“You’d better not go back to the locker room with the rest of the team,” Marty said. “It’d be best if you let me put you in my car and take you home.” They’d placed Drew’s unconscious father inside his pick-up truck, slumped over the wheel.They could smell that he’d been drinking, and they found an open bottle of booze on the front seat, about half gone. Marty’s right fist hadn’t done all the damage.
“I can’t go home,” Drew protested. “He’ll go there fir…” Drew stopped and thought.
To fill the silence, Marty said, “I wasn’t talking about you going to your house. I meant my house.”
“Your house? Why would I go to your house, Marty?” Drew asked.
“Two reasons: first, your Dad doesn’t know where I live or that I’m the one who rang his bell, and, second, my Dad is a lawyer, and I think you need one. Maybe I do too, now.”
“I changed my mind. Take me to my house, then yours. We need to get my Mom outta there before my dad gets back.”
“That’s a good thought,” Kyle said from the back seat of Marty’s Nova. “But you better hurry, cause when your Dad wakes up…”
“He won’t go to my house first. He’ll go to the Stevensons,” Drew said. “That’s where he’ll go, right back to Dr. Stevenson’s.” Marty was looking at him with intent eyes.
“Look, I’m gonna check out of here. If I can get my body to cooperate, maybe I can wake myself up enough to talk to my parents. It might be that they’ll think that the Creutzfeld-whatever is making me nuts, but they might be able to do something to help you if I can convince them.”
“How will you find me when you’ve finished? You don’t know where Marty lives either,” Drew said to the back seat. Marty stared harder at him, at the back seat, back at him, squinted his eyes, and started the car.
“ I never know how to find you. I just go to where you are,” Kyle said, “so when it’s time, I’ll do it again. Easy.”
“You should probably do that for Mary Beth. She’ll need it,” Drew said, thinking of the way she stood like a hanging marionette at her parent’s side. Drew knew enough about his own brokenness to recognize a worse case when he saw it, and he had no idea about how to get her away from that threat. He couldn’t even name the threat she faced from her father and mother, but his thoughts went to the worse that he could imagine, which was pretty bad, worse than the slaps and intimidations of his own father when Drew was smaller. His Dad didn’t dare touch him now, so he went after some power big enough to do his slapping for him.
“So, what’s the scoop from Kyle?” Marty asked. “He’s here, right?” He nosed the Nova out onto Eastern Parkway, heading for Poplar Level Road.
“Was here. He’s gone now, I think. Gonna try and talk to his folks and see if they can help me, some way. I don’t know how. You said your father is a lawyer?”
“Yeah, a damned good one, too. His office is down on Bank Street, Portland. Most of his clients are black but not all. My Daddy’s like you: he doesn’t see color. He sees people, and he knows Law, and he’s helped tons of folks over the years. You’ll see. He’ll think of something to help you, if anyone can.”
“Did you tell him, you know, about me talking to Kyle?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I did, and he wanted to know if you went to school and kept your grades up. I said you did, so he doesn’t think you’re as crazy as I thought you were,” Marty replied, smiling. “He was the one who suggested I come check out to your game tonight, since we play tomorrow.”
“That sounds promising,” Drew said, for, try as he might, he still could not think of anything he could do on his own to help Mary Beth or himself, short of carrying her off by force. But then what? Go where? His garage? That was no safe haven any longer, which made Drew shudder to think.
Once Drew had cleaned up and changed, his mother took little convincing to come with them. The hardest thing to get her to understand was that his father wanted to have Drew taken in for psychiatric evaluation, at the request of a doctor he’d only just met. Drew explained as much to her as he could, even telling her that he could hear Kyle, though no one else could. Marty sat near them, Drew translating the conversation for him.
“Man, since she can’t hear, maybe the idea of you hearing some one who isn’t there doesn’t bother her. She didn’t bat an eye,” Marty said.
“She wouldn’t. She listens with her eyes,” Drew said, and translated her reply to Marty: ‘listening is more what you do with your heart than your ears,’ she said, and Marty dropped his gaze to the floor.
Drew signed to his mom, ‘He probably thinks he didn’t do that with his mom, who died not long ago. He thought she was crazy because she heard her own dead mom.’ Drew’s Mom shook her head and signed back, ‘Learning is done with the heart, not the head. I guess this time with you is his time to learn.’
“Maybe mine, too,’ Drew signed back, and his mother patted his head and went to pack a suitcase.
So, with his mother’s suitcase and his own backpack with two changes of clothes in it, they made their way in the Nova out Preston, past Southern to Cooper Chapel Road, where they pulled into a driveway that Drew never saw until the Nova’s front tires hit its gravel drive. The stone house sat on a small rise and stood within a wide lawn bordered by tall evergreens, through which the porch light shined out a welcome. It was a little wider than Drew’s house and had a carport over its side door, with a wide garage in the back. The garage had a second story to it, and a pleasant light could be seen it is two windows facing the house.
Marty stopped the Nova under the carport, and his father came out of the house. He wasn’t as tall or as broad as his son, but Drew thought he looked fit and strong, though the man was dressed in suit pants, a matching vest, white shirt, with its red and black striped tie loose, and dress shoes shined bright.
“I’m Jeremiah Floyd,” he said, extending his hand to Drew who came out of the passenger door. “And you are every bit as big and strong as Marty said.”
“Pleased to meet you, sir,” Drew replied, reaching to open the Nova’s back door, “And this is my mom, Martha Skolnick.” He signed the introductions and added “We had to bring her with us for fear of my father, Gerald Skolnick. He wants to commit me, I think, because I’m trying to help another man, Dr. Stevenosn’s, daughter.”
“We have some serious talk to get through. Come. Let us go into the apartment over the garage. I’ve set it up for you. We’ll find a cot for you to sleep on and let Martha have the bed there, shall we?”
Within the cozy place over the garage, Jeremiah asked Drew to tell him his story, which Drew recapped as best he could, signing everything so that his mother could know all he had been through, and Jeremiah listened, taking notes on a yellow legal pad. He asked for the names and details of all the parties involved and asked specifically, “Is Mary Beth’s father a psychiatrist or is he a specialist of some sort on the staff of the hospital?”
“I don’t know about him being a psychiatrist, but he is on St. Joe’s staff. That was the first place I saw him,” Drew said, shuddering at the memory.
“And his daughter will support his allegation that you tried to molest her?”
“I don’t know what she will say, but I think that she can’t go against anything that he says,” Drew answered. “I don’t think she dares to.”
“Because, as you said earlier, you suspect him or her mother or both of abusing her in some way?” Jeremiah Floyd asked.
“But you have no actual evidence of this?”
“No, sir, though I did see the scar that Kyle told me about,” Drew said.
“What scar?” Marty asked.
“Not now, son,” Jeremiah said, patting his son’s hand.
To Drew’s mother, Jeremiah asked if she wanted to legally separate from her husband over this matter, and she sat unmoving for a long moment. Drew signed her response: ‘I want him to treat our son fairly, and I want him to get help for his drinking or whatever causes him to be so mean to us. I don’t want to divorce him. I do love him, still, but I will leave him if he tries to hurt my son by having him locked up. Drew is a good boy, the best, but he is different, and I just want Jerry to let him be, if he cannot love and respect him.’
Jeremiah took all this down on his pad, scribbling hard. He asked Martha to read over what he’d written and sign it if she agreed with it. She did and signed it. And Jeremiah sat back and looked at them in silence for a few minutes. He made one or two notes on the tablet, and when he finished he said,
“As a member of St Joe’s staff, Stevenson is well within his rights to pursue a psychiatric evaluation of you, Drew. I do not know how or why he roped your father into this, but that fact will not be important in the hearing you will have to go through.”
“Why will I have to go through a hearing?” Drew asked, his apprehension mounting.
“Because the doctor seems to have what he needs to pursue his agenda. Besides, the law will require it when things get official. I will represent you, but we’ll need to get our own evaluation done. What will be important is your mother’s testimony defying your father’s intent. I suspect that Stevenson has some motive for doing this that has kept him from going through official channels.”
“What official channels?” Drew asked.
“The police, of course. He might have filed a complaint against you based on what his daughter told him, though why he waited two days to confront you and not file an official complaint seems to suggest that he doesn’t want the police doing an investigation of this matter. He does, however, want to bar you from seeing his daughter. Clearly, there’s a great deal that we do not know about Dr. Stevenson’s motives, but they seem, to me, at least, to be designed to keep you out of his way, which would be best done through police involvement. He could, if he wished, have issued a restraining order to do so, but he involved your father in a ploy to have you evaluated for commitment. However, as many holes as I see in it, he has enough of a case to get his way, at least for the seven days or so that the evaluation would take place. When do you turn eighteen?”
“April next year,” Drew replied, and his voice shook with pent up emotion. His mind had started to race during Jeremiah’s explanation, and Drew fought the sense of panic that rose in him. If someone would have offered him the chance, just then, to go back to the way it was in his live before Kyle came into it, Drew would have taken it. Back then, he was lonely, but he managed. So ugly was he that Mary Beth would not have paid him any mind on her own. No girl would. He’d had his books, the weights, the simple comfort of the garage. Those things were gone now, taken from him by a love that brought him out of the shadows and let others see him.
He looked at his mother, who seemed so small, sitting there with her hands clasped in front of her with nothing to say. Her eyes were red from silent weeping and wide with fright, fright of the fatherly authority, even the law itself, that could separate a woman from her child. In just bringing her here, to a place of safety from his father’s wrath, Drew lost his mother’s comforting touch.
Drew stood up, his face a frowning mask, his hands, sore from the wet mud and the brutal game, clenching at his side. His breathing had become heavy, as though his own father’s strong hand had clapped over his nose and mouth.
“Please make sure that she isn’t hurt,” Drew muttered, as he picked up his pack and headed for the door. He was out the door, despite Marty and Jeremiah’s protests, and down the driveway, running in the dark along Cooper Chapel Road. Marty had started after him, but his father called him back, and Drew ran towards home the way they had driven. The only home he had left was in his books, mostly those by Tolkien. They weren’t a roof over his head and meals, but they were the only comfort he had left in the face of the father authority. They might not be enough, but they were his, and they were something, the only thing left of the lost world to which he desired to go back. And even though going back to his house to get them was dangerous, he had to try it. His father would likely trash everything in the garage to get at him.
Drew was no distance runner, but he was young and strong. He ran until he needed to walk and then ran some more. Run, walk, run. He stayed in the dark on the side of the road as much as possible, and he was cautious. If he saw a police car approach from north or south, he hid as best he could, in ditches, behind signs or parked cars, and the occasional tree that had escaped the widening of Preston Highway. He stayed cautious, and he thought.
His mind went back to his days as a heavy, ugly child. When they first labelled him as mildly autistic, his father’s reaction was that doctors didn’t know anything, that Drew was just stupid, slow, ungrateful, and Drew thought back to the way his father gloated over him when Drew backed down from one of his tirades.
“If I look weak to him again appeared weak, again, maybe he’ll let me have my world back.” But those words tasted vile, and he spat them out.
“NO!” Drew shouted in the dark and caught the attention of some guys going by, who shouted back at him, probably marking his Durrett sweatshirt. Drew ran on harder and hid. If he answered their challenge, he might hurt some of them or they might have weapons. Drew ran behind some buildings.
“Stay small. Stay quiet. Get what you need,” he murmured to himself and settled himself to his task and his needs. No home to go to would have to do until he could make one of his own. He could get more weights. Other books could be replaced.
He thought about, maybe, going to Kyle’s house and pleading with his parents to hide him. The memory of being held in their joint embrace was like a mirage to a man in the desert. Drew knew it was a mirage, though, an image that merely tortured him, a fake oasis that couldn’t quench his thirst.The father force of authority would claim him even there, in time, for surely Mary Beth would be there, too, with Kyle, until his last breath. The only comfort that he could get for himself was his books. That would have to do for now.
He had gone far, past the Preston Drive-In where he and Kyle, Mary Beth and Debbie Flowers had gone on their ill-fated double date.
“Not gonna be a problem any more,” he said to himself and ran on. He was passing Guardian Angels Church where he went with his mother and wondered if the church would give him sanctuary as Notre Dame had taken in Quasimodo. No. That was then, the old days. This was now, where the force of a father could break that leaguer. Even as he ran, he recognized that this might, indeed prove to all and sundry that he was crazy. That’s what people always thought of those who wandered the streets without a home: crazy homeless, drifter, criminal, a danger. And those thoughts pained him as deeply as his own father’s charge that Drew was crazy.
The car full of tough guys was still looking for him. He saw them on the far side of Preston coming back south, so he left the margin of Preston and sought the dark expanse of Indian Trail Shopping Center’s parking lot, ducking behind the few cars that remained on the lot. As he reached Indian Trail itself, he saw on its other side a path that ran alongside a drainage ditch, heading away into the dark. The rustle of the tall grass there made a peaceful sound, and Drew wanted to go there, wherever the path led. It would be better than being hunted by thugs and fathers or cops.
His shadow jumped up ahead of him as the lights from a car lit him from behind, and Drew turned to see the car with the thugs rolling up on him. They were out of the car before it stopped and two of the five of them ran at him. Drew knew nothing about fighting, but he did know football. Before they got to him, he went down, almost into his three point stance, and then he launched at them. They were big boys, but they weren’t big enough.
He caught each of them by the shirt front as he rose. His rush carried them back into the two fellows who came behind them. There was the satisfying thud of body on body that Drew recalled from times when he broke into the secondary on running plays, except these bodies cried out at the painful shock. They all landed hard, clutching limbs and skulls that had bounced off the asphalt. Drew stood panting, his released rage making him think of hurting them more.
With four of them down so quickly, the fifth, the driver, came out of the car slowly. He brandished a long knife, a bayonet, Drew saw, a weapon of war. It’s long blade was dark with age and old rust in the tough guy’s hand, as he came at Drew, calling him names.
“That’s what you all do,” Drew muttered, “call me pussy or talk about my dick.”
“What’d he say, Bobby?” one of the guys on the ground gasped. But Drew didn’t know about posturing or intimidation, on which supposed tough guys thrive. He acted fast.
“C’mon, fat boy, let’s see what you—“ Bobby started to say.
He couldn’t say much else with Drew’s whole hand covered his face. Though he slashed at Drew’s arm, only the tip of the blade tore at Drew’s sweatshirt sleeve, and Bobby was driven hard to the ground. The bayonet clattered away from his hand, and Drew picked it up and held it up to the light. It felt good in his hand, and the other tough guys cried out warnings to each other. He could do things with this blade, he knew, but he thought back to his sudden desire to hurt the boys whom he had knocked down, and the very thought of the knife horrified him.
One of the others shouted, “What’d you do? Is Bobby dead?” Drew looked down at him, and Bobby moaned and rolled over, holding his head.
Drew turned and ran. Looking at the knife and thinking of the way the grip nestled into his palm, promising him power, he threw it hard towards the drainage ditch and ran for all he was worth up the path through the tall grass. Knives were made to cut, but they weren’t for the kind of cuts he needed to make. That much, he was sure of. So he followed the path in the dark, not knowing exactly where it would take him, except away.
After some few minutes on the well used path, Drew came out on Gilmore Lane and recognized enough of where he was to make for Poplar Level Road to his right and then on home. He stayed off the overpass, where he might be seen and sprinted across the Watterson Expressway entrances and exits, making it safely into Camp Taylor where the ball field lay and the closed pool beyond it. There, he was on streets he knew and could get home. He made his way up Lincoln Avenue, past and through the two mill works on Reservoir Avenue and found a hole in the chain link fence so that he could cross the railroad tracks. But he headed for Farmdale Avenue, rather than Lucas, for he knew that he had to get into the garage from the rear of the lot. He went with caution and managed to avoid detection, except by a few dogs. They knew him by smell and didn’t bark long enough or hard enough to raise anyone’s suspicion. But as he crept up to the back of his garage, he heard two voices talking, his father was one, and Dr. Stevenson was the other. They weren’t even trying to stay quiet. Their voices were confident, mocking, like the thugs in the car.
“No, she hasn’t really said anything against him. He admitted he was with her,though, but she won’t say a word about it. It’s this Kyle business,” Stevenson said.
“I wouldn’t put it past him, though,” Jerry Skolnick said. “I mean, he’s never been right, ya know? Autistic they said, but to me he is just weird. And, just look at him now, all huge and shit. Boy’s bound to be pretty pent up. Never goes after the girly mags I got, either. I thought maybe he was queer, too.”
“Look, I don’t really care about what’s wrong with him. I just need him to stay away from my daughter, even if he won’t leave Kyle’s side. That will take care of itself. I just won’t have him around her.”
“She’s your’s, is she?” Jerry said in a leering voice.
“Never you mind,” Stevenson shot back.”If we can put the fear of God into that boy, we’ll both get what we want, okay?” Drew’s Dad must have nodded his agreement, for Dr. Stevenson went on in weaker tones, “Do you think that he can actually hear Kyle?”
“Naw, that’s just some bullshit he’s got in his head, prolly from them books he reads. But just you get me my dough and get my old woman and that boy back here, under my thumb. You’ll see.”
“Alright. I’ll make good on the money, but I have to use the phone. Where is yours?”
“Kitchen counter, next to the back door. It’s open,” Jerry said.
Drew heard the door to the house open and close and heard his father’s heavy tread move around to the big garage door and open it. From the moment he heard his father’s candid conversation with the doctor, Drew’s heart changed. Jerry Skolnick was no longer his father but just another tough guy who decided to work out his anger or insanity on someone who wouldn’t fight back. Drew still didn’t want to fight him, but he no longer feared a man like that. He was glad, suddenly, that this was no longer going to be his home. He would take his books and leave.
The overhead light came on just as Drew rounded the corner and stood in the entrance.
“Jerry, I’ve come to get my books,” Drew said, and the man in front of him jumped and dropped the whiskey bottle from his hand. It broke on the floor, and Jerry grabbed a hammer from a stack of tools and ran at Drew with a grunt, swinging the hammer at Drew’s head. He stepped toward Jerry and caught the hand that held the hammer, stopping it it mid swing. With his other hand, he took Jerry by the collar of his rain coat and hauled him close. Nose to nose, Drew looked calmly at the man who had been his father. He wrenched the hammer from the man’s hand and hurled it away so hard that it lodged in the concrete block wall. Drew pulled hard on the rain coat, its collar beneath Jerry’s chin.
“You are not my father, not now, not ever. You will not hurt me again.”
Jerry pulled his fist back as though to punch Drew, but he had acted already. Drew hauled him off his feet and threw him, like he had before, but harder this time, putting all his weight and strength into it so that Jerry sailed out the garage door, struck the front of his pick up truck and landed in a moaning heap under its bumper.
Drew picked up his Tolkien books and a few others, taking a second root through more of them and retrieve the Hunchback’s story by Hugo. These he thrust into his backpack and walked out into the night, back the way he had come. He didn’t hurry, Free men never do.
Later that night, he sat alone under the overpass that the Watterson made over Durrett lane. The train tracks ran through there as well, so it was a cavernous place with its tall, concrete pillars making rough dark arches at their tops. It wasn’t Notre Dame, but at night, even with the wind that whistled through it and the cars that whizzed over its top, it was a quiet enough place, cathedral like, and the spot where Drew determined to spent the rest of the night.
He was tired, body and mind, tired, but he planned to make his way back out to Cooper Chapel Road when the sun came up. The Floyds would take good care of his mother. Whatever she would do, he didn’t know. She would make good decisions for herself, kind and loving ones. How she could say she still loved his father, Drew didn’t know. He would support her, as best he could, but he would never go back to that house.
He also wanted to report to Marty’s Dad all he had heard at his garage, though he didn’t know if it would mean much. For now, he was free, and the terror of father authority had left him. He’d thrown it down, literally. Even if he had to be homeless until April, when he’d turn eighteen, he knew he could do it.
Rain fell again, that soaking sort of September rain that stays around for days, and it quieted his spirit enough that he slept.His only problem was that Mary Beth showed up in his dreams, asking him to help her. She was near to him, her smell enveloping him, her face and form so beautiful that it made him ache. And though she was near him, he could not hold her, as though his dream life reflected the reality of his brutishness face and form. He cried in his dream, and he felt as though his heart would break just looking at her face, hearing her cries for help, and he woke, still hearing the sound of a man weeping.
He stood and cast about him in the dark, but he saw no one. It was still pitch dark everywhere. The thought hit him and made him say,
“Kyle? Is that you?”
The weeping went on and grew louder.
“Kyle? It has to be you. Talk to me, Kyle. You’re the only one I can talk to now. Kyle, what’s wrong?” Drew cried, his voice echoing off the concrete slabs and pillars.
The weeping grew less for a second, and to Drew, the darkness deepened all around him, as though a giant pall had fallen over the whole interior or the cavernous underpass, as though it had become an underworld. Drew couldn’t see a thing, but he heard,
“Y,yes. I…its me, D,Drew.”
“What is it, Kyle?” Drew whispered, dread creeping up his back like a chill.
“They…killed me…buddy. They killed me because I love her.”
Anybody interested in seeing parts 9 and 10? Please let me know! MJ