written to you, not to Principal Freitas. It has his name printed at the bottom but wasn’t signed by him. And it’s sure not written as an apology. What a jerk.”
“So,” Tom said, “is all the blame that Nick accepted and him saying he was sorry canceled out by what the Ealington coach wrote in his letter?”
Tanner shook his head. “I don’t think we should look at it that way. Nick’s letter is separate from his father’s letter. He is sorry and his father isn’t, so I don’t think that cancels Nick’s apology.”
Principal Freitas responded. “I agree with you, Tanner. After receiving these apology letters I spoke with Principal Cates of Ealington High School. He agreed that Simon Poulter’s letter wasn’t addressed to you and doesn’t accept any of the blame. He implied — because he can’t be specific — that he will talk to his school district attorney and their athletic director, and have a real apology letter written by the coach and addressed to you, Tom. We’ll see if that happens, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
“Unfortunately, the Oakhill school district rules and the contract with their PE coaching staff won’t allow the coach to be suspended without pay for three consecutive football games this season. So what they have proposed is that he will not be present on the field or in the locker room for three consecutive games. Nor will he will be able to coach the team during PE classes and practices for those same three games.”
“That’s okay,” Tanner said. “But don’t forget, Tom is the one who should say if he thinks Coach Poulter is getting off easy. What do you think, Tom?”
“What the principal of Ealington High is going to do with Coach Poulter sounds okay,” Tom said. “And you’re right about Nick. His is a real apology.”
“All right, I’ll so record that in your file, Tom,” Principal Freitas said. “There’s one other thing I want to tell you, but you have to agree to not tell anyone else about this until it’s been announced. Will you agree?”
Both Tom and Tanner agreed, curious about what she was about to tell them.
“We have games scheduled with Ealington High School for the next three seasons. We are canceling those games against Ealington High, and they will be replaced by the football team from another high school. Since the schedule isn’t finalized yet, you are not to say anything about this change. Our coaching staff didn’t want to play any games with Ealington High School while Simon Poulter is their football coach.”
“Wow! That’s… great! Fantastic! That’s almost better than getting a real apology letter from him,” Tom said.
“This is going to hurt Ealington High’s football team since they’re going to have to scramble to find another school for next season — and after that, too,” Tanner said. “And have we found another school to fill in the schedule in place of the Ealington games?” he asked.
She nodded a ‘Yes.’
“Can you tell me who it is?”
“Tassajara High School.”
“Where’s is it located?” Tom asked.
“It’s a new high school in Dublin.”
“Sounds good. Better than Ealington,” Tanner said.
“I have a question about something else,” Tom said. “In his letter, Nick Poulter suggested that I meet with him. If I wanted to do that, does Edison High School have any rules that would limit it or wouldn’t even allow it to happen?”
Principal Freitas thought for a few seconds. “If it were held at Edison High School, then there would have to be a teacher or administrator who would sponsor and be present at the meeting, and it would have to be approved by my staff and me in advance.
“If you meet with Nick Poulter I recommend that it not be done at Edison High School. That way the time and location would be up to you and your parents. I recommend that any such meeting be at your home or a non-school location like a coffee shop or restaurant. That would be your decision, Tom, with guidance from and approval by your parents.”
“There will be suggestions provided by his best friend, too. That’s me,” Tanner added, tapping his chest with his right thumb. “I’d want to be present, too.”
Tom smiled. “And I’d want you there, too.”
“I recommend that Nick Poulter’s father not be present.” Principal Freitas said. “You wouldn’t want him there so Nick Poulter can tell you his apology without his father getting involved. In fact, I recommend that none of the parents be present.”
“Have you heard from the NCS?” Tanner asked.
“No. But Principal Cates of Ealington High sent a letter to the NCS asking that the official who didn’t charge Nick Poulter with the targeting and fouls should be terminated. He sent a copy of his letter to me. We’re both waiting for a response from the NCS. I think they typically move slowly on matters like this.”
Tanner had been thinking for a few seconds. “I have a weird question. Who’s the person that Ealington High School is named after? It’s an unusual name. I Googled it and couldn’t find anything with that name.”
“I don’t know. You could call Ealington High and ask them. If you find out, let me know, okay?”
“Actually, I know the answer to that question,” Tom said. “I found out by calling the Oakhill City Hall. Ealington High School is named after the owner of a farm that was there years ago, and it’s where the school is located now. The farmer was a guy named Ealington — no one at the city hall knew his first name — and he donated the land to the school district. That was a long time ago, too. They finally got around to building the new high school on that land.” Tom grinned. “What’s interesting is that it was a pig farm.”
“A PIG farm!” Tanner shouted, then he bent over, holding his stomach as he laughed out loud. “That is so freaking appropriate! Hey… their mascot’s the Eagles. Instead it should be the Hogs.”
Soon all three were laughing. Principal Freitas’ assistant, Jennifer, stepped in and looked at them like they were crazy. Then she turned around and returned to her desk.
“Okay, what’s next?” Tom asked principal Freitas, after they’d calmed down.
“I’ll meet with the attorney for the school district, and we’ll decide how to reply to Principal Cates, Coach Simon Poulter, and Nick Poulter. We’ll copy both of you on any correspondence that results from that meeting. Tom, If there isn’t any correspondence, I’ll let you know our decision. You can pass the information on to Tanner.”
“What would you send to Nick Poulter?” Tom asked.
“A short letter thanking him for his letter. A reply to Coach Poulter will be written by and signed by our attorney,” she replied, “and the content of the reply will be up to him.”
Tanner interrupted. “I hate to say it, but if we don’t hurry, we’ll be late for our first period classes.”
“If either of you needs a late slip, ask Jennifer.”
“Thank you very much, Principal Freitas. You’ve been a big help to get me past what happened to me,” Tom said.
“Thanks for the copies of the letters,” Tanner added.
They both got late slips on their way out, just in case they got to their first period classes late.
As they walked across campus Tom bumped shoulders with Tanner, then announced, “I told my folks that I’m gay.”
Tanner stopped walking and stared at Tom, who continued walking. “You did? Whoa! How did that go over?”
Tom stopped and turned around. Both boys were smiling as they looked at each other. “It was good. Very good,” Tom replied. “Actually, perfect. They told me that being gay was genetic, and that if I’m gay That’s fine with them. They said they’d wondered if I was gay because you and I were so close, and because when I lived with them before and when I came back to live with them again I didn’t talk about having any interest in having a girlfriend, or anything about girls. They were waiting for me to tell them. So I did. Of course, I was surprised because I didn’t know that they’d figured out that I’m gay.”
“Did you tell them that we’re boyfriends?” Tanner asked.
“Yes. Was that okay?”
“Sure! No reason not to. You know that my folks have known that I’m gay. And they know that we’re boyfriends, and they love you, Tom. So, for me, it’s no problem. How about for you? Were your folks okay with it?”
“Yup. They love you, too, Tanner. My dad said there absolutely isn’t anyone better that I could have picked. Mom said that the twins knew about me, even before she and my dad did. Imagine, two ten-year-old boys figured out that I was gay on their own.” Tom shook his head.
“They’re smart kids. You’re lucky you have such great brothers. Smart and fun and cute, too!”
They continued across campus.
“Tom, have you decided if you’re going to meet with Nick Poulter?”
“Yes, I decided to meet with him. I talked with my dad and he thinks it’s a good idea. So I talked to Nick and we arranged a place to meet. I suggested that we do it the Monday before Thanksgiving since we won’t be in school that week. He said he’d let me know, and he got back to me and it’s a go.”
“Where are you going to meet?”
“We decided the best thing is someplace where we can have lunch. Somewhere that has good burgers and fries. There are a lot more places around here than in Oakhill, so he said I should pick one and let him know. So I picked Broderick Roadhouse in downtown Walnut Creek. He said that sounded great. He said his mom will drive him and go shopping while we’re meeting.”
“Am I invited?” Tanner asked.
“Sure. My dad said it might be better if it was just me and Nick, but Mom overruled him.”
“I agree with your mom,” Tanner said. “Is Nick bringing someone with him?”
“Yes, one of his brothers, Jeff. He’s in the eighth grade.”
As they continued to walk across the Edison campus, Tanner had a question for Tom. “Can you come to my house after school so we can study for the Spanish 3 exam we’re having tomorrow?” he asked.
“Yup. I asked my mom this morning before I left for school and she said it’s a good idea.”
“Can you stay for dinner?”
“Uh-huh, as long as I call and let Mom know,” Tom replied. “And as long as it’s okay with your mom, too.”
“It’ll be okay with her. You know, no one will be at my house until about five-thirty,” Tanner said. “Maybe we can do something before we study for the exam. Maybe play video games? Or find something else to do that’s more… interesting? Entertaining? Exciting? Exhilarating?” He raised his eyebrows and grinned at Tom.
“Seems to me that we should be able to come up with something that fits all four of those categories by the time we get to your house this afternoon.”
“That is definitely an excellent plan, boyfriend,” Tanner said. “And since we’re supposed to be studying for our Spanish test, ‘Definitivamente es un excelente plan.’”
Tanner put his right arm across Tom’s shoulders and they continued across campus to their respective first period classes.
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