His memory was there, but it was like a jigsaw puzzle that had been dumped on the floor. A lot of it was just scattered pieces, but large chunks here and there retained their structure. He remembered Lisa’s distress; he remembered talking with Bill about what to do, and arguing with Mrs. Cobb and Jim Pollard.
He remembered the fist coming in and the feel of grating teeth. That was very clear. But the rest of the fight was a complete mystery, and he would have to wait until nearly four to get his answers because Carmen and Bill were both at school.
# # #
When Bill came in, Neil’s first question was, “Where is Carmen?”
Bill laughed, pulled up a chair, and said, “Well, thanks. I guess you are getting better. She had a conference with a parent, but she will be along in a half hour or so.”
Bill reached out and took Neil’s hand, like a father taking the hand of his son. Neil squeezed his fingers. He said, “Where is Lisa?”
“They put her in a foster home. I don’t think she will be there long. Her mother is in counseling, and I think Lisa will be able to go home in a few weeks. With Pollard out of the picture, she will be able to think of her daughter again.”
Neil said, “I don’t have a clear picture of what happened after Pollard broke my jaw. I do seem to remember jumping him and hanging on.”
“I’ll say you did. That was the only thing that saved us. He’s right down the hall now, and when he leaves it will be to head for the county jail.”
“It was the strangest thing. I was trying to get out the door to go for help when you came back to life, jumped on Pollard and dragged him down. He thrashed around like mad, but you had him in a grip that he couldn’t break.
“That’s when Judy Cobb went crazy. She had been standing there like she didn’t know what to do, but when saw him down, struggling and helpless, she started screaming curses and jumped right on him. She beat him with her fists until he shoved her off, then she hauled back and kicked him as hard as she could right in the crotch. That took the wind out of his sails.”
“She put him in the hospital?” Neil asked in awe.
“Not exactly.” Bill looked embarassed. “What she did, she got his attention and let me get to the next room. I grabbed the fire extinguisher and put a dent in his skull. That’s what put him in the hospital.”
Neil grinned, then cried out in pain. His eyes watered as he got control of himself again. “Don’t do that to me, Bill,” he said, “I’m in no condition to move my mouth.”
“So! You accused me of being a hothead. It seems you still have some steam in your boiler, too.”
“I have to admit that seeing a good friend getting beat up started my adrenaline pumping.”
You never called me that before, Neil thought.
Neil raised his hand and Bill took it without embarrassment. To change the subject, Neil asked, “How are my kids taking it?”
“Fine. Gina Wyatt came back to fill in for you. She says she misses teaching and was glad of an excuse to get back into harness.”
Neil said, “Oh.” He wasn’t sure that he liked a teacher as popular as Gina filling in for him. more tomorrow