The weeks after our trip to Asheville and the thrift shops, I was surprised when several people, especially girls, commented on Jason's and my new look. For someone who had never had very many clothes, Jason really knew how to dress. Not only had he shown great taste in picking out what he bought, but also in how he put things together. With the "pre-washed" look so popular with teenagers, our thrift store clothes were high fashion at Coldsprings.
I, of course, enjoyed the compliments on my new dress, but the fact that I had, in Hank's words, become somewhat of a chick magnet was not all good. So long as I was pretty much ignored by girls, I could ignore a part of me which I didn't want to face. I liked having girls notice me. I enjoyed talking to them but, unlike Hank, I wasn't turned on by them. What was even more troubling was that guys did turn me on. Well not all guys, but Jason did and he really did. All I had to do to get hard was to remember his remark about my nice round ass making him hard. Yeah, so long as girls paid no attention to me, I didn't have to pay attention to what they did not do for me. Now? Well, now I spent a lot of time wondering if I was gay, knowing I was gay, denying I was gay--the whole thing I guess any gay teenager goes through if he starts facing who he is and who turns him on.
One thing about it: Jason may have made that remark, but I had to assume he was kidding or risk losing his friendship. While there was no question about Hank's preference, I wasn't sure about Jason's. Most of Hank's waking hours were spent chasing girls, dreaming about catching girls and leaking precum imagining what he would do if he did catch one. Yeah, there was increasing anxiety on my part concerning my sexuality and that of one of my friends.
Additionally, I was getting sick and fed up with Jerry and his boys. One October Monday he tripped me as I was racing down the hall, nearly late for class. My books went everywhere and I got a foot in my face. By the end of the period, I had a mouse under my left eye and knew I'd have a real shiner. I had been bruised before, but it was never where it showed. This time it showed! When I met Jason and Hank, they asked about it but I laughed it off.
Wednesday, Hank told me and Jason we had to end our time as monks. "There's a concert in Asheville Friday night and I have six tickets. Beth will be going with me"--Hank had pretty much settled on one girl, but not absolutely--"so you jokers have to get dates." When we talked about that, Hank was thunderstruck that neither of us had dated a lot--Jason practically not at all, which was not surprising given his living conditions, and I had "dates" which were pretty much dictated by things like dance lessons and St. Stephen's parties, not something anyone would call a real date.
Jason and I talked about getting a date, but neither did anything about it until Hank said two of Beth's girlfriends were dying to go to the concert and he suggested we ask them, which we did. The rest of the week, the concert and our dates were all that Hank talked about. I noticed Jason seemed about as enthusiastic as I was, which was not much.
Hank said Jason and I were the talk among the girls. "Seems Sandra and Janie have moved up the social scale by having dates with you and are making sure all the other girls know it."
I had thought my new clothes and now dates would, maybe, cut down on Jerry and his henchmen harassing me, but I was wrong. It got worse and more insulting. I had ignored it, but that didn't help. Every time I met him or one of his buddies, they had something to say or do to me. Since I had new clothes, they didn't do the fancy pants bit but, increasingly, they made some comment about me being a faggot. Faggot almost became my name so far as they were concerned. Well, faggot sissy. The fact that I was struggling with the question of my sexuality didn't make the harassment easier to take. But the hazing didn't stop with name calling. When they caught me without Hank or Jason around, I ... well ... let's just say I was becoming very familiar with the floor.
When I mentioned the continuing harassment to Jason and Hank, Hank said, "He would've found something else from the beginning if it hadn't been your clothes. You're the new boy, you and Jason. He has always picked on kids who were different--you know, new, dressed differently, African- Americans, Indians, just different," Hank said. "And what is most different so far as he is concerned? Someone gay. So he just tacks that on to you. But it's time it stopped and especially the physical harassment. Jason and I found out about the mouse and know that's just something that showed. You have been physically harassed all along. Why didn't you tell us Jerry and the Assholes were doing things to you?"
"I guess I thought they would get tired and stop, but it doesn't look as if it will stop until I put a stop to it." I thought Hank and Jason had pretty much forgotten about it, but I found out later I was wrong.
Friday of the concert the three of us were headed for the parking lot after school, making final arrangements about the concert. Hank had to make sure we had everything arranged about our dates. He was worried because the six of us were too much for a single car. Hank's brother was home from college for the weekend and Hank wanted to drive his Miata. Jason and I assured him we could pick up our dates and get to the concert. "We'll meet you there," Jason assured him.
As we approached the Jeep, Jerry and his hangers-on came from the stadium area. As they got close I could smell weed. They were not smoking tobacco today. I had heard people talking about how grass can just mellow you out and it may be true. If it is, Jerry and the Assholes were doing something along with their grass because they were unusually nasty.
"Well, if ain't Sissy the Faggot and his asshole buddies. You and your faggot buddies are just too cute with your pierced ears. You three are asshole buddies ain'cha?"
"Jerry, Douglas has been a gentleman and ignored your ignorance. He has even ignored your physical attacks on him, but now I have had it. You don't call anyone faggot and from now on when you speak to Douglas, you are to address him as Mr. McElrath and you and your asshole buddies are to leave him strictly alone. You understand, or do I need to draw a picture?" Jason said in an icy voice. It was enough to frighten me, but Jerry couldn't let well enough alone.
"You got a dumb Indian protecting your sissy ass, faggot?" Jerry sneered in my face.
"I mean it Jerry. Back off and apologize," Jason said, his eyes flashing fire.
"Afraid your pretty boy pussy will get his face messed up again?" Jerry was right in my face, close enough for his breath to make me gag.
I decided the time had come to let Jerry know I'd had enough and that I didn't need Jason or anyone else to look out for me. After all, I had done really well in my martial arts classes. I looked at Jason and Hank and said, "I can't take on all four of these jerks, but I can handle the situation if you two will make sure I only have to take on one at a time."
"You sure?" Hank asked, clearly frightened.
"Yeah, you sure?" Jason echoed.
"I'm sure, but knowing how trash fights, as soon as I start busting ass they will all jump me. Think you two can hold back the others so I can take them out one at a time?" I was very calm, breathing correctly, getting myself ready.
"Sure," Hank said. Jason nodded as he jerked Jerry from in front of me.
"Who's first?" I asked.
Phil, a big, overgrown guy walked up, put his nose in my face and said, "You are dead meat, boy pussy," just before I got his knee with my heel and he hit the ground.
"Next?" I asked. Hank had twisted one guy's arm behind his back and he was going nowhere until Hank decided. Jason was holding Jerry and another fellow. "Jason, you have two. How about letting one go? But save Jerry Asshole until last," I said. "I have something special for him."
"As you wish, Mr. McElrath," Jason grinned.
"I'll bust your faggot ass," said Snake, the second fellow Jason had. When Jason turned him loose, he ducked his head to ram me. I sidestepped him and, as I did, caught his chin with a quick knee kick, sending him to the ground, clutching his jaw.
"Hank, turn your jerk loose." Hank shoved the third tough guy, Slim, toward me. He was smaller, leaner and faster than the two on the ground. He came at me cautiously, far more dangerous than either of the others. I waited, wanting him to get closer. He was very carefully approaching me in a crouch. Suddenly he rushed toward me and, before I knew it, punched me in the stomach. Fortunately, he didn't recover his balance as quickly as I recovered from his punch. He was totally unprepared when one, then the other of my feet lashed out, the first catching him under the chin, the other behind his neck, sending him to the ground. As he fell, I got in another kick catching him in the chest, knocking the wind out of him.
Jason and Hank were keeping their eyes on the three I had put down, keeping them on the ground. When I looked up at Jerry, I saw a crowd of students standing behind him. Some, I knew, had permission to leave as I did, others were cutting class. One of them called out, "Jerry, go over and say, 'Mr. McElrath, I am sorry I have been an asshole and I'll be good from now on,' and kiss his foot and he might leave you alone."
"I'll see you all in hell first," Jerry said with his tough guy sneer.
"Wrong attitude, Asshole," Jason said. "You ready for this shitbag, Mr. McElrath?"
"Yeah, I have other things to do. Let him loose." I hate to say it, but I didn't put Jerry on the ground immediately. I could have, but I wanted him to realize he was messing with someone who could protect himself. He made an absolute fool of himself, charging where I had been but was no longer, trying to kick box, really making a fool of himself.
I played with him like a cat plays with a mouse. He was getting madder and more frustrated, which meant any control or discipline he might have had was gone. I toyed with him while the crowd of students laughed and hooted. I heard someone shout, "Jerry, I think you better crawl on your knees to Douglas, apologize, and ask politely if you can kiss his ass. Man, you are one fool." Jerry was truly enraged and, as he charged, I sent him sprawling in the parking lot without seeming to move. I was really proud of myself and wished my martial arts teacher had been around.
While I was gloating over my accomplishments, neither my buds nor I were keeping an eye on those who had fallen earlier. Suddenly I saw something flash in the sun and, before I realized what had happened, Jerry had caught a switchblade and was rushing toward me with it open. Before I could do anything, he slashed my face. I grabbed his arm, gave it a sharp twist, causing him to drop the knife, then used his weight to put him on the ground. I heard a crack as he fell.
As Jerry started groaning I heard Coach Alexander, who came running from the building, shout, "That's more than enough! You four on the ground ... stay there! Hank, Jason, two of you others--Jake, Cowboy--see that they stay there. LaToya, to the office,! Have Ms. Prince call 911 and get the EMS and police out here. Derrick, get my first aid kit out of the locker room. Move! Anyone got a clean--and I mean clean--hanky? A girl handed him one and he pressed it to my cheek. "Afraid you'll need stitches, Douglas."
Derrick came running out of the building carrying a first aid kit. "Thanks," Coach Alexander said, took a compress out, unwrapped it and replaced the hanky with it. "You're still bleeding pretty badly, so keep pressure on the cut until the EMS arrives."
The police and EMS came racing into the parking lot ten minutes later. As I was put in the ambulance, I saw the police cuffing three guys. It was very ironic that Jerry couldn't be cuffed because of his arm. It was even more ironic that he was placed in the ambulance with me. "I'll call your folks," Hank said just before the ambulance door was closed.
When we reached the medical center, a doctor took a look at the cut on my cheek and said to an EMS nurse, "Keep the pressure on the cut and head for Asheville. I'll have a plastic surgeon standing by. Take the other fellow into the emergency room. I think he has a broken arm."
The ambulance, its siren blasting, wasted no time. As soon as they arrived at Mission St. Joseph's, I was rushed into the emergency room and then into a surgery suite. The plastic surgeon told me as he was closing the wound, "You'll have a scar, Douglas, but I think I have done a great job. You will still be able to drive the girls wild, maybe even more so since you can tell them a war story about how you were wounded. When they ask about the scar, just tell them it was a life-threatening wound, but fortunately Dr. Freifogle patched you up. Then you are to say, 'Damn, he's good'. Got that?"
"Sure thing, Doc." I smiled what had to be a crooked smile because half my face was numb.
Dr. Freifogle grinned and said, "You'll be in some discomfort--that's doctor talk for it will hurt like hell--when the anesthetic wears off, so I'm giving you some pain medicine. I think you'll be ok. Seriously, you will have a scar but it won't be close to disfiguring. It would be too bad if your face was disfigured. You're a good-looking kid, do you know that?" I could feel myself blushing even with my face still numb. "Good to see your blush machine is still working." He patted me on the shoulder and said, "You are ready to roll. The nurse will give you a sheet on caring for the wound and an appointment to come back so I can make sure everything's ok."
A nurse brought me the sheet, pain medicine and ointment to use after the dressing came off. When I walked out of the emergency room, my grandparents, Jason and Hank were waiting for me. I handed Grandmom the sheet and my medicines, and grabbed Hank and Jason and hugged them. As I did, I started crying from nerves. The two held me until I stopped.
We finally broke our hug. I was so glad my grandparents had brought my friends with them.
About half-way home, the anesthetic started wearing off. By the time we got to the school to pick up my Jeep, I was in real discomfort. Discomfort hell, I was in major pain. Granddad asked Jason to drive the Jeep home.
Shortly after school started, Jason had mentioned he'd taken Drivers' Ed last year, but had missed so much that he hadn't gotten his license. Hank labeled that a problem, and said we'd see that he got a learner's permit and practice. The learner's permit required a licensed driver be beside Jason in the car. Neither Hank nor I actually qualified as that driver because of our age, but we got a lot of practice in the pasture and back roads, and Jason had gotten his license on his first try.
When he and Hank arrived at the house, Hank said, "Well, I guess our dates are off."
"Definitely for me," I answered.
"I'm sure not in any shape to enjoy a concert," Jason said.
"But why don't you go ahead, Hank. Take the Jeep so you can pick up all three girls."
"I don't think I want to leave you," he said.
"Look, I'll be alright. In fact, I'll probably be asleep soon because I am going to take a pain pill."
"Jason, you're not up to going?" Hank asked.
"I don't think so, Bud. You go and enjoy yourself."
"Yeah, drive the Jeep and then come back here and spend the night," I suggested.
It was about five when we got back and Hank didn't leave to get ready for the concert until five-thirty. Granddad called the swim coach and told him I wouldn't be in for several days since I wasn't allowed to swim until I had healed some. I could shower and do regular stuff since the doctor had used what he called "clear skin" to cover the wound, but I shouldn't try to swim. As soon as Hank left, Jason called his boss at the cleaning service who said he had already heard about the fight and was glad Jason wasn't hurt.
The pain I was feeling had become pretty acute by the time we reached the house and I took a pill as soon as I could. Grandmom started getting supper ready shortly after she walked in the house and Granddad said he'd take care of the chores.
When Granddad left the kitchen, Grandmom said, "Ok, Douglas, your granddad has been pretty calm about the events of this afternoon, but I suspect he is brooding over it. Maybe you should let me in on what led up to you getting cut. Maybe, just maybe, I can keep your granddad from going off the deep end. He is really upset with the principal since he learned the boys who attacked you this afternoon have been hazing you all fall."
"Grandmom, it seems so silly, so childish."
"It may be childish and silly, but it happened, whatever it was."
Between Jason and myself, we told Grandmom how Jerry and his buddies started on me the first day of school. "They made fun of how I was dressed and started calling me sissy. It bothered me at first, but I soon realized most students paid the four no never mind and it didn't bother me a whole lot. But Jerry didn't let up. Even after I started dressing differently, he kept finding other things to harass me about. Also, he and his buddies started physical harassment--pushing shoving, tripping, kicking."
"That's how the black eye came about rather than you running into a door?" Grandmom asked. Well, really it was a statement rather than a question.
"Yes, ma'am. Today he just went too far, first by calling Hank, Jason and me names, then he provoked a fight. Hank and Jason made sure I had only one at a time challenging me and when I got the best of Jerry, one of the others gave him a switchblade which he flicked open and used to slash my cheek." Jason added to my story when he thought I wasn't telling it all.
"Douglas, why you didn't tell us you needed different clothes?"
"Grandmom, you and Granddad are supporting me. The least I can do is to make as little demand on you as possible."
"Douglas, if you ask for something that seems excessive, we are grown-ups and can say no. I think the three of us need to do some work on communicating with each other. But that's for later. Right now you need to go lie down. You're going to sleep on your feet. I'll call when supper is ready."
Jason helped me upstairs because my legs were pretty rubbery. When I got to my bedroom, I lay down my bed. I expected to go to sleep immediately as I was pretty woozy, but I didn't or maybe I did. I wasn't sure whether or not I was dreaming. All I knew was that my mind was just whirling, trying to make sense out of what had happened. I guess the pain pill made me lose some of my defenses because I kept asking myself if Jerry was right--about me, about me being a faggot.
When Granddad came upstairs to call me to supper, I heard him, but didn't get up. He left me and I slept. I dreamed about the three of us, actually about Jason and me. Hank was with us, but just looked on as Jason explained what he had meant by his comment about my round butt.
Sometime later, I woke up and saw Jason sitting near my bed. When I looked at him, I think I finally realized even if I wasn't gay, I was in love with him. If that made me gay, so be it. I smiled at him and he gave me one of his special smiles. "How you doin', Douglas?"
"Better. I'm not in a great deal of pain. How are you doin'?"
"Better. Douglas, I have been sitting here watching you sleep and thinking about what could have happened today. You could have been killed."
"I don't think so. Not with you and Hank there."
"We didn't keep you from getting cut and that knife could have cut you somewhere else or been plunged in your chest. No, Douglas, it could have been all over this afternoon and I have been thinking about what I would have done if you had been killed."
"But I wasn't. I just have a cut which will soon heal. No permanent damage done."
"Douglas, I've been thinking, really thinking. You barely missed being killed along with the rest your family and today you could have been killed--easily. You know what I was thinking about? I was thinking about how quickly someone can be killed, their life ended."
"That's kinda depressing, Jason."
"It may be depressing, but it's true. Sometimes we can put things off until it's too late. I don't want to do that. I need to tell you something, Douglas, but I'm afraid. But if I don't tell you, you may never know. Life is just too uncertain. I want to tell you something and I want your promise you will hear me out before you say anything. When I finish, I will listen to what you have to say and do what you ask. Promise?"
"You sound so serious, Jason."
"I am. Promise?"
"Douglas, you know why I am here. My old man killed a man. Both were in a card game and both were drunk. The other guy accused my old man of cheating and a fight broke out. Both grabbed their knives and when it was over, my old man had cut the other's neck and he bled to death before anyone could do anything. My old man went to prison and will be there for a long time. Jerry could have ended your life like my old man did that guy's."
"My old lady had always been a heavy drinker and after the trial, she stayed drunk as long as she could get alcohol. Then, when she lost her job because of her drinking, she started turning tricks. One came to live with us. He didn't care that she turned tricks. In fact, he liked the money she brought in. One night she was out and he tried to rape me. I fought him off and when my old lady came home, he told her I had attacked him. The two of them put me on the street. I didn't know what to do--I was homeless and no-one cared."
"Finally I decided maybe my grandma might give me a place to live. I hitchhiked to here and started living with her. She is a drunk, living in a shack, trying to buy a month's booze and food with barely enough to keep her alive. I was ashamed of my family, my clothes, everything. I had no way to get to work, so I couldn't get a job--you know all that. Then, one evening I managed to get to Clarksville to hear a group playing bluegrass. I was across from you and your grandparents and when I saw you, I got a very strange feeling." Jason stopped talking and sat, his head down for several minutes. I started to say something, but he said, "I'm not finished."
"The next day I just had to get away from the shack and my drunk grandma. I went walking out behind the shack, into the woods. I came to a meadow and, just before I walked into it, I happened to look up and saw you on top of a rock outcropping across the meadow. I went back to the meadow just about every day, hoping to see you. One day while I looked, I saw you..."
Before Jason could say more, Granddad appeared at the bedroom door. "Jason, there's a fellow here who has some bad news." He motioned for a tall, husky fellow to come into the room. "Jason, this is Herman Jacobs."
The two shook hands and Granddad pulled up chairs, but before he could say anything, Mr. Jacobs said, "Think I better stand, Gerald."
Granddad sat down and Mr. Jacobs moved closer to where we were. As he did, I smelled smoke.
"Jason, I am member of the volunteer fire department and am just back from a fire," Mr. Jacobs spoke slowly, hesitantly. "I'm very sorry, Jason, but your grandmother's cabin burned. The roof had already fallen in when we got there. All we could do was keep the fire from spreading to the woods. When it had burned out, we watered down the ashes to cool them enough so the chief was able to investigate a bit. Your grandmother's body was found on her bed. Of course we will probably never know for certain, but it seems very likely the fire started from a cigarette she was smoking. I'm very sorry."
Jason was crying softly when Mr. Jacobs finished. "She was an old drunk and I had warned her again and again not to smoke in bed, especially when she had been drinking," Jason said. "Her check arrived day before yesterday and before I got home, she had bought a gallon of 'shine. She was half- drunk the last time I saw her so I am pretty sure you are right. She was drunk and smoking in bed. She was an old drunk, but all I had. Sometimes it was hard to be around her, but I loved her and she loved me. I could see life sober was just too much for her sometimes."
Mr. Jacobs stood, put his arm around Jason and said, "Anything I can do Jason, just let me know." Jason nodded and Mr. Jacobs said, "Gerald, I can show myself out. 'Night all."
As soon as he was gone, Jason said, "I don't know what to do. There needs to be a funeral, but I have only a few dollars and I'll have to have a place to stay."
"Don't worry about the funeral, Jason. Between the fire department and the county that will be taken care of. Don't worry about a place to stay either. There's an extra room up here and it is yours as long as you need it. There's not much in it right now except twin beds, but we'll get what you need."
Granddad stayed until Jason ran out of questions, then went downstairs. I was anxious for Jason to finish what he was telling me, but knew from experience other things were pressing. I had sat up when Granddad had come to the room and was sitting cross-legged on the bed. I reached out and patted the bed, indicating that Jason should join me. He did and as soon as he was seated, started talking. He talked about when he was very young and lived for a couple years with his grandmother while his mom and dad did heaven only knows what. I was surprised to learn he had spent several summers with her, since we hadn't met until Coldsprings High.
I was taken aback when I looked at the clock on my bedside table and saw it was after midnight. Hank should have been back, I thought. I guess Jason read my thoughts because he said, "I hope nothing's happened to Hank. That would be too much. My best friend gets cut and my grandma burns to death all in one day. I don't think I could handle Hank getting hurt."
I had wondered where Hank was, but hadn't thought about him being hurt until Jason suggested it. Now I joined him in worrying. We didn't worry long because Hank came in just before 1:00 all excited. He burst into the bedroom where Jason and I were lying back on my bed. We sat up as he rushed in and joined us on the bed, all three sitting cross legged. "Man, you two guys missed one helluva concert. It was beyond great. You also missed a date with two hot, good-looking women!" Neither Jason nor I interrupted Hank's blow-by-blow account of his evening, urging him on with a question now and then. He finally wound down and said, "Shit, some friend I am, not even asking how you're doing, Douglas."
"Hey, no problem," I answered. "I'm ok. Pain pill's wearing off, but I'll take another one soon. I'm ok, but Jason's not. He got bad news tonight."
Suddenly Hank looked very serious as he reached out for Jason's hand. "What happened, Jason? What's wrong?"
In a calm, even voice, Jason told Hank about the fire and his grandmother.
"Shit, Man, why didn't you tell me to shut up? You'll have to come live with me. We can share my place."
"Doug's granddad has said I could stay here. There's an extra room. I'm not surprised the shack finally burned. I warned Grandma time and again about smoking in bed, especially when she was drinking. I'm not sure she cared. Life was pretty miserable for her, but burning to death would be horrible."
"Everything you had burned as well?" Hank asked. When he said it, I suspected the answer was yes, but I hadn't thought about it. Just when Jason got some decent clothes, he lost everything. Sometimes things, like clothes, are important.
"I didn't lose my school stuff. Most of it is in my school locker, the rest I tossed in the Jeep when Mr. McElrath came to take us to the hospital. But all my clothes are gone except what I have on."
"Hey, it's back to the thrift shops," Hank said. "No problem."
"It's a problem. I won't have any money until I get paid next week."
"As I said, 'No problem.' One for all and all for one! You have to call and make sure you don't work tomorrow. We'll go to Asheville and get you clothes. You can pay us back when you get paid. It's bad enough you lost everything, but there's no reason why you shouldn't get clothes now and pay later. My rates are reasonable," Hank laughed. "But, hey, what do you have on under those pants?"
Jason grinned, unfastened his belt and unzipped. As he pulled his fly open he said "Ta-da!" as he revealed red bikini briefs, one of the five pair Jason had bought him.
We talked a few minutes more, but the pain killer was wearing off and I was hurting. "Sorry, guys," I said, "need to take a pain pill. I'm hurting again. Grandmom said you two could sleep in the spare room--well, I guess it's Jason's room now."
"That sounds like a winner," Hank said. "I need to take a leak and hit the bed."
"Same here," Jason said.
"Wait for me," I said. I guess it was a combination of the earlier pain pill and how I was sitting, but when I put my feet on the floor, I couldn't feel my right leg. It had gone to sleep. I started falling, but Jason caught me. "Whoa, buddy. Take it easy," Jason said as he eased me back on the bed.
"Thanks, Jason," I said as he started massaging my leg. "Ouch! Talk about needles and pins!" After Jason had massaged my leg for a while I was able to stand, but he kept his arm around me as we walked to the bathroom.
When we reached the bathroom, Jason laughed, "Can you handle taking a piss or do you need help?"
"I think I can handle things. If not, I'll let you know," I laughed in return.
When we finished in the bathroom, I said goodnight and started back to my room. When I did, Jason asked, "Are you going to be alright, Douglas?"
"I think so. I'll take another pain pill and then to bed."
I suppose it was the pain pill but, after I took it and went to bed, I started thinking about the events of the day--Friday--and how much they had changed things: Jason would be living here and I had taken on four bullies. I was thinking about what that might mean when I went to sleep. I had weird dreams, none of which I remembered when I woke up Saturday morning at 10:00.
When I got up, I took a shower which made me feel a lot better. Before going downstairs, I glanced in the spare bedroom and saw it was empty. When I got downstairs, Jason and Hank were sitting at the kitchen table, having a cup of coffee with my grandparents.
"How's the terror of Coldsprings High this morning?" Jason grinned.
"I have been better, but I'm ok."
"Douglas, just telling Hank and Jason what I learned this morning. I had to go into Clarksville and ran into Deputy Kostner. He told me three of the guys who jumped you had been taken to jail yesterday. Their parents made bond for them so they were released. The parents of the one with the broken arm came in and made bond for him later. All have been charged with assault and Jerry what's-his-name has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon. The principal has made it known that all four will face a tribunal and will probably be suspended for the rest of the school year."
"Seems pretty severe punishment. Well I guess not, but they have messed up--not just for now, but for life. If they are convicted, they will be felons without a high school diploma," Jason said.
You're right, but we all have to learn sometime we are responsible for our actions, and that our actions have consequences," Granddad said. "But all of that can wait. Are you really feeling ok, Douglas?"
"I'm feeling much better than I expected," I answered.
"Good," Hank said. "Get some breakfast and we'll be off to the thrift stores."