Forgetting Can Be a Big Mistake by Colin Kelly

Curt's life takes a turn that he never expected, and he realizes that it's because he forgot something that didn't seem important at the time. He also discovers that others have forgotten things that are important and that turns out to both help him and hurt him.

Mature or distressing themes. This story deals with abuse.

Chapter 1 — The Attack

I could never figure out why our across-the-street neighbor seemed to hate me. Mister Vanvelick just had it in for me. I never did anything to him or his precious front yard. I didn’t even pay any attention to him. He wasn’t on my radar. But I sure as hell was on his radar for some reason.

So today old man Vanvelick saw me with my friend Tom Williams. Tom’s a great guy, star running back on our football team last year even though he was only a sophomore, and he was an outfielder and switch hitter with a .305 average on the baseball team too. We were in the driveway shooting some baskets and mostly just hanging and talking. Vanvelick was watering his front yard. We started playing horse, and the ball got away from us and rolled across the street and ended up in the gutter in front of Vanvelick’s house. Tom ran across the street to get the ball, and I heard Vanvelick yelling at him. Tom stood looking at this guy yelling at him, gave him the finger, and ran back with the basketball.

“What the fuck was all that about? What was that old shit yelling at you about?”

“The asshole called me the N-word. He actually said it! I couldn’t believe the shit he was calling me. He said I should go back to projects where I came from. He said the country would’a been better off if the Confederacy had won. I didn’t say anything to him, just gave him the finger and came back. Who the fuck is he? And who the fuck does he think he is?”

“That’s old man Vanvelick. He’s totally whacked. My friend Tony, Tony Giancarlo, you know him. Anyway, he used to live next door to Vanvelick when we were little kids. The old fart was always screaming and swearing at us to stop making noise, but a bunch of us we’d always just be doing normal kid stuff in Tony’s back yard, playing, ya know? Anyway, Tony’s dad would give it back to the old asshole when Tony would tell him about how he was swearing at us. One day Tony got Paul’s tape recorder — Paul is Tony’s brother, you know him, he’s at Colorado State now and he’s on the football team. Anyway, Tony recorded some of what Vanvelick was yelling at him and a bunch of the guys, and gave the tape to his dad who listened to it and took it to the cops, got Vanvelick in a lot of trouble. Served him right. Ever since he’s been even more of a prick and really nasty to me even though I wasn’t even there the day they made the tape. Guess I live the closest to him now since Tony’s family moved to the other side of town. Anyway, ignore him. He’s just an old asshole.”

“It really bugs me, Curt, when some prejudiced old fart starts mouthing the N-word at me. It bugs me, man.”

I could see Tom was getting pretty pissed. You didn’t want to get in his way when he got riled up. “Hey, chill, man, just ignore him. That’s what I do. He’s scum. He’s not even worth thinking about.”

Tom turned and looked across the street, so I did also. Vanvelick was staring at us. Even from where I was standing, I could see that he had this really mean, nasty expression on his face. Tom took a step, like he was going to go across the street. I grabbed his arm and pulled him back so he was facing me.

“Drop it, Tom. You’ll just get into some sort of shit that you don’t need, man. Come on, let’s go in and have a Coke and cool down.”

He turned his head to look at Vanvelick. “That old bastard needs to have a talking-to, and I’m just the one to do it.”

I was still holding Tom’s arm. He started to pull away, and confronting Vanvelick was something I sure didn’t want him to do. I grabbed him in sort of a body hold, like a tight hug.

“Can it, man! You’re worth a million Vanvelicks. Shit, your dad could buy and sell Vanvelick a million times over.” I kept holding onto Tom to keep him from getting into some sort of trouble, even though he could have easily pulled away from my hold. I'm strong, but he's a lot stronger. I could imagine him going across the street and slugging the old fart and then getting arrested.

“Come on. We’re going in the house. I’m gonna feed you a meatloaf sandwich and a couple of Cokes.”

The mention of food got Tom’s attention. “Your mom’s meatloaf?”

I grinned. Tom loved to eat, and he loved my mom’s meatloaf. I guess at six-two and two-oh-five of mostly muscle, he had a major need for fuel. Food fuel.

“Yeah. My mom’s world-famous meatloaf, in a fan-tastic sandwich made by yours truly.”

Tom had completely forgotten about Vanvelick, and by the time we got into the kitchen, so had I. Turns out, for me forgetting about him was a big mistake.


My dad, my real dad, my only dad, was one of the first U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan. That was almost six years ago, when I was nine years old. A year ago mom remarried. Donovan Clarey. I don’t know what she saw in him. She never asked my opinion, probably knew what it would be. I didn’t like him, and he pretty much ignored me, so things were okay. My mom was my mom, and even though I can’t say much about her choice of a second husband, she and I got along great.

Don — I don’t call him ‘dad’ or ‘father’ or anything like that — anyway, Don is a sales rep for some pharmaceutical company. That’s how Mom met him; she’s the head of purchasing for Valley Medical Center. Mom works a normal nine-to-five, and gets home around five-thirty. Don travels all over the Bay Area peddling his pills to doctors and hospitals. Because of traffic he usually doesn’t get home until around seven or so. Suits me, I don’t have to see him as much that way.

Don’s a really big guy, totally different than my dad. My dad was really smart. He had a Ph.D. in nuclear chemistry and worked for Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory on some sort of big hush-hush energy project. He was in the National Guard because the Army paid his way through Cal, so he got called up. The Lab tried to get that quashed, but no-go, they needed cannon fodder and Dad was ripe for the picking. He figured it wouldn’t be a bad deal, he was in logistics, whatever that is, and it was supposed to be safe. So safe he was killed.

At least I inherited my dad’s smarts, I’ve been straight-A since middle school. Mom says she’s proud of me, all except my potty mouth. She says she doesn’t know where I picked up my bad language. I know. It started when Dad was killed. Like my granddad says, war sucks hind tit. Whatever the fuck that means!

Don was some big-time football star in college, a typical jock and intelligent as a paperclip. He talks all the time about what a big freakin’ hero he was and how many games he saved with interceptions and causing fumbles and whatever when he played at Duke. He’s got two kids. I’ve seen a picture of them. One’s a guy who looks to be maybe my age, and a girl who’s younger. I’ve never met them, and neither has Mom. They live with Don’s former wife. He never sees them, which I think is pretty whacked. I like to think it’s because they don’t want to see him; I can understand that. I don’t either; I can’t control that. Their gain’s my loss. No one ever said life was fair.

The only thing I ever got involved with him about was his company laptop. I’m into computers, and that’s what I want to do. You know, my career. Get a degree in computer science and work with computers and write software. Anyway, Don said his laptop was super slow and kept crashing. No wonder, it had Windows 2000 which is like really old and not even supported any more. He said it was required by the company. I asked why they didn’t fix his laptop problem, and he said their computer department was in Minneapolis and he’d have to ship it there and it would probably take them a couple of weeks to fix it, and he couldn’t be without his laptop. I said I’d look at it, and found that it had a dinky hard drive, only twenty gigs, and it was almost full. I cleared out all of the temp files and the original Windows install files and that got him over five gigs of free space. Then I defragged the hard drive and told him that should help. The next day he came into my room and thanked me, he said it seemed as fast as when he first got it. I felt good about that, but that was like the first and only time he said anything nice to me, and then we went back to our normal not-communicating-with-each-other routine. That was fine with me.


Okay, we’re back to the day Tom was over and he got yelled at by old man Vanvelick. We each ate a meatloaf sandwich then Tom had to haul. Mom had a hospital accreditation meeting she had to go to, and she told us she wouldn’t be home for dinner. Fine with me, later I’d just heat up some more of the meatloaf and some peas and Tater Tots and that’d be my dinner. Don could do whatever when he got home, that wasn’t my problem.

I cleaned up the kitchen and went to my room to do my homework. After about a half hour, I heard some talking and yelling outside and wondered what was going on. I looked out my bedroom window, it looks out on our driveway, and I could see the front half of Don’s car. He was home a lot earlier than usual. He was sitting in the car and old man Vanvelick was standing next to the driver’s side window, the side away from our house, and he was doing most of the yelling and talking and waving his arms around and pointing like he was a windmill. I got up and moved closer to the open window so I could hear what was going on, but by then Vanvelick was storming off and Don was driving into his half of the garage.

I sat down and got back into my homework, Algebra 2. I was taking it in summer session to get ahead so I could take Pre-Calculus next semester. Hey, I'm a geek and proud of it.

I heard the back door slam shut, loud. That was weird.

“Curt! Where the fuck are you?”

Huh? That was Don yelling. He never yelled. What was that about? I stood up just as he threw open my bedroom door and it slammed into my dresser with a loud cracking sound.


“Shut the fuck up! Don’t say another fucking word!”

What was this shit? “Hey, I don’t know why you’re all pissed off. What’s going on?”

He walked across the room, his fists balled up like he was ready to fight. “I. Said. Shut. The. Fuck. Up. And I mean it! You fucking little faggot!”

What? Faggot? What was that shit?

“I am NOT a faggot! Don’t fucking call ME a faggot!”

WHACK! Don slammed his fist into the left side of my face, hard, right on the cheekbone, and knocked me down onto the floor. It hurt like hell. He stood over me, reached down, grabbed my belt buckle and pulled me up.

“OUT!” He practically threw me across the room, toward my door, and pushed me out into the hallway and down the stairs into the living room.

I turned and looked at him. I was out of breath, but I was able to yell, “Why the hell are you doing this to me?”

“SHUT UP!” This time I saw his fist coming and I ducked in time so he missed me. But he had the advantage and came at me and slugged me in the chest, knocking me into the end table next to the sofa. It had a glass top with a metal frame, and I hit the metal frame with my left arm, hard, and I heard and felt a bone break in my forearm. I screamed, really screamed, as I fell to the floor and grabbed my arm. It hurt, a lot more than my face and chest where he’d hit me. It was hurting like nothing had ever hurt me before.

“Get the fuck up off the floor, you little nigger loving faggot!” He reached down and grabbed my arm, my left arm, the one he’d just broken, and started to pull me up.

I screamed again, five or six times, really loud. They probably could hear me screaming ten miles away. The pain was unbelievable. He let go and stepped back, and I grabbed my forearm and pulled it to my chest and kept screaming. I was like totally crying, there were tears flooding down my cheeks. My arm was broken and he’d made it worse, a lot worse, by grabbing it. He looked at me, and stepped back even further.

Between the crying and screaming from the pain I was still able to yell at him. “You broke my arm! You fucking broke my arm. You leave me alone! Get the fuck away from me!”

“I didn’t break your arm! You broke your own arm!”

Now I was screaming at him, not just yelling. “Bullshit! I need an ambulance. I need to get to the hospital. Oh, shit, it hurts, it hurts like fuck. You asshole! You broke my arm. Get the fuck out of here! Just wait ‘til Mom finds out!”

Now Don looked sort of scared, like what he’d done to me was finally starting to sink into his shit-for-brains. “I’m not calling any ambulance. I’ll take you to the clinic and they can look at your arm. It don’t look broke to me. You’re just a fucking pansy queer, you can’t take a couple of bruises like a man would!”

I screamed at him again. “I’m not going anywhere with you! Get away from me! Get the fuck away from me! Oh, shit, my arm’s killing me! I gotta call 911!”

I guess his yelling and my yelling and screaming got the attention of someone. The doorbell rang, and Don looked over toward the front door. The doorbell rang again, three or four times, and then there was pounding on the door. He looked like he was undecided about what to do.

“Don’t you move, you little faggot, or you’ll be fucking sorry!” Don walked to the entrance hall.

Bullshit! I wasn’t going to stay on the floor, I had to call 911. I tried to get up, but with my right arm holding onto my broken left arm there was no way that was going to happen. What was I going to do? I was afraid, afraid of Don. I’d never seen him like this. Jesus Christ, he might even kill me!

I heard him open the front door. I heard voices, but couldn’t tell who it was. Then I heard Don say something like “I’m sorry, officer….” It sounded like it was the cops, and I started screaming.


That did the trick! I heard Don yell, “Hey, you can’t just come in here…” and someone yelling back, “Down! Get down on the floor! Get down on the floor now, right now! That’s an order!” Then there was some banging and some scuffling noise and a couple of moans.

I screamed, “HELP ME! Please, oh God, help me!” I was screaming and crying and blubbering now, mainly because the pain in my arm was getting worse. I started feeling light headed, woozy, like I was going to pass out. A shadow passed over me, and I looked up. It was a cop. A huge, wonderful, cop. I just kept crying, I hurt so bad I couldn’t even talk.

I guess because of the way I was holding my arm the cop figured out that it was broken. He took a radio thing off his belt and called for an ambulance. Through my crying I heard him say that it was an emergency, that the ambulance was needed STAT.

“Son, I’m Officer Brady. Did that guy do this to you?” The cop was talking to me, and my head was starting to swim and I was seeing sparkles of bright light. I croaked out a ‘yes’ and I got really dizzy and everything went black.


Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Forgetting Can Be a Big Mistake

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