You pay your attention back to the sandwich ingredients in front of you and search the drawers for a clean utensil, only to find that everything is in the sink except for a spatula that is slightly crusted around the edges. Your son’s whistle-blowing sharpens in the background.
“Canaan, put the towel back on your forehead,” you command him while chipping away at the crust.
“It IS on my forehead.”
“Boy, I’m looking right at you, stop playing with me!”
“Dad, I’m not playing, it slipped off my forehead and just rolled down my face!”
“Oh right, it slipped, just like how you slipped and fell so hard that you knocked yourself unconscious at school last week. You play too much, that’s why you got that knot on your head right now.”
Pulling out the cleanest looking plate to use from the mountain of its unwashed counterparts, you stack up the peanut butter and honey sandwiches and walk over to him, plopping down at his feet. You hold the plate out as you check your account balance on your phone, waiting to feel the weight of Canaan’s hand remove his share of dinner from the plate.
You look over at him as you sit the plate in your lap to see the rag draped over his head. He catches you looking and raises an eyebrow before flaring his nostrils and staring back at you, deer-eyed. Even with his face contorted like this, he looks just like you. Sucking your teeth, you toss your phone on the bed across the room and rip the towel from his head to run it under warm water again.
Once the towel is hot, you take it back to the couch and tap his chin with your finger to tilt his head back. “Now leave it this time,” you say, pressing the towel down against his forehead with more force than needed, hoping that the towel will stick to him along with your words.
“Ah-tha-tha-tha, dad it’s too hot.”
“Oh stop, that’s too bad. You still can’t even tell me what happened to cause you to fall, so now you gotta sit there with that on.”
“I told you already, I don’t remember what happened,” he complains.
“You gotta be lying. Nothing at all? How do you not remember anything?”
“What do you keep asking me for, I was unconscious, I don’t know!”
“Hey! Watch it, it’s not my fault, don’t get mad at me.”
Bzzzt...bzzzt.....your phone vibrates on the bed.
“...you never listen to me.”
You mock him and dismiss the argument by telling him to eat his sandwich as you get up to grab your phone. It is hidden in between pages of untouched homework assignments, "Get Better Soon" cards drawn by classmates, and an expensive hospital bill. The screen lights up, showing a notification that invites you to read an email from Wardell Preparatory Academy. While you enter in your passcode, a knock at the door stops you.
Canaan, sitting on the side of the couch closest to the door, quickly scoots to the opposite end of his throne, holding his sandwich in his mouth. A trail of honey decorates the couch during his brief journey.
The knocking persists. Sliding the papers underneath the blanket on the bed, you make your way to the door, tucking anything else out of place in a hiding spot that won’t be easy for this mystery guest to find. A tall, hunching-young man with his hands stuffed deep in his pockets and an unsure, but wide smile on his face greets you once you open the door. His eyes quickly scan the room, but you gather his attention by asking what you can help him with.
“Hi, my uh, I’m sorry, I don’t think you know who I am. I’m...a new teacher at your son’s school, I’m Mr. Crosse, umm or you can call me Garin.”
“Mr. Crosse, nice to meet you, I’m Canaan’s father...Aaron.”
As you reach out slowly to shake his hand, Mr. Crosse abruptly reaches for his back pocket and pulls out a card that he hands off to you.
“It’s for Canaan, I-uh, I had my class sign it for him.”
“Thanks...he’s... asleep right now, but I’ll make sure he gets it.”
“Oh! Uh, how is he? I was also there the day it happened. The teacher that found him said that he didn’t remember what happened after he woke up from being unconscious. Everyone is still so worried about him.”
“He still doesn’t seem to remember much. The doctor said he experienced a moderate concussion, but he’s getting better. He actually just finished catching up on all of his homework, so that’s good.”
“That’s great, that’s uh-really great. He should probably be taking it easy though.”
“Yeah. Well, if that’s all I-”
“Listen, I know that the school has been saying it was an accident, but it wasn’t. Canaan was tripped by a student who’s known for bullying a lot of the kids. He likes to bring crutches to school that he claims are for when his legs get tired; it doesn’t make any sense and he has no injuries so he shouldn’t even have them. He just brings them randomly. I-uh, I saw him use his crutch to trip your son while Canaan was running to line up with the rest of his class after recess.”
Mr. Crosse’s hands climb out of his pockets and rest themselves gently on his stomach. He apologizes for not coming forward earlier, but explains that him being new means that his job could be on the line for speaking out.
“I-uh, have been thinking a lot lately and believe that it’s my responsibility to stand up for the students, which I lost track of when I started working at the academy. The principal told us all to keep quiet, but after watching what happened to your son, I had to tell you the truth, even if it means losing my job.”
“For my son...th-thank you.”
“You must be a really supportive dad, that’s rare these days. He’s lucky to have you as a role model.”
“Well, I-uh, I’ll let you go. You have a good night Aaron.”
“Garin, sorry, my real name is Clarke, not Aaron. I lied because I wasn’t sure who you were, I’m sorry about that.”
“It’s no problem, goodnight.”
You close the door. You don’t feel like much of a supportive father at all as you stare at the "Feel Better Canaan!" card in your hand. You slowly roll your head up to look at your son sitting on the couch clenching the rag in his fist. He looks confused.
“I was tripped? Jojo tripped me?”
You clear your throat, swallowing all of the tension building up inside of it before saying yes.
“But I don’t remember anything. I tried to, but I can’t.”
“That’s okay, you don’t have to remember right now, I believe you. And...I should’ve believed you from the beginning.”
You sit across from him and slide yourself over to his side, erasing the line of honey between you two on your way over.
“I’m gonna get to the bottom of this, I promise you that. I’m...I’m so sorry Canaan.”
With the towel still in his hand, he gets up from the couch and waddles towards the bed to curl up in a ball facing the wall. Your grip tightens around your phone as you bring it to your forehead and rest it there. The screen lights up again, shining brightly in your eyes. You remember that the school emailed you earlier, and sit yourself on the edge of the bed to read what it says:
To the Parents/Guardians of Canaan Arthur:
After careful investigation, it has been concluded that the incident involving your son, Canaan Arthur, showed no indication of foul play. We extend our deepest apologies to you and hope for a speedy recovery for your child after experiencing this very unfortunate accident. Thank you.
The Administration of Wardell Preparatory Academy
“With an honest heart and integrity in line, we strive to fight for every students future.”