Castle Roland

The Concord

by Sequoyah


Chapter 15

Published: 8 Apr 14

ASP--The Concord Five--Chapter Fifteen--Michael

I got up as usual Tuesday morning, showered and dressed and went downstairs. Dad was fixing breakfast and Mom was feeding one of the twins. The other was lying in a carrier on the kitchen table. "One down and two to go," I said as I sat down. "Dad, you have anything you want me to do today? I know I won't spend all day on school work. I don't have that much."

"You could work up the hay in the river bottoms. I'm really surprised that we got a cutting this late, but the weather has been so warm, I cut it Saturday so it's ready to bale and bring to the barn. If you get it done today, we won't have it to do Saturday. And you might help your mom with the girls. One baby is a full-time job and there are two here. You might even learn how to diaper one," Dad laughed.

"I really could use some help after breakfast bathing the two. If you'd help me with that, I'd appreciate it," Mom said.

"Mom, in time I might learn what and how to do for the girls, but you are going to have to tell me when there is something I can do. I won't just know it."

"I'm sure you will learn very quickly, Michael," Mom said. "When they cry it generally means they are wet, messy or hungry. That's about all babies care about--eating and staying clean--and you can hardly do anything about feeding them so long as I am producing enough milk."

"Mom, you make yourself sound like a cow!"

"Well, cows and I have something in common. We are mammals and mammals feed their young with their own milk," Mom laughed, "and I don't think you can help out with that."

The twin Mom was nursing had gone to sleep with a nipple in her mouth. Without thinking I said, "Man, I'd never do that, go to sleep when there's a nipple available". As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized what I had said. I could feel my face burning as Dad, then Mom, gave me a look and started laughing.

"Michael, I think you have great difficulty hiding much from us because you speak without thinking," Mom said.

"I do a lot of thinking but, you are right, too often I just blurt something out. Not very wise."

"Certainly not at all wise when you are talking--I assume--about Jens' baby girl. The Danish troll can be pretty terrible when he sets his mind to it."

Dad put breakfast on the table and we sat down. Just as dad finished the grace, Elizabeth let out a howl. "Food, mess or wet?" I asked.

"Not food, because she was just fed," Mom said. She slipped a finger under the leg of Elizabeth's diaper, pulled the diaper aside and said, "Not wet or messy. I guess that leaves a gas bubble." She put Elizabeth on her shoulder and started stroking her back. I was surprised when the baby burped. It was not a tiny little delicate burp at all.

After breakfast, I cleaned up the kitchen then bathed the twins under Mom's supervision. They were so tiny I was afraid I would hurt them. Mom kept reassuring me, telling me they were not china dolls. It didn't do a lot of good because by the time I had finished with the two, I was a nervous wreck. Mom promised me I would get used to handling the girls. "And, besides," she said, "they will get stronger and be able to hold themselves together."

By the time we had finished bathing the babies, the morning dew was gone and I could go to the river bottoms. Dad had bought a well-used hay baler several years ago, the old-fashioned kind which made neat square bales--not the huge rolls most modern balers make. We make plenty of hay, but not enough to justify purchasing a new baler. I went to the shed by the barn, started the tractor--which was also old, but kept running like a top by Dad--hooked up to the baler and headed for the bottoms.

The river bottoms--the broad flood plain along the river--is exceptionally fertile for the same reason the Nile's flood plain is fertile. Floods deposit soil from up-river, covering the flood plain. The river seldom floods, but over the years it had created the fertile river bottoms. When I reached the bottoms, I saw Dad had cut the hay, but had not raked it into windrows. That meant I had to go back to the house and get the rake to do that. I was in no hurry, the day was sunny and quite warm for mid-November. I unhitched the baler and drove back to the house, hooked up the rake and returned to the bottoms.

I enjoyed work like raking and baling hay. It required little thought and you could see what you had accomplished. I liked the fact that I didn't have to concentrate on the work so I could think. It was solitude for me and that was important. I needed time to myself just to think.

As I circled the meadow, I wondered what was happening at school. I was a little embarrassed when I realized I was thinking about how school was getting along without me and assumed the answer was "not well". I had assumed I was so important the school would collapse if I wasn't there running things. "What a swell-head you have become," I said to myself. As I continued raking hay, I took that thought further. If I weren't present, at least the Fellowship was. But it didn't take me long to remember we all had been gone for almost a week over Halloween, and when we got back the school was still standing and running very well, thank you.

I guess I had finally come upon an answer to a problem Mary Kathryn and I faced. We were so busy with school we had neglected each other, but it was our fault, not the school's. The women's group Linda and Mary Kathryn had started was going very well and they had turned it over to a couple of other women to run. I could see that there were other things in which Mary Kathryn and I were involved that needed to be turned over to someone else. For example, I didn't want to drop out of the peer counseling program, but there was no reason why the leadership should not go to someone else. By the time I had all the hay in windrows, I had thought of several ways Mary Kathryn and I could gain some free time while allowing others to experience leadership.

It was near lunch time when I switched to the hay baler and started making the rounds of the meadow again. As I did, I asked myself why I was there instead of being in school. I had slugged a fellow student who, no doubt about it, was a first-class asshole, but me slugging him didn't change that. It hadn't helped Billie Sue at all. Nothing had changed so far as she was concerned or, for that matter, so far as Phillip Curran was concerned. I will admit landing one on the asshole's jaw made me feel better, but I didn't need to get all self-righteous about it. It had done no-one any good. All I had really accomplished was getting tossed out of school for three days. "Bad move, Golden Eagle," I said to myself.

I took a lunch break and when I got to the house, Mom was busy feeding Mary. Elizabeth was demanding attention at the top of her lungs. "She probably needs changing," Mom said. "Think you can manage that?"

"Sure." Mom had showed me how to diaper a baby and I had gotten good at it. Not to say I liked changing a messy diaper, but I could do it. When I got her changed, I held her and she started rooting at my chest, looking for a nipple. "Hope you get over that before you're a teenager," I laughed.

When Mom finished feeding Mary, I took her, put her over my shoulder and stroked her back until she burped. When she did, she promptly went to sleep and I took her to the nursery. By the time I had Mary down, Mom was about finished with Elizabeth. While she finished, I fixed lunch for us.

When she came back to the kitchen, Mom said, "Obviously I don't approve of your behavior yesterday and I don't want you out of school, but you sure are a big help. Think if anyone could really tell you how demanding babies are the human race would die out in a generation. I've just started with these two and have the teen years to look forward to, but maybe they will be as little trouble as their brother. Thanks, Michael, not only for helping now but for always." Mom gave me a hug and kiss on the cheek and I blushed. "Why the blush, Michael?" Mom asked.

"Because I got to thinking this morning that I was beginning to think I was a lot more important than I am." I then told Mom how I had realized I was starting to think I was indispensable.

We talked about that and Mom assured me I had never acted like I thought I was the be all and end all, "but I'm glad you did that bit of reflection. It will help keep you from becoming self-important and you don't want that."

"Well I need to get busy with the hay. I think I can at least get it all baled today." As I circled the meadow with the baler, I resolved to be much more aware of myself, so I wouldn't slip into thinking I was something special--well I was special, but you know what I mean.

The last day of my suspension, I worked really hard. I took the tractor and trailer to the meadow and loaded the newly baled hay. I had four loads and each one had to be taken to the barn and stacked in a shed. It really was a two-person job--one on the trailer handing off the bales and the other stacking them--and I knew Dad expected me to wait until he could help, but I decided to go ahead and get it done. I dropped the bales off the trailer, then had to pick them up and stack them in the shed. After I finished, I knew I had been working! I would definitely have sore muscles. When I got to the house, I took a long hot shower which soothed them somewhat.

When Dad came home, he was surprised and I was tired and sore. "Michael, you could have waited until I got home or until Saturday, but I'm glad it's done." After supper, Dad said he would give me a good rub-down and it felt very, very good. When he finished he said, "Your school suspension was over when school was out today so I guess your grounding's ended as well."

"Thanks, Dad," I said as I rushed upstairs and called Mary Kathryn.

"Michael, no-one at school could believe you got suspended. Several people said they thought since you were so 'in' with the administration, you're get by with slugging Phillip. I think you did more for the student government by slugging that jerk and getting suspended than you have any other way. Just showed there are no favorites. I went to the trial this afternoon and Phillip was found guilty of showing disrespect to Billie Sue and using derogatory language. He's really upset because he was supposed to play in the Independence Invitational game, Thanksgiving Eve, but was sentenced to sitting on the sidelines. He got a sophomore judge, a girl, and I think he thought he could make eyes at her and get off light. She said he was not a good representative of Independence and would not represent us on the field. I think all the football coaches had fits. He's not the best on the team, but he's good. I heard the coaches stormed into Mr. Allan's office expecting the ex-coach to suspend the sentence, but he didn't." Mary Kathryn finally stopped to catch her breath and then asked, "But why are you on the phone? I thought you were grounded."

"I have been released. How about going into town for a shake to celebrate?"

"I'll call you back after I ask. Think all the Fellowship would like to see you. Want to invite them?"

"You afraid of me or don't want to be alone with me or something?"

"I'll get you alone later, but an ice cream parlor is hardly a place where being alone makes a difference. Call Bill and get the tree going." After one particularly frustrating game of phone tag, Bill had suggested we create a "phone tree", you know, where I call Bill and Linda and each of them calls two people. That way you only have to make two phone calls and everybody is contacted. Well if someone isn't home, you call the next two people. When I called Bill, he said he knew Chris was working that night and suggested we meet at Demetri's cafe--Cosmos.

Dad told me to remember it was a school night and I had to be home by 10:30.

I picked up Mary Kathryn. We were pretty good about not showing affection in front of Jens since it made him uncomfortable, but not having seen Mary Kathryn in a couple days, I give her a pretty passionate kiss when she met me as I walked into the house. "I'll have her back by 10:30," I said as we started out the door.

"Bill told me Chris was working at his granddad's place tonight. He said since it was Wednesday and church night for a lot of people, it was never a busy night and asked about us going there instead of the ice cream parlor. I told him it sounded good to me and that was the message we gave everyone."

When we reached the Cosmos Cafe, there were only a couple customers besides Bill and Linda, Jacob and Susan. Chris had put several small tables together for us. "Dan can't make it," he said. "This is his second day with the EMS. Michael, you can tell your dad he is really pleased with the job. Rachel and Jack will be here shortly. Jack had to call to get directions and it took him a while to get Jacob's dad to give his approval for Rachel to come. What'll you have Michael? Mary Kathryn? I have some Greek cookies and am making metrios--sweet Greek coffee. Don't know whether anyone would like the coffee or not. It's very strong and very sweet.

"I'm game," Mary Kathryn said. "I'll at least try the coffee."

"Since I don't take sugar in mine, I don't know that I would like it, but I'll definitely give it a try," I said.

While Chris was getting the coffee and cookies, Rachel and Jack came in. "Who called this meeting?" Jack laughed and added, "Michael, you are either a hero or villain at Independence," as he turned a chair backwards and straddled it. "I think the football team is gunning for you since they blame you for getting Phillip sidelined. Think you are a hero for most everyone else because you took your punishment. I guess it was generally thought that you could get by with anything."

"What will you have, Rachel? Jack? I have Greek coffee and we're all having cookies. The coffee is strong and sweet."

"The way I like my coffee and women," Jack said as he gave Rachel a squeeze about the waist.

"I'll have coffee," Rachel said. "Jack, you may get your coffee strong and sweet, but not this woman. Strong, yes. Sweet, only if treated right."

"I see the gang's all here," Keith said as he came in the door. "The usual, Chris."

"You come here often?" Linda asked.

"Ever since I was a kid. Dad used to bring me when he came. Demetri and I are old buddies. Where is the old Greek, Chris?"

"Wednesday nights I'm pretty much on my own. Few customers and I can handle any cooking--usually very little--which comes up," Chris said, as he set a plate of cookies on the table and served the coffee.

"Michael, you are very popular for being suspended," Keith said. "I was really surprised at how students think you are special because you were punished for slugging that bastard Phillip Curran. I guess everyone thought, since you were so big in student government, you'd get by with landing one on him. Of course the football team is ready to beat your ass."

"Don't think you are joking about the football team, Keith. Michael, I'd advise you to watch yourself. There are a couple or three of the Neanderthals on the team who have really been worked up by Phillip. It's sad to see how easily manipulated they are, but I'd watch it," Jack said.

"So how were your two and a half days of leisure?" Bill asked. "Sleeping late, all that good stuff."

"I wish. I helped a bit with the twins--by the way, if you decide to have sex without protection, you need to spend a couple days with babies. They are a handful and selfish as sin. But what I really did was rake and bale the hay in the bottoms and put it in the shed. Doing that by myself was real fun, NOT! But I'd like to get serious for just a few minutes." I told the Fellowship what I had been thinking when I was baling hay.

"Been thinking almost the same thing," Bill said. "We really need to start turning stuff over to the freshmen and sophomores or there will be a big gap when we start leaving."

We talked about that and came up with some people who we thought should be moved into leadership positions.

We didn't take long to get a good list and when we had, Susan said, "Enough chit-chat, let's get to something important. Keith, how's Marc?"

Keith blushed and said, "He's doing fine. He thought he'd be up this weekend, but there has been a delay with his plane. He has been assured it will be delivered a week from Monday. That's cutting it close since he plans to fly in the following Wednesday afternoon, pick up Paula's mother and go on to Ohio to get the crew there. It's a six-seater so I'll be going up with him."

We talked about Thanksgiving and what we planned to do over the holiday while the Oberlin Five and Marc were in Concord, but mostly we just engaged in teenage chatter--nothing important in content, but definitely important to maintaining our friendship.

The Cosmos closed officially at 9:00 and after Chris closed the doors, we all pitched in and helped him get things cleaned up. He didn't want to take our money for what we had, but we all insisted. While we all cleaned the floor and re-arranged the tables and chairs, Chris closed out the cash register, put the money in a bank bag and was ready to go. When he turned out the lights, Susan said, "Same place next Wednesday?" and we all agreed. Bill told Chris he would take him by the night depository at the bank. Chris thanked him and said he'd walk home from the bank so Bill could get everyone home on time.

It was just a few minutes before 10:00 when Mary Kathryn and I reached her place. It was a mild night for November but too cold to sit on the porch, and the Tracker wasn't made for making out. We went to the porch and got in some passionate kisses, but finally it was just too cold to stay outside. We went in and found Jens and Gabrielle watching something on TV in the family room. We went to the living room and were making out ok, as ok as it could be with parents next door, especially when one is a Danish troll. Too soon it was almost 10:30 and Mary Kathryn's curfew--and mine for that matter. I think I am the only guy at Independence who has a curfew. Mary Kathryn walked to the door with me and, after a long, great goodnight kiss, I went home.

When I walked in, Dad had one baby and Mom the other, pacing the floor with them.

"What's with the girls being up past curfew?" I asked.

"I guess they are just problem children," Mom said. "I think I ate something which disagreed with them."

"You ate something and they got upset?" I thought I had misunderstood.

"Sure. Where do you think milk comes from?" Mom laughed. "There are plenty of things I might eat which could disagree with them."

"Do you think there is any way to let kids know about babies? The more I find out about them the less I look forward to becoming a dad."

"You'll change your mind when the time comes," Dad said. "At least I hope it's the right time."

"Right," I said. "Well, I'm going up and leave you four waltzing. Don't have any school work due tomorrow and am ahead on some, but want to be sure I'm well ahead when Thanksgiving break comes and the crew is here."

"Michael, that reminds me. We are doing Thanksgiving dinner at the Greywolfs' this year. Yong Jin and Greywolf both asked that we invite everyone who was in Ohio--first and second time. Will you take care of finding out who will and who will not be there for dinner? It will be at 6:00 Thanksgiving Day."

"Sure, Mom."

When I got upstairs, I decided I would take care of that right away so I wouldn't forget it. I talked to Keith and asked him to check on Douglas, Janet and Marc, and told the others to check with their parents. I thought most of the parents would be having Thanksgiving at home and wouldn't come to the Greywolfs', but all would had been invited.

School Thursday was an interesting experience. Students who had never spoken to me did, some even saying they were surprised I took my punishment, others that I was punished at all. That was one group of students. The cheer leaders and football players either ignored me or made some pretty nasty remarks when they passed me in the hall. A couple of the football players threatened me and told me I better watch going into dark places. I generally ignored them and their tough-guy attitudes and threats.

I only saw Phillip once and he was down the hall when he shot me a bird. I thought I was being a real man when I ignored him, but if he could have heard what I was thinking he would have known I thought he was a slime ball.

Before homeroom Bill said, "Michael, I think you better watch yourself. I'm sure some real boneheads have been talked into doing you damage if they get the chance."

"I guess if they want to, they can take me on. Don't know how I would do against one or two, but I'll not roll over and play dead."

"Just be careful," Chris added to Bill's warning.

At lunch, Jack warned me again to watch myself. "I think there may be others not playing the Thanksgiving Eve game," he said. "There is sure to be a fight before the day's over unless what I hear is wrong."

"I hope not," I said. "I don't think I could take on the whole football team."

"It won't be the whole team," Bill said, "you can depend on that. Most are too smart to get involved in a fight, but there are a couple or three Neanderthals, who aren't smart enough to know they are being manipulated and used, who will probably do the dirty work. Just be alert."

I didn't give the warning a lot of thought because I was sure it was a lot of talk and bluff.

After school I had a meeting with Coach Dye, the track and field coach. He wanted me to be an assistant to him since track and field was not a big crowd pleaser so he didn't have assistants like the football and basketball coaches. We talked for about half an hour and I finally agreed to be his assistant since I would be with the track team anyway. "I just can't give up much more of my time and, in fact, I am trying to cut back."

"Don't think this will require much more time than regular track practice, but there will be more responsibility," Coach had said.

After our meeting, I was walking out of the gym when Billy Maddox--a football player who was a nice guy, but dumb as dirt--called me. "Hey, Michael, I need to talk to you." He was standing by the corner of the gym so I walked over to where he was and, just as I got there, two football players, Arch and Duffus, jumped me.

"What the hell is this?" I asked.

"You got Phillip benched and we don't like it. He's one of us," Billy said.

"Then you need to teach him some manners. Because of what he did, my baby sister got stolen. Is that the kind of friend you have?"

"Phillip didn't steal your baby sister. He didn't do nothing to you," Duffus said, "and you got him benched for our big Thanksgiving game."

"I say he did do something to me, but that's none of your business, is it?"

"It is our business. He's our buddy, ain't that right, Arch?" Duffus asked. "There's college scouts at the Thanksgiving Eve game and we gotta kick butt and you done took one of our goodest players," Arch said. "Now we gonna teach you some sense." As Arch spoke, he and Duffus grabbed my arms and pulled them behind my back. "This here's for Phillip," Billy said as he doubled up his fist and punched me in the stomach, knocking my breath out. While I was doubled over, trying to regain my breath, Billy grabbed an arm and Duffus took his place in front of me. I knew what was coming and tried to steel myself, but the second blow to my stomach knocked my breath out again. I was seeing stars and was ready to throw up when I realized Arch was now standing in front of me, ready to deliver a third punch to my tortured middle. As his fist landed, he suddenly fell to the ground.

I collapsed on the ground as Billy and Duffus turned me loose. From there, I saw Bill had put an arm around Arch's neck and put him on the ground. I fell because Keith, Jack, Jacob and Chris had also come to my rescue and put the two who had been holding me on the ground. As I looked up, I saw Chris take off around the building followed by Keith. "You three stay put," Bill said. I almost laughed at the idea that Bill, Jacob and Jack could make the three brutes who had attacked me do anything. "Sit down, now!" Bill ordered the three and they looked at each other and then at Bill and started laughing and stood up.

"Who you to order us around?" Billy asked. "You not our daddy."

"For which I am eternally thankful," Bill answered. "Now sit!" As Bill spoke, Jacob gave Billy a kick behind his knees, causing him to fall on his butt. "I said sit!" Bill said, as Jacob took down another player with a shove to the back of his legs. Jack put the third one on his butt and the three guys stood over the sitting football players, each with a foot on the fallen thugs' chests. As Jacob, Bill and Jack made sure the three stayed on the ground, Chris and Keith came back, each holding one of Phillip's arms twisted behind his back.

"Seems Mr. Curran got this all set up and was watching from behind the building, but he made the mistake of poking his head out to have a good look at the wrong time," Chris said. "So you three guys are in trouble because of Phillip. Wonder what will come of this?"

As Chris spoke, Ms. Jones and Mr. Allan came running over to where we were. As soon as they were close enough, Phillip said, "I don't know why Billy started a fight. I had nothing to do with it. These two came around the building to pick on me."

"We were just doing what you told us to do, Phillip," Billy said.

"Yea, you told us we needed to beat the shit out of Michael Andrews because he's a faggot who got you benched so we would lose the game. We just did what you told us. Ain't that right, Billy?" Duffus asked.

"I don't know what you are talking about Duffus. I didn't tell you to do anything."

"Yes you did so too," Arch said. "You told us that we needed to beat the shit out of Michael Andrews because he was keeping us from college scholarships and besides he was queer and might kiss us or something."

I just thought I had been sick from the beating! When Arch said I might I kiss him, I got the mental picture of it and I was really sick!

"Billy, Duffus, Arch, you three are suspended until you can appear in student court or, if you choose, before a school board tribunal. In either case, you will be charged with fighting on school grounds. You are to come to school tomorrow morning at 8:00 with a parent and decide whether you want to face a school board tribunal or a student court."

"Phillip, you are much worse than these three poor guys. You have duped them into doing your dirty work. You will be charged with inciting to fight, accessory before the fact and use of derogatory language. You are suspended until a parent appears with you and you decide how you want to be tried. Duffus, Arch, Billy, you will be required to testify about Phillip telling you to fight Michael. Now all four of you get off campus and come directly to the office tomorrow morning at 8:00 with a parent. Do you all understand?"

"Yes, ma'am," the three attackers said.


"I heard you," he answered with a snarl.

"Then I will see you in the morning--with a parent."

As the four started walking toward Phillip's car, Mr. Allan asked, "Are you all right Michael? I think we forgot you had been slugged a few times."

"I think I'm ok, but I bet I have a blue belly tomorrow."

"Sorry we didn't get here in time to prevent you getting jumped. I didn't think something like this would happen," Mr. Allan said.

After I assured Ms. Jones and Mr. Allan I was ok, they walked back into the school building. "Thanks, guys," I said. "I thought I was in for a real beating."

"I think you got one," Keith said. "Just glad we got here when we did. Wish it had been sooner. Wonder what will happen to those three? They are just dumb enough to be easily manipulated by someone like Phillip. And Phillip? This is his second offense and a very serious one."

"I won't be placing any bets on Independence winning the Thanksgiving Eve game," Keith said. "By the way, Chris, you did some fast running there when Phillip took off. Think your workouts are producing results. You need to try out for the track and field team next spring."

I think I was hurt more than I thought because when Bill and Keith helped me to my feet, I could barely stand, much less walk. They helped--actually just about carried--me to my car and Mary Kathryn drove me home.

When I got home, I stepped out of the Tracker and fell down. "Damn, my legs are like rubber. You gonna have to help me, Wild Woman." Mary Kathryn put an arm around me and I leaned on her as we headed toward the house. I thought I was doing fine, but then my rubber legs got me again and I fell. Mary Kathryn kinda caught me, but couldn't hold the dead weight I had become.

"Margaret, I need help," she yelled. When Mom didn't come, she ran into the house.

Mom came rushing out, stretched me out on the ground and started examining me. "I think I'll be all right in a few minutes", I said. Mom was probing around my belly and she hit a tender spot. "Ouch! Holy shit, Mom, that hurt," I shouted.

"Michael, I hope I'm wrong, but I think there's some internal damage. You need to go to the hospital and get checked out. I can't tell anything definite because I'm not Superman with x-ray vision. Mary Kathryn, get Michael's phone for me and I'll call David. I think an ambulance is needed so more damage is not done."

"Mom, I don't think all that is necessary. I'll be ok in a few minutes."

"Michael, you are worse now than you were a few minutes ago. You are getting worse, not better," Mary Kathryn said as she came back from the Tracker with my phone.

Mom dialed a number and said, "David Andrews, please. This is Dr. Andrews... David, Margaret. Michael got jumped at school today and took three blows to the stomach from three of Independence's football players. He's unable to walk on his own and I fear there may be internal damage. He's going to need to come to the hospital to be checked out... Ok, we'll be looking for you." Mom closed the phone and said, "David will be here shortly. Meanwhile, I think the best thing to do is just to cover you up here and keep you as still as possible. Mary Kathryn, if you will stay with Michael, I'll check on the twins and be right back."

"Sure." Mary Kathryn got a blanket from the Tracker and covered me with it. "Michael, why did you go to the gym area when you knew some of the football team were laying for you?"

"I just wasn't thinking, Mary Kathryn. Coach Dye had asked to see me, so I went. I didn't even think about the warnings I had been given. But how did the gang know where I was?"

"Bill saw me in the hall after school and asked why I was still around and I told him you had a meeting. You didn't tell me it was with Coach, so I wasn't sure where you were. Bill said he and the guys would hang around until it was clear you were safe. We were all in the parking lot and Linda yelled when she saw you being hit. I think all of them could be track stars the way they ran toward you."

"Mary Kathryn, I'm going to be sick!" I said and just managed to turn my head and raise it a bit before I upchucked big time. I think the torment vomiting did to my stomach brought on another wave of nausea and I upchucked again. Mary Kathryn was holding my head so I didn't vomit on myself. When Mom came out of the house, Mary Kathryn yelled what was going on and Mom went back and got a cloth to wash my face in cool water.

"Michael, if you vomit again, I'll give you something to stop it, but I'd rather not until we know what's going on."

"I think it's over," I said as the EMS ambulance's siren could be heard approaching.

When the ambulance stopped, Dad jumped out and rushed over to where I was lying. He and his assistant asked what had happened and I told them I had been beaten. Dad asked Mom some questions and then he and his assistant got me on a stretcher, all buckled in. They lifted the stretcher and slid it in the ambulance. "Margaret, I suspect he will be kept overnight at least. I'll let you know how things are as soon as I know something," Dad said and hopped in the back of the ambulance with me and we headed to the hospital. As we rode to the hospital, Dad checked my vital signs, asked for details of what had happened and asked a bunch of questions about how I felt, where I hurt and that sort of thing.

"To tell the truth, Dad, I hurt all over and I feel like shit. I keep thinking I'm going to barf again."

"All over and like shit won't fit on my forms," Dad smiled. "How about being more specific?" Dad probed here and there asking, "Does that hurt?" My answer was usually in the affirmative.

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