The first test scores were posted by student number, to preserve anonymity and confidentiality, on the bulletin board outside Dr. Young’s office. Our first examination, counting ten percent of our grade, in “Money and Banking – 101,” consisted of one hundred multiple choice questions and scored, not by percent of the total answered correctly, but right minus wrong to discourage guessing. The grade was based on a simple scale of 100 to 95-“A;” 94 to 90 –“B;” 89 to 80 –“C;” 79 to 75 – “D;” and 74 and below an “F.” This type of determining scores or grades (right minus wrong) was a bitch, especially for those freshman and sophomores in the class never experiencing this practice before. Most professors didn’t use this method of scoring, preferring to utilize and rely on the old percent of answers right. Under “right minus wrong,” if a student knew ninety of the question answers and didn’t answer the ten he or she didn’t know, then a score of ninety would be given. If, however, he or she knew ninety of them and guessed at the other ten and got them wrong, then the score would be eighty – ninety right minus ten wrong- for a low “C.” This is a real nasty type of test scoring and is guaranteed to produce a number of very low scores on the first test. Students wised up after that. Dr. Young wouldn’t be loved and cherished by his students. I, on the other hand, knew ninety-nine of the answers and didn’t answer the one I didn’t know, so I received a ninety-nine and was quite pleased with myself.
I started to walk away after viewing the scores, when a familiar voice hailed me. “Lee, could you step into my office; I’d like to discuss your test score with you.”
I ignored the request and continued walking down the hall. The rapid slapping sound of foot steps behind me warned I was about to be approached again. A hand on my right shoulder confirmed it. Turning, I found Dr. Young standing behind me.
“Oh, hi, Dr. Young,” I responded with false surprise, “what can I do for you?”
“I called your name, but evidently you didn’t hear me. You do go by the name of Lee Williams, don’t you?”
I wrinkled my eyebrows, placing a most troubled and perplexed look on my face as I slowly wagged my head from side to side, “No, Dr. Young, I’m Jason Boulton and am in your ‘Money and Banking – 101’ class. You must have me confused with someone else!”
This time it was his turn to look confused and concerned. “You don’t remember me?” he asked plaintively.
“Can’t say I’ve ever seen you before in my life until you walked into the lecture hall several weeks ago. As I said, you must have me mixed up with someone else. Now, if you’ll excuse me, please, my brother Will and his friend Charlie are waiting for me in the car. I promised them burgers and fries for supper.” With that, I smiled my most charming smile and walked away, not looking back, fearful the relief of avoiding a further confrontation betraying my lie was distinctive on my face. Oh, I remember him quite well as one of my best, considerate, and fun-filled dates in my short career.
Charlie’s arrival in our lives was a thrill for Will and a blessing for Nanna since he quickly made himself at home and never hesitated to help his Grandmother around the house or the yard. Charlie’s a quiet, reserved boy, the same age as Will, but oh so bright. Yet, when with Will, he’s patient, kind, and protective. Will seemed to bring him out of his shell and they became great mates. It wasn’t uncommon for him to walk home from the bus after school, hand-in-hand with Will, not embarrassed or concerned what others thought or said; he was with his best friend so who gives a good rats ass? When doing homework, they’d often sit side-by-side, each working on their separate assignments, yet while completing his own work, Charlie would be quietly instructing Will on completion of his. He’d often ask questions which would lead Will to the correct answer and then challenge him with more difficult problems. If Will couldn’t arrive at the answer or was incorrect, Charlie patiently and carefully helped him find it. Will never felt as though he failed when with Charlie, but was successful in almost all things he tried.
In the month and half left in the school year, I began to see a change coming in Will; he became more – engaged, I think that’s the word I want to use, and seemed to be developing his abilities, talents, and interests more. I was certain it was Charlie’s influence helping bring this about. I visited with Will’s teachers prior to the end of the school year and they confirmed what I saw at home they were also seeing in the classroom.
Charlie occupied the other twin bed in Will’s room whenever the boys decided a sleep-over was important; even on those nights when Nanna didn’t stay the night while I worked an evening date. They enjoyed each other’s companionship and were almost inseparable. Charlie was an accomplished pianist and Nanna arranged for him to study at the Conservatory at the University. After his audition there, they placed him among their advanced study students. When Charlie practiced at home, Will sat next to him on the bench, turning pages when Charlie nodded for him to do so. Charlie loved to play and Will loved to listen to the music his second best friend created!
That summer I purchased bicycles for both of the boys. I thought it might be a struggle for Will to learn to ride, but Charlie had him up and going in no time. Nanna and I sat them down with strict instructions (rules of engagement, so to speak) concerning their use of the bikes; always wear helmets, obey the traffic rules for bicycles, stay in the neighborhood, and always, always let one of us know when they were going for a ride. They promised (“cross my heart and hope to die”) and were true to their word.
One hot, late, June morning, Nanna and I were sitting in the kitchen drinking iced tea, visiting, but we hesitated in our own conversation as we could hear young voices, soft, whispering, plotting, carefully making their way to the kitchen. We waited expectantly and soon both Will and Charlie appeared, hand in hand, in the doorway leading from the dining room. Will was sort of hanging back, letting Charlie take the lead, or shield him whichever might be the case, as they approached the table.
“Nanna and Uncle Jay,” Charlie began, “could Will and I ride the city bus to the public swimming pool this afternoon to go swimming?”
I inhaled deeply, wondering what my reasoned response would be rather than the emotional one. After the experience Will and I had at the pool, he really didn’t feel comfortable there, preferring the university pool on open swim days, where he absolutely thrived in the water, swimming quite well.
Charlie continued before I could utter a word, “Will and I talked it over and he told me what happened at the pool before, but I promised him I wouldn’t let anything happen to him.”
I looked at Will and his big, doe eyes looked back at me, waiting for my response.
“Do you want to go, Will?”
He nodded his head slowly up and down and gripped Charlie’s hand even tighter.
“Do you promise to do as Charlie asks and stay close to him?”
The head nodded again and a small smile began appearing on his face. I looked at Nanna, seeking some guidance or some sign of approval or disapproval, but she sat quietly, observing the interaction taking place.
“Uncle Jay,” Charlie announced, “I’d never ever let anyone hurt Will, ever. I’ll always watch out for him!”
I believed him and trusted him. They were both eleven years old and most eleven year olds go to the pool, most riding their bikes or the city bus, but Will wasn’t just an ordinary eleven year old; of course, neither was Charlie.
“If Nanna agrees, then you may go,” I finally decided.
She nodded her approval and we had two very excited and chattering boys in the kitchen.
They carefully packed their duffels with towels, swimming suits, soap and shampoo. Nanna and I watched from the porch as they walked to the bus stop, Charlie clasping Will’s hand. To say I was nervous and concerned was an understatement, until Nanna, patting my arm said softly, “Charlie won’t let anything happen; remember he’s a military brat and has been stationed all over Europe and the United States. He knows how to handle himself.” I know she was being reassuring, but it didn’t lessen my fears as I waited for their return later on in the afternoon.
As the time neared for the city bus to return the boys to the corner after swimming, I stood, rather impatiently, on the porch where I could see the bus stop at the end of our block. I began casting anxious glances as the bus seemed later than I expected it to be, but it finally did appear, probably no more than five minutes off schedule. I watched as first Charlie, then Will holding Charlie’s hand, debussed and started down the sidewalk. All four feet were making progress toward the house, but two of those feet were skipping, accompanied by giggling, laughing and, by the way his lips were moving, chattering as only a completely satisfied, not so timid Will, could be. Charlie just grinned back, nodded and answered every now and again, not trying to restrain his companion’s exuberance, but relishing and participating in it.
Reaching the porch, they both began jabbering at once, telling me what great fun they had and how everything was just perfect; that Will wasn’t afraid of the changing room anymore and how he jumped off of the diving board while Charlie tread water close by, acting as a safety net if Will needed him. Will could swim like a fish, but was fearful of the diving board, at least until today!
I took their duffels, unloaded their wet suits and towels, told them to head for the living room while I hung up the wet duds, and I’d bring them a plate of cookies and chocolate milk for a treat. The boys were sitting side-by-side on the couch still giggling and laughing, remembering the good time they had. I placed the cookies and their milk on the coffee table. They attacked their treats as only hungry boys can as I retreated to the kitchen to give Nanna a call to let her know they were home safe and sound. As I reached for the phone, she gave a knock and walked in the kitchen outside door.
“How did it go?” she inquired.
“They had a blast and are feasting on cookies and chocolate milk right now.”
“See, Jay,” she teased, “I told you Charlie wouldn’t let anything happen to Will. Charlie’s never had a friend like him, in fact, no friends, so he’ll do everything he can to protect him. It’s really good for Charlie.”
“and Will,” I added as almost an afterthought.
It was strangely quiet as we ventured toward the living room and the two previously active and hungry boys; no noises of celebration over their exciting day coming forth. One glance at the couch explained it all. Both boys were sound asleep, just plain tuckered out it would seem. Charlie, leaning up against a pillow, Will cuddled up beside him, head resting on Charlie’s chest, was held in place by the protective arm of Charlie. Nanna covered them with a light blanket and we made our way back to the kitchen for a nice, cold, relaxing afternoon cocktail. The next day, I bought two season pool passes and two bus rider passes.
There was no doubt in my mind concerning Charlie’s role as Will’s “Lord Protector” when school started again in the fall. Although they were in the same grade, Will had special teachers in reading, math, science, and social science but was integrated into the regular classrooms for art, music, and physical education. Fortunately, he and Charlie had those classes together.
The third day of school, toward the end of the school day, I received a call from the principal’s office to come to the school office as soon as I could. In the background, I could hear Will, angry, crying, fearful. I was heading toward the car when Nanna appeared, joining me.
“I’m going with you,” she announced, “I received the same call. I wonder what in hell the boys have been up too.”
Parking the car in the school’s visitor parking lot, we hustled our asses to the principal’s outer office. Standing in one corner, a very defiant and angry Will, facing his classroom teacher and a pot-bellied man in gym shorts, tee-shirt, and a whistle hanging around his neck, who I assumed was the physical education teacher. Sitting on a chair across the room from this group was a bigger, bulkier boy holding a cold cloth on a very bloody nose and an ice pack on his crotch. There was no sign of Charlie! I was dumbfounded – Will is ordinarily so shy and timid around others, rarely speaking, much less combative; he certainly was today.
Quickly stepping into the fray, as I approached Will, I heard a voice coming from the secretary’s desk muttering “Thank God!” Wrapping my arms around my brother, I pulled his head to my chest, saying softly, “Calm down, Will, and tell me what got you into such a state.”
Pulling his head back from my chest, his black eyes snapping with anger, pointing his right index finger in an accusing and judgmental manner at the chubby teacher in shorts, and with more vocal strength than I’d ever heard emanating from him before, shouted, “HE took Charlie in THERE,” pointing now at the principal’s office door and swinging the accusing finger at the secretary, continued loudly, “and SHE won’t let me go in THERE!”
Catching his breath, he aimed the finger at the bigger boy on the chair and, again with much determination, shouted, “HE’S A NAUGHTY BOY AND SAYS BAD THINGS ABOUT PEOPLE!”
I guess that pretty well summed the situation up as far as Will was concerned.
Nanna shrugged her shoulders, saying to me, “Take care of Will and I’ll see if I can sort things out in THERE,” pointing her finger at the closed door. The secretary started to object, but Nanna pointed her own finger at her, “I’m Charlie’s grandmother and unless you want another scene here in the office, stay in your seat,” opened the door and walked in. Five minutes later, she poked her head out the door and said, “Jay, bring Will in,” and pointing at the coach, added, “you too.”
We entered and saw Charlie, sporting a black eye and looking none too pleased with the situation, seated next to Nanna. She smiled at us, motioned for us to sit down, glanced at the principal with that “keep your nose out of this for a bit,” look, and addressed Will.
“Will, honey,” she began softly, “why don’t you tell Nanna what happened in physical education class today.”
He took a deep breath, looked at me for reassurance, and replied, “Well, Nanna, the NAUGHTY BOY,” pointing the accusing digit toward the closed door leading to the outer office, “said some bad things about Charlie and me,” and stopped.
“Go on, Will,” she said encouragingly.
He hesitated and began fiddling with the hem of his gym shorts, nervous, almost embarrassed, cast his eyes up at me and said pleadingly, “Jay, do I have too?”
Quietly, I said, “Yes, Will, you do”
Again, he hesitated, but finally said softly, but not too softly, “the NAUGHTY BOY,” again pointing the finger at the outer office, “said Charlie and I were doing things to each other.”
Charlie suddenly spoke up, “What he said exactly was, “Hey, faggot; are you fucking your little retarded friend or is he fucking you?’ and I said, ‘Neither, we’re both fucking your sister but she’s pretty loose after the football team gets done with her!”
“And that’s when the NAUGHTY BOY hit Charlie in the EYE!” exclaimed a wide-eyed and affronted Will. “When the NAUGHTY BOY grabbed Charlie by the shirt to hit him again, Charlie stuck two fingers up his nose, LIKE THIS,” demonstrating with his own fingers shoved up his nostrils, “and PULLED REALLY HARD! That’s when I kicked the NAUGHTY BOY.”
“Yep,” chimed in Charlie, “a perfect punt of a pair of balls right through the old goal post- dropped him like a rock!”
Will was not to be stopped now, he was on a role! “That’s when HE,” pointing at the coach, “grabbed me from behind like that policeman did that time and I DID’NT LIKE IT, so I kicked him too.”
I looked at the coach’s shins; they were turning shades of black, blue and yellow where Will connected with his feet. I’d bet they hurt like hell!
“but,” continued Will, “Charlie made him let me go.”
“How was that, sweetheart?” Nanna asked with a sly smile on her face.
“I pulled his shorts down,” interrupted Charlie, “kind of hard to hold on to someone and pull up your pants at the same time;” Turning to the coach, he said, “you really should wear a jock strap, Coach!”
With that exchange, the principal brought the hearing to a halt, saying “Mrs. Fuller and Mr. Boulton, we just can’t tolerate fighting in school, so I’ll have to suspend Charles and William for one day, beginning tomorrow.”
“What does that mean?” questioned Will.
“It means you can’t come to school tomorrow as punishment for fighting,” I explained.
Tears welled in his eyes; he loved school and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t go!
“But that’s not fair!” he exclaimed. “The NAUGHTY BOY said the bad things and hit Charlie in the eye.”
“Oh, I’m certain,” Nanna began soothingly, but with conviction as she faced the principal, “the NAUGHTY BOY will be suspended on one day for fighting also,” and as the Principal began nodding his head in agreement, “and,” she cautioned, “one more day for the hateful, demeaning, mean, discriminatory spoken attack he made on you and Charlie. I’m assuming the school wants to avoid a civil rights violation lawsuit, won’t it?”
That brought our portion of this little episode to a halt, with reassurance from the Principal of the consequences the other lad would face. As we exited the office, the NAUGHTY BOY and his parents were on their way in.
After that, no one, and I mean no one, bothered Charlie and Will – always wary of Will’s feet and Charlie’s fingers.
Thank you for reading “Where there’s Will, There’s a Way” Chapter Eleven -–“Where there’s room in the heart, there is always room in the house.” – Moore
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or locales is entirely coincidental or used in a fictional content.
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