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"Man you're on a hot streak Rick. Three goals and you're on the checking line! Finally we are starting to play as a team. Just in time, it's only taken us until the third Friday in February!"
"Hey Al, you weren't too shabby yourself. A shutout against that team is fantastic; especially since we lost 9 to 1 last time we played them. Lately you've been playing like the goalie you were 40 years ago when you were twenty!" Rick chuckled.
I heard a voice from behind us call out, "Hey, Burger, you owe a pitcher at the pub tonight. Remember, goalies have to buy the defence a pitcher when they get a shutout."
"I knew you wouldn't let me forget Bateaux. I'm not sure you earned it though; I must have stopped 40 shots. What the hell were you doing in front of me?" I said. "Hey, Rick owes one too for his hat trick."
"Yeah, thanks Burger, I forgot. Make it a Bud light LaRivierre," he said to Rick.
I can't believe it was forty years ago, that Rick and I were playing Varsity hockey together while we were going to university. That's a long way, in more ways than one, from the beer league hockey we now played. Those were our carefree days before marriages, careers and kids. Life sure takes some different turns as years go by. Now I have two girls in their late twenties, with successful business careers living an hour away in a major city in Canada. I also have a huge void in my life as a recent widower since my wife Lorraine died 2 years ago from Breast cancer.
"The beer is going to taste really good tonight at the pub. Where are you parked Rick?"
"Right beside you in the lower lot," he answered.
As we walked down the road to the lower lot with our equipment, we noticed something or someone on the 5 foot high snow bank in front of our vehicles. As we got closer we realized it was a person sitting hunched over, with the hood from their hoodie pulled up over their head.
"I hope they didn't do anything to the cars," Rick said to me with concern.
"This isn't the best night to be hanging around outside sitting on a snow bank. It's -5øC with a wind chill. A typical Canadian winter night," I answered.
"Are you waiting for someone to pick you up?" Rick called over to the person as we got closer.
When he got no response I moved closer and saw it was a young boy, who was shivering, with his arms wrapped around himself trying to keep warm. I heard what I thought was sobbing and asked him if he was alright, which once again was met with silence.
"You don't look so good son," I said, as I put down my equipment. "Why don't you come down off the snow bank and sit in my SUV? I'll start it and turn up the heat to get you warm. I can call your mom or dad on my cell phone, if you tell me what number to call."
Now the sobbing got louder, and he shook his head no. Both Rick and I looked at each other and realized we probably weren't going to make it to the Pub tonight.
"At least come down from there and talk to us," Rick said. "We aren't going to leave you out here in this weather." When he didn't get a response, he said, "You can come down voluntarily or both of us will come up there and get you. It's your choice."
Slowly the boy slid down from the bank and tried to walk between the front of my SUV and the bank to get away. It was clear that he was not only shivering but injured, as he had a very noticeable limp and was hunched over as he tried to scoot away.
"He's hurt Rick, we can't let him leave. You go get him and I'll start the SUV, and get the heat going," I said.
I'm not sure how Rick managed to get him to come back, but I saw them come around the front of the SUV with Rick's arm around his shoulders guiding him to the passenger door. He was still hunched over and visibly upset. Rick helped him into the vehicle and I could now clearly see his facial features. His right eye was almost closed and he had a very large welt on his cheek and he had a split lower lip. He quickly doubled over in pain and once again resumed sobbing.
"Son, what happened?" I said.
After a long silence, I asked, "Where does it hurt?"
"We need to get him to emergency," Rick said.
"NO! I'm not going to any fucking hospital! My old lady's creepy boyfriend will find me and kill me!" the boy yelled. "Let me out of the car!"
"Ok calm down, son," I said, grabbing hold of both his arms and firmly placing him back into the seat.
"Why don't we take him to my townhouse Rick, and call Scott and see if he's home?"
Scott Rash was my neighbour and my family physician. He was also one of my former students that I taught many years ago in my high school teaching career. Rick, Scott and I were golfing buddies at the Dundolk Golf and Country Club.
"Would you let us take you to my place and get you some medical attention?" I asked the boy. "Scott is Dr. Rash, and he's one of our friends. I'm sure he's home tonight, and he can come over and have a look at you."
After a few moments, the young man reluctantly nodded his head yes and slumped forward in the seat and gasped, as another wave of pain from his chest area overtook him.
"I'll follow you over," Rick said. "You get going and I'll call him on my cell."
Rick was pulling into my driveway as I was opening the passenger to door to get our 'patient' out of the SUV. He came into the garage and helped me get the young fellow through the laundry room door, and I hit the button on the wall to close the automatic garage opener.
"Scott will be over in about 20 minutes. He was just leaving the squash court and is on his way home. He said it's going to cost you a Stella though," Rick chuckled.
Scott was a top ranked Squash player in Canada when he was in his teens, but now, because of his medical career he just played recreationally and for fun.
We managed to get the young man into the living room and laid him on his side on the couch. We pulled his hood back and gasped as we surveyed more damage to his young body. There was a trail of dried blood coming out of his right ear in addition to the black eye, split lip and swollen cheek. We noticed that his clothing was pretty tattered, as were the sneakers that we managed to gently remove from his feet in the laundry room. He was still holding his chest area and softly moaning as he was in a considerable amount of pain.
Now that I could see the young fellow in better light, I noticed he was probably about 12 or 13 years old, and if I was correct, small for his age, with long shaggy sandy blond hair. His eyes, or should I say his left eye (his right was almost completely closed now) was a deep blue. I could see that he was a very handsome young man despite the disfiguring injuries to his head. 'How could someone do this to a kid?' I thought.
"What's your name son?" I asked getting no response.
"We don't want to have to tell Dr. Rash your name is Toronto Maple Leafs," Rick teased, making an obvious reference to the logo on the front of his hoodie.
"Sean," the boy replied.
"Sean Maple Leafs?" I asked, trying to continue lightening up the atmosphere.
"McDonagh," he curtly replied.
"How old are you son?" Rick asked.
"13," he whispered.
Just then the doorbell rang and in walked Scott with his medical bag. Scott was a frequent visitor, and never bothered waiting for me to open the door if it's not locked. He usually then beats a path to the fridge to get a cold Stella Artois, but because of the gravity of the situation joined us in the living room.
"Hi sport," he said to Sean as he sat on the edge of the couch next to him. "Looks like you're not having a very good day."
He turned to Rick and I and said, "Let's get him upstairs to one of your bedrooms so I can examine him."
We managed to get him up to one of my spare bedrooms and laid him down on the bed. Scott asked us to leave the room to provide some privacy to the young man as he examined him. Rick and I went down to the kitchen and got ourselves two Stellas and sat at the island breakfast bar. I got my portable phone and dialed a number. While I was waiting for someone to pick up on the other end Rick asked, "Who are you calling?"
I didn't have time to answer him, but instead began my conversation to my niece on the other end.
"Hi Katharine, it's Uncle Alan. Sorry for calling at such a late hour, but I've got a bit of an emergency. Rick and I seem to have acquired a stray outside the rink tonight and I need your help."
Once I explained that the stray wasn't an animal, but a young boy, we got down to business. My niece was a case manager at CAS (Children's Aid Society) which is one of the major agencies responsible for the welfare of children in Canada. I filled her in on his physical condition, and listened to her many concerns about me 'harbouring' a young male runaway, and all the legal doodoo I could get into. I told her that Dr. Scott, as he's affectionately know at CAS, was examining him as we spoke because the young man refused to go to emergency and that he would file an official report on Monday.
"By the way Uncle Alan, what's the kid's name?" she asked.
"He says his name is Sean McDonagh, but I don't know if that's a fib or not. It beats calling him Toronto Maple Leafs, which is what Rick threatened to call him."
I thought that would require some explanation, but instead there was a deep sigh on the other end of the line.
"Is he hurt badly?" she almost whispered.
I was taken aback, but replied, "Why? Do you know him?"
"Everyone in our office knows him and what can be loosely called his family. Is it one of his mother's boyfriends? Shit, I knew this was going to happen again, but there is only so much we can do. The system stinks." Katharine angrily replied.
Since it was Friday evening, and her boss wouldn't appreciate being called at this hour, she asked if I would keep him overnight and she would contact him tomorrow morning. In the meantime she said she would authorize an emergency foster placement certificate for me and come up at 10 the next morning to see us.
As I hung up, I heard Scott coming down the stairs. He walked into the kitchen with an uncharacteristic serious look on his face. The last time I had seen his professional persona was 3 years ago when he helped me decide on my therapy for my Prostate Cancer.
"What's the verdict Scott?" Rick asked.
"I definitely need a Stella," Scott said as he closed the fridge and opened the bottle.
After a very long swig, he sat down and gave a big sigh.
"He's been banged around pretty good, but I don't think there is any permanent damage....at least from this beating. This boy has some obvious scars from past physical abuse. Thank goodness there doesn't appear to be any sexual abuse that I can see, but I need to examine him more thoroughly next week. I want to see him first thing Monday morning in my office. I gave him a shot of a mild pain killer and took some blood and a urine sample, which he wasn't too happy about. He's resting upstairs now. I'll give you a prescription for some pain killers to hold him over the weekend, and a requisition for some x-rays and some more blood work and urine sample. Get the x-rays done before you come up to the office and they should be ready before I'm finished with his appointment," he said.
He related the findings of his examine, that the facial damage would respond to some ice packs as would his sore ribs and sprained ankle. He had cleaned up his split lip, and he was also sure that the blood from his ear was from a cut on the external portion of the ear and not from internal head trauma. He was a little concerned about the reddish tinge to the urine sample he took, but he was sure his condition could be managed with the drug, some TLC from me and that going to the emergency department wouldn't be necessary, considering his reluctance to go.
I told him I had contacted Katharine, and he knew her well. Scott dealt with a lot of CAS youth through his work at a Pediatric clinic he worked at. He said to have her phone him tomorrow morning and he would give a verbal report to her, with a more comprehensive written report on Monday after Sean's appointment.
Scott finished his beer and said, "Watch him closely over the weekend, and if he shows any signs of distress, take him into emerg. Hopefully that won't happen, but you never know. I hope you can get more information out of him than I could. About the only thing I got from him was the fact that he was 13 years old. He wouldn't tell me anything about what happened though. Be gentle with him, he's a very frightened kid and is exhibiting signs of mild shock. Oh, and he's also very lucky you found him. I remember how patient and caring you were in the classroom, which is what he really needs now more than anything."
"I'll do my best Scott," I said trying to mask my emotions.
"I think you should get him into a nice warm shower before he gets too sleepy from the meds I gave him. He's pretty ripe and still cold. I don't think he's bathed for a few days and I'm also guessing he's hungry," Scott said, as we walked to the door.