Dermot - Chapter 2 - Walt Lyle
Wednesday morning. Dr. Shipley on his rounds. Poke. Check. Open.
Take a deep breath. Check the ribs. Check the eye. Check. Check.
Check. Oh, and poke again for good measure.
"Got you scheduled for oral surgery tomorrow morning, Dermot. I'm
sure you'll be glad to get rid of that metal temp in your mouth."
"Not as much of a problem as the sharp place."
"That'll be taken care of, too."
"How come? I mean, I didn't know you guys took such good care of
charity cases," Dermot said with something like a sneer.
"You're not exactly a charity case. Mr. Lyle is covering your
expenses," Dr. Shipley informed him.
"Him again. Why do I keep hearing about this Lyle guy?"
Ignoring the question, Dr. Shipley commented, "Hear you were not very
nice to Mr. Lyle yesterday evening."
"Why should I be nice to him? Who the hell is he, anyway?"
"Well, maybe you ought to be nice to him because if it were not for
him you'd be in considerably worse shape than you are. Maybe dead. After
all, it is February, and if you had lain out there all night, in your
condition, you very well might not have made it."
"All things considered, maybe that would have been better."
"Come on, Dermot. You don't really believe that, do you?"
"Doc, I don't see why not. After all, what do I have to look forward
to, except maybe being in here again, and then maybe dying in an alley
later anyway. Why not now?"
"Pretty cynical for a kid. What are you, fifteen?"
"Yeah. Good guess."
"Had some experience, Dermot. You're not the first street teen to be
brought to the emergency room, and you won't be the last. Anyway, Mr. Lyle
has not given up on you. He left a note asking whether he could visit
again this evening. I'll call when I leave here and give him the go-ahead.
You're coming along fine, given your condition when you came in. The
recuperative ability of youth is marvelous."
"Tell him to mind his own business."
"Now, that's no way to talk," the doctor admonished.
"But what does he want with me? Why me?"
"He is the one who called 9-1-1. Maybe he feels responsible in some
way. Why not ask him yourself? Besides, he's always doing something for
people who need help."
"Sure. You mean you really have never heard of Walter Marcus Lyle IV?
He's in the news quite often."
"Yeah. The nurse the other night said he was some kind of high
powered lawyer. 'Very important' she said. Never had dealings with a
lawyer. Never could afford one, anyway. Why should I know about lawyers?"
"Mr. Lyle is not only a prominent lawyer, but is also known for his
civic spirit. Like I said, he's always helping people in one way or
"Oh, great! Now I'm some kind of social project."
"You ... are a bratty kid with a bad attitude. If you want me to
continue to limit access by the police and the Social Services people,
you'd better behave yourself," Dr. Shipley said with some exasperation.
He then walked out of the room, leaving Dermot dissatisfied. He liked
Dr. Shipley, and had not intended to tick him off. Why can't people just
leave him alone? He'd been alone for ... what was it now? Let's see, it
was late February now, so, June, July ... nine months. If a fifteen year
old kid can make in on the streets for nine months, then he shouldn't be
treated like some kind of idiot social project. Should he?
Fuck! What good does it do to think about what should be? If things
were as they should be, no fifteen year old kid would be on the streets to
begin with. If things were as they should be, his dad would not have been
called up to fight in that fucking war. And especially, his dad would not
have gone and got himself killed by some fucking terrorists or whatever
they were. And his mom would not have died of cancer when he was only ten
years old. And there would not be any bastards like Uncle Steve. No!
Don't think about Uncle Steve! Push the button! Where the hell is the
nurse with the sedative when you need her? Nurse! Push the button! Push!
"Yes, Dermot, what is it?" Nurse Bailey asked.
"I need a pain killer. I need to sleep."
"Dr. Shipley doesn't want you to get addicted. Are you sure?"
"Well, you do seem ... uneasy. Just a moment."
"Fucking Uncle Steve."
"What was that?"
"Nothing. I wasn't talking to you, Nurse."
Must have been a mild dose. Only slept maybe two hours. Oh, well,
now I can get back into that mystery. Kind of interesting. I wonder
whether Egypt was really anything like this. Says on the back the author
knows her stuff, but you never know. Maybe some day I'll be able to spend
some time reading about ancient Egypt. Now, where was I?
Damn. Nurse's voice in the corridor.
"Yes, Dermot. No last name, I'm afraid. He's not very forthcoming
Man enters the room. Oh, shit! A priest! Man with a funny collar.
"What do you want?"
"Just thought I'd stop by. Usually do hospital calls on Wednesdays.
I'm Father Schiller."
"Why are you here?"
"Well, you kind of turned up in my parish last Friday night. I'm the
pastor at St. George, where Mr. Lyle found you. So, I thought I'd stop in
while doing my hospital calls, just to see how you are coming along. From
what they tell me, you got a really bad beating."
"They also tell me you don't like talking about yourself. But
sometimes it's a good thing to get things off your chest. Not healthy to
bottle things up, you know. I've had lots of experience being discrete, so
if you ever want to talk ...."
"Fat chance! I tried talking to one of you guys, back when I needed
help, and all I got was a lot of shit about going to hell. Fuck off!"
Dermot was agitated, angry, no longer the listless, bored teenager.
"I'm sorry you had such a negative experience. Do you mind telling me
why you were told you were going to hell?" the priest asked. "Purely as a
matter of professional interest, you understand."
Somehow, that last part took some of the wind out of Dermot's sails.
This guy didn't react the way he expected.
"I see. Well, the priest should not have told you that you were going
to hell for that alone. It has taken a while, but the Church now
recognizes that one's sexual orientation is not a matter of choice. And,
of course, we've recognized all along that sin is in the will. That is,
it's making bad choices. However, I am aware that not all my clerical
colleagues are sympathetic to this development. So, for what it's worth, I
"Not worth a fucking lot. Back then, I needed help. Now, it's too
late," Dermot said bitterly. He turned his head away from his visitor.
"It's never too late, Dermot. We believe that as long as you're alive
there's always hope. But you don't want me to preach to you, I know. I
can see you're restless. Before I go, is there anything I can do for you?"
Father Schiller asked.
The priest rose to leave. "If you think of anything ...."
"Wait! There is something. There's this guy Lyle. You know him?"
"Yes. Walt Lyle is a member of my congregation. It was he who
happened to come across you in the alley behind the church last Friday
night ... or I guess technically it was Saturday morning. He and his
family are regular worshipers at St. George."
"Why is he bugging me?" Dermot demanded.
The priest smiled. "He does that. When Walt gets it into his head
that there is something that needs doing, he is dogged in going after it.
He does not give up easily. I think he feels that you are something that
needs his attention."
"I don't need him. I don't need anybody," the boy insisted.
Again Father Schiller smiled. "From what Dr. Shipley tells me, you
were in no position to refuse help when you arrived here," he reminded
Dermot. "I also understand you have been rude to Walt ... and, to everyone
else, for that matter. In Walt's case, that will only make him more
determined to do what he thinks needs being done. Oh, another thing. Walt
has three teenagers himself. One's about your age. Another reason he
might be interested."
Dermot stared at the priest. Rude to everyone, was he? Well, if they
would fucking leave him alone .... "Go away. Just go away."
"All right, Dermot. But if you need me for anything, just ask."
"Just go away."
About mid afternoon, Dermot sat in his bed, reading. Turns out, THE
CURSE OF THE PHARAOHS was not about ancient Egypt at all. Or, at least,
not mainly. It was about some Egyptologists digging up the remains of
ancient Egypt, sometime about a century ago. That old bat, Amelia, who was
supposed to be the narrator, sounds a lot like my home room teacher last
year. All prim and proper, and somehow almost reading your mind. It was
His door opened, and Walt Lyle entered. Dermot looked up. Lyle was
not a bad looking dude. Kept his figure. Stands straight. Full head of
hair. I'll bet he works out or something. Wouldn't mind doing him. Shit!
Where did that come from? The priest said ticking him off made him more
determined. Maybe if I'm nicer he'll go away and leave me alone.
"Hello, Dermot. You're looking a little better today."
"Yeah. Not too bad, I guess."
"Are they treating you okay?"
"Oh, sure. Except the food is lousy."
Lyle chuckled. "I think every patient in every hospital in the
country has said the same thing. Don't know why that is, exactly."
"I guess. You're earlier than yesterday. Dr. Shipley said you'd be
around in the evening."
"True. The case I was representing in court was postponed
unexpectedly. At least, unexpected by me. The other side claimed they had
to gather new evidence. So, I decided to come along here, and then get
home at a decent hour for a change."
"Anything else? How are you getting along with Dr. Shipley?"
"Oh, he's okay. I kind of like Dr. Shipley, except he won't tell me
much. I think I ticked him off this morning, though."
"Why was that?"
Dermot did not want to say it was because he was complaining about his
"Didn't mean to. Just, sometimes, people get under my skin, you know.
Questions, and telling me how I should feel."
"You don't like questions, I hear."
Dermot smiled. He knew that was a question, even if it was not worded
as one. Well, be nice. "No, I don't. Do I have to answer everybody's
"Are you consulting me as a lawyer?" Lyle chuckled again. "To answer
your question, no, you don't have to answer any questions you don't want
to. But the questions will keep coming, you know. I understand you're
fifteen. Three years before you reach your legal majority. Until then,
somebody has to be responsible."
"I've been responsible for myself for ... months. Besides, I'll be
sixteen soon." Better be careful. You're giving away too much
"Oh, really. My younger son just turned sixteen a few weeks ago.
He's a sophomore at Baltimore."
Figures. Baltimore was the snooty Catholic high school where the rich
kids went. Well, the rich kids with Catholic parents. Dermot had attended
the public high school in the part of town where working class people
lived. What Uncle Steve called 'real people.' At the though of Uncle
Steve, Dermot's brow wrinkled in distaste.
"Something I said bothering you?" Walt Lyle asked.
"No. Not something you said. Just something I thought of. So, you
have a kid my age, huh?"
"Yes. Lando is quite a hand full. But on the whole I'm quite pleased
with the way he's coming along. He was on the soccer team this fall, and
did a great job. Do you play soccer?"
"Naw. Never paid much attention to those kinds of sports."
"What do you mean by 'those kinds of sports,' Dermot?"
"You know. Soccer, tennis, polo, golf, lacrosse. You got to have
money to play those things. All I ever played was baseball, basketball,
and football. Not on a team, though. Anyway, not since ...."
He stopped. What he was going to say was, "not since my dad left,"
but he did not want to think about that.
"Shit! Fucking army! Fucking war!"
Walt Lyle carefully remained quiet. This was significant, he knew,
but he did not want to pressure the boy. Dermot had been considerably more
receptive than the previous day, but any attempt to grill him would
undoubtedly result in sullen silence. Noticing a tear making it's way down
Dermot's left cheek, he quietly handed the boy a tissue.
Dermot accepted the tissue. He felt vulnerable, exposed. He should
not have let himself go like that.
"What do you want, anyway?" he roughly asked.
"Nothing. What makes you think I want something?"
"You keep showing up here. It can't be for my scintillating
conversation. Why not just leave me alone?"
"You interest me. Besides, I thought maybe I could help in some way."
"Oh, yeah, I forgot. I'm your latest civic project. Is that it?"
"I don't think of you as a civic project, Dermot. Where did you get
"Something Dr. Shipley said. You're always going around doing good,
like some kind of fairy godmother. Except, I guess it would be godfather,
but that doesn't sound right either." Dermot had become involved in his
own simile, and forgot to be angry.
Walt Lyle smiled. "I do try to help out where I can, but I assure you
I do not consider you a civic project. That's so ... impersonal. I try to
keep my activities on the personal level as much as I can."
"But, why? Why are you interested at all?"
"Well, Dermot, I think you're a pretty interesting guy. You said you
liked reading mysteries. Well, you're kind of a mystery yourself. Here
you are, no last name. Fifteen years old, missing for days, and no one has
been asking about you, as far as the police know, anyway. A real puzzle."
"So, you're trying to figure me out?"
"Yes. But don't take that the wrong way. I'm not trying to put you
in some category or another. Whenever I meet a new person who seems
interesting, different from the run of the mill, I always try to figure him
or her out. I guess I'm just interested in people. Always have been."
"And helping people?" Dermot asked.
"Yes. I think that's one of the reasons I became a lawyer," Lyle
"Why do you want to help people? The way I see it, most people are
"I can sort of understand you seeing things that way. Fate has not
been good to you. But my experience is that most people are pretty decent.
Weak, sure. We all have our weaknesses. Often selfish, and focused on our
own interests. That's a kind of defense mechanism for most folks. But
only a small percentage of people are really beyond hope."
"You hit it on the head, there. Fate has not been good to me.
Evidently, it has been to you, so you can afford to be Mr. Good Guy, going
around helping others."
"Dermot, you have such a negative way of stating even positive ideas.
But, yes, I guess there's something to what you say. God has been good to
me. I have always been well off ever since I can remember, and my practice
is doing very well. I have a beautiful and loving wife, and three great
kids. I have my health. I guess I don't have much to complain about.
But, as I see it, because God has been so good to me, that means that more
is expected of me. It's only right that I use the benefits He has given me
to help others, who have not been so blessed. That doesn't mean you're a
project, though. If all I wanted was a project, I could sit at home and
Dermot was surprised. It seems he hit on something that really turned
Mr. Lyle on. But it also was something that turned him off.
"I don't believe in your god. If there is a god, he's pretty mean and
cruel, to allow wars to kill off good people, and leave the real bastards
around. If there's any god around who gives a damn, why was I out on the
street turning tricks and getting the shit beat out of me?"
"Those are some really serious questions, Dermot. And ones that have
been around for a long time. Ever read the BOOK OF JOB?"
"Its part of the Old Testament. A long parable, about a good man who
suffers all kinds of disasters. He doesn't understand it, either. Neither
do I. I don't pretend to have all the answers. My son Lando asked me that
same question not too long ago. And he didn't have your experience to draw
on, he was just watching the evening news."
Dermot was distracted from the philosophical problem of evil. "You
have a son named Lando?"
Walt almost blushed. "Well, his name is really Roland, but we call
him Lando. When he was small, we were watching one of those Star Wars
movies, and there was a character called Lando. My son liked the name, and
ran around the house with a light saber calling himself Lando for days, so
it kind of stuck."
"Why would you stick a kid with a name like Roland to begin with?"
"It's my father-in-law's name. My older son was named for me, or my
father, whichever, since we have the same name, and my younger son was
named for my wife's father."
"Okay. But I still think it's a dirty trick to label someone with an
odd name like that. I should know. I hear you have three teenagers. Two
sons, so the other must be a daughter, unless ...."
Dermot went quiet. It suddenly occurred to him that Mr. Lyle's third
child might be a gay son, but he did not think of him as a son.
Those thoughts seemed validated when Walt began, "Well, not exactly."
But they were quickly dispelled when he continued with, "Mr older son,
Mark, just turned twenty in January, and insists he is no longer a
teenager. And my daughter Emily is just thirteen, although she seems to
have considered herself a teenager for years."
Walt laughed in a way which made Dermot think he must be a good
father. It was a warm and comfortable laugh. Not the mocking, sneering
laughs he had become used to.
"You must like your kids a lot. They are so lucky." That damned tear
ran down his face again.
"I think you'd make a fine lawyer some day. I've told you a lot more
than you told me this afternoon."
Dermot smiled. Nice daydream, anyway.