Chapter 5 – Hudson School
BY SK FIGLER
(Copyright 2020, SK Figler)
I have poison ivy. I got it in the woods chasing after Kirk and Mr. Shapiro’s sixth-graders. It itches like crazy and my eyes itch and burn at the same time, but I can’t get to them because they’re covered with pads and tape. Every hour a nurse pulls off the tape and washes out my eyes and whole face with stuff that burns. I try not to show it hurts, but the one with red hair can tell, because she always says, “Serves you right.” One time I asked her why it serves me right. All she said was, “Boys!”
The nurse washes the burning stuff off my face, she takes cotton and pats cool goo on my face and then puts on a new pad and tapes it down. She does the same on the other parts that have poison ivy, my neck and hands and arms and my ankles. Takes off the old stuff, put on the burny stuff, then the cool goo, then new pads. But the cool goo doesn’t stay cool. Soon it’s itching and burning again. Sometimes the red-headed nurse sings, “You got it bad and that ain’t good.” Once she said, “Honey, you’re just lucky you didn’t get it on your wee-wee or your bungy hole. Me, too.”
“Why would you get poison ivy?” I say through the mouth-hole in the pad.
She laughs real high. “No, Sweetiepie, I’m glad you didn’t get it there, because then I’d have to. . . .you know.”
I nod to show her I understand, because I wouldn’t want to touch anyone’s things.
Before she leaves she rubs my hair like I’m a little kid. The last time she came by she kissed my lips before leaving. Nobody’s ever done that before. I think she did that. It was still night time because everything was quiet and I might have been dreaming.
I hear the door open slowly and it’s day because the noise from the hall is loud, then it gets quiet again when the door closes. I just had my bandages changed a little while ago. I feel someone in the room who isn’t doing anything or moving around. It doesn’t feel like a doctor or a nurse. The person comes closer, trying not to make a sound. I would feel around if my hands weren’t wrapped up. It seems like a man, a different smell. Probably Father, angry that I messed up again.
“Are you awake?” It’s not Father. “Jake? If you’re awake, sing the Hudson School fight song.” It’s Dr. Israel.
“I don’t know the song.”
“Well, that’s all right,” he says. “Hudson School doesn’t have a fight song. Not even an alma mater song. I’ll have to do something about that.” I’m glad it’s Dr. Israel.
I hear scraping on the floor. It stops next to my bed. Dr. Israel moans as he sits. A lot of grown-ups moan when they sit and stand. “A fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into, Stanley.” He says it like he’s Ollie in one of their Laurel and Hardy movies. A spot on my arm flames up and itches, then a spot on my ankle. I can’t get to them because of the big bandages, so I wriggle around. I probably look like a worm.
“Where?” he says.
“My right ankle. The outside part.”
He moves the bandages around a little. It helps a little.
“I know right now you don’t feel lucky, Jake, but you are. Very lucky. David Dolan got some nasty burns when the fire flared up. He’s had to leave school. So did Sammy Pollack, not as bad as David, but bad enough. His mom and dad don’t want him back at Hudson School.”
I think I know what’s coming, but I don’t say anything.
“We’ve had to let Mr. Shapiro go. I’m sure you can see why. Actually, you did see why, along with the sixth-graders who went along.” My face itches bad. All I can do is roll my head side to side.
“The sixth-graders really liked Mr. Shapiro. Did you like him? I mean, do you like him? He’s not dead, just gone from Hudson School.”
“He was okay.” Dr. Israel waits, sitting there for what feels like a long time, so I say, “He wasn’t very smart.”
“From the mouths of babes,” he says. “No, sorry, didn’t mean to call you a baby, Jake. More concerned, actually, that you’re too grown-up.”
Here it comes. “So, Jake, what were you doing out in the woods at night with a group of boys older than you?”
I could say that I was invited, but he’d want to know who invited me. I could say it was Mr. Shapiro, but even though he’s already been punished, they might do worse to him. Also, they might ask him, then they’d think I was a liar, which I would be. I don’t want to tell them the truth, because then I’ll have to watch out for Kirk the rest of the year.
“A noise woke me up, so I checked it out. A group of sixth-graders were downstairs, so I decided to follow them. That’s why I didn’t take a flashlight. I didn’t want them to see me.”
“So, it was simple curiosity spiced with bad judgment?”
“You are a precocious young fellow, Jacob Braun.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“Depends,” says Dr. Israel. I wish I could see his face.
“Chaz Rosewall says Kirk was in your room. Says Kirk told him to shut up if he knew what was good for him.”
“Chaz gets nightmares.” Dr. Israel doesn’t say anything. I hope that’s the end of it. I hear him sigh the way grown-ups do when they give up.
“Your mother will be here tomorrow, all the way from Florida. I imagine she’ll tell the doctors what to do with you. Your father apparently is too busy to see you. Which, I’m beginning to think, is good, as your mother doesn’t want your father anywhere near you. Her words.”
“I know,” I say. “What about Henry? Can I see him? I mean…”
“You wouldn’t want to be scaring the little guy, would you?”
“Right,” I say.