Civil War: Chapter Three

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Roger, David, and Natalie, drove home from the hospital in relative silence. It was already dark at six-thirty. Traffic was still snarled as drivers got used to the end of daylight savings.

When they arrived home, David went to his bedroom and Natalie followed. The post-concussion protocol called for lots of rest, no electronics, and soft lighting. David went straight to bed.

Roger walked into his home office with a glass of whiskey. He sat in his desk chair, leaned back, and took a sip of the booze. After a minute, he slid his phone from his pocket and dialed Jack Murphy.

“Hey, man, what’s up?” Jack said.

“Serious shit,” said Roger.

“What?”

“David got beat up at school for saying Trump isn’t such a bad guy. The principal let the other boys beat him. He has a concussion.”

“Holy shit! God almighty, Rog. What the fuck?”

“What can I do?” Roger asked.

“Sue! Sue their asses,” yelled Jack.

“Not sure the police reports are accurate. A police sergeant told me the cops who responded wrote one thing in their reports and told him something else.”

“Are you serious? How can that be?”

Roger shook his head. Jack’s the lawyer. Why wasn’t he telling Roger how that can be?

“Look, I need your help. Start the clock. I want that bitch fired and charged.”

“You got it. But if the cops won’t cooperate, it’ll be pretty tough. Teachers have a high level of credibility.”

“I know. Cops do, too.”

“Yeah,” Jack said. “Roger.”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t do anything stupid.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean. Let me handle this. I know you want to do something, but schools and cops need to be dealt with in court.”

Roger knew what Jack was talking about. The idea of vengeance crossed his mind a hundred times since he took that call at work. He’d imagined himself visiting those punks who beat his son, one by one. He saw himself ringing their doorbells. He saw their doors swing open. The culprit opens the door.

“Yeah,” the kid says.

“You want to step outside?” The kid steps outside closing the door behind him.

Roger looks at the kid. The kid seems half Roger’s size, but the kid sees himself as Roger’s equal. Maybe Roger’s superior.“You m with David. I’m fucking with you.”

“You messed with David. I’m messing with you.”

The kid’s eyes grow wide.

Roger imagines himself driving his open palm into the kid’s cheek in a violent, sideways swoop the brat never sees coming. He feels the kid’s weight accelerate to his left. He imagines the kid crumpling down, folding up like a cheap suit. Roger, in his fantasy, turns and walks away.

That’s his fantasy. One by one they all go down. They all crumple under Roger’s mighty right hand.

Jack’s right, he thought. They’re little kids. Get a hold of yourself, Thompson!

“Send me the cop’s info,” said Jack. “I’ll call him and see what kind of case we’ve got.”

“Okay. I’ll take a picture of his card and send it to you.”

“Perfect,” Jack said. “Roger, this will work out. Be patient.”

“I trust you, Jack. Thanks.”


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 Two

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Roger pulled into the parking garage near St. Mary’s Hospital. Midday, the garage was packed. Roger parked on the roof and sprinted to the stairs. He crossed the short bridge to the third-floor reception area and approached the desk.

“I’m Roger Thompson. My son David was brought here,” he said.

The woman at the desk smiled at him, then typed on her keyboard. “Can I see your driver’s license please?” she asked Roger.

Roger dug his wallet out of his back pocket and handed the woman his license. She looked at it, glanced at her computer monitor, and looked up to Roger. “He’s in the emergency room, 14. It’s on one. The elevators over there will take you there. Follow the signs when you get to one.”

Roger hurried to the elevator. He was still seething at the school and that bitch Flanders. When the elevator doors opened, he saw half a dozen sullen faces looking out at him. He joined them.

On floor one, Roger exited the elevator and looked for the signs.

<– RADIOLOGY
URGENT CARE –>

He followed the signs to the right through green tiled walls. That cottony smell of hospital struck him. Ridiculously wide double doors led to the emergency room. Roger plunged through.

“David Thompson?” he said to the nurse at the desk.

“Are you a relative?” she asked.

“I’m his dad,” Roger said.

“He’s in 14. You may go in.”

Roger didn’t say “thank you.” He just turned and looked for room 14. Roger walked into the curtained room.

David lay on the gurney covered in a white blanket.

“How are you feeling?” Roger said.

“Hi, dad,” David said. He looked toward his father but made no attempt to smile. “My head hurts. Can they turn the lights down?”

“I’ll ask. Anything besides your head hurt?”

David took a deep breath and looked at the ceiling. “I don’t know. My mouth.”

David’s upper lip was swollen and bruised. Dried blood covered his arms. His hands were cut up. His hair was greasy and unkempt.

Roger felt pity and rage.

“What happened?” Roger said.

David looked at his father. “I shouldn’t have said anything, I guess.”

“What did you say?” Roger asked.

“I just said I didn’t think Trump was so bad. And Miss Mateo told me I was out of line. She said I could be expelled for supporting Trump. She said it’s a hate crime. Intimidates people. It’s a threat.”

“She said it’s a threat to say you don’t think Trump’s so bad?”

David looked down at his bloodied hands. “Yeah.”

“You didn’t do anything else?”

“No. When she told me to go to Miss Flanders’ office, I just got up and walked down there.”

Roger tried to imagine his son’s perp walk to the principal’s office. “What happened there?”

“I don’t know. I was just sitting outside her office and Kyle and a bunch of dudes walked up and started kicking me.”

“They kicked you? Did they say anything?”

“They kicked me first. They were saying ‘white supremacist’ and ‘homophobe.’”

“What did you do?”

“When they wouldn’t stop, I stood up to get away from them. Somebody stabbed me with a pen. In my arm.” David pointed to the puncture wound on his right forearm. “Then they just jumped on me punching and kicking. I tried to fight back, but I fell and hit my head on the chair arm.”

“Did they stop then? When you hit your head?”

David closed his eyes. “No. They kept kicking and punching and calling me a racist.”

“Didn’t Ms. Flanders come out and stop?”

“She came out. She just stood there watching, though. She didn’t say anything until I stopped trying fight back.”

Roger let that sink in. “I’m sorry, son. You know that Ms. Flanders was wrong, don’t you?”

David looked at Roger. “I guess.”

Roger looked around. “I’m going to make her pay. Those boys, too.”

“No, Dad. No. They’ll do it again.”

“No, they won’t. They’ll be in jail. Or juvie or whatever.”

“No, Dad. Leave it alone. Miss Flanders told me that it will get worse if I tell anybody.”

“David? Oh, my God,” said Natalie Thompson.

Natalie rushed to the gurney and hugged her son. Then she looked at her husband and said, “Roger, what the hell?”

 

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 One

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Roger Thompson’s phone vibrated in his pocket. His boss, Evan, couldn’t hear the vibrating phone, but he noticed Roger’s distraction.

“Do you need a minute?” Evan asked Roger.

“No. Sorry. Damn phone won’t quit ringing. I’ll turn it off.”

“Maybe it’s important. Go ahead.”

Roger pulled the phone from his pocket and looked.

Missed Call: Briarhaven Elementary

“It’s my kid’s school,” Roger said. “I should probably call them back.”

“Go,” said Evan.

Roger left the meeting room and walked into the hallway as he thumbed the “return call” button on his phone’s screen.

“Briarhaven Elementary School, this is Elizabeth,” said the voice.

“Hi. My name’s Roger Thompson, and I . . . “

“Oh, Mr. Thompson,” Elizabeth interrupted. “We tried to reach Mrs. Thompson first, but we need one of you to come to the school immediately.”

“What’s wrong?” Roger asked.

“David was involved in an altercation, and the principal thought he should go to the hospital. The ambulance is on its way.”

“Oh my God. Is he okay?”

Long pause. “You need to come to school,” said Elizabeth.

“Will David be there? Or should I go to the hospital? Where are they taking him?”

“Come to school.”

Roger waved to Evan and took off for his car. He drove just a little faster than usual until he arrived at the school. A dozen police cars with lights flashing adorned the school parking lot. Roger parked in the first open slot and approached the building.

“This is a secure area,” said a police officer to Roger.

“They called me. My son was involved. David. David Thompson,” said Roger.

The cop looked at Roger, then spoke into his shoulder microphone. “Mr. Thompson here.”

A crackly voice responded from the cop’s hips. “Send him through.”

“Go on in,” said the cop.

Roger Thomspson jogged toward the wall of doors that led to the main hall of Briarhaven Elementary. He turned right after passing through the doors. He opened another door to enter the administration area. The principal, Nancy Flanders, waited.

“I’m Roger Thompson,” he said. “Where’s David?”

“Hi, Mister Thompson,” said Ms. Flanders. “I am so, so sorry about this. David is on his way to the hospital. We need to talk.”

“Which hospital?” Roger said. “I need to get there.”

Ms. Flanders looked at her folder hands. “I’m not sure,” she said. “We’ll find out. But you and I need to talk first.”

Roger stared at the principal. He looked perplexed.

“No. I need to be with my son. He’s hurt for sure if you sent him on an ambulance.”

“You don’t understand,” Ms. Flanders said. “David isn’t the victim here. He’s the perpetrator. He’s lucky he wasn’t hurt worse.”

Roger felt his head swooning. He sat down on the first miniature chair he could find. He leaned forward, put his head in his hands, and asked, “what did he do?”

Ms. Flanders said, “there was a mock election today. Students had to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.”

Roger pulled himself up and looked at the principal. “That’s normal for school. Did David get belligerent?”

“No,” she said. “But after the straw poll, we asked students to state why they voted as the did. David was the only student who voted for Trump. And his reason triggered other students.”

Roger waited for the school principal to continue. After a few moments, he realized she was done talking.

“What do you mean ‘triggered’ other students?” he asked.

“Trump is a divisive figure, Mr. Thompson. I’m sure you know. Just mentioning him can cause sever trauma in young children. Some of those children attacked your son.”

“What do you mean they attacked David? How?”

“Seven or eight of the students attacked him with pens and fists. They cut him in a few places, and he was crying about his shoulder. And headache. It went on for quite a while.”

Roger shook his head. “What do you mean it went on for ‘quite a while?’ Didn’t you try to protect him?”

“We believe Donald Trump is a threat to many students, so attacks on Trump supporters are a form of self-defense,” she said.

Roger stared and blinked. Then, “Are you fucking insane?”

“Mr. Thompson! You must leave immediately. We do not tolerate hate speech in this school.”

“Hate speech? Fuck you! Where’s my son?”

“Leave, Mr. Thompson. Before I call the police.”

“What happened to my son?” Roger shouted. He popped out of the tiny chair.

“Excuse me, Mr. Thompson?” said a man standing behind Roger. Roger turned to look. It was a police officer.

“I’m Sergeant Franklin. Please come with me now.”

Roger turned to follow the cop but shot a final scowl at Ms. Flanders before leaving the office.

Sergeant Franklin closed the principal’s door on his way out. “Let’s talk outside,” he told Roger. The two continued down the hall and out the main door to the school’s parking lot. The lot was crowded with cars but the two were alone. The sergeant shook Roger’s hand.

“Mike Franklin,” the cop said.

“Roger. Roger Thompson.”

“Look, Mr. Thompson, I need you to remain calm. I realize this upsetting. I’d be upset, too.” Franklin stared into Roger’s eyes, searching for compliance.

“Where’s my son?” Roger asked.

“Your son has been taken to St. Mary’s hospital. I don’t know his condition because I arrived after the ambulance left. But the report from the officers at the scene said he had minor cuts and abrasions on his arms and face, a swollen lip, and possible head injury.”

“Jesus Christ! What happened?”

Franklin looked around the parking lot. Then he leaned in toward Roger. “Listen,” he said, “this is just between you and me.”

He waited for Roger to acknowledge his request for confidentiality. Roger nodded.

“In social studies class, the teacher was talking about the election. Your son indicated he liked Donald Trump. The teacher warned him that by saying so violated the school district’s rules against hate speech. Your son argued with her, and she sent him to the principal’s office. While he was waiting in the hallway outside Ms. Flanders’ office, a group of boys circled him and started mocking him. Apparently, your son stood up from his chair which the boys interpreted as a threat. They jumped him and beat him up pretty bad.”

Roger stared at the cop. “What happened to the other boys?” Roger asked.

Franklin stared for a moment, sizing up Roger’s level of agitation. “They were returned to class. Flanders determined that they behaved appropriately, that your son was the cause of the fight.”

Roger clenched his jaw and looked back at the door to the school.

“You have got to be shitting me,” he said.

“I wish I was. Look, we have the reports of the officers, but they’re very friendly to the school.”

“Can I get your card? I need to get to the hospital.”

Franklin reached into his shirt pocket to retrieve his business card. “Sure. Take care of your son. David, right?”

“Yeah. David,” said Roger. “Thanks. I’ll be in touch. I appreciate your honesty.”

The men shook hands and Roger jogged to his car.

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.