"Mom, I can't go to school, I have to go with Jan to his fitting and then to his lawyers."
"Elliot, Renae is going to be with him and you've missed too much school already. Besides that, you have practice tonight and a game on Thursday."
"Awe Mom, I can get my homework and stuff caught up and they won't miss me at practice or the game. It's not like they are even going to let a spaz like me off the bench."
"Hey! I don't want to hear talk like that. The team and the coach are counting on you and you agreed to do your best so get a move on. Let's go, my mind is made up."
"Don't 'oh mom' me. Just get your butt moving and I'll drop you off at school. Get ready to go, back here in three minutes."
Elliot stormed back into his room. "She's making me go to school."
"Damn. Look, it wouldn't be fun anyways. The fitting is a pain and they'd probably make you sit out in the waiting room, so you probably aren't going to miss much and the visit to the lawyer makes me want to trade places with ya. The guy is an ass and he treats my mom like she's a thief. Then I want to jump up and rip his spine out through his chest and hand it to him. He acts like whatever he doesn't have to give out right now goes into his pocket. I mean shit, it's my money."
"Hey, lawyers are just like that. I think it comes with the degree. You know the difference between a skunk and a lawyer, don't ya?"
"There's skid marks before a skunk."
"Coach Russel, you got a minute?"
"Connor! Yes, come on in. You must have been reading my mind. I just called to get your schedule."
"My schedule? What for?"
"Well, I was hoping to talk to you about what you said to get the crew to not break Elliot's legs for him."
"What makes you think I said anything to anybody?"
"You did though, didn't you?"
"Um . . . yeah. Coach, what's this about? Am I in some kind of trouble? I mean, did someone do something?"
"Yeah, they did. They opened up and treated him like they should, I wanted to thank you."
"Oh, sure coach. In fact, Elliot is why I'm here."
"Oh? What's up?"
"Well, we have a game this Thursday, you know?"
"Yeah, and look, it's important that I field him. I mean, it'll probably just be a couple minutes in the second half, but I need to get him out there."
"Well, that's what I wanted to talk to you about. Coach, we want you to put him in first string." The coach was quiet waiting for the next part. "Um, first string, full forward."
"What? Is this some cock-eyed plan to embarrass the guy so he'll quit? I mean, that position gets the most play? Are you sure you aren't trying to bury the guy?"
"No! Coach, I wouldn't do that. It's quite the opposite. He's going to make us win, hands down."
The coach raised an eyebrow at him, "Alright, I'll put him in. I expect Jeremy Steiner is going to have a fit, but I'll do it. That's his position. Alright, I'll do it. I really don't care if we win or lose, but Elliot better not catch any flack off of this. If this goes bad, I'm gonna be on you like a monkey fuckin' a football, you got me!"
"Yeah, coach. Honest, I'd never do anything like that. It's going to be good. Coach, you wanted to know what I said to the crew. Well, do you remember Phillip Diaz?"
"Ah, yes. He was your brother?"
"Yeah." Connor sorta looked down and took a deep breath.
"I was sorry to hear about him. I always thought he was a great kid. It's too bad he didn't speak to someone. Whatever was wrong could have been fixed, I'm sure."
"Coach, not too many know why he did it. He was gay and felt he couldn't talk to anyone about it. He was afraid to come back to school because he had been found out. He had been seen visiting the hospital when Jan Teagle was in there for the surgery on his leg. Well, I knew and well . . . I can't help but feel that if I had spoken to him, told him it was okay, maybe he would still be here. So, when I saw that Elliot had his old locker, well, I sorta took it as a sign. He was the one I was supposed to help. I told the guys about my brother and that they all had brothers, sisters, or a friend that might be suffering and then asked them if anyone of them would rather see them dead than gay, because I would have been happy as shit to have Phil back. But it was too late. I guess I hit a nerve because they all put operation tutu together to make this happen."
"Operation what?" The coach's eyes lit up.
"Shit, it's supposed to be a surprise. Everyone on the team is in on it. Well, everyone except Elliot."
"I'm on the team, aren't I? Maybe I need to be in on it too."
Connor took a breath and told him the plan. Sitting back, the coach smiled.
"I think its brilliant, but there are two things. First, would you mind telling a few more people about your brother? I think it would go a long ways towards helping what I am trying to do here. I think it took courage to say what you did. Would you be courageous again, for me, for Elliot, for the other Phil's out there?"
His eyes snapped to the coaches when he mentioned Phil."Uh, yeah, sure. Just let me know when and where."
"Thank you, how about today at one forty-five. Meet me outside the teacher's lounge. I'll give you a pass. Now, the second thing, do you think you could get me and coach Johnston in on this operation tutu thing?"
"Hello Ms Petrie? This is Jim Peticone. Do you have a minute?"
Laughing, Ms Petrie responded, "Doctor Peticone, you're the superintendant of schools for the district, do you really think I would say no?"
"Well, if it's not a good time, I can call back. I don't mind and please, call me Jim. I hate all that formal wish-wash. I'd rather work with equals than subordinates. So it's a good time then?"
"Certainly, I'm enjoying a quiet spell, go ahead. And call me Elly, please."
"Right then, Elly it is. Well, no sense beating around the bush. This whole Granger-McAllister thing is a mess and Mrs. McAllister just muddied the water even more. She struck a deal. That means almost certainly that she will have to plead guilty to something and Mr. Granger is going to be the sacrificial lamb, which honestly, I could care less about at this point. But here is where we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. First and foremost, Mr. Granger must be replaced and we need to do it quickly so we can have stability back in the classroom. Having a sub in there is not conducive to learning. But here is the really tough part. The legal department has advised us to keep Mrs. McAllister on. They say that if we fire her that it can get really ugly and we will lose on the civil trials when these kids parents start to sue us as soon as they find out that McAllister admits guilt and then again after she makes us lose his case. But we can't really have her in charge of the school either."
"So Jim, what are you suggesting?"
"Well, we want to make her take the vice principal's position. See, we can't get rid of her and there is really no other way to keep her in a position where she isn't in constant contact with the students. So, we would put her in as vice principal and reduce some of what she does. We want to make her position more of a paper pusher, things like attendance and meetings with parents for special programs, meetings and reports. And of course, the principal's position would shift more of the clerical to the vice principal's position."
"So what's to become of me? I lack sufficient time in this position to permit me to move up, so am I to be let go?"
"Oh! No no no! Because of the nature of the situation and your progressive review, I've waived the requirement."
"Progressive review? Jim, I've only been here three months or so. I haven't had a review yet."
"Oh, I'm sorry. Didn't I tell you that this was what we were just doing?"
Grinning like a Cheshire cat, "No, uh no, I don't think you mentioned that."
"Well, what do you think? Would you like to take on the roll of principal?"
"I think I need to think about this. She was threatened by me before. She is not going to be happy about this. It could make her very difficult to deal with."
"Make no mistake about it, she will know that you are in charge and that she is expendable. Her options are limited and I'm sure she won't like it and if she quits, then it will be on her, not on us. And if she quits, then she breaks her contract and we don't have to continue to pay for two principal's paychecks. As it stands right now, she will still receive her regular paycheck. If she causes anymore trouble however, we can and will gladly give her the boot."
"And if this occurs, will I be sent back to this office?"
"Oh no, this is a permanent move. It will make you the youngest principal in the state. I should think that perhaps that will work for us, showing that we are trying to proactively bring a fresher approach to the schools cadre. So what do you think?"
"When would you like to make this transition?"
"I'll have someone run over with a contract this afternoon and you start boxing her stuff up and moving in as soon as we agree. Do you want the position? I mean, the terms are all determined and set, so there are no negotiations required there. Just tell me that you want it and I should think you'll enjoy the sizeable raise that comes with it."
"One more thing, there are two vehicles abandoned in the teachers parking lot, one appears to be in the principal's parking space. What would you like me to do with them?"
"I'm afraid that decision is not within my pay grade. I think however, that the new principal would be at liberty to have them towed or impounded. Does this mean that you'll take the job Elly?"
"Yes, I think I would like that very much, thank you Jim."
"Thank you, I think you will make a great part of the team. So! Principal Petrie, someone will be over this afternoon with the paperwork."
"Great! Thanks so much Jim. Goodbye." She hung up the phone and walked over and quietly closed the mini-blinds separating her visually from the outer office. When they were all closed, she smiled and screamed, "Yes!" and began a Snoopy dance all around the inside of her little office.
"Wow Jan, you have really grown since we saw you last. Jump up here and let me take a look at your leg. So, you took a little break and for some reason, decided to walk again. Good for you." Dr. Shamp said, peeling the woolen socks off of Jan's stump. "So what brought on this sudden change if I might ask?"
Jan blushed a little thinking about what he'd like to tell him, but changed his mind. "Um, soccer. I want to play again."
"I think that's a bit ambitious, but I'm sure if anyone can do it, that someone is you! So we need to look at the sports models." he said with an amused chuckle.
"Perhaps one with a racing stripe and supercharger?"
"Precisely what I had in mind," Dr. Shamp grinned. "There's a little redness yet. You've only started this recently, am I right?"
"Yes sir. But I'm getting used to it really fast."
"Well, that's good, but I think I would still like to monitor your break-in so to speak. We don't want you to overdo it and we certainly don't want any more infections. So I would like you to continue, but either come back here once a week for a re-tweak and to check that the redness doesn't develop into something serious, or you can go to physical therapy and they will keep an eye on it and help you get back on track. Your choice."
"If it's all the same to you, I think I would rather work out at home. Could you put that on a prescription for me doc? We are trying to get the pool area covered and part of the yard with a cover so I can work out all winter. But the lawyer is going to want something in writing or he'll think my mom wants it. God, I hate that guy."
"Sure, I can do that. But you should be grateful that he's a jerk. It's for your protection after all."
"Yeah, I know, but he doesn't have to treat her like she's a criminal. It just really gets to me, ya know?"
"Let me draft a little letter to your attorney and see if it helps. Meanwhile, I'll send Mike in to get some measurements so we can get your new prosthetic underway."
"Hello Jim," Renae stuck out her hand to him. "Thanks for seeing us on such short notice."
"Certainly," he said, taking her hand and shaking it gingerly, "Won't you come in and have a seat?" He opened the door to his office and pointed open-handedly towards a couple of chairs in front of his desk. "Well Jan, you certainly have come a long ways. Walking! I wasn't sure I was ever going to see that again."
"Yes, well, having the pool helps a lot. Thanks for that. I still have a ways to go though. I just came from my doctor and they have refitted me with a new active reflex prosthetic. It should be ready in a couple weeks. Here, he's sent a note with us."
Jim took the note and read it.
Shamp Prosthetics 216 Brooks St. Suite 100 Charleston, WV 25301
Jim Clayburn, Esq. Clayburn and Assoc., LLC 1421 Canal St. Suite 101 Charleston, WV 25332
Re: Jandus Teagle
Mr. Clayburn, Jandus Teagle has been under my care since his accident. I am quite pleased with his progress and find that the pool has been quite beneficial to his recovery. To this end, I would very much like to recommend that he continue this type of therapy on a year round basis.
Jandus has expressed a desire to return to the activities in his life, pre-event. He is even talking about returning to soccer. I think that his recovery in this area will significantly enhance his overall quality of life and ensure a greater degree of recovery.
Therefore I recommend and even prescribe the enclosure for the pool and back yard area to permit both pool and yard activities year round. Any other decision would be counterproductive and contrary to the patient's best interests.
Thank you, Sincerely, John Shamp, MD, PHd
"I see. Have you gotten any estimates on this enclosure yet?"
"No, we just thought of it and discussed it with the doctor."
"Go ahead and get the estimates and I'll approve it."
"That's it? Just get the estimates and you'll approve it? No hoops to jump through? No affidavits?"
Jim smiled, "I know you must think me awful Renae, but that is the job of a fiduciary. Any less and I would not be doing my job. I know you are not the type that the laws were written for. But my job is to make that fact plain to anyone who may, down the line, question it. That's all."
"Alright, so let's discuss the other matter. We would very much like to have Ms. Glicksman and her son move in with us. She will help me to keep the house and the books. She's quite gifted in that area. Her son also assists Jan as a companion. Now that he is in high school, he has a lot more to tote around. He also encourages Jan in ways you can't imagine. He is what got him to work towards walking again."
"Yes, well, what will her responsibilities be, exactly."
"Cooking, occasional laundry and general cleaning house, along with doing the reports that I have to send to you for the trust expenditures."
"And her wages?"
"Room and board and $200 per week?"
"And the boy?"
"Basically any lifting or toting, accompanying Jan where ever he goes. He has soccer matches and practice after school two nights a week and Saturday's, but at all other times. They are pretty much inseparable anyways."
"That is a lot of hours. I'm not sure that would work under the child labor laws. What wages would he be paid for his services?"
"I don't think he would charge anything. They're great friends."
"Yes, well, that is not in the best interest of my client. If he were injured in some way that would leave Jan open to litigation." He pushed a button on his phone, "Marie, could you come in for just a moment please?"
The disembodied voice replied, "Certainly Mr. Clayburn."
He looked at Jan and Renae, "Let Marie get you some drinks. I need to think about this and make a few phone calls. I'll be back in just a few minutes." And he left the room.
Marie entered, "May I get you something to drink?"
"Thank you Marie. Coffee, black, for me please."
"And for you Jan?"
"Um, do you have any hot chocolate?"
"I think I can round some up. I'll be right back." she said, leaving the room.
"What do you think mom? I mean, he's never done this before. Usually he says yes or no or dismisses us so he can say no by mail."
Marie came back in with two steaming cups and Renae jumped up to help her with the door. Marie eagerly handed her the cup, "Watch it, it's really hot," and stepping by her, rushed to set the other cup on the desk in front of Jan.
"You might let that cool a bit hon, it's scalding hot."
"What do you think Marie? We don't know how to read him. Usually, he just sends us on our way."
"I don't know hon, but I know he is with Bill and he knows his stuff. So, at least he is researching it. Whatever it is, it will be done right if it is done at all, of that you can be sure." She smiled and excused herself.
Jan looked at his mom questioningly and she spoke, "I don't know! He's never done this before. Your guess is as good as mine. I hope he says it's okay. It would be so much better."
"For both of us," Jan giggled, blushing slightly. "But really, if you had to guess, do you think he'll approve it?"
"I don't know. But he's putting a lot into it if he is going to turn it down," Renae said, sipping on her cup of coffee. They continued to talk amongst themselves until Jim walked back in, nearly an hour later, with a yellow legal pad which had copious notes scribbled on it.
"Thanks for waiting. I had to check a few things. I know this is important or you wouldn't have brought it forward. Jan, is this something you really want?"
"Yes! More than you'll ever know."
"What if we found a professional assistant for you, someone who could perhaps help you with your homework and such?"
"No, that's not what I want. Elliot is all I need. He helps me with everything."
"A professional assistant could do anything this young man could do and more, I am sure."
"Will he love me? Will he let me love him!? Will he tell me that he wants to visit the world and he wants to do it holding my hand!?" Jan sat back, realizing he lost control and probably ruined it. He sat and looked at Jim's steady glare. Jan knew he had said too much, "Come on Mom. It's obvious that we are done here. Let's go." And he stood to go.
"We could book this young man as a personal assistant, and pay him well for the twenty-four hours a week he is permitted to work, being underage. If he injures himself, then it better happen during one of the hours he is scheduled to work. The rest of the time he will have to be with you as a friend, not an employee. Do they have a man in the family? Is there health insurance for them?"
"No, she is a single parent, currently working at Walmart. She hasn't worked there long enough to have insurance."
"Alright, this is a little complicated, but what we will have to do is create a corporation out of the trust. We will have to look at health insurance, but I think we can do it and you can benefit by getting your own insurance through the trust as well. So, you will need to cancel your health insurance through Walmart and get it through the trust. I am figuring that we can compensate them in ways other than cash. That way, it will not look odd, like we are paying them for more than the current market. We can also provide the mother with transportation and gas and a cell phone. The young man will, of course, require a cell phone and a modest clothing allowance, so that your social status remains undamaged. Do you think he'll work for ten dollars an hour? I mean, a personal assistant over eighteen would be a minimum of eighteen dollars an hour, but seeing as he has no formal training in that area, we can make it up with the clothing allowance and extras. You know, if you go to the movies, then you pay for it with your trust card. Do you think that will work for your young man?"
"Yeah, I'm sure he will be alright with that," Jan said, beaming.
"I'll have some papers for you to fill out and some for them. They are citizens right? Allowed to work here?"
"Yes, of course," Renae said quickly. "I mean, she is working for Walmart and as far as I know, Elliot was born here in America too."
Jan sat back down. He looked at Mr. Clayburn with astonishment on his face.
Jim looked at him. "What?"
"I don't get it," Jan said, sternly. "I mean, I'm really happy, but I don't get it."
"What don't you get?" Jim asked, looking confused.
"When we were here for the pool and the car and the van, it was harder than getting a hooker for show and tell. Now, we're asking for my boyfriend and his mom to move in and you are ready to move heaven and earth. I just don't get it."
Jim Clayburn smiled, something they have seldom seen on his face. "Jan, my job is to oversee the funds for your trust and to make sure investments are made and handled properly. I am also charged with making sure that every penny is accounted for and explained, if I am called back to court for it. Now, I know your mom is not the kind of mom the law was written for, but knowing is not enough. I have to prove that it is for your betterment in order to disprove it as a whim of your mother's or yours. A car, van or pool is suspicious. It could be for either of you.
"But Jan, look at you. You came in here with a smile that I have never seen before and you are standing, walking and wanting to even return to soccer. That change needed a catalyst."
Jan looked at him with a confused exp****ression and seeing that he didn't understand, Mr. Clayburn stopped.
"A catalyst. It is something that caused you to change. Without it, you would still be heading down the same path, stuck in your chair, just going through the motions. I wasn't sure what it was until you told me that this young man loved you and was the impetus to the change."
Getting that look again from Jan he stopped.
"Jan, it is obvious to me that his love for you and your love for him, even though you are both very young, still must be considered a plus for your quality of life, and what he is doing for you is an obvious investment. The payback is tenfold. And if having him around more makes it better and his mom being there facilitates that, then I am serving my position in facilitating it, provided that I can do it without breaking the law."
Jan's face was frozen, he looked at his mom.
"Honey, he's saying that you're walking and returning to life standing is good and he figures Elliot is responsible for that. It is easy to prove it is better for you, whereas the pool and the car and the van could have been for either of us, so he had to be a jerk to prove it to the courts."
Jim cleared his throat when she referred to him as a jerk.
Jan turned and looking at Mr. Clayburn, smiled. "Of course, why didn't you just say that?"
"I guess I am better at being a jerk than a Neanderthal translator."
Jan got that blank look on his face.
Jim smiled, "I'll have a courier bring those papers over tomorrow. They are operating on a rider until then."
Jan looked at his Mom, "I'll explain it to you later honey. We better hurry. We can make it to school before lunch is over and you can tell Elliot the good news. Thanks Jim. We'll be waiting," she said, extending her hand and then ushered Jan out the door.
"Hello Mrs. Glicksman? This is coach Russell at the high school."
"Is there something wrong with Elliot?"
"Oh, no ma'am, he's just fine. I'd like to talk to you a bit, is this a good time? If not, I can call you back when it would be better, just let me know when."
"No, actually, I was just going on break, so now is probably as good of time as any. What's this all about?"
"Mrs. Glicksman, Elliot is an exceptional boy and I'm very proud of him. I'm proud to have him in my class. There are some things going on that I think you would want to be aware of, if for no other reason, than you are his mom and his best friend."
"Coach, first, just call me Karen. But you need to cut to the chase. I only have a 15 minute break and quite frankly, you're scaring me a little here. So get to it, would ya? I'm not one for beating around the bush."
"Sure Karen, and really there is nothing to be concerned about. He's doing great. I've changed a few things procedurally to make it easier for kids like Elliot here at school. Elliot has stepped up to the plate so to speak and has come out. Normally, that would be something to be concerned about, but something wonderful has happened through the tragedy of another student. And, well, that combined with Elliot's personality, it has melded together to change things for loving kids that happen to be gay. Can you come to the game Thursday night? I think you should see what the boys have planned. Elliot doesn't even know about it yet."
"Coach, can you tell me exactly what 'it' is?"
"Well, that's why I called. You see, it's called 'Operation tutu' and it was created and designed and organized by the same group of boys who would ordinarily be the ones giving Elliot a hard time. That's what is so great about it. And Thursday night they have asked that I put Elliot in as a first string forward."
"Ok, just what is that?"
"That means that he goes in first and plays most of the game. His position is right in front of the other team's goal. It is the most active position in the game and he will have the ball quite often."
"Coach, are you sure you dialed the right number? We're talking about Elliot, 'I've only made it to practice two, maybe three, times and have a cute little wiggle thing going on when I walk' Glicksman?
The coach doubled over in laughter, "Oh! I see where he gets it." The coach went on laughing.
"Yes Karen, right number, right kid. Look, we may not win the game, but we will certainly make a statement. And I don't think I have been this excited about a game in years."
"Okay, I'm out of time, but I want to know more. I get off at four. Why don't I come over to practice and we can talk some more when you are done."
"Great, I'll look forward to it. See you there."
"Elliot! You won't believe it." Jan was wheeling across the cafeteria towards his table.
"Believe what? Hey, you're still wearing your foot."
"Yeah, they made some adjustments so this one is a bit more comfortable and he wants me to start wearing it longer so my body and muscles start getting used to the extra weight. They're making me a new one and I should have it in just a couple weeks."
"Damn, I'll bet mom makes me go to school then too. That sucks. I'd love to be there."
"You'll be there," Jan said, beaming.
"How do you know?" Elliot could see he was holding something back.
"You work for me and I say I need you there."
"I don't get it."
"You have a job, paying ten bucks an hour, for twenty-four hours a week."
"I just told you, working for me as my personal assistant. That reminds me, we have to go shopping this week. We don't want your wardrobe to damage my social status."
"Say what? What status? You're wearing olive drab shorts and an orange t-shirt. How could that get hurt? And what are you talking about?" He stood up and squinted at Jan, "Did they give you something at the doctors, because you are way the heck out there."
Jan was laughing almost uncontrollably at him.
"Stop laughing and tell me what you're on."
"Sit down, people are starting to look this way. Look, in order for you guys to move in, you need to be working for us, or paying your half, so the attorney okay'd the pool enclosure and is giving you and your mom jobs, complete with clothing allowance and cell phone and a car to use. It is unbelievable what he's doing."
"Why? I thought you said he was a jerk."
"Well, he is a jerk, but he said that you were my catalyst or something, so having you around is bettering my quality of life. Mom can explain it better than me. But dude, you are on the payroll."
"Sweet! So when's payday?" Elliot laughed. Then he froze for a second. "Just what are you paying me for? I mean," he paused, looking around and leaning in, he whispered, "if you are paying me for sex, that would make me . . . well, I don't know what it is called when a guy does it, but if I were a woman, there is certainly a word for it."
"Dude, it's not like that. For toting my books and stuff, working out with me, keeping me company, when we go to the movies I buy, but you carry the drinks and stuff. Oh, and you have to let me win when we go to the arcade."
"Well, if that's the case, then I better look into unemployment now, 'cause you are a loser in the arcade, boy."
"So, shopping tonight?" Jan asked
"Can't, soccer practice."
"Hey Elliot," Jess said, walking up to their table and sliding one cheek of his butt onto the edge of the seat before glancing over at Jan. "What's up, Jan?" he said, bumping knuckles. "Look, Elliot, I just wanted to make sure you were going to be there for practice tonight."
"Yeah, sure, I said I would. I mean, I'm not likely to be any better today than I was yesterday, but thanks to you, I probably won't look as much like a spaz when I walk over to the bench." Looking at Jan he said, "This is the guy who gave me the pointers for doing those cone things."
"Hey, it's the least I could do for our first string forward center. See you later."
"Yeah, later." Elliot smiled and looked back at Jan who was seriously troubled. "What?" he asked.
"Shit, you must be pretty good. I thought you never played before."
"Are you kidding? If I said I was shit, I would have to get better to live up to it. And why didn't he bump knuckles with me?"
"Elliot, the first string forward center is a showcase position for the best player on the team. It is the number one play spot, center field, right in front of their goalie. They will try and give you the ball more times than not. And girls don't bump knuckles."
The bell rang and Elliot was just staring at Jan as what he said soaked in. Jan started to roll away.
"Wait!" Elliot said.
Jan stopped, "What."
"Hold on a minute! I need to slap the piss out of you for that last remark." And Elliot gave chase.
Giggling, Jan scrunched his shoulder away as Elliot took a sissy swipe at him and missed, but on round two, Jan squealed like a girl, "Help! The fairy boy's picking on the cripple!"