When we reached the jail, Mr. Sanford got out and said, "I'll be back in a few." Not five minutes later, he reappeared with Adam -- in handcuffs! When they reached the truck, he helped Adam get in and only then did Adam see me. He said nothing, just hung his head and his dad said, "To the hospital, Marc." It suddenly became clear what Mr. Sanford had in mind and I hoped it worked.
Talk about a silent trip! Not a single word was spoken. When we got to the hospital, Mr. Sanford said, "Go ahead and park since you're coming in with us."
When we reached the Information desk, Mr. Sanford said, "I believe we're expected."
The pink lady behind the desk nodded several times, thunderstruck, and finally got out, "216."
We took the elevator and when we stepped out, a nurse met us and we went to Sandy's room where Sheriff Anderson was with Dr. Macon. I had seen seen Sandy's back when we found him, but I guess had blotted out the worst and was surprised by what I saw. Sandy was lying on his stomach while the doctor worked on his back. "Hi, Marc," the doctor said, then turned and saw the other two and asked, "Mr. Sanford?" and when Mr. Sanford nodded, he said, "Dr. Macon. Would shake hands, but I'm all gloved up to work on our boy here." Looking at Adam he asked, "And?" Adam muttered his name. "Our lad here is doing great. He's a real trooper. I'm hoping his back stays dry and doesn't start weeping so he can just wear a clean T-shirt and not have to have it dressed. Good clean air's what it needs. Ok, turn over, son."
Sandy turned over very carefully, and really looked a lot worse since the bruises which covered his body were now all colors, but some of the swelling in his face had gone down a great deal. "We just about froze him with ice packs but, as you can see, some of the swelling has gone down." As the doctor covered Sandy's cock with a sheet, I heard a strange noise behind me and when I turned, saw Adam running for the sink where he started heaving his guts out. He kept heaving long after there was anything left to heave. No-one offered to help him. He finally grabbed a paper towel, wet it and wiped his face after washing out his mouth several times.
When he turned around, Sandy spoke for the first time, "Adam, why did you, Bear and Arnold want Kev to hurt me? I never done nothing to you. Why did you want me all beat up?" Adam had not been doing well before, now he completely lost it. First, huge tears started streaming down his face, then he was boo-hooing like a baby. He collapsed beside Sandy's bed and Sandy reached out and took a handcuffed hand and said, "Don't cry, Adam. They're taking care of me real good. Kev hurt me, but I still don't hate him and I don't hate you either. Adam, even if I am queer, I still hurt when someone beats me, but anyway, I don't hate you. You could be my friend even if I'm queer. I won't do anything to you." Sandy got a mischievous grin on his face and said, "You're just not my type."
Sandy was clearly saying more than I would have meant by the same words. In his way he was more than just forgiving Adam; he was offering Adam his friendship. It was nearly more than I could take. I suddenly had an image of the crucified Christ, only it was Sandy on the cross. I wondered if Adam was one of the thieves and, if so, whether or not he was the penitent one. I was mentally somewhere else, in another universe, and I had a depth of understanding of forgiveness and the gift of friendship I would never have believed possible. I had thought about Sandy's self-loathing earlier in the day and now I knew while Justin and I might have much to offer him about being a gay man, a proud gay man, I could never repay what he had just taught me about being a forgiving human being.
I was brought back to the present when Dr. Macon said, "Sandy, you're ready to travel as soon as your friends come for you." Sandy got a huge smile on his face but, before he could say anything, Dr. Macon added, "after school tomorrow." He shook hands with Mr. Sanford and left.
He had just left when John came in with a knock-down, take-your-breath-away, handsome guy. As soon as Sandy saw him, he said, "Oh goody, John, you brought me a present, you brought me a boy toy," and started to clap his hands, then said, "That was not a good idea." It was only then I noticed how bruised and battered his hands were, from trying to protect himself, I was sure.
"Well, seems to me we may have to dump you back in the swamp, Sandy, if you can't get it under control."
"Not the swamp, Massa, not the swamp."
"The swamp. Mr. Sanford, guys, Adam, Marc, Sandy, my cousin, Kenneth, and you're out of luck, Sandy. He's so straight they use him to check arrows. Ready to go, Sandy?"
"Not until after school tomorrow," Sandy said and then, suddenly, was very quiet after being so very upbeat and lively. He said in a voice which could barely be heard, "I've been making a fool of myself all day because I am scared. Where can I go? If I go back home, I know what will happen, but I have no place else to go."
"No way you are going back to Grandview," Mr. Sanford said.
"I don't have anyplace else to go," Sandy said, near tears.
"Not true," John said. "Not true at all. No problem."
"No problem? Seems like a problem," Mr. Sanford said. "Not that his father would do him any more harm because, well, he's locked up. Not sure what he'll be charged with. Sandy, you're seventeen?" Sandy nodded. "Thought so. Child abuse still counts, but the sheriff says it's hard to get someone on it for a seventeen-year-old male, especially when they are as built as you are."
All of the Clan had commented on how well built Sandy was. Not the bull kind of build his brother had, but the hard, trim body of a runner or swimmer. "Probably charge him with assault like the four hooligans," Mr. Sanford went on. John and I both glanced at Adam who looked as if someone had just kicked him in the gut. "They," Mr. Sanford said, glaring at Adam who seemed to shrink to half size, "are spending some time in the county hotel, but still..."
"I said, no problem," John said, "and I am ahead of you. I talked with Lacy and Dad, and Lacy immediately decided he'd come live with us. Don't know that Dad was as quick on the uptake, but then he decided it was his idea. I wasn't worried. Whatever Lacy wants, Lacy usually gets. She'll end up taking Sandy under her wing."
"What if no-one likes me? What if they find out? What if they hate a little queer kid?" Sandy was still on the verge of tears.
"No such luck," John said. "Right, Marc?"
"Right, and you can stop the little kid bit because you're not a little kid -- in any department and, queer boy that I am, I noticed that even now when it is all shrunk up."
"Yeah, I noticed a good kicking and beating usually make Mr. Willie behave that way. Can't imagine why." Sandy was smiling again. I wanted to look at Adam and see his reaction to the exchange, but decided it was not a good idea.
"Well, we'll get you home tomorrow. Lacy -- Lacy's my dad's wife, but we call each other Lacy and John -- is laying on a spread for us then, and she'll not be kept waiting."
"Marc, will you be there?"
"Sure, Justin, Bobbie, Susan too."
"You'll be going to group study with all of us as well. Think we might be able to help you pull out of the academic kinks even though we have only weeks left of the term."
I was suddenly aware of Adam when he made a sound like he was choking back a sob. He had, of course, been left out of the whole conversation and I guess, maybe, was suddenly aware, as the old saying goes, he had truly shit his nest.
Mr. Sanford spoke after being silent while we were talking to Sandy. "Got to take Adam back," he said. "Marc, can I drop you off at your place?"
"He can come with me," John said, and we all headed for the elevator.
When I got home, Clarisa was in the kitchen and I knew something had her royally pissed. She was pounding meat of some kind, and if it had been shoe leather it would have been tenderized before she finished! "Good afternoon, Mrs. Johnson, how are you today?" I said in my sweetest voice.
"I'm doing fine, thank you, Mr. Porcher," she replied and gave the meat another whack with the tenderizer hammer.
"That's good," I responded. "So who are you tenderizing?"
Clarisa laughed and said, "I'm not sure. Maybe that old man Jenkins; maybe that dumbass police chief who, I found out today, was the reason that bunch of hooligans got off last year; maybe that trashy Adam Sanford. I got a long list. Mostly, I guess right now, it's that rotten excuse of a newspaper editor at the 'Bugle'." She then went on to tell me she and Amy Louise had collaborated on a letter to the editor about the spread of HIV/Aids in the county and another on poverty, and had been told they were not the type of thing the paper printed. "'Too controversial,' that dumbass said." When Clarisa started using what she called rude words, watch out.
She asked about Sandy and I told her the Thurmonds were taking him in. "He's really a nice kid, Clarisa, but he's not had half a chance, and even less when his brother found out he was gay."
"He's a kid? I thought he was in high school."
"Well, he is. Actually he's a junior," I laughed and said, "Obviously he's not a little kid since we decided Justin's clothes would fit until we could get him outfitted. He seems a lot younger than he is, at least from what I have seen of him, but I don't know how grown-up I'd be if someone beat and kicked me unconscious for a pastime. Well, he is actually a lot more grown-up than I am in some ways -- and he does have a great sense of humor. He is so wise one minute and so naive the next."
"Well, I suspect he'll manage. Anyone who has lived with Kevin Jenkins is bound to be tough," she responded and started packaging the meat. I knew she had given it a pounding because she needed to pound rather than needing the meat, but it would be ready when she did need it.
I went upstairs and did what little homework I had. With prom this weekend, the teachers were not fools. They knew very little would get done. When I thought about the prom, I suddenly wondered if Sandy had planned on going. I doubted it. I didn't know what could be done about it, but many of the country kids and some in town didn't go to the prom because of the cost. A few years back it had gotten so out of hand that the school board ruled it had to be held in the gym, decorations had to be done by the juniors (the juniors gave the prom for the seniors) and there would be no live bands unless they were from school or were otherwise free. Business attire was acceptable and most of the men dressed that way. The women tended to go the formal route, but cocktail length was the most usual style. Anyway, I decided I'd ask and if Sandy wanted to go, he'd go in style!
When I checked my answering machine, there were two messages about the car. The first was from the insurance company explaining why they were reluctant to pay for damage done by a party or parties unknown. Those doing the damage were, duh, responsible for the damage. The caller assured me they were investigating further. I made a mental note to speak to Mr. Wilson since I wanted my car clean and back, yesterday. The second message was from the dealership informing me that they had been able to clean the outside easily -- that was no big surprise -- but the inside required extensive work and possibly replacement of the seats, etc., also no surprise.
I called the dealership and asked if they had any better idea when my car would be ready, and was told it was looking like a couple weeks minimum. "Actually," the service manager said, "we ran it through the wash a couple times -- after we got a gas mask for the kid who handles washes -- but we haven't done anything else. We're waiting for the go-ahead from the insurance company."
I called Mr. Wilson, who was still at his office. He said he knew our policies and not to worry, the damage was covered. When I hung up the phone, I was at a loss what to do. I had no homework, I had taken care of the car as well as I could at the moment, and our apartment was in great shape. I was ready for any suggestion when the phone rang. It was John. "Marc, I didn't get a chance to talk with you while we were at the hospital, but think it might be good for you and Justin to talk to Sandy when we come over tomorrow evening. Thought you might want to be thinking about it."
"Do you think Sandy is going to talk to anyone and especially with others present? I wouldn't. I do want to talk with him and think it might be good if Justin and I both talk with him, but I don't think he'll appreciate being asked to talk about his sexuality with a stranger present if Kenneth's here. I mean, we're all strangers enough."
"Thanks for reminding me just how stupid I can be," John laughed. "I guess I am so happy you and Justin are happy that I thought Sandy would be too, but of course you're right. And there's no rush. Lacy has already talked with Mr. Wilson and, depending on how old man Jenkins behaves, she and Dad are ready to take legal guardianship of Sandy. I was surprised when she said, 'You know, you'll be gone in a few months, even a few weeks, and it will be nice to have a replacement around.' She's come a long way, right?"
"How about both of you have come a long way?"
"Well, yeah. See you later and Kenneth is coming, I guess. He asked Bobbie to show him the town and she asked what they'd do for the rest of the fifteen minutes. He told her he thought he could come up with something. They seem to be really hitting it off," he said and we hung up.
Later, when Justin and I went downstairs to get snacks ready, Clarisa and Amy Louise were huddled in the library, planning heaven only knows what, but I'm sure a newspaper or newspapers were in for a hard time. I stuck my head in and said, "Clan be here shortly," and Clarisa waved a hand in acknowledgment and dismissal.
As soon as the Clan was upstairs, people flopped in chairs and on the floor. Everyone settled, Bobbie said, "Ok, first things first. Academics can wait. Time to take care of Sandy's social life. Anyone know whether he's planning on going to the prom?"
"I doubt it very, very seriously. Certainly there's not enough money for that. Doubt even Kev goes. No way, I'm sure," Justin said.
"Not the right answer," Bobbie responded. "A way. Marc, think Gibson's can get the young man suited up by Saturday?"
"Would be rush job, but likely. If not, we can get him dressed one way or another. A nice business suit might even be a better idea."
"Whatever," Bobbie said, dumping suiting up Mr. Jenkins in the males' laps. "Guess a date at this point would be out of the question."
I chuckled and said, "Shouldn't be too hard. I'm sure half a dozen guys would love to go with him especially when they see how beautiful the bruises will be when they get beat up for being with a fag."
"Whatever," Bobbie said again. Social life questions settled.
"Next problem," Susan said and quickly added, "Ok, folks, we need to talk about Sandy's academic situation. I know we all feel sorry for him and want to make sure things go well with him, but the guy's in bad shape academically. I contacted his teachers today and and got his current assignments as well as talking to them about anything he could make-up or do to pull up his grades. I have copies of what I found out. By the way, keep this very much under your hat since the teachers kinda bent the rules to talk with me about another student. Here's a copy of his present grades. Note he has straight Ds except for the C in art.
"He's not missing very much from last night or tonight. A few minutes should take care of the two nights' homework since the teachers are holding back because of the prom. Shouldn't take long to get caught up on current assignments. Back work, for the teachers who permit it, is another question. Math... hard-nose there, he has Algebra Sally. Art and social studies are simple enough, just a lot of it. Hard to tell what is difficult for him and where he just hasn't done the work. We know art is no problem, but he has a C and should have an A. Most teachers I talked with said he could be making Bs easily, As with effort, but just doesn't get the work done."
"Having gotten a glimpse of his home life, think that's understandable," John said.
Bobbie said, "Well, it's changing and we simply must bear down if he is to escape the Grandview mentality." We all agreed. "PE is simple enough to handle. We'll get a note from Dr. Macon and he'll be excused for the rest of the year and, since a C is the lowest grade you can get in PE, we won't worry about it. That leaves chemistry, language arts and computer skills. Except for art, he has straight Ds and I know he can do better AND he will do better."
"No doubt, no doubt," John laughed.
Kenneth had been very quiet, sitting on the arm of Bobbie's chair, holding her hand and looking at her most of the time. Now he grinned and said, "Bossy ain't she?"
"You ain't seen nothing yet!" Susan responded, and John responded with a loud, "Amen!"
Susan passed out copies of what she had gotten from teachers in regards to make-up and extra credit. "I have given some thought to who will take what but, of course, it's open to discussion. Marc, think you should take chemistry. There are some labs Sandy has to make-up and I have made arrangements for him to do those on Saturday. Since you're working now, one of us will go with him so he can do them.
"Bobbie, toss-up between social studies and language arts. Mrs. Reed is Sandy's English teacher so I thought it might be best if you didn't take language arts. Up to you."
"Just as soon not have to deal with Mom, especially if she's going to be hard-nosed, as she will be."
"Reason enough. Justin, math?"
"You're the math whiz," Justin replied.
"That's the problem. I get very frustrated when I try to help someone with algebra these days. After all the math I've had, it just seems obvious. I may know it, but I'm a lousy tutor in math."
"Makes sense, math it is. Looks like a lot of exercises here. What if you grasp the concept? Can't you move on?"
"That's what I suggested, but Algebra Sally is a stickler. Maybe you can work on it. Check with Mr. Rogers about making it an independent study. Time is short here."
"If he can't do it as an independent study, see about getting him transferred into my class. We're taking the same course and I have Mr. Rogers and he is as helpful as he can be, plus we could work together on homework. Algebra Sally is out to prove folks from Grandview are all dumb, not that anyone can learn. Check on that," Bobbie said.
Justin responded, "Will do."
"John, since Sandy will be at your place and you have a hot machine he can use, take computer skills? You know the course. Do assignments and turn them in at your own pace, which can be/will be fast. We've got to push Sandy. That leaves language arts and art for me. I told him this afternoon, I expected him get out of bed and grab a book and when he's in the toilet, standing in lunch line, wherever, he's reading. He has three novels to read and report on, along with other work before school's out. I took one of them to him this afternoon. Art, I'll go shopping with him as soon as he's able -- for materials -- and get him busy. That should be an easy A. Think he'll be overwhelmed?"
"More than a little bit, I suspect," Justin said.
"Well, if things get too rough, we'll discuss where he can make the most progress with the least effort and drop any hopeless classes. He, then, can do them in summer school."
"Summer school?" Bobbie asked, as though Susan had suggested another beating.
"I guess the thought of summer school is reason enough to get him with the program," Susan said, and we knew it was do the dirty deed or face summer school, a fate worse than death.