Mavis got up early in the morning and put on the purple dress she wore on special
occasions. She counted $1.25 in small change from the piggy bank she kept on her
bedroom dresser. She put nickels, dimes and quarters in it when she returned
from the grocery. It was her ‘rainy day’ money. Today, she might need it for the
bus ride home. After dressing, she took her cane hanging on the back of a dining
room chair and headed out the door.
It took her forty minutes to walk to her sister’s trailer. Several years earlier, it
would only take her half that time. However, it was chilly outside and her arthritis
was messing with her hip. “Dammit,” she muttered to herself as she stopped, bent
over and tried to catch her breath. She looked down the road and saw the mobile
home park in the distance. “It’s terrible getting old,” she mumbled as she
straightened her crippled body and slowly shuffled down the road.
She rapped her cane on the trailer door and waited for her sister to answer. When
she didn’t appear, she hit the door four more times with the tip of her cane.
Seconds later, a man appeared and hurried down the steps as he buttoned up his
She heard her sister holler out, “Who the hell is it? Do you know what time it is?”
Mavis slowly climbed the rickety stairs and stepped into the small trailer. “I sure as
hell do, Pearl,” she spat angrily. “It’s time to bust you upside the head with this
damn cane.” She moved toward her sister, lifted the cane and took a swing at her.
Pearl jumped back and shouted, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Mavis put down her cane, stood before her sister and placed her hands on her
hips. “Do you know your boy is laid up in the hospital?”
“Yeah,” replied Pearl as she tossed some clothes off the couch and sat down. “The
cops came into the restaurant last night and told me something happened to him.”
“So why ain’t your ass down at the hospital?”
“Ain’t nothing I can do for him,” replied Pearl as she got up and went into the
kitchen to make a pot of coffee. She didn’t see the cane coming as Mavis hit her
over the head with it.
“Hey! What are you doing?” She turned and rubbed her head.
Mavis asked angrily, “Your boy is in the hospital, and you’re not even worried about
“I got a job to go to,” she replied. “I can’t be worried about him.” She put up her
hand and stopped the cane from hitting her again.
“You bitch,” spat Mavis.
Pearl finished making the coffee and took a seat at the dining room chair and
waited for it to finish running through the coffee maker. She looked up at Mavis
and said sarcastically, “If you care so much for him, why don’t you take him?”
“Fine,” replied Mavis as she reached into her purse and pulled out the consent
forms the doctor had given her for Pearl to sign. “Sign these then.”
“What is it?”
“They need your permission to fix him up.” She pulled a pen out of her pocket
book and handed it to her.
Pearl looked up and scowled, “This going to cost me anything?”
She signed it after Mavis assured her that Buddy would probably get free
treatment from the state since she didn’t make much money. Once she signed it,
Mavis walked over to the door. Before leaving, she turned and said, “Put Buddy’s
things outside. I’ll have that colored boy next door get them and bring them to my
She turned and slammed the door shut. She went to the corner and waited for a
bus to take her home to rest. Before going home, she stopped at a nearby
drugstore and faxed the forms to the hospital. She was fifty cents short, but the
clerk told her not to worry about it. Later in the afternoon, she got up and rode
the bus to the hospital to see how Buddy was doing.
* * * * *
Kyle’s father walked out of the garage and watched his son get out of the white
Focus. He started laughing as it pulled away. Kyle’s face reddened as he
approached. He knew his father was laughing at the bold red lettering on Donnie’s
car. “What?” he asked as he walked up to his father.
His father asked, “Who was that?”
“Donnie Dillon,” replied Kyle.
His father’s face lit up. “Is that Jeff Dillon’s boy?” Kyle nodded. “I play golf with
Jeff,” he said laughingly. “Got to watch that old cheat. He’ll shave a couple of
strokes off his game if we don’t pay attention.” He put his arm around Kyle’s
shoulder and led him over to his car. “How long have you known Donnie? You’ve
never talked about him.”
Kyle replied, “I just met him today. He sat down with me in the cafeteria.”
Kyle’s face reddened when his father wiggled his eyebrows and asked, “So is he..
“Dad!” squealed Kyle. “You can’t ask me questions like that. That’s...that’s... just
“What’s weird about it?” he asked. “I’d ask Melissa the same question if a boy
brought her home.”
“All right,” replied Kyle with a smile. “But it’s still weird.” He started to get in on the
passenger’s side of the car, but he stopped when his father extended his hand and
offered him the car keys.
Kyle gave him a puzzled look. “What?”
His father laughed and said, “I’m going to let you drive down to the corner.”
“What!” squealed Kyle. “You’re going to let me drive your Beemer? You won’t even
let me wash it.”
His father put his arm around his shoulder and led him around to the driver’s side
of the car. “You’re sixteen now. I figure pretty soon you’ll be wanting your license.”
Kyle nodded his head. “We’ll see about enrolling you soon in a driver’s education
Kyle stepped back and asked excitedly, “You’re joking, right?” His father laughed
and handed him the keys to his car. Kyle hesitantly took them.
“No, I’m not,” his father assured him. “Your first lesson will be today.” He opened
the door, and Kyle got inside. His hands shook as he placed them on the steering
wheel. He followed his father’s directions as he slowly drove down the long
driveway. He was careful to look both ways before he pulled out onto the street.
His heart was racing with excitement as he slowly drove down the street to the
corner. He was hoping his father would let him drive all the way to the gate, but he
said he didn’t want to push their luck. The community had a resource officer on
duty who patrolled the neighbor, and he didn’t want Kyle to get pulled over his first
As they drove toward the hospital, Kyle questioned his father about Buddy. His
father told him that he had called the police that morning, and they told him that
Buddy’s condition had improved overnight. He called the hospital, and they
informed him that Buddy was in stable condition. His father asked if he could have
visitors, and they told him that he could. He then called Kyle and asked him to go
with him to visit.
Kyle asked, “What if he doesn’t want us to see him? You’re the one who hit him
with your car. Maybe he’ll be mad about that.”
“I didn’t hit him,” insisted his father. “He stepped into my path.”
“Whatever,” replied Kyle. “We’re strangers. He may not want us to visit.” Kyle was
worried because he didn’t know Buddy, and he didn’t see why his father insisted
on visiting him. “Why do you want to do this anyway?”
A sad expression appeared on his father’s face as he said, “I just keep thinking
what if it had been you.” Kyle leaned back in his seat, turned his head toward the
window and remained silent the rest of the way to the hospital.
When they entered the hospital, Kyle trailed behind his father as he approached
the information center. A kindly lady peered over the top of her glasses and asked,
“May I help you?”
Mr. Caldwell took out a piece of paper, looked at it and asked, “We’re here to see
Buddy Ryder. Can you tell us what room he is in?”
She entered his name in the computer and then said, “We don’t have a Buddy
Ryder registered as a patient. Are you sure he’s here?”
Kyle’s father explained that he had talked to the police earlier that morning and
they informed him he was in the hospital. She looked down at the screen and
asked, “How old is the person you’re looking for?”
Mr. Caldwell looked at Kyle and said, “Sixteen or seventeen?”
She smiled and said, “We have a Garland Ryder listed. Would that be him?”
Mr. Caldwell looked over at Kyle. Kyle shrugged his shoulders.
After informing his father that the patient was sixteen, she wrote a room number
on a sheet of paper and handed it to Mr. Caldwell. He and Kyle headed to the
When they stepped out of the elevator, Kyle’s father pointed for them to go left
down the corridor. Kyle asked his father, “What room is he in?”
“3212,” he replied. The door was open when they approached. Kyle hesitantly
followed his father inside. The bed was empty. “I guess he’s not here,’ remarked
Mr. Caldwell as they turned and walked out of the room. As they headed down the
hallway, a thin, black teenager approached. He stopped suddenly when he noticed
His eyes widened as he asked Kyle, “What are you doing here?”
Mr. Caldwell said, “We’re here to see Garland.”
The boy looked over at Kyle’s father and said, “You mean Buddy? No one ever calls
Mr. Caldwell asked, “Are you a friend?”
“Yes, sir,” he replied as he extended his hand. “I’m Andre Patterson. Buddy’s my
Kyle’s father looked back at the room and asked, “How is he? He wasn’t in his
“They took him down to run some more tests,” replied Andre. He looked over at
Kyle and said, “I still don’t understand why you’re here. Buddy said you don’t say
much to him at school.”
Kyle gave Andre a puzzled look. “Buddy talks about me?”
Realizing he had probably said too much, he turned to Mr. Caldwell. “Why do you
want to see Buddy?”
Mr. Caldwell looked down the hall and noticed a small sitting area. He put his hand
on Andre’s shoulder and said, “Let’s go have a seat and talk.” Kyle trailed behind
them as his father continued to hold Andre’s shoulder. His father and Andre sat on
a hard, leather love seat while he sat on the other side of the room. He listened as
his father explained to Andre about Buddy stepping in front of his vehicle the night
His father reached out and pulled him into his chest when Andre began to cry. “I
don’t understand why this happened,” he sobbed. “Buddy don’t deserve this. He
ain’t never done nothing bad to no one.” He continued to cry for several minutes
while Mr. Caldwell held him tightly.
Finally, he gained his composure and sat back up. Kyle’s father asked, “How badly
is he hurt.” Andre explained that the car accident hadn’t caused much damage.
Most of Buddy’s injuries were the result of a concussion and the other cuts and
bruises he had received from the beating by Brad.
Mr. Caldwell asked, “What on earth was he doing over at Brad’s?” Kyle listened
attentively because he was also interested. He had heard the rumors, but he didn’t
know if they were true.
Andre looked down at the floor and said, “I’d rather not say.”
Mr. Caldwell decided not to continue questioning him about the incident. He knew
that the police would probably keep him informed about what had happened.
“What kind of tests are they running on Buddy?”
“An REM,” replied Andre.
Mr. Caldwell laughed and said, “You mean an MRI?” Andre shrugged his shoulders.
Kyle sat quietly and watched his father and Andre talk. Andre, even though small
and frail, appeared rather cute. He had light brown skin, almost like the color of an
almond. Like his own, he had very little body hair. His hair was curly, and he had
long, dark eyelashes. His eyebrows were arched, like he might have shaped them.
Kyle remembered seeing him several weeks ago at the football game that he
attended with Melissa. Then he had had a hood over his head, so he wasn’t able to
get a good look. Now, he could see just how handsome he really was.
Kyle looked over at his father and said, “I’m going to the bathroom.” He wandered
out into the hall and saw a sign that said, ‘Men.’ He walked down the hall and
entered the small bathroom. As he was relieving himself, the door opened and
Andre stepped inside. He walked over to the sink, turned on the water and began
splashing water on his face. Kyle finished, and stood back and watched Andre in
Andre stopped drying his face when he saw Kyle looking at him. “Hi,” he said timidly.
“What did you mean when you said Buddy talks about me,” asked Kyle. “We hardly
know each other.”
“I..I.. guess I got confused,” stammered Andre as he tossed the wet towel into the
trashcan. He started to leave, but Kyle gripped his arm.
“Please?” pleaded Kyle. He could tell that Andre was holding back on him. He was
curious why Buddy and he would talk about him.
Andre thought for a minute as he decided whether to tell Kyle the truth. He knew
Buddy would never say anything, so what did he have to lose. Kyle could leave the
hospital and forget about Buddy, or he could perhaps bring them together. He
took a deep breath and said, “Buddy has had a crush on you since the first day of
“What!” exclaimed Kyle. “A crush on me? Why?”
Andre giggled and said, “Yes, you. Who wouldn’t.” He stared into Kyle’s brown
eyes. “You’re cuter than he said you were.” He grabbed the door handle and
opened it. “Listen,” he said before leaving. “I’ve already said more than I should.
Buddy just likes you, okay?” Kyle stood with his mouth open as Andre hurried
from the bathroom.
When he returned to the waiting room, Andre was sitting beside his father. They
were talking as if they had known each other for years. Kyle sat down and tried to
listen to their conversation. It appeared that Andre had dropped out of school, and
he was attending a community college to get his GED certificate.
His father asked, “Why did you leave school so young?”
Andre’s mood changed to sadness. “I got bullied all the time,” he replied. “Since I’m
small and gay, the kids picked on me all the time.” Kyle was surprised by Andre’s
casual admission of his sexuality.
“Didn’t you tell the administrators what was happening?” asked Kyle’s father.
“Mr. Caldwell,” replied Andre, “No one cares about gay kids. They were happy when
I dropped out because then they didn’t have to deal with me.” Kyle’s father shook
his head and looked sadly over at his son.
He asked, “Do you have that problem, Son?”
Kyle dropped his head and muttered, “I think I can deal with it.” His father started
to say something, but just then the elevator door opened, and a frail woman got
Andre jumped to his feet and shouted, “Mavis!” Mr. Caldwell rose and helped her
over to his seat.
“Damn cold weather,” she muttered angrily as she rubbed her hip. “This arthritis is
killing me.” She looked up and asked Kyle’s father, “Who are you?” Andre quickly
introduced Kyle and his father to Mavis. She then asked, “What are you here to
see the boy for?”
She didn’t seem upset when Andre told her that it was Kyle’s father who had hit
Buddy. Mr. Caldwell said apologetically, “I’m really sorry. There was nothing I could
do. He just stepped out in front of my car.”
“Course it wasn’t your fault,” she responded. “Buddy shouldn’t have been in your
neck of the woods in the first place.”
Mr. Caldwell asked, “How is he doing?”
Mavis shrugged her shoulders. “Don’t know. Didn’t you see me just get off the
elevator?” Kyle giggled when he saw his father’s face turn red from
embarrassment. She looked over at Andre and asked, “Why you all doing out here
anyway?” Andre explained that Buddy was having tests run on him, and it would
be a while until he returned to his room.
Mavis told Andre that he was to get Buddy’s belongings when he went home and
bring them to her house. Andre became upset with the way Buddy’s mother
seemed to be unconcerned for his health. Mavis ranted for fifteen minutes about
what a deadbeat mother she was, and she related some of the things she had
done to Buddy over the years.
“Used to beat the living hell out of that boy,” she said angrily. “Poor boy did
nothing, but she’d hit him anyway.”
Mr. Caldwell asked, “Why didn’t you call children’s services?”
“And what would they have done?” Mavis asked angrily. “Written a report and left.
That’s why he always came by my house. He knew he was safe there.”
Andre asked worriedly, “What’s going to happen to him now?”
Mavis started to answer, but a nurse stepped into the room and asked, “Are you
the family of Garland Ryder?”
Andre giggled and said, “You better not let him hear you call him Garland. He’ll get
“What should I call him?
“Buddy,” replied Andre. “He likes people to call him Buddy.”
“Buddy it is then,” said the nurse as she wrote his name on the chart she was
Mavis rose slowly from her chair and asked, “Can we see the boy now?”
“Buddy just got back from having several tests run,” she explained. “He was
complaining of being in a lot of pain, so the doctor ordered a sedative. He’s asleep
“I still want to see him,” insisted Mavis as she limped past the nurse. “He’s my boy
now and I want to see him.” The nurse looked sympathetically at Mr. Caldwell. He
grabbed Mavis by the arm and helped her down the hall to Buddy’s room.
Kyle and Andre trailed behind. They stood just inside the doorway as Mavis made
her way across the room with the assistance of Mr. Caldwell. “Poor Baby,” she cried
as she leaned down and kissed him gently on the cheek. “It’s going to be okay
now,” she muttered softly as she kissed him again.
Andre started crying. He leaned over and buried his head in Kyle’s chest.
Hesitantly, Kyle put his arm around Andre and comforted him as he wept.
Go to Chapter 11