Journey to Love
Christians and Wild Beasts?
Edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
The semester began and things soon settled into a nice, dull routine. Study groups were a big help to both Jayden and me as well as providing a major part of our social life. The dive team was going great and even though I was carrying a heavy class load, I actually enjoyed my classes. Jayden, of course, wasn’t on the dive team, but got involved in an informal soccer team which he enjoyed very, very much. They worked as hard at practice and training as they would have had they been on a varsity team—without the headaches of having to win. They had a fairly regular schedule of games with other informal teams in the area.
The first indication that there might be a fly in the ointment came while I was in the bank in mid-October. There were large flat panel TVs above the tellers' heads and the 750 Club on RBN was on. Good old Jerry Robinson was a guest on Pat Fallwell's program. They were going orgasmic over a “Rally in Support of the American Family” scheduled three weekends hence. It was being held in the OCU stadium. Good old Jerry was exhorting people to “charter a bus and fill the stadium to let those supporting the gay agenda know that you stand up for Christian marriage—a man and a woman. If we don’t stop it now, the gay steamroller will crush the family and seduce your children into a lifestyle condemned by God.” Of course there was also a plea for money. “The university doesn’t see this as a project to protect the American family and the American way of life and we had to pay the full regular fee to rent the stadium, so be generous in your support and come, or would you rather see this?” The tape of Jayden kissing me made at the airport ran—again. I had checked with a law student and he said since our faces weren’t shown all we could do was write and ask that it not be used. We did that and got no reply.
Watching the 750 Club became a necessity as the days passed. Each day there was another homophobic group's name added to the list of sponsors of the rally. Money was pouring in and old Jerry was pouring on the coal.
The campus gay and lesbian group circulated a petition protesting the rally and got about a quarter of the student body to sign it, not necessarily in support of gay rights, but in protest to allowing a fundamentalist Christian group to use university facilities. Regency University was associated with Jerry Robinson’s operation, so why wasn’t the rally held there? Good Old Jerry took advantage of the petition and the questioning of his use of the stadium. Both gave him a good way to fleece the innocent again. Also, while he never said the university supported his agenda, he did everything except say the actual words. Of course no-one on the 750 club pointed out he had used the university’s charging full price for the stadium as an indicator that the university had not endorsed the undertaking. He kept calling for money to combat “homosexuals who are pouring thousands and thousands of dollars into fighting God's will. They are corrupting the innocent sons and daughters of Virginia. You sent them to what you thought was a place of learning, not a place where they can be led to damnation.”
There were several fundamentalist groups on campus and they sprung into action, staging protests against the gay and lesbian organization, the admission of homosexuals to the university and such. More radical groups were banned from the campus but started marching at the main entrance to OCU. So long as they stayed on the sidewalk and off the university's property, they were free to march. We found another way to get to classes, avoiding their taunts of 'God hates fags' and other equally unsavory ones.
Friday, the week before the rally, bus loads of students from Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina fundamentalist and bible colleges started arriving. They may have been dressed differently but, to campus police, they looked like college students and while the older protesters were kept off the campus, the younger ones flooded on from all directions. Some were very aggressive when approaching students and, of course, some OCU students joined them. Every time you turned around, you saw and heard a student-preacher calling down damnation on gays and the gay agenda. It wasn't long before some were hinting at using violence to purify the campus. The campus was getting scary.
Sunday, Father Edwards, the priest of St. Andrew's Episcopal parish, called for calming voices. Since St. Andrew's had a goodly number of OCU students attending, his voice was appreciated. He asked any who would like to join him to discuss the situation to meet in a classroom after the service. Penny and Jeremy, Philip, Jayden and I were among the first to arrive. The decision was made to get as many people to join us as possible for a silent counter-protest Tuesday following a 5:00 Eucharist. I wasn’t surprised when Levi said he wouldn't attend the service, but would gather members of his faith and join us at the protest site. Several other religious organizations said the same thing.
Monday evening, the St. Andrew's group met in the parish house to make signs. We didn't stick to the Bible, but included other appropriate quotations from well-known figures—the Buddha, Bishop Tutu, Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others. I was surprised when we reached the site at the number of people there. Levi arrived shortly after we did with ten or so students. By 6:00, two or three hundred people stood, shoulder to shoulder along the sidewalk across the street from the protesters at the entrance to the university. We stood in complete silence. Protesters across the street started by quoting scripture to us, but quickly moved on to taunts and finally, very hurtful and hate-filled shouts were being thrown at us. We had been standing for perhaps thirty minutes before a Neanderthal type yelled, “Hey!, Look! Jeremy, Levi, Derek. Seems OCU has a gay aquatics team!”
The chanting started and got worse and worse until it became, 'Ass-fucking, cock-sucking aquatics team. Ass-fucking, cock-sucking aquatics team.' Seems those self-righteous, Bible-quoting jerks were using some pretty dirty language. When the chanting died down for a moment, someone shouted, “If a man lie with a man as man lies with a woman, he shall be stoned to death.” Suddenly a hail of rocks flew from across the street, hitting some of our group. Someone called 911 and when the sirens were heard, the foul-mouthed fundamentalists ran to the middle of the street, threw a final hail of rocks and scattered, hiding among regular students. Some of the rocks had been thrown by athletes with a lot of power. When the police arrived, those who had thrown the rocks were gone and several members of our group were hurt.
Right behind the police were the EMS. Two people were unconscious on the ground and were transported to the hospital by the EMS. Five others were taken to the hospital for stitches. The 11:00 news had tape and a report on the stoning. RBN broadcast 'news' about the attack, but must have been at a different event as they reported peaceful Christian protesters had been stoned by outsiders brought to Norfolk by militant gays.
Wednesday, RBN reported that the OCU aquatics team had been exposed as 'a gay club masquerading as a college sports team' and called the names of all team members as they scrolled across the TV screen.
Thursday at aquatics practice, the 'outing' of the team had some people really angry. Some because they were being branded gay, but most because there was an attempt to blacken the name of a aquatics team that was coming into its own. What could be done about it? Nothing that anyone could think of.
When we had finished practice Friday and walked out of the gym, we were immediately surrounded by taunting, hate-shouting bigots, but it wasn't just words that were thrown at us. We were spit on, used condoms—some shitty—were tossed in our faces, and some members were doused with piss. All that happened before the shoving, slugging and hitting started. We could have easily held our own as we were all well-developed—after all we were members of the aquatics team—except for the fact that we were caught by surprise and outnumbered by at least five to one. Even then we might have given pretty much as good as we got except we didn't have baseball bats. They did and used them. When they knocked someone down, he was kicked. I took two blows from a bat, one across my back and a really hard one across my abdomen. Lying on the ground, I was kicked in the stomach twice. I saw Telvin knocked to the ground by a blow from a bat and was unable to do anything when he was kicked. The coach was screaming his head off without accomplishing anything and we were pretty beaten up before the campus police arrived. They were totally unprepared for a riot and were soon being pushed back while the violence went on. It was a truly frightening scene.
Police in riot gear finally arrived along with an EMS crew. I knew I had broken ribs and was bloody from the blood of others as well as my own, but far worse was the pain in my abdomen from being hit by a bat and kicked in my gut. Several others were in worse shape and few escaped physical abuse and none escaped verbal abuse. The police started making arrests and soon a dozen were sitting on the ground, arms handcuffed behind their backs. The more seriously injured swimmers were taken to the hospital by the EMS and the rest of us were told we could wait or to go on our own if we were able. Jayden had arrived just as the police broke up the mayhem and he took me, Levi—who had been bleeding profusely before the EMS got a pressure bandage on his head—and Telvin to the hospital emergency room. Jeremy, by some miracle had essentially escaped serious injury.
I was surprised when the triage nurse put Telvin and me ahead of Levi who had been bleeding profusely. Later I found out they were concerned that our broken ribs might puncture a lung. Our x-rays showed we each had two broken ribs, but they apparently were not a threat to a lung. I told the LPN who taped me I had experience and was capable of taping Telvin. He said he couldn't allow me to do that, but the supplies were there and he had plenty to do to keep him busy for a while and left. I took the hint and taped Telvin. “Derek, every time I think I know you, you come up with something new like this.”
“I can even deliver your baby in case Levi ever gets you pregnant,” I said.
He started to laugh and said “Ouch! Laughter and broken ribs don't work together very well. Anyway, God knows it's not because we haven't tried, but Levi just doesn’t seem to be able to do the job. Low sperm count, I guess.”
“Probably you do it too often. Remember Madea’s advice to Aegis: 'Don't loose the wineskin until you reach home’ or, in other words, ‘keep it in your pants for a while.’”
“Actually, I’m not that fond of kids.”
I started laughing and found out, as he had, laughing and broken ribs are a bad combination.
A nurse came into the room and checked us over, commented on the fact that it was obvious two different people had done the taping and how Telvin had gotten the better job. “But both are functional. You're free to go,” she said, checking our names off a list. Needless to say, I was in misery by the time I got back to the house and was not alone. I learned several members of the team were more severely injured than I. Two had had to be hospitalized.
Apparently someone forgot to hand the police spokesman his script for the RBN broadcast because when the reporter said, “I understand there was another attack on innocent protestors at OCU today and the police made arrests,” he responded by saying, “I don't know the source of your information, but there was no attack on ‘innocent protestors’. The OCU aquatics team was attacked as its members left the gym after practice. They were viciously attacked by students from other schools, principally Freedom University in Lynchburg and Regency here, who were trespassing on OCU campus. I do not know how many more will be arrested, but we collected IDs and further action is forthcoming ...”
“Thank you and now back to the studio,” the reporter quickly interrupted.
Other TV stations and the national news allowed the police to state the full story. One station even went so far as to scroll the names of the colleges and universities represented by those arrested.
The university canceled the contract for use of the stadium, but it was immediately challenged in court. Aquatics meets for the rest of the season were canceled as there were too few uninjured to compete. When that announcement had to be made, members of the team were livid, but knew it was the only possible decision. The governor called out National Guard units and they were stationed at the entrances to the campus, but campus police were still arresting people for trespassing when random checks found they did not have a student ID. Most gave false names, but panicked when told they could not be released since they did not exist. When they gave their real names they were given an additional charge of giving the police false information. Irate parents soon descended upon the magistrate’s office only to become more irate when they were told they would have to await their turn to arrange bail for their sons and daughters. More than one accused the police and magistrate of 'caving into the gay agenda' and most expressed the opinion that 'the fags got what they deserved.'
Calm seemed to return to the campus, but no-one was fooled. A judge ruled the university had to honor the contract for use of the stadium. Old Jerry immediately started a new campaign for money to continue the legal offensive against “gays, lesbians, child molesters and seducers of young, confused men.” He continued his rant, saying, “Christians, unite! Put your money where your mouth is as we fight this plague sweeping our university, our state and our nation! The gay steamroller is moving and we must stop it!”
RBN continued to present the events at OCU, claiming to be the righteous being attacked by hell-bound gays. They once again posted the names of aquatics team as 'members of one of the many gay organizations at OCU,' I had had enough as had the entire team.
In what might have been a wise move, classes were canceled Monday, but aquatics team members passed the word and we all gathered in the student center to lay out a plan of action. The university found a more sensible judge who still wouldn't agree to void the contract with RBN and affiliates, but did issue a restraining order forbidding anyone attending the rally to be anywhere on the campus except the walk leading to the stadium from a major parking lot or to park anywhere on campus other than in that lot. When the lot was full, the sponsors would have to have shuttle buses running from church parking lots to the stadium walk.
With the restraining order in place, a former member of the aquatics team, who was now a teaching assistant in the law school, asked one of the professors what could be done about the publishing of the names of the aquatics team members. He drew up a number of things we could do, individually and collectively. When asked what effect some of us being gay would have on any law suit, he said none. So several of us filed law suits. The college was also filing numerous lawsuits.
All the members of the aquatics team who were injured filed personal injury law suits against RBN and all those in the group who could be identified. Someone sent copies of the posters from Freedom University calling for a mass demonstration. They had slogans such as 'God hates fags,' the now famous 'He shall be stoned to death,' the latter in spite of the fact that the verse was misquoted. All bore a stamp approving them for posting by a dean's office. Based on that, law suits were filed against Freedom University. All in all, law suits amounting to millions were filed. More material for good old Jerry and Pat to use to say 'send money.' Well, it was all up to the lawyers.
The rally was to begin at 3:30 in the afternoon Sunday. The day dawned bright and clear. Jayden, Jeremy and I went to St. Andrew's and before the deacon dismissed us, I was in severe pain. Jayden drove us home and put me to bed with a pain pill which knocked me out. When I awoke, Jayden had left a note that he and Jeremy were going to the library and would be back shortly. I was still in a great deal of pain and checked to see when I could take another pain pill. It would be an hour, so I got as comfortable as I could in the recliner and turned on the TV.
RBN was, of course, broadcasting the rally, but so was another channel, one which was not swayed by Good Old Jerry and his outfit or Self Righteous Pat, who had two reporters at the rally, one in the in the stadium and another at the beginning of the walk leading to the stadium. The latter said people had been arriving since 1:30 and were still coming. The one stationed in the stadium reported that a gospel band and song leaders were getting the crowd pretty worked up, but nothing had officially started. At 3:00 Jayden still had not shown up and I was uneasy. The show at the stadium finally officially opened at 3:30 and the hate started pouring out as did ignorance. I still wanted someone to explain to me how, for example, my and Jayden’s getting married threatened traditional marriage or how traditional marriage was such a godly institution when half of those so married ended in divorce court—among church goers as among us 'sinners.'
I took a pain pill and settled down to watch the show. After two collections and two hours, the people in the stadium were well worked up and the show ended. The attitude of those leaving the stadium was ‘restraining order be damned.’ People rushed out of the stadium and quickly spread across the campus. Spray cans were in abundance and pejorative names and slogans were soon tagged on many of the campus building. Someone, apparently from OCU, must have identified the small wooden building housing the LGBT campus group's headquarters and it was, literally, demolished.
The National Guard finally arrived and started arresting people as did the campus and city police. They could not to get control of the crowd until they finally started using tear gas. Later several elderly women were on the 750 Club claiming they had to be hospitalized because of the tear gas, but no record could be found supporting their allegations.
When another hour came and went, I was in excruciating pain and Jayden had still not returned. I was beside myself. I was ready to call the police when the phone rang. Before I picked it up, I knew something was wrong.
“I am Chaplain Richard Gare at Santara Norfolk General Hospital. You are listed as the person to contact in case of an emergency involving Mr. Jayden Fulton.”
“Has something happened to Jayden?”
“I am afraid so. Apparently he and Mr. Jeremy Willoughby were attacked when returning from the library at OCU this afternoon. They were discovered about half an hour ago and rushed to Santara Norfolk General Hospital. Mr. Fulton has suffered a serious head injury, has internal bleeding and is in surgery at the moment. Do you know Mr. Willoughby?”
“He is my best friend.”
“Would you call his parents? I could do that, but if you know the family, perhaps you would be best.”
“What should I tell them?”
“The doctors will be able to go into greater detail about both young men, but Mr. Willoughby has a broken leg and arm, also a head injury. There was no evidence of internal bleeding. He is being treated by the orthopedic team. He is in a critical, but stable condition.”
“Thank you, Chaplain. I will be there as soon as I can after calling the Willoughbys.”
“Ask for me if you wish.”
I hung up the phone and was suddenly feeling faint. I rushed to the bathroom where I threw up, rinsed my mouth and drank a glass of water and was feeling better. I called Sergeant Major. I had always wondered about Sergeant Major's seeming lack of an army vocabulary. I needn't have. If words could kill, there would not have been a fundamentalist in Virginia or the surrounding states. He finally said he would hit the road immediately and I urged him to call my dads and have one of them drive him. He promised he would. Mrs. Willoughby's arthritis had advanced to the point she was essentially wheelchair-bound and could not stand the trip. I called Levi's place and asked him to come over. That done, I knocked on Penny's door and said, “Penny, it's Derek.”
“Give me a minute. I'm not decent.”
“When you get decent, come on out to the kitchen.”
So far I was hanging on, but when Levi and Telvin walked in, I lost it. Levi wrapped his arms around me and held me close, saying nothing. I had almost gotten control of myself when Penny walked in and I lost it again. When I finally regained a semblance of control I said, “I'm sorry. Jeremy and Jayden are in the trauma center in Santara Norfolk. Apparently they had gone to the library and were attacked on their way back. Both have head injuries and broken arms. Jeremy has a broken leg as well. They were in surgery when the chaplain called. That's all I know. I called Sergeant Major and he will get one of my dads to drive him down. I need someone to drive me to the hospital. Telvin, I suspect you are in as much pain as I am but, Levi, could you or Penny drive me?”
“I don't think Penny is in any shape to drive you,” Levi said.
“Well, you're probably right, but I am going,” she said.
“So am I,” Telvin said.
I quickly took another pain pill as I had never hurt the way I was hurting right then. How much was caused by my emotional state and how much was physical I couldn't guess. As soon as I swallowed the pill, we headed for the hospital. Fifteen minutes later we had parked and gone into the hospital where I asked for Chaplain Gare. He appeared in a few minutes and when he did, I stepped forward and said, “Chaplain, Derek Wilson. This is Miss Penny Alexander, Jeremy Willoughby's fiancé—I thought a closer relationship than girlfriend might be advisable—Telvin Saitov and Levi Epstein, friends. I have called Sergeant Major Willoughby and he is on his way from Stanton. It's between a three-and-a-half and four-hour drive ordinarily.”
“I have nothing further to report. Both men are still in surgery. I will be happy to keep you posted as more information becomes available. None of you will be able to see either of them, I'm afraid, as visitors will be restricted to family members only.”
“I certainly will as I am legally the next of kin.”
“You are half-brothers or what?”
“Legally, I am the next of kin. Besides, he is my husband.”
I could see an immediate change come over the chaplain. “Maybe in Massachusetts or wherever you had some ceremony, but not in Virginia. That does explain why the two were attacked since I assume they were known fags.”
I am sure the only thing that kept me from decking him was my pain, but Levi didn't have broken ribs. Penny quickly stepped between the two and told the chaplain, “You better leave in a hurry and send a Christian or Jewish chaplain to us. I don't know what you claim to be, but you are neither.”
The man quickly vanished. I didn't know who else was available, but I did know one priest who would be there. I flipped open my phone and called Fr. Edwards. When he answered the phone, I told him the situation and he said he would be with us in twenty minutes and was.
When he arrived, I told him how we had been treated by Chaplain Gare and I think he would have decked him had he been there. He walked down the hall to the nurses' desk, talked briefly with the nurse and was soon joined by another man and the two walked back to where we were waiting. “Chaplain Levinson, Derek Wilson, husband of Jayden Fulton who was brought in tonight as a result of an attack on the OCU campus, his friends Levi Epstein and Telvin Saitov, Mr. Epstein's partner and Penny Alexander, Jeremy Willoughby's girlfriend.”
“I am pleased to meet you, I just wish it was under better circumstances. I apologize for Chaplain Gare and want to talk more about that later but, first, let me see what I can find out.”
He was back in twenty minutes and said, “Mr. Willoughby has just been taken to recovery. The decision was made to go ahead with the orthopedic surgery in spite of his head injury. It isn't as severe as first believed and that is good news indeed. The break in his leg was not a simple one and it took a great deal of hardware to get the leg put back together, but bones generally heal, especially in one so young. It will, however, be a slow process.
“Mr. Fulton is still in surgery. The internal bleeding has been stopped, the surgeon is confident. Their concern now is with the head injury. It was more severe than Mr. Willoughby's. A sensor has been placed in his skull to monitor the pressure from swelling. He is in a coma and may remain so for several days. The next seventy-two hours are critical.”
“But he will wake up.”
“Mr. Wilson, I hope and pray he will, but any damage to the brain is serious. Dr. Richardson, the neurosurgeon is very optimistic, but no-one can say with certainty what the outcome will be.”
“You mean he may never wake up?” I asked.
“I'm sorry, but that's exactly what I mean.”
I felt faint and started swaying on my feet. Fr. Edwards grabbed me around my waist and the pain from my ribs and bruises was too much and I passed out. When I came to, I was in a hospital bed. “What's going on?” I asked.
“Derek, you had an injury missed when you were brought in earlier,” Levi said. “You are awaiting an MRI, CAT scan or something. Dr. Estaban, who is caring for you, suspects a ruptured spleen. Probably nothing that time and rest won't take care of but, as a precaution, you'll be here for a while.”
“Any more news?”
“No, Jeremy is still listed as critical, but stable. Jayden hasn’t been upgraded to ‘but stable’ yet.”
A woman walked in carrying a tray with syringe and vial. “Mr. Wilson, I am Francine, one of your nurses. I will be injecting a drug in your IV to let you get some sleep.”
“Can it wait? What time is it?”
“Could you wait just a while longer? My dad should be here within the hour.”
“Sure and you do have a pump to help control your pain. If you'll push the button—it's hanging from your bed rail—it will deliver a dose. You may go to sleep, but maybe not and you can be awakened.” I pushed the button and some of the pain went away and I did doze off. I woke up as I was being wheeled down the hall to radiology. I had some kind of scan and was wheeled back to the room where I was reconnected to the pump and promptly pushed the button. Again, I dozed off.
I awoke when someone kissed me on the forehead and when I opened my eyes I was looking into the beautiful eyes of Dad Brad. I smiled at him as tears started running down my cheeks. I heard a voice on the other side of the bed and when I turned saw Dad Sam and Mom and my tears became loud sobs and I couldn't stop. My dads were holding my hands and my mom was rubbing a foot, something she had done when I was upset as a child. When I almost had myself under control, I said, “My beautiful Navajo may never wake up! How can I live if he becomes a vegetable?” The tears started again and this time I could not get control.
My sobs made my chest throb and pushing the button didn't help. Dad Sam pushed the call button and when the nurse came, she injected something into my IV line and minutes later, the world went blank. I was sure nurses took my vital signs all night and maybe injected drugs into the IV, but I knew nothing about it. I gradually woke up at eight. Dad Sam was sound asleep in a chair in the corner of the room. Shortly after I woke up, a nurse came in to take my vitals. “I'm Katie, one of your day nurses. I need to get your vitals. Dr. Estaban will be in to see you shortly.”
“Then can I go home?”
“That will be up to him.”
Dad Sam woke up, looked over at me and asked, “How you feeling this morning, son?”
“Better. Any news from Jeremy or Jayden?”
“Not since midnight. Jeremy was showing some tiny positive signs. There is no change in Jayden's condition.”
Shortly afterward, a short, dark man came in and said, “Mr. Wilson, I am Dr. Estaban. I'm sure you wished you had not been here last night and I can certainly understand that, however, it may have saved your life. You have a ruptured spleen. Again, you were fortunate in that the rupture is small. I am hopeful with rest it will heal itself and surgery will not be required. We'll keep a careful eye on it so we can get you to the operating room should it be necessary. Do you have any questions?”
“How soon can I go home?”
“Maybe in a week to ten days. The danger is that you'll start bleeding and it will take too much time to get you into surgery from home.”
“Do you know how Jayden and Jeremy are?”
“Son, one of their doctors will be in to see you sometime this morning. You were asleep when one came last night and, as I told you, there was no change in Jayden, but Jeremy seemed to show some tiny positive signs.”
“Mr. Wilson, it is important that you rest as much as you can. I drew blood from your abdominal cavity and gave you a unit of blood. I don't think that will be necessary again but, if it is, we can handle it quickly. As I said, rest and observation are the preferred treatment and I believe, will do the job. The hope is that surgery can be avoided.”
“That is certainly my hope!”
It was just after noon when Dr. Richardson, who was in charge of Jayden's case, came in to talk to me. “Mr. Wilson, at the moment, Mr. Fulton’s condition is pretty much unchanged from last night. His vitals are strong, and while it has not started subsiding, his brain is no longer swelling and that's helpful. I am pleased that the trauma to the brain was not nearly as severe as I first thought. I just took a closer look at the scans made last night and the ones made a short time ago and found them encouraging. That doesn't mean Mr. Fulton will bounce back in no time. His recovery will be slow and will likely involve a great deal of rehabilitation therapy, but I hope he will make a complete recovery.”
“When can I see him?”
“I'm afraid I can't answer that. So far as he is concerned, you could see him now. Strange as it may seem, I don't think your doctor will allow you out of bed, so your condition dictates when you will be able to see him. Outside my specialty, but my guess would be it will be at least three days and probably more before you will be allowed up for any length of time. He is in ICU and a single visitor is allowed for fifteen minutes each hour. I have written orders allowing your dads, mom and three friends admission. They can work out who goes when. The chaplain can see him and will, but I believe Fr. Edwards is serving Mr. Fulton as chaplain. Any other questions?”
“I don't think so.”
My dads and mom discussed their situation. Sam had a week’s leave to care for a child as well as personal leave time. Mom and Brad had a few days personal leave. Sam suggested he stay in Norfolk and Mom and Brad go home. After some discussion, Brad and Mom kissed me on the forehead and left. Sam went with them to shower, pick up the car and change clothes. Brad would FedEx more clothes as soon as he got back to Stanton. Sergeant Major was also staying over and sleeping at an old army buddy's house.
Levi, Telvin and Penny came back later in the afternoon. Levi and Telvin had talked to my professors and they all assured them arrangements would be made so I could keep up with course work. Realistically, neither Jayden nor Jeremy would be well enough to get caught up and finish their courses. Levi had also contacted David, the ham radio guy, and he set up a call to Kathryn. She was, needless to say, horrified, really pissed and was ready to hop a plane for Norfolk until Levi convinced her there was nothing she could do in Norfolk she couldn't do in Arizona.
Chaplain Levinson had talked briefly with me about what Chaplain Gare had said. I'm not sure what happened, but when I asked a nurse, she said, “He is no longer on staff.”
Dr. Estaban came in after lunch the following day—you better believe I wished for the kitchen at the hospital in Cuthbert! When he started pressing on my belly, I thought I would mess my pants—if I had any on. “Ouch!”
“This causes some discomfort?” he asked as he pressed lightly on my belly.
“Hell no! I was suffering more than slight discomfort before you started. That, Doctor, hurt like hell!”
“Sorry. May not feel better to you, but it does to me. I am pleased.”
“When can I get up?”
“Depends on what you mean by 'get up.' Get out of bed and walk down the hall? It will be a while yet. Get out of bed and sit in a chair? Maybe a couple days.”
“How about sitting in a chair and being wheeled to ICU?”
“Maybe three or four days. I know you want to see Mr. Fulton as soon as possible and I think it would do both of you good, but I also want to be sure before you do it. Surgery is to be avoided ...”
I quickly said, “On that we agree, Doctor.”
Sergeant Major came by shortly after the doctor left. He had aged ten years overnight. “Derek, I have some friends in this town who have a great deal of influence. They hadn't come up with a way to get the FBI involved until I asked if one of the victims being a Navajo makes a difference. The agent we were talking to said it might. When I mentioned the fact that Jayden was a state senator's son and they found out he was an announced candidate for federal office—the stupid son-of-a-bitch never officially withdrew—they used the Navajo and federal candidate as a means to investigate. They are also offering support to the local and state police to help identify those who attacked the aquatics team as well as trying to catch those who beat Jeremy and Jayden. I want those bastards in jail for a very long time.”
“Any change in Jeremy?”
“Yeah, he's definitely making progress. He responds when I squeeze his hand, but he's still not conscious. Maybe later today. Jayden is still in ICU, but I think he will be moved shortly. I'll not shit you, Derek, he doesn't look good. The nurses tell me he's holding his own, but holding his own is not good enough. Son, I've seen a lot of horrible things in my life, but this tops them all. People who supposedly are good Christians trying to beat people to death, stone them to death.”
“Sergeant Major, some people are still throwing people to wild animals as sport. I feel like that's what the sponsors of this rally did. Unfortunately, the wild animals called themselves Christians.”
“Derek, any time one group defines itself as being the righteous and all who disagree are wicked and evil, this kind of hatred is to be expected.”
An orderly came to the room and said, “Sergeant Major Willoughby, you are wanted in the ICU.” Sergeant Major turned white and rushed out the door.
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