Tabitha lay on the neatly-made bed within her tiny, orderly room and stared blankly up at the ceiling, her healthy tangle of reddish-orange hair strewn across her pillow. She was feeling light-headed from skipping dinner, her hand ached in a dull way, and the codeine tablet she’d taken for the pain made her brain feel fuzzy. More than anything else, though, she felt thoroughly lost, despondent and directionless.
Ashlee Taylor. Try as she might, she couldn’t conjure a face to associate with that name—honestly, she wouldn’t have remembered the name at all if not for her father reminding her. The girl had been an early childhood friend, and little more than a vague impression of her remained after forty-some years. I think she must have been from… fifth or sixth grade?
The incident with the trampoline happened more than four decades ago—but, she wasn’t so sure she could chalk up her lapse in memory entirely to the passage of time.
More likely, I just didn’t want to think about it, Tabitha thought, lifting her new cast up into the air and straightening her arm, trying to find a balance point where it took as little effort as possible to maintain it up. The thing was awkward and heavy, but keeping it elevated seemed to lessen the throbbing sensation. For the past few hours, it felt like her hand and wrist were so swollen up they were straining against the confines of the cast.
I was ashamed, so I tried to never think about it, Tabitha listlessly stared at the cast. Eventually, over the years, I ACTUALLY started to forget, started to lose the finer details of it. But, deep down, I knew. I kept quiet when a friend was being abused, because I was scared for myself—and no matter how much I put it out of my mind, it was always there, deep down there inside of me. Shaping my life.
As a writer, she couldn’t be any more familiar with character flaws—but, applying that familiarity to herself as a person? That was the work of a counselor, a therapist, maybe a psychologist. She knew by now that throughout life, people would do anything and everything to overlook their own personal shortcomings. It was easier to justify themselves as the victim, or project their flaws onto others, to stonewall themselves into denial, or make any number of excuses.
“Tabitha?” Mrs. Moore’s voice called softly through the door. “One of your friends is on the phone for you—an Elena? Are you okay to talk right now?”
“Yes, Mother,” Tabitha gingerly lowered her arm and twisted to sit up with her feet over the side of her bed. “Thank you, I’ll speak with her now.”
The door opened, and her mother stepped inside with the phone. The heavyset woman was wearing a sad, almost timid expression as she offered the cordless handset to her daughter. It seemed like she couldn’t help but send glances towards Tabitha’s light blue cast, and Tabitha felt an inexplicable urge to hide it, or cover it up somehow.
“You’re... talking like that again,” Mrs. Moore said.
“Yes. I know,” Tabitha squeezed her eyes shut in a grimace of frustration and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. It just—it helps, it keeps everything at some distance. I know it’s stupid, but I don’t want to be real right now. I don’t have the energy, I-I just—I’m just not up for it.”
“Okay,” Mrs. Moore nodded. “Here for you, if you ever want to talk. About anything.”
“Thanks, Mom.” Tabitha watched her mother carefully close the bedroom door, and then slowly hunched forward with her elbows on her knees, cradling the phone against her ear. “Hello?”
“Hi, Tabitha? It’s Elena,” Her friend said. “Sorry, I found your number in the phone book. Just found out about what happened from Carrie earlier—are you okay? What really happened?”
I’m fine, Tabitha almost said, but her throat seized up again and her eyes watered. She wasn’t exactly sure why her first instinct was to lie, or why she’d wanted to hide the cast from her mother’s sight. After all, the vulnerability she was feeling right now didn’t have much at all to do with her injury.
“I am,” Tabitha let out an unsteady breath, “not okay. At all. But, I’m trying. I’m… I’m going to figure this out.”
“Tabitha, I-I think it might be my fault,” Elena blurted out. “Like, this was pushback. Yesterday and today I got into it with a few people—everyone was talking bad about you, and like, all of it was just—this completely fabricated bullshit. I got in a few arguments, I defended you, but. I didn’t think they’d ever go this far! Tabitha, I’m so sorry! Everything that’s going on, what they’re doing, it’s all just so totally, completely out of line!”
“Nothing was your fault,” Tabitha felt herself smile. Elena spoke up for me? That feels… weird and surreal and kind of amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever had a girl like her on my side.
“Do you even know Chris Thompson at all?” Elena asked.
“I’d never even heard of him before today,” Tabitha said. “I didn’t even see him. It was all too sudden.”
“Okay. So, he’s Springton’s star running back, sorta,” Elena elaborated. “How much do you know about football?”
“Um,” Tabitha winced. “I only watch the Superbowl for the commercials.”
“I guess you don’t really need to know anything, anyways,” Elena said. “He’s a total scumbag. Mom says if you decide to press charges, you can absolutely destroy his chance of getting a football scholarship.”
“I…” Tabitha paused to settle her thoughts. There was an immediate vindictive pang, but she needed her cooler head to prevail. “I don’t know how I feel yet. Or what my parents will do. I think that… I just want to speak with him. To understand, to find out why.”
“Well, I think I’ve found out who’s behind all the rumors going around school, at least,” Elena said.
“Brittney and Erica Taylor?” Tabitha guessed, her shoulders slumping. I’m going to have to figure out how to deal with them.
“Yeah—” Elena sounded surprised, “how’d you know? You know them?”
“Do you remember back in Laurel, right before the end of the year?” Tabitha sighed. “The concussion I had? That was them—one of them pushed me, I’m not sure which of them it was. Cracked skull and a serious concussion.”
“No fucking way!” Elena hissed, and then her voice grew faint as though she’d turned away from her phone’s receiver. “No, I won’t watch my language, Mom! Tabitha says those same two girls were the ones who put her in the hospital back in middle school! Yeah, the Taylor girls.”
“Sorry,” Elena’s voice returned to full volume. “Tabitha, are you okay? How bad is it?”
“Three to five months bad, I was told,” Tabitha said, slouching even lower, until she was almost hugging her knees. “I’m. Um, it’s dumb, but I’m... kind of scared to eat. I don’t think I can cook normally, or run, or do my exercises or… really any major activities, for a while. Even with the painkillers. I don’t ever want to go back to being the way I was.”
“We’re going to figure everything out,” Elena promised. “One second.”
We are? Tabitha wondered. A moment later, however, she could overhear Elena repeating the words three to five months and then beginning to paraphrase some of what had been said, presumably for Mrs. Seelbaugh. There was something incredibly heartwarming about how her friend was treating her problems as her own, and the way she jumped in without a second thought to tackle them immediately.
“How is she?” Mrs. Williams demanded, crossing their living room with an angry stride.
Shortly after parking his cruiser and coming in the front door, Officer Williams found himself besieged right away by a particularly vengeful-looking housewife, and he couldn’t help but let out a long, slow breath. Day’s taxing enough when I’m ON the clock…
“She’ll be fine,” Officer Williams tried to reassure her. “She’ll just have a cast for a couple months.”
She shadowed him as he stepped through their tastefully furnished foyer and into the comfort of the living room. The interior of their suburban home was a warzone of bitter conflicts and grudging compromises when it came to their tastes—he favored comfort and luxury, while she was adamantly fixated on a certain rustic vintage aesthetic. He was responsible for their overstuffed recliner and couch set, as well as their enormous rear-projection TV. She’d absolutely covered the walls in decorative antiques of all kinds, and replaced the rest of their furniture with what he jokingly considered museum pieces, because they were strictly for looking—not for touching.
“Well?” Karen Williams still looked absolutely livid.
Officer Williams saw his son Matthew awkwardly seated on one end of the sofa, but the kid definitely wasn’t just relaxing after school—by all accounts it looked like he was in the hot seat, like his wife had continued grilling the poor boy ever since he got home from school.
“She’s a tough cookie,” He grunted. “Broke a bone in her hand, fractured her wrist, and she was still completely calm and able to explain what all she thinks happened.”
“She broke her hand,” His wife repeated, gritting her teeth at hearing the extent of the girl’s injuries. “And fractured her wrist?”
His wife usually had this natural jovial disposition to her that put everyone around her at ease—but when something rubbed her the wrong way, this woman’s temper was fierce in a way that made even him want to flinch back away from her.
“Who broke whose hand?” Hannah asked, peeking around the corner of the hallway while clad in her Rugrats pajamas.
“Hannah honey, get back to bed right now,” Mrs. Williams told her in a stern voice. “Mama Williams is cross right now, and I don’t want you to see me when I’m cross. Skedaddle, I’ll send Matthew to tuck you back in in a minute.”
“Okay,” Hannah blinked at them. “Sorry.”
“Well,” Mrs. Williams continued only after making sure that their ward had scampered back down the hall towards the guest room. “What did Tabitha say?”
“She said she was… what, somethin’ like the whole thing was... making her not at ease? Uneasy?” Officer Williams recalled. Damn, I should’ve written all of it down, I guess.
“Uneasy?” Mrs. Williams glared. “What does that mean?”
“Something like this happened earlier in the year, so she thinks the same girls might be behind it,” Officer Williams admitted, gesturing with the spiral notebook. “I’ve got all the details down.”
“This has happened before? Give me that,” She snatched the notebook out of his hands and turned a chilly look over towards her son. “Girls, what girls?”
“Well, the thing is—Tabitha said she’d never even met this boy who pushed her,” Officer Williams explained.
“What girls are we talking about?” Karen asked, giving his scrawled notes a dour look. “What’s this about student-teacher misconduct?”
“She claims someone at school was spreading rumors that she was involved with one of the teachers.”
“That’s true,” Matthew dared to speak up. “About that rumor spreading, I mean—she didn’t actually do anything. Everyone was saying she was fooling around with Mr. Simmons and getting her grades adjusted, the deans had to look into it.”
“What a horrible thing to say,” Mrs. Williams scowled, reading on. “Can’t you write notes in complete sentences? Who’re Erica and Brittney Taylor? Are they the girls behind all of this?”
“Um. Erica Taylor’s one of my friends,” Matthew said with a guilty look. “She’s coming to the Halloween party.”
“We’ll see about that,” Karen Williams said in a cold voice, stabbing out a finger at her son. “You are going to make sure nothing else happens to Tabitha from now on, buster. I don’t care who’s saying what, or how you got involved—I want this gossip at school about Tabitha to stop. Now. Am I making myself understood? I’m calling Mrs. Cribb from the school board about this tonight.”
“Um,” Matthew grimaced. “I don’t know how it started, but they’ve also all been saying… that Tabitha never actually helped save Mr. Macintire. That she just made everything up when the news van pulled in, so that she could steal all the credit.”
“Say what, now?” Officer Williams slowly turned to regard his son.
“Mornin,’ Sweetie,” Mr. Moore said, looking out across the wide open space behind their trailer. “Whatcha up to out here so early?”
“I’m going to try to put together an F-22,” Tabitha said with determination, wiping machine oil from her hands onto her skirt as she surveyed their junkyard. Piles of military surplus aviation components were heaped everywhere, and she had an incomplete fighter jet chassis propped up on cinderblocks that was going to need a lot of work.
“Based on the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor design. A fifth-generation twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft.”
“F-22, huh?” Her father chuckled. “Another one of them future things? What’re we gonna even do with one, once we’ve got it?”
“No, it’s not for us,” Tabitha frowned, looking across the yard in confusion for a moment. Wasn’t something… off? Something wasn’t right, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it might be. How long had she been stockpiling old jet parts to even fill the enormous area next to their makeshift machine shop?
“I’m hoping if it goes well… maybe we can get a government contract?” Tabitha said, narrowing her eyes at the mess everywhere. Must be nothing? “Then, you won’t have to worry about money anymore.”
“Well, try not to make too much noise,” Mr. Moore said, shaking his head. “You know we’re proud of you no matter what you do, Honey.”
“I think I might have to run the smelter later to try out a new batch of alloys, if that’s okay?” Tabitha said, examining the F-22 schematics on her bracelet PC again. She didn’t remember exactly why she’d saved the documents in the future, but it was turning out to be lucky that she had.
“Gimme a holler when you’re ready, and I’ll come out and give ya a hand,” her Dad nodded. He still wasn’t comfortable with her pouring out the superheated metals by herself yet, even though she was already almost fourteen. “Oh! ‘Fore I forget, you got a letter from Julia. Here you go, Hun.”
“Julie!” Tabitha exclaimed, perking up right away as she accepted the message and then opened it, greenish-blue hologram text projecting up into the air from her bracelet. I’ve missed her! How did she even figure out where I am? WHEN I am?
She beamed an excited smile as she saw the mail—Julia had written her so much! Paragraph after dense paragraph floated up into the air like a Star Wars opening marquee, and the simple fact that she was hearing from her friend again filled her up with joy. Why had it even been so long since they were in touch?
I can’t… quite read it, though? Tabitha’s smile faltered as she squinted at the blocks of text. She wanted to know what Julia had to say right away, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t actually focus in on the words—all she was getting was some sort of gist of what Julia meant to say. Something about coming to visit her, here in 1998? So… frustrating! It’s all right THERE! I want to read exactly every little thing she says!
“Dad, I want to read it, but I can’t,” Tabitha let out an exasperated sigh of confusion. “Dad?”
Mr. Moore was gone.
“Dad?” Tabitha left the scrapyard behind, trotting up the sun-bleached wooden steps of the back porch to look for him. “Dad, I can’t read it…”
A growing sense of discontinuity was tugging at the back of her mind as she looked for her father—but it wasn’t strong enough for her to realize that the back porch belonged to an apartment she’d had when she was in her thirties. In the mobile home’s living room, she found her mother’s massive obese form seated in her typical spot on the sofa. She was gigantic and bloated, far too fat for her to stand under her own power, and her hair was faded and streaked through with gray.
“Mom?” Tabitha blinked. “Where’s Dad?”
“Cancer,” Mrs. Moore scowled in annoyance at her. “Cancer, Tabitha. He’s gone. Weren’t you supposed to fix that, this time through? What’d you need ‘im for, anyways?”
“Right,” Tabitha nodded slowly, remembering. “Cancer—the brain tumor. Sorry. I-I didn’t um, I didn’t think it would even appear this early, though—when did…?”
“Hah.” Mrs. Moore snorted. “Well, make sure you get it taken care of next time, an’ I don’t care if you have to sit at the table the whole damned night to get it done, if that’s what it takes. You hear me? I’m not tellin’ you again, Tabitha Anne Moore.”
“Yes, Momma,” Tabitha lowered her head. Simply saying the words made her feel ugly and fat and vulnerable, that small and helpless thirteen-year-old all over again. “It’s just… my friend Julie was gonna come visit. I, um, I wanted to go meet her, when she arrives?”
“Hmmph,” Mrs. Moore sneered. “You’re not goin’ anywhere ‘till you clean up that God-awful mess out there, or your father’s gonna hear about it. Now go on, get.”
“Yes, Momma,” Tabitha turned to run back out the—back out the what?
Their trailer only had a front door, on the one side. They didn’t have anything like a back porch. Embarrassed and confused, she ran out down the front steps and then made her way around to the back of the trailer. There was just grass and weeds, those few feet of patchy landscape between their tiny shed and the neighboring trailer behind them.
I... guess that counts as cleaned up, then? Tabitha decided with one last guilty glance around, unable to place just what was wrong with the situation. Need to get to the hospital and make sure Julie comes through the MRI okay!
It was a long drive over to Louisville, and Tabitha knew something was definitely not right. Thankfully, her battered old 2022 Honda Pilot was right where she’d left it after her parents passed away, and someone or other had even refilled her tank. Streets and intersections passed by in a blur as she drove on and on what seemed to be forever and ever, and that pervasive wrong sense in the back of her mind had her gripping the steering wheel anxiously with her weathered old hands.
In her mind, it became more and more important that she see Julia right away, no matter what, because something wasn’t right. There was this feeling of foreboding that she’d never get a chance to see her friend again if she didn’t hurry. Tabitha didn’t quite remember arriving or even parking, but at some point eventually she found herself within the University of Louisville Hospital complex, lost somehow in an endless jumble of mislabeled corridors and waiting areas and examination rooms. There wasn’t any time to ask anyone for directions!
When she finally, finally found the familiar room with that colossal MRI device… it was too late.
“Look, the goblin’s finally here!” Brittney and Erica Taylor, Elena Seelbaugh, and two of the other intimidating girls from middle school were standing around the room waiting for her, greeting her arrival with mocking smiles and laughter. When the examination table slid out of the MRI with a whirring noise... it was empty.
“Wh-where’s Julia?” Tabitha stammered, feeling crushed.
“She’s nowhere, now,” Brittney Taylor laughed. “It’s like, wow—she’s even more stupid than you are. She wasn’t even born yet in ninety-eight! Where was her mind gonna go when she doesn’t even have a body yet here? Retard. That means she’s just gone now, forever.”
“No—she can’t be gone forever,” Tabitha sobbed, furiously shaking her head in denial and clutching at her clothes. “Sh-she can’t, she can’t!”
“Uhh, well she’s not here in the past, and now she’s not in the future anymore?” Elena smirked at her. “What’d you even expect? She doesn’t belong anywhere anyways—duh, that’s why she offed herself. You don’t belong, either.”
“She can’t be gone!” Tabitha repeated stupidly, feeling herself crumble and break down.
“Yeah, you shouldn’t have come back in time,” Erica laughed. “What, you think you’re special? You didn’t even remember which stocks to buy up! We’ve only been back in time for a few days, and we already have like, six hundred and fifty thousand dollars in shares.”
“They’re making me a White House advisor, at fourteen years old,” Elena proudly preened. “‘Cause I kept track of every little bit of corruption going on throughout the time period. I’m like, a God to them.”
“I’ve just been getting laid!” One of the other girls guffawed, cupping her own breasts with her hands and waggling them. “Like, look at me—I’m a teenager again, what the hell else am I gonna do first?”
“What have you been doing, Tubby Tabby?” Brittney sneered. “You haven’t done jack shit. Uh, hello? It’s fucking time travel. If you can’t even accomplish anything, why the fuck are you even here?”
“Yeah, are you stupid?” Another girl chimed in. “Lockheed Martin F-22s debuted in like, nineteen-ninety-four—they already have those, here. The design they don’t have yet is the F-35 Panther mark II.”
“I’m—I’m,” Tabitha cried out, blinking through her tears in disbelief at the empty examining table. The teenage girls surrounding her wore sadistic grins, leering smiles of anticipation, waiting for her to answer. What could she even say? One of them giggled, and Brittney snorted and shushed that girl, eyes flicking past Tabitha’s shoulder for a brief instant. As if—
Tabitha flinched with her entire body as some hidden figure forcefully shoved her from behind, and then she was wide awake in the darkness of her bedroom with a sudden intake of breath.
She trembled in place on her bed, pressing her face into the pillow to stifle an anguished wail. Her wrist had woken her up, rather than the nightmare—somewhere throughout the night, that first codeine tablet had worn off. She was in blinding, feverish agony. The details of the dream were already starting to evaporate as she clutched at her arm, trying to pin it in place so it wasn’t jostled by her wracking sobs.
I can’t. I just can’t. Can’t deal with everything all at once like this. Julie. Dad. How can I even convince Dad to go in for expensive x-rays, when he won’t even HAVE those headaches for years, yet?
Chris Thompson wore a slight grin as he followed after his father into Springton High’s administrative office. A five-day suspension was supposed to be a punishment, but he couldn’t help but feel pretty pleased with himself. It was hard not to feel smug—his ‘youthful indiscretion,’ as his father put it, meant he didn’t actually have to sit through classes today. He now had the entire week before Halloween to relax and goof off, while all these other students loitering around the Quad area were stuck in their same daily routine.
Don’t even have anything to feel guilty about, Chris thought, running fingers through his closely-cropped hair. FUCK that Tabitha girl.
He’d felt pretty ambivalent about Tabitha, at first—even despite all the nasty rumors going around about her. So what if people said she was a bit of a slut? He didn’t particularly mind easy girls, and she was pretty cute. In his mind, they’d make a great couple—she was the attractive freshman everyone talked about, and he was the star running back. Tall, good-looking, and with that athletic, rangy stride of his that ate up yards on the football field like magic.
Hey, you guys know that Tabby girl, right? He’d asked some of the sophomore girls in his class yesterday.
Yeah, One of them had scowled. What of her?
Ask her what she thinks of me, Chris had proposed with a grin. I think we’d make a good couple.
Pfft, uhh yeah, Erica Taylor had laughed. Well, I think she definitely knows about you...
She does? Chris had perked up at hearing that.
Yeah— Erica had leaned in to confide in a whisper, and it’d been a struggle not to look down the girl’s shirt. Didn’t wanna say nothin’ or make a big deal, but… I heard her telling people she thinks you run like a total faggot.
No she didn’t, Chris had made a face of disbelief.
It’s true! Another girl had chimed in. I heard it, too. Can you believe that bitch?
The fuck?! He had erupted. Who the fuck does she think she is, that she’s gonna talk shit on me like that? Runs like a total faggot? God damn—she don’t even fuckin’ KNOW me!
Completely blindsided, Chris found himself seeing red for the whole rest of that day. In fact, if Tabitha had been a freshman guy, he would’ve immediately gone and beat the shit out of her, without any hesitation. The more he dwelled on it, the more infuriating it was—I was actually interested in her, and instead she’s tryin’ to just fucking shit all over my reputation? We’ve never even talked! FUCK this girl! Who’s the faggot-ass little bitch now, huh?
In his opinion, a minor little shove after spotting her at the bus loop was already letting her off lightly. He’d booked it afterwards of course, in hopes that he’d get away scot-free... but a pair of freshman guys chased after him, probably some of the very same dudes he’d heard Tabitha regularly hooked up with. There wouldn’t have been a ghost of a chance of the clowns catching him, either, if not for his ill-planned attempt to double back and catch his own bus—when the dean Mr. Shaw caught up, Chris was already caught up in a fight with those two asshole freshman guys amidst a growing crowd of onlookers.
“Good morning. My name’s Donald Thompson, and I’m here about my son’s suspension,” His dad said, turning a stern look from the administrative clerk to the teenage son he was firmly gripping by the shoulder. “An apology and a five-day suspension is acceptable. Chris was in the wrong, here, and I’ve already had a talk with him about it. But, you’re not going to suspend him from playing games for a whole season for this, that’s ridiculous. He has a future ahead of him, and the school’s responsible for seeing to that.”
“Er...” The woman frowned, turning to look at Chris. “Mr. Thompson—”
“I’ve heard from my son, as well as parents of other students here—this Tabitha girl’s been known to instigate problems,” Mr. Thompson cut her off. “I think that things may have been blown way out of proportion. From what I’ve been told, he gave her a playful shove, and then this fall was purely accidental. Is my understanding correct?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Thompson, there’s nothing I can tell you about it. The—”
“There’s nothing you can tell me about it?” Mr. Thompson repeated, sounding annoyed. He leaned over the counter, trying to spot someone in the rear offices with more authority. “Yeah, of course not. Tell me, just who do I need to speak with to resolve this?”
“The district school board,” The administrative clerk replied. “Nobody can do anything about the suspension until they meet on Monday, Sir. Not while there’s civil or criminal action pending. The best you can probably hope for is an expulsion hearing.”
“Criminal—” Mr. Thompson’s voice rose. “Expulsion hearing? You can’t be goddamn serious. The district school board? Criminal action? For a playground scuffle—a tussle between children? What a complete and total crock of shit. Oh, this is the girl from that trailer park, isn’t it? Let me guess, I take it her parents are chasing after some enormous, trumped-up cash settlement for damages?”
“No, Sir,” the clerk shook her head. “Her father sure raised a fuss yesterday, but it was two Springton police officers that came in this morning and filled out the notice of claim—it’s already filed with the district.”
“Ridiculous,” Mr. Thompson scoffed. “After that stunt she pulled with that police officer? I’d be surprised if they’re not preparing to press charges against her already, juvenile or not. Listen, if for some reason my son’s being implicated in some sort of lawsuit or slander, I’m going to need a copy of the claim immediately.”
“Just one moment,” The woman nodded, stepping back from the reception desk and disappearing into the back offices.
“I’m not apologizing to Tabitha—she called me a faggot,” Chris fumed. “Jesus. Where the hell’s her suspension?”
“You want to keep playing football, you’ll do what you’re told,” Mr. Thompson instructed. There was anger in his tone, and he hadn’t released that iron grip he had on his son’s shoulder. “This was goddamn stupid of you Chris, and you can be sure as hell they’ll try to drag all this out kicking and screaming. Goddamn stupid.”
“Here we are,” the clerk returned, grabbing a stapler so that she could fix a pair of papers together at their upper corner.
Chris caught a glimpse of the form when the woman passed it to Mr. Thompson to read, and there was a lot of writing there. To his dismay, he watched his father’s expression darken as he read through the document, angrily flipping the paper to read the next page. An anxious, unsettling feeling began to blossom as his father turned the page back and read it over again from the beginning.
“Chris—” Mr. Thompson slapped the claim copy on the reception counter and grabbed his son by the collar. “What the fuck have you gotten yourself into?”