Civil War: Chapter Twelve

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Roger crashed into his office. His sanctuary. It was only two fifteen, but he wanted a drink. Calls first.

He pulled out is cell phone and decided to call the cop again. But the phone buzzed in his hand before he could find the number.

“Hello,” Roger said.

“Hi, Mr. Thompson? This is Amanda Mateo, one of David’s teachers.”

“Hi. Ms. Mateo. Yeah, we met in August.”

“Oh, yeah, right. Parents’ Night. Of course. Listen, I wanted to find out how David’s doing. I felt so bad yesterday. Is he okay?”

Roger wasn’t sure how much to trust this woman. Her class led to his son’s brutal beating. And it opened up a rift in his marriage.

But Roger knew David needed allies, and David seemed to trust her. “David seems to be doing better today. He has a lot of cuts and puncture wounds. And concussions are scarier now than when I was a kid.”

“I am so sorry,” Amanda said. “Mr. Thompson, I know you probably think I’m terrible for what I did. And it sounds awful to say I was following orders, but I didn’t know what would happen. If I’d known, I’d have said ‘no’ to the lesson plan.”

Roger heard something in her voice. Sincerity? Pain? Guilt? “Well, David is pretty adamant that you were not the problem, Ms. Mateo. He said you helped him.”

She seemed to think about that information. “I tried to. But only after I followed the plan. I really didn’t expect something like that to happen. I want David to be alright. He is a great, great kid.”

“Yeah, he is,” Roger said. “He is.”

“So, I also wanted to tell you something else,” Amanda said. “I talked to Sergeant Franklin today, and he had me give a sworn statement about what happened. It looks like my statement is consistent with David’s. But some other statements are very different.”

“Yeah, Franklin warned me about that yesterday,” Roger said.

“I don’t know what’s going on. The school tried to make me sign a statement that made David look like a monster. I refused. That’s when I went to the police and gave them my statement.”

“What do you mean, making David a monster?” Roger asked.

“I can show you the statement they wanted me to sign. It’s awful. It’s all lies. I got suspended for refusing to sign it, but I’m not going to throw David under the bus. Never. He’s a great kid. He got beat up by eight kids. The principal did nothing to help him. If I didn’t go down there and try to break it up I don’t know what would have happened.”

Any reservations Roger held about Ms. Mateo’s credibility were gone now. “Thank you,” he said. “Thanks for looking out for David.”

“No problem, sir. I want kids to be kids for a change. They don’t need to be involved in grown-up things. They need to be kids, doing kid things. Mr. Thompson?”


“I’d like to see David, if that’s okay.”

“See David? Yeah. Sure. When?”

“When you think it’s okay. I don’t want to disturb him if he’s not ready.”

Roger thought about David’s condition. “Why don’t we see how he’s doing tomorrow? I know it’s Saturday, but he’s supposed to be sleeping a lot until the headaches subside.”

“That’s fine. I don’t have any plans tomorrow.. Or Sunday, except for mass. Will you call me when you think he’s ready?”

“Of course. This number?”

“Yeah. That’s my cell phone. If I don’t answer, just leave a message.”

“Okay. I will. Thank you. Thank you for protecting him. And I know you were just doing your job when this all started. I don’t blame you at all.”

“Thank you, Mr. Thompson. That makes me feel better. Please tell David I am thinking about him and praying for him. I’m going to light a candle for him.”

Roger wasn’t Catholic, but he knew lighting a candle for someone is a pretty big deal for Catholics. “That’s wonderful, Ms. Mateo. Thank you. it means a lot.” And he was serious. Her words, her call, meant a lot to him in that moment.

“David will be thrilled to see you.”

“Me, too. Talk soon.”



After the call, Roger remembered meeting all of David’s teachers in August. Natalie was there, too, of course. The teachers that Natalie liked, Roger didn’t. And the teachers that Roger liked, Natalie didn’t.

Ms. Mateo was one of the teachers Roger liked.

“You just thought she was hot,” Natalie said of Ms. Mateo.

“No,” Roger said. “She really seemed to like David. And she’s friendly. But, yeah, she’s pretty, too.”

“She’s like twenty-two, Grandpa. Get over it,” Natalie told him.

“She’s closer to twenty-eight or twenty-nine. She just looks twenty-two,” said Roger. “But I’m happily married.”

Natalie looked at her husband. “Maybe you are,” she said. “Maybe.”

“Who was that?” Natalie asked. Roger didn’t notice when she walked into his office.

“David’s teacher,” he said. “The one who broke up the fight. Ms. Mateo.”

“What did she want?” Natalie said.

“She wants to see David.”

Natalie looked at her husband for a few seconds, then turned and started to leave. “I hope you said no,” she said as she walked down the hall.

How am I going explain this, Roger thought.

to be continued

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Civil War: Chapter Eleven

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Roger Thompson had completed his checklist. He’d learned from Jack Murphy, his friend and attorney, that the police sergeant seemed cooperative.

With his tasks out of the way, he knew it was time to deal with his wife, Natalie.

Natalie and Roger didn’t see eye to eye politically. Natalie described herself as a progressive. Even though they rarely discussed politics, Roger knew Natalie was politically active before they got married. She worked a lot of referendum campaigns in college and after. And she usually voted Democrat.

Roger, on the other hand, was a disinterested Republican. He voted Republican when he bothered to vote. Which was about once every four years. If he got around to it. He found Trump amusing and avoided conversations about the race.

Natalie and Roger did not talk politics with each other. They’d reached an agreement during the 2004 election to stop trying to convert each other. But that didn’t keep politics out of their home. Both Natalie and Roger dropped subtle hints about “the right way to think” to their son, David.

David was never much of a talker. Teachers had described him as “quite,” “studious,” and “sensitive.” He had a few school friends before fifth grade. But his best friend, Kyle, hadn’t been around in weeks. Maybe months.

David played basketball and baseball but wasn’t destined for a travel team in either sport. At least, he wasn’t the best player on his teams. But maybe eleven-year-olds haven’t reached their athletic peaks.

Natalie and Roger both saw that David had inherited most of his personality from dad.  And, it turned out, most of his politics. But that could change over time, time. Who can tell with kids?

Roger shut the door to his office and walked toward the kitchen. He wasn’t hoping to find Natalie, but he knew he needed to.

“How’s David?” he asked his wife.

“Okay,” she said. She was emptying the dishwasher.

“I talked to Jack.”


“Are you mad at me?” he asked.

Bang! Natalie dropped a pot on the floor. “Why? What did you do?”

“So, ‘yes.’”

“Look. No, I’m not mad at you. I’m mad about all of this. The election. The school. All of it.”

Roger, being both an engineer and a salesman, weighed his options. “Well, I don’t think we can win a lawsuit against Trump and Hillary. And, besides, they didn’t give David a concussion. That was eight boys under the supervision of a school principal.”

Natalie went back to her dishes. “I know.”

“Do you think that Flanders woman and those kids should be disciplined?”

Natalie spun around. “Yes, they should be punished. If what David said is true, that woman should be fired. She should be banned from going within five hundred feet of a school or playground, like a sex offender.”

She returned to the dishwasher. “I just wish David would have thought about defending Trump. He should have known that would set people off.”

Roger began to wonder which team his wife was playing for. Was she blaming David for getting beat up?

“David did nothing wrong, you know,” Roger said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well, you’re starting to sound like you think he asked for it.”

Natalie stopped for a moment and looked out the window over the sink. “No. I don’t believe in violence. I love my son. I just wish he’d kept his mouth shut.”

His conversation with Natalie was going nowhere he wanted to visit, Roger walked quietly out of the kitchen and up the stairs to check on David.

“How are you today?”

“Good. Tired. Headache,” David said.

“I’m sorry, David. I wish I could have protected you from that.”

David lifted a corner of the washrag that covered his eyes. “I’ll be alright. Other kids have had worse. It’s part of growing up.”

David was just parroting Roger’s normal reaction to David’s setbacks, but Roger was proud to hear him say it, anyway.

“Has mom talked to you about the incident?”

“Yeah. She said I need to be more sensitive around oppressed people. She said Ms. Mateo was right. That saying Trump’s not a bad guy is a threat to some people, and they have a right to defend themselves.”

Roger’s heart sank. “What do you think,” he asked.

David squirmed in bed for a more comfortable position. Then he said, “I think people need to worry about their own actions more and about what other people say less.”

“Your mom loves you, David. She wants Ms. Flanders and those boys punished. Maybe that teacher, too.”

“No!” David said. “Ms. Mateo didn’t do anything. She pulled those dudes off me. She was only doing what she had to do. Don’t get her in trouble, please.”

Roger had been to Parents’ Night at the beginning of the year. He’d met all of David’s teachers. He hadn’t tried to picture them until David’s defense of Ms. Mateo, but now he remembered her.

“She’s the pretty one?” he asked.

David fought back a smile, but it broke through. “Yeah.”

Roger laughed. “Okay, so, did she really help you, or is she just too hot to rat out?”

David laughed. “No, she really helped me. And what she told me in class, she was reading straight out of some instruction manual. She told us the mock election was required by the school district and we had to vote.”

Roger wanted to ask more about Ms. Mateo, but he decided to ask something else instead. “So, why did you vote for Trump?”

“Because I like him. I think he’s funny. And I didn’t want to lie.”

More pride.

Roger patted David’s leg and said, “I have to make a few phone calls, sport. Bang on the floor if you need anything.”

“Okay. Thanks, Dad.”

“I love you, David. I’m proud of you.”

to be continued

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Civil War: Chapters Nine and Ten

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Chapter Nine

“Elizabeth, I’m going to be out of the building the rest of the day. You have my cell. Vice-principal Johnson is in his office.”

Elizabeth had a mouthful of Goldfish and could only grunt. But she wrote a note herself and nodded furiously at her boss.

Nancy Flanders left the building.

Forty-two minutes later, Flanders was parked and walking into the lobby of modern, glass and stainless steel building. The building had no names on the side. The slate floors of the lobby had no markings. There was no receptionist, only a kiosk with a touchscreen that Flanders manipulated. When she was done, shiny, steel elevator door opened to her right, and Nancy Flanders stepped in.

The elevator took Flanders to the fifth floor and opened into a large, nameless office suite. A vestibule with four doors. Flanders walked directly to the second door from the left, opened the door, and walked in.

“What’s the problem?” said the bald man behind a marble desk.

“An incident at school, Max. And I screwed up.”

“We’ll see. What happened?”

“One of those little racists said he supports Trump in class. Our teacher followed the protocol. The Tiger Team did it’s job, just like we thought.”

“It doesn’t sound like there’s a problem to me,” Max said.

Flanders looked down at her hands. “First, I told the kid’s father things I shouldn’t have. I didn’t follow the plan. It all happened faster than I was prepared for.”

Max raised his left eyebrow. “What else?”

“The teacher isn’t cooperating. At all.”

Max turned his chair to look out the window. “What’s the teacher’s name?” he asked.

“Amanda Mateo,” Flanders answered.




“Single. Twenty-eight or -nine.”

“Children? Family in the area?”

“No children. I believe her family is in LA, but I’m not sure.”

“Send me her file. What’s the kid’s name?”

“David Thompson. Fifth grader. His parents are together. Roger and Natalie.”

“Send me their stuff, too,” Max said.

“And there’s a cop who seems uncooperative. A Sergeant. Mike Franklin.”

“Is that all?  What about the Tiger Team?”

“Don’t worry about them.”

“I’ll let you know how to proceed. Don’t do anything until you hear from me. Nothing by email. Check Dust every half hour but do not allow the app to post notifications on your phone.”

Flanders stood to leave. “Max, one more thing. We have to do something about these parents. They’re the ones indoctrinating their kids into privilege and racism. That should be our bigger goal. We have to eliminate parents.”

“Thank you, Nancy.”

“Good afternoon, Max.”

An hour later, Nancy told herself “that feels better,” as she pulled into her garage below her condominium. But she knew she was lying to herself.

Chapter Ten

Amanda walked into the Peet’s Coffee at 2:14 p.m. The only cop in the place was easy to spot.

“Sergeant Franklin?” she said.

“Ms. Mateo,” he answered, rising out of his booth.

“Don’t get up, please,” she said.

“Have a seat. What would you like? I’ll get it for you.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“I insist. And I’m good at getting coffee orders right.”

“Okay. Let me see.” Amanda screwed herself around to look a the coffee board. “How about a triple, venti, half sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato?”

“This is Peet’s,” Franklin said.

“Okay. Same thing, only large instead of venti.”

“What was it again?”

“Triple, large, half sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato,” Amanda said.

Franklin repeated it back. “Triple large half-pint, non-fat . . . coffee.”

Amanda grinned and rolled her eyes, slid out of the booth and walked toward the counter with Mike Franklin following. Another man in another line of work might have missed Amanda’s glance at Mike’s left hand. But Mike’s a trained observer.

“Sorry. By ‘any coffee order,’ I meant black and bitter, blonde and bitter, black and sweet, or blonde and sweet. You know, coffee,” he explained.

Looking back at Mike, still smiling, Amanda said, “Which one am I?”

Mike thought about it. Amanda was definitely a latt´e. Black hair, impossibly perfect brown eyes, a hint of natural blush in her cheeks, perfect teeth that gleamed. Mike wondered why she became a teacher instead of model. He considered his options and said, “I’m on duty, ma’am.”

Amanda turned to the barista. “Triple, large, half sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato.”

“Triple, large, half sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato,” the barista repeated, loudly. “Can I get your name?”


“Amanda,” he yelled. “Six thirty-two,” he said.

Mike Franklin already had his credit card out.

“Thank you,” Amanda said.

“I feel better now, so thank you,” Mike told her.

They returned to their booth where Mike’s blonde and bitter waited.

“Do all the teachers look like you these days?” he asked.

“I thought you were on duty,” Amanda said.

Mike smiled. “I’m just being thorough.”

Amanda Mateo was the kind of teacher boys fantasize about. Maybe not fifth graders–and maybe that’s why she teaches the little kids. Amanda might cause problems walking into a high school classroom.

“Yes. Most of the teachers are around my age if that’s what you mean. And mostly women. And this is California, so a lot of Latinas. And how old are you?”

Boom! That hurt. Mike Franklin turned forty-six two months earlier. He’d been on the police force 24 years and was eligible for retirement after 25. “I’m forty-six,” he answered with the sincere detachment of a trained, professional witness.

“Forty-six,” Amanda repeated. “So . . . you were like a sophomore or a junior when I was born?” she said with a giggle. Her giggle was cute enough to soften the blow to Mike’s ego.

Franklin thought about that age difference and decided it was time to change the subject. Before he could he speak, a barista yelled ‘Amanda, macchiato!’ Mike jumped up to retrieve her drink from the counter.

“Thank you,” she said. “So why did we have to meet at Peet’s? Or did you just want to show off your macchiato ordering skills to a much-younger teacher?”

Mike made a mental note flirting and said, “I wanted to hear your side of the story in a less intimidating environment. Police stations tend to make people forget important things and remember things that didn’t happen.”

“Okay,” said Amanda. “My story. Okay. First, I am not political. At all. And I don’t think eleven-year-olds should be worrying about presidential elections. But the school district sent out a policy directive that we had to hold this mock election yesterday. It was all very scripted. They wanted to identify kids who support Donald Trump for some reason.”

“Did the policy say that?”

“Not exactly, but that was the whole point. We held the election, open ballot, then had to ask every student why they voted the way they did.”

“And Mr. Thompson voted for Trump?” Franklin asked.


“And you asked him why?”

“Yes. He say something like ‘I don’t think Trump’s so bad.’”

“Not exactly fighting words,” Mike said.

“I know. But the curriculum required me to read a statement verbatim to students who said they supported Trump. I did. And I sent him to the principal’s office.”

“You sent him to the principal’s office because he voted for Trump in a mock election.”

“Yes. That was part of the curriculum. It’s cruel, really. I had to tell him that supporting Trump is a hate crime or something, and hate crimes are punishable by suspension or expulsion. Then I had to remove him from the room according to our building’s policy. Our policy is that kids removed from a classroom for conduct go directly to the principal’s office.”

“Did the Thompson kid put up a fight or something?”

“No. He looked scared, but he didn’t say anything. He just got up and left the room.”

“Okay. Then what happened.”

“It was almost the end of the period when this happened. About five minutes later, the bell rang. When the kids opened the door, I could hear a commotion, so I stepped out into the hall. I could see a scuffle by Ms. Flanders’ office, so I ran down there.”

Amanda was suddenly on verge of tears. “I’m sorry,” she said as tears streamed down her cheeks.

Mike grabbed a handkerchief from his pocket. “Here. This is perfectly clean,” as he handed it to Amanda.

She chuckled through her tears. “Really? A handkerchief. You sure you’re only forty-six? Ha ha. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” he said.

“So, when I got down there, David was on the floor trying to cover up. Eight boys were kicking and punching and calling him racist and white privilege. Half of them were white, too. And Nancy Flanders, the principal, was just standing there with this sick grin watching all this.”

“Flanders didn’t try to break it up?”


“And the Thompson kid wasn’t fighting back?”

“No. He was beat up. Holding his head. Curled up trying to get under a chair. It was horrible.”

“What did you do?”

“I screamed, ‘knock it off,’ and started pulling the boys away. They would just go back at it. There were too many for me.”

“When did it end?”

“I don’t know, honestly. I think Nancy said something. The boys all marched into her office, and I helped David up to the chair. The police showed up pretty quickly.”

“Did you give a statement to the officers yesterday?”


“Why not?”

“As soon as they showed up, Nancy told me to go home.”

“And you did?”

“Yeah. I know, I shouldn’t have. But I was a wreck. That poor baby.” Tears started again, only softer this time.

“And no one contacted you about a statement today or last night?”

“No. Well, not exactly. Nancy wanted me to sign this statement today.” She pulled the wrinkled, folded statement from her purse and handed it to Franklin. He read it like he was trying to decipher an ancient love potion written in Cyrillic alphabet.

“This isn’t anything like what you just described.”

“I know. That’s why I wouldn’t sign it. I grabbed it off Nancy’s desk and got out of there. I wanted to give my statement directly to the police.”

“Okay. Sorry. I should have met you at the station. I didn’t realize how different your story is from the others.”

“The others?”

“Yes. Flanders, the office staff, some of the students. They told a very different story to the officers who arrived at school yesterday.”

“Like, how?”

“Like, they said you provoked David and encouraged him to assault the other students.”

Amanda felt a fire erupt in her cheeks.

“How am I supposed to believe you?” Mike Franklin asked.

“I don’t know,” Amanda said. “But I love kids. I would never, ever tell a student to hurt another student. Everybody who knows me knows that.”

Mike looked at her beautiful brown eyes and tried not let her looks influence his judgment. But he was fighting a losing battle.

“I believe you,” he said. And he felt absolutely no shame in saying it.

Amanda let her head drop into her open hands. She gave Mike a muffled “thank you.”

“Besides, the Thompson kid’s story is pretty close to yours. That’s between us. But now I’m going to need you to swear an official statement of what you witnessed. Do you have time?”

“Yes. Anything.”

“Okay. Have you been in contact with the boy’s family?”

“No. I tried to call last night, but they didn’t answer,” she said.

“Okay. I’ll get you in touch with them. You two need to talk. And you might need to talk to their lawyer.”

Amanda didn’t like dealing with lawyers, but she said she understands. “I want to help them.”

On the way out of the Peet’s, Amanda grabbed Mike’s arm. “One more thing. About the boys who beat him up. I worry about them, too. Something caused them to behave that way, and I don’t think it was anything David said or did. They’re just babies, too.”

“I understand. We’ll look into that.”

“Are all cops like you?” Amanda asked.

“Ruggedly handsome and witty? No. Just me.”

“I meant humble,” she said.

to be continued

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Civil War: Chapter Eight

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Nancy Flanders sat perfectly still. Amanda Mateo fidgeted and rocked. Between lay a false statement and a pen.

Amanda spoke. “I won’t sign that. I’ll write my own report. I should have spoken to the police yesterday. I’ll write my statement and give it you right now. But I’m not signing that,” pointing toward the statement on the desk.

“That won’t be necessary. I’m afraid I’ll have to place you on suspension until the board reviews your case.”

“What? What case?”

“My statement makes it perfectly clear. You encouraged your student, David Thompson, to use hate speech towards students of color. You stood by while he physically attacked Hispanic and African-American students in your classroom.”

Amanda’s brows squeezed down until they nearly hit her cheeks.

“You are crazy!” she said. “There were thirty witnesses. No one’s going to believe that.”

Flanders wore a grin that said, “silly girl.” The grin infuriated Amanda.

“Go ahead. Submit it. And I’m submitting mine. We’ll see.”

Amanda grabbed the false statement from Flanders’ desk as she exploded out of the tiny chair and out the door. She ran down the hall to the main doors, groping in her purse for he car keys. She flung open her door, started the car, and drove out of the parking lot as fast as she considered safe.

When she rolled to stop at a red light almost a mile away she first noticed the tears that had dripped on her shirt and the snot that clogged her nose.

“Oh. My. God!” she yelled. “Oh my God!”

Amanda drove fast but she wasn’t heading home. She’d passed the turnoff that she took every night. She was just driving. She just wanted to get away.

She’d been driving aimlessly for thirty minutes when a thought occurred. She pulled into a convenience store parking lot and dragged her phone from her purse.

“Hey, Siri,” she said. After the beep,”Santo Domingo Police phone number.”

“Is this an emergency?”


“Let me see. I found the non-emergency number for Santo Domingo, California police. Would you like me to dial it for you?”



Amanda waited for the process to complete.

“Santo Domingo Police. Sergeant Baker. How may I help you?”

“Hi, my name is Amanda Mateo. I’m a teacher at Briarhaven Elementary School. One of my students was involved in a fight yesterday. I was a witness to the incident, but my principal sent me home before the police took my statement. I’d like to make a statement.”

“Can you come down to our headquarters? I can give you directions.”


The desk sergeant gave Amanda the address, and she punched the address into the Waze app on her phone.

“Thank you. I’ll be there in about a half hour. Who should I ask for?”

“Ask for Sergeant Mike Franklin. I’ll tell him you’re coming.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“Anything else I can help you with?”

“No, thank you. Bye bye.”

“Good bye.”

Amanda put her phone in the cup holder of her car and followed the directions from Waze. But she didn’t get far before her phone rang. She pulled over to answer it, though she didn’t recognize the number.

“Hello?” she said.

“Hello. Amanda Mateo?” asked a man’s voice.

“Speaking,” she answered.

“Hi, Ms. Mateo. I’m Sergeant Mike Franklin with the Santo Domingo Police Department. I’m sorry to bother you.”

“No problem. Thanks for calling.”

“Listen, Ms. Mateo, I know you’re coming in to give a statement about the incident at school yesterday. Would you mind if we meet somewhere else? I can come to you. I texted you earlier, but I guess you didn’t see it.”

Amanda pulled the phone away from her so she could scan her messages. There is was.

This is Sgt. Franklin, SDPD. I’d like to talk to you about an important police matter. Pls call me at this number. Thx

“You don’t want me to come to the station? What’s going on?” Amanda asked.

Franklin let out a long breath. “It’s complicated. I can explain when we meet. There’s a Peet’s Coffee on El Camino Real. Do you know where that is?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Would you mind meeting there? I’ll be in uniform.”

“Sure. Okay. When?”

“How soon can you get here?” he asked.

“About twenty minutes?”

“That’s fine. I’ll be waiting for you.”

“Okay. On my way.”

Amanda hung up, entered the new destination in Waze, and took off wondering why the cop wanted to meet outside police headquarters.

“This is getting too weird,” she whispered. “Too fucking weird.”

to be continued

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Civil War: Chapters Six and Seven

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Chapter Six

“Evan, this is Roger.”

“How’s it going? Where are you?”

“I’m at home. Listen, I’m going to have to use a sick day today.”

“Everything okay?”

“Not really. It’s a long story. David got beat up pretty bad yesterday at school. In school,” Roger said.

“Well, hell. Sorry to hear that. Don’t worry about anything. I’ve got you covered.”

“Thanks, Evan. Sorry about this.”

“No worries. It’s the slow season anyway. You take care of your family. Take time next week if you need to. It’s a short week, anyway, with Thanksgiving.” For a second-generation business owner, Evan was liberal with time off.

“Thanks. I might have to. There’ll probably be lawyers involved.”

“Oh, that sucks. What happened?” asked Evan.

“Like I said, it’s a long story. Apparently, some political class got out of hand. A bunch of kids jumped David, and the principal stood by and let them beat on him. Put him in the hospital with a concussion and a bunch of cuts and bruises.”

“That’s crazy. Wow. Yeah, get lawyered up. What did the police say?”

“That’s strange, too. I have to call the sergeant in a minute. They seem to be afraid to cross the teachers’ union,” Roger said.

“God almighty. Those unions stick together, don’t they? We need a union for businesses,” Evan said. Roger thought Isn’t the chamber of commerce your union? but he didn’t say it. Instead, he said, “Yeah. The whole day was weird. I’m sorry I didn’t call you yesterday. By the time they discharged David, it was late.”

“Hey, don’t mention it. You did the right thing,” said Evan. “Tell Natalie I’m sorry. David, too. You take care of that family, Roger. Work will be here when you get back.”

“Thanks, Evan. I’ll let you go now.”

“Yep. Take care, buddy.”

“Bye bye.”

Roger looked at his phone. Nine-thirty. He looked at the list he’d scribbled down last night:

  • [x] Call Evan
  • [ ] Call Sgt. Franklin
  • [ ] Call Jack Murphy
  • [ ] Call school?

Natalie was taking care of calls to the doctors. She also called the school to tell them David would not be in. Roger was afraid he’d lose it if he heard “that bitch’s” voice. He couldn’t remember Nancy Flanders’ name, only “that bitch.”

Something was bothering Roger, but he couldn’t exactly describe the irritation. Something gnawing at his mind just out of consciousness. He figured it was the incomplete checklist, so I dialed Franklin’s number.

“Sergeant Mike Franklin.”

“Sergeant, Roger Thompson.”

“Good morning, Mr. Thompson. How can I help you?”

“I’m wondering if you’ve filed charges against any of the kids or the principal.”

Franklin paused. “The case is still under investigation, Mr. Thompson. I have no further updates. I expect it will be turned over to a detective today.”

“Really? It seems pretty obvious to me. A principal stood by while seven or eight kids beat up my son. And my son says a teacher triggered the whole incident by calling him a racist in class. She accused him of hate crimes.”

Franklin paused again. Six months, he thought to himself. “Listen, Mr. Thompson, you should probably get a lawyer.”

“I did,” Roger interrupted. “He should be calling you today.”

“I’ll wait for the call,” said Franklin.

Chapter Seven

“Sergeant Franklin.”

“Sergeant, this is Jack Murphy. I’m an attorney representing the Thompson family regarding an incident that took place at Briarhaven Elementary School yesterday. Mr. Roger Thompson gave me your card.”

“Yes. How can I help you?”

“I’d like to see the police reports from the incident.

“There’s juveniles involved. A judge will have to grant you permission to see the records.”

“Okay. So maybe I can get your take. You don’t have to mention any names. Just the facts as you know them.”

Franklin looked around. Everyone in the room was busy with something else. “What did Mr. Thompson tell you?”

“He said a group of boys beat up his son, David, at school. The principal witnessed the beating and did nothing to intervene.”

Sergeant Franklin considered his response. “Can I get your number? I’ll call you if I have any information I can disclose.”

“Sure,” said Jack. He gave the sergeant his number.

“Thank you, sir. I’ll be in touch.”

“Thanks. Bye.”

Mike Franklin sat back in his chair and looked out the window. “Six months to retirement,” he said under his breath. “Six fucking months.”

Franklin pulled out a notepad and his personal cell phone. He tapped out a text message, sent it, and put the phone and notepad back in his pockets. Next, he stood up and walked to a table containing stacks of manila folders. He pulled the top folder off one of the stacks and opened it. He removed a few sheets of paper, walked to a copier, and set the pages in the feeder. He pressed a button and the copier sprang to life.

to be continued

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Civil War: Chapters Four and Five

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Chapter Four

“Elizabeth, tell Amanda I need to see her on her planning hour.”

Nancy Flanders’ assistant, Elizabeth Schneider, nodded her head, scribbled a note, and continued eating her bagel dripping with pineapple cream cheese and strawberry jam.

Flanders returned to her office and closed the door. She sat and snatched the receiver from he desk phone, pressed two numbers, then hung up. She glanced out the window toward the school’s playground then reached for the cell phone on her desk. She dialed a number.

“Hi, Max,” she says. “I need to talk to you . . . I won’t.”

Chapter Five

Amanda Mateo rolled her eyes at the note taped to her first-hour classroom door.

Ms. Flanders will see you at your 2nd hour planning period.

Amanda thought, Great. That’s why they give us planning hours, so we can listen to Flanders’ lectures.

First hour was a confused blur. Events from the day before played over and over her in mind like a video on a loop. Last night’s bottle of wine and shots of Fireball did were haunting her, too. And now she’d lost her planning hour. She’d hoped to grade her fourth hour’s worksheets. At least, they’ll be happy, she thought.

When the bell rang to end first hour, she barely noticed the kids as they wished her a good weekend. She barely noticed the soft vibration of her cell phone as a text message arrived. She gathered up her purse, locked her door, and walked toward the office complex.

On her walk, she imagined what that little boy was thinking when she sent him on his journey the day before. I was just doing what I was told, she whispered to herself. Just following orders.

Amanda Mateo was as far from a political activist as you can get. She didn’t vote, not out of some form of protest, but because she didn’t think her opinion was informed. She paid little attention to political news because it mostly made her sad. She never wanted to teach social studies. She liked English and math and science. But mostly she liked kids. And her only political thought, if it was political at all, was that we don’t let kids be kids anymore. She became a teacher so kids could be kids.

“You can go on in. Ms. Flanders is waiting for you,” said Elizabeth between bites of an old fashioned donut.

Amanda stepped through the open door into Nancy Flanders’ office.

“Close the door, please.”

Amanda closed the door and looked back at her boss who sat upright like a soldier, hands folded on an empty desk–empty except for a single sheet of paper with words on it.

“You did the right thing yesterday, Amanda. I want you to know that you did the right thing and nothing bad will happen to you.”

Amanda looked down at her hands and realized they were fidgeting with her shirt tail. She stopped that. She felt her throat grow tight. “I’m not so sure,” she said.

Nancy blinked at her but said nothing.

“I don’t agree with the policy,” Amanda said. Once the words were out, they didn’t feel as terrifying.

Nancy stood and walked around her desk to hover over Amanda who sat in the small guest chair.

“It’s not your job to agree with policies, Ms. Mateo. It’s your job to follow them. You did. What happened to that boy was his fault. And his miscreant parents. Deplorable people. They should be arrested for child abuse for tolerating that white supremacist. You did the right thing.”

Amanda felt cold and weak. She had sent a boy off to a beating. She’d followed the standards and mandatory lesson plan sent out by the Santo Domingo School District in the wake of the election. She’d thought the whole mock election was stupid to begin with, but especially a week after the election itself. She’d tried to keep politics out of her fifth-grade classroom because politics and sex are for grown-ups, not for her ‘babies.’ And, to Amanda Mateo, fifth graders were still babies.

Amanda realized Flanders was right about one thing: she’d followed the policy to a T. Whoever wrote the policy perfectly predicted that at least one student in every class would say something favorable about the President-elect. When David Thompson said, “Trump’s not so bad,” Amanda simply read, verbatim, from the policy handbook, appendix four, “What to say when students defend Trump:”

Instructors faced with a student who defends Trump should read the grade-appropriate response verbatim . . . Fourth and Fifth Grades: ‘[Student’s Name], it is inappropriate, aggressive behavior to attack your fellow students by supporting racist views and racist politicians. The punishment for verbal assault of a fellow student is suspension. The punishment for hate-crimes against fellow students is expulsion.’ Instruct the student to leave the classroom and follow the building’s protocol for removal from the classroom.

That’s exactly what Amanda did. Thinking back to the incident, Amanda felt queasy and deeply sad.

Amanda remembered being a fifth grader. Eleven years old. The oldest kids in school. Ready to move onto middle school. It was 1999 and Amanda was pretty sure she didn’t even know who the president was at the time. She knew her Dad, a Los Angeles native, was excited about the St. Louis Rams. And she knew her friends were excited about a new cartoon about a sponge. She didn’t know about blue dresses and impeachments. And she wanted her students to be as happy as she’d been with her books and her friends and her bike. She wanted to spare them the moments she remembered of fear, awkwardness, and loneliness.

“One of my babies was beaten and put in the hospital, and no one did anything to stop it,” she said. “I was horrified.”

“Well, you stopped it,” Flanders said.

Amanda looked up at her principal. “What were you doing?”

Ms. Flanders’ lips curled into a smile like she was reliving a fond memory. “I’m going to take care of you now,” she said, returning to her chair on the opposite of the desk. “This is your statement. I need you to sign it, and everything will be fine.”

Flanders handed the single, typewritten sheet to Amanda.

Statement of Amanda Michelle Mateo, Teacher, Santo Domingo School District
On Thursday, November 17, 2016, David Thompson, a student in my first hour social studies class, stated ‘Donald Trump will send all you Spics back to Mexico where you belong.’ I told him his words were inappropriate, and he became violent. He left his chair and ran around the room punching Hispanic and African-American students. When I attempted to restrain him, he ran out of the room. He continued to strike students of color as he walked toward the office complex. He attempted to enter the principal’s office. He was yelling racial epithets and banging on the door. A group of students attempted to restrain him, but the boy continued to fight and kick. When I reached the office, I was able to apply an approved restraint technique. I held him until the police arrived.

Amanda looked up. Her mouth hung open. The paper shook in her hands.

“What is this?” she asked.

“It’s your statement, dear.”

“This is a lie. It’s a complete lie. None of this happened.”

“You know, dear, that your statement reflects what that boy really wants to do, don’t you? You know that without the district’s policy, the white privilege boys would do that to your people every day. They’d do worse. They’d grab you by the . . . you know what, and there’s nothing you could do because you’re a Latina. If we don’t stop these people, that’s what life will be like. So sign your statement, Amanda. Fight back.”

Amanda felt her body shaking in the small chair as if the temperature in the room had plunged ninety degrees. She folded her arms across her chest and tried to come to grips with what was happening.

“I have another statement,” Flanders said. “My statement. It says . . . well, it doesn’t matter what it says. You don’t want me to submit that statement, trust me. You want to be a team player, don’t you, Amanda?”

Amanda thought about David Thompson again. She had tried to call his parents last night, but there was no answer. She didn’t know if the boy was still in the hospital. She wanted to find out how David was doing. That seemed the most important thing all of a sudden.

“I have to go,” she told Flanders.

“Of course. As soon as you sign your statement.”

“I’ll take it with me,” Amanda said.

“I think it would be better if you signed it here. I need to get this to the central office today.”

Amanda rocked back and forth in her chair. It’s tiny size now seemed appropriate. She felt like a little girl again. Alone. Scared. Angry. Confused.

to be continued

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.