Dermot - Chapter 10 - Making Progress?

During the days which followed the revelation of Dermot's rape, events
seemed at times to move at a glacial pace, at other times like a race horse
out of the starting gate. Dermot wanted all this to be over, while at the
same time he was frightened about what would happen to him when it was
over, and he had to leave the hospital. He seemed to be healing
satisfactorily. His bruises and scrapes were virtually gone by the end of
his second week in the hospital. His bones seemed to be knitting together
satisfactorily, although he still had casts on his left leg, his right
wrist, and around his chest where his ribs were broken. The place on his
head, despite the jokes of Drs. Shipley and Rygalski, seemed to be healing
rapidly, with the bandages off now. Likewise, the bandages remained off
his right eye, so he could see better, and looked better as well. His left
lung was monitored regularly, but no problems showed up. New tests
certified that he was free of the STDs he had brought with him.
Dr. Shipley several times mentioned the recuperative powers of the young,
given a chance. In fact, on Friday, 6 March, Dermot was supplied with
crutches, and was able to make his way around his room, and to the
restroom, without assistance. He was very pleased with this, because he
knew Nurse Hoffman would be back the next day. He asked Dr. Shipley to
leave specific instructions that he could go to the bathroom on his own.
On that same morning, Dr. Shipley told Dermot, "You could go home now, if
you had someplace to go." That was the problem most on his mind during
these days, and into the next week.

Once more, Dermot was taken to the office of Dr. Grissom, the
psychologist. That visit was no more successful than the previous one, as
Dermot stubbornly refused to cooperate with his assigned counselor. After
some discussion among Dermot, Dr. Shipley, and Mr. Lyle, Dr. Jessica
Lanier was called in. She was the psychologist who saw Lando back when he
was struggling with his sexual identity, and who Lando highly recommended.
Dermot was surprised when he first met her, not because she was female,
which he already knew, but because of her swarthy complexion. Dr. Lanier
explained that she was a member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation,
originally from North Carolina. After their first visit together, Dermot
decided he liked this counselor. She was direct and straightforward, with
none of what he perceived as the pretense of Dr. Grissom. She told him
right off that he had problems, but they would resolve them together. When
he attempted to equivocate about his experiences as a hustler, she told him
he was full of crap, and if he were not going to tell the truth, they might
as well call it all off. Dermot greatly appreciated her honesty, and so
decided he would be honest in return. After all, she evidently already
knew the worst, namely, his rape by his cousin Zach and his career as a
prostitute. Dr. Lanier first came to see Dermot on the same Friday when
Dr. Shipley told him he could go home if he had someplace to go. Her visit
helped him deal with that unpleasant reality, so they were off to a good
start. She said she would see him once a week for now, and less often as
he grew able to deal with his problems more successfully.

The Thursday before the first appearance of Dr. Lanier saw the visit
of Mrs. Harper with an armload of books. She happened to come in the
afternoon, while Lando was visiting, so he just backed away, but remained
in the room, not expecting the social worker's visit to last very long.

Depositing her burden on the table by Dermot's bed, Mrs. Harper
stated, "Here are the books for the classes you should be taking this year,
Dermot. You know we really cannot neglect your education any longer. I
wish you would look them over, and then we can talk about some kind of home
schooling for now."

Dermot grabbed a green colored tome, then dropped it as though he had
been bitten by a snake. "Oh, shit! Sorry, but the first one I picked up
was a math book."

Both Mrs. Harper and Lando chuckled at that, and at the look of dismay
on Dermot's face. Lando edged up to take a look.

"Hey, that's geometry, the same book I have. I told you geometry was
kind of cool. A lot more fun than algebra."

"Getting beat up was a lot more fun than algebra," a disgruntled
Dermot responded with more than a little exaggeration.

"Perhaps you could help Dermot, Lando," Mrs. Harper suggested.

"I'd be glad to, but math is not really one of my strong suits. Would
it be okay if I asked my brother to help?"

"That would certainly be all right with me, if Dermot is willing to
work with him, and your brother is willing for his part to put in some
time," Mrs. Harper agreed.

As a result, on Saturday, Lando arrived with an older boy. The family
resemblance left no doubt about their relationship, as their features were
very similar, despite the fact that Mark had brown hair and eyes, and was
several inches taller than his younger brother.

"Hey, Dermot. This is my brother," Lando said.

"Hi, I'm Mark Lyle. I'm glad to meet you, as Dad and my little
brother have been talking about you for weeks." Mark extended his hand,
shaking Dermot's still encasted right hand carefully.

"Hi. I'm Dermot. Thanks for coming."

"I understand from this reprobate," indicating Lando, "that you share
his infantile aversion to math, so I came along to see whether I could
maybe help out. Lando represents the literature and history side of our
family, like Dad, but I'm the math and science guy. We're different in a
lot of ways," Mark stated, causing Lando to blush slightly and poke his
brother.

Lando objected strongly to the description of his attitude towards
math as infantile. "Just because I prefer people to numbers does not mean
I'm retarded or something," he insisted. Turning to Dermot, Lando
continued, "My brother has a superiority complex. He seems to think that
being born first automatically makes him better at everything than me."

"Of course. What haven't I beat you at, little brother?" Mark kidded.

Lando had to think for a couple of minutes, but then he exclaimed,
"Crosswords! I can run rings around you in crosswords!"

"I concede crosswords," Mark stated magisterially, "but you will have
to agree that there is very little practical use for crosswords, whereas
math ...."

".... is practical and dull as dishwater," Lando completed.

Dermot was watching the interaction between the brothers carefully.
At one time, he had hoped his cousin Zach would be a big brother to him,
but their relationship had never been even cordial, much less close and
joking, like that between Lando and Mark. He was aware of a twinge of envy
as he observed them.

"Well, Dermot, do you think you can work with me, even if I'm not my
brother," Mark asked.

"Yeah. I think I'd like to try, anyway. But I've got to warn you, I
hate math. It was my worst subject last year."

"Okay, I'm warned. Lando, you disappear. You will undoubtedly be
nothing but a distraction. We'll tackle the opening chapter in this
geometry book, but you can come back in maybe thirty to forty-five minutes,
okay?" Mark said, taking control of the situation.

Lando dutifully disappeared. When he returned, he found Mark
carefully explaining what axioms and postulates were, and Dermot actually
looking like he understood. From then on, Dermot worked each day at his
school work, helped some of the time by Lando, and some of the time by
Mark. In addition to geometry, Mark helped Dermot with the study of
biology, lamenting that they had to work without a lab, or even the great
outdoors. Lando was a great help, because Dermot still could not write, so
Lando brought his laptop with him, and allowed Dermot to write out his
answers to the questions he was given in English and history. He then
edited Dermot's many typos and other problems of composition. Mrs. Harper
was quite pleased with this arrangement, especially as Lando and Mark were
putting in volunteer work, sparing the County the expense of a tutor.

Some movement was also taking place on the legal front. After the
revelation that Dermot had been raped by his eighteen year old cousin with
the knowledge and assistance of his uncle, warrants were issued for the
arrest of Stephen Emmet Barry and Zachary Brian Barry. These warrants were
duly served, with father and son hauled before a judge, a court appointed
attorney assigned, a tentative court date set, and bond posted. Dermot
would not have to appear until the actual trial. However, he was deposed,
with a detailed statement of his abuse at the Barry home with emphasis on
the rape and expulsion from the home. He answered questions from both
Mr. Lyle and the attorney for his cousin, being as accurate and honest as
he could, asking Mr. Lyle for guidance when he was unsure. He did not want
anything to screw this up. The Barrys were also under court order to turn
over to Mr. Lyle, acting as Dermot's attorney, all records related to the
estate of the late James E. Barry, and all possessions of Dermot and his
parents. This caused some difficulty, as the Barrys claimed nothing
belonged to Dermot, but despite their obstruction, on Sunday Walt Lyle was
able to present Dermot with an envelope containing his birth certificate,
his parents' marriage certificate, his father's papers from his time in the
army, some other documents, and some family photographs. Mr. Lyle stated
that the Barrys said they had no knowledge of any plastic statue of
St. Dermot, but he suspected that they had destroyed it or thrown it away.
Despite this, Dermot was immensely grateful for what he was given. He was
beginning to recover his identity, in a way, with these documents.

Sgt. Flaherty also was able to report some progress. He visited
Dermot on the same Saturday as Mark Lyle's first visit. "We've got a real
breakthrough, Dermot. As I expected, the guys who attacked you tried
again. Yesterday evening, at the Cardinal tavern, our witness saw your
friend Gary talking to a young punk."

"Now, Sergeant, that's no way to talk about teens, even if they are
engaged in illicit activity," Dermot chivvied the policeman.

"No, this guy really was a punk. I mean, he had tattoos, his head
shaven, various bits of hardware sticking in his face, the whole nine
yards," Flaherty somewhat naively asserted.

"It still seems wrong, but go on. You arrested Gary, right?"

"Well, no. Unfortunately, our witness became excited when he saw Gary
and the punk talking, and started yelling that the police wanted to talk to
him. Naturally, Gary bolted."

"Gee, another false start," Dermot lamented. "What about the
hustler?"

"The punk was really pissed about losing his hook up, and took it out
on our witness, punching him a good one. He has a nice shiner this
morning. Serves him right for being such a dunderhead," the policeman
asserted.

"But we're no further along as far as actually identifying the guys
who beat me up, are we?" Dermot said dejectedly.

"That not exactly true. There's more. The great news is, our witness
was able to catch a glimpse of the vanity plate on that Cherokee. Guess
what it said? Nothing to do with Chuck, but the plate said 'My God.' We
ran a search on that with DMV and came up with Charles M. Wilhoit, age 31,
resident of this city. And, here's further verification of your story: he
is a junior member of the law firm of Jessup, Wilhoit, and Greene. The
Wilhoit in the firm's name is his father, who is quite a power around the
court house. We hauled in young Wilhoit, who is called Chuck, by the way,
and questioned him, but he claims all he was doing was a completely
legitimate drive down Third Street, not even stopping at the Cardinal,
which he designated as a hang-out for queers - his word. I did note that
he wears western style boots with steel toes. I wish we had an impression
of the damage to your side, to compare with those toes. Of course, we have
DNA samples of the semen found on you when you were brought in, but without
more to go on, we can't compel him to give us a sample of his DNA. He sure
knows all the limitations on police authority, I can tell you that. Look
at these pictures, and tell me whether you can pick out any of your
assailants," Sgt. Flaherty said hopefully.

Dermot looked over six photographs, but shook his head sadly. "No, I
never got a good look at the guys in the front seat."

"That's a shame. But now we have a pretty good idea of where to look
for more evidence. It may seem like this is taking forever, Dermot, but we
are making progress. Don't give up on us."

"No way. Thanks, Sgt. Flaherty," Dermot responded.

"Any guy who makes his car into a god is bound to be up to no good,"
the sergeant mumbled as he left.

Dermot chuckled.

As far as Dermot was concerned, the real breakthrough came on the
following Tuesday. Mrs. Harper was back, this time talking about a foster
home.

"We have a definite possibility, Dermot, so don't give up hope. I
think things may work out better than you expect once we have some details
worked out."

"You mean once you find a foster family willing to accept damaged
goods like me," the teenager groused.

"All out clients are damaged to some extent, Dermot. That's why
they're in our care. But that does not mean no one is willing to help
overcome some of that damage. In fact, we have someone specifically
interested in you, if, as I said, we can work out some difficulties."

"Really? Who?" Dermot asked, surprised.

"Me," volunteered Mr. Lyle, who had just come into the room.

"Are you kidding me?" Dermot asked. "With all you know about me?"

"I would not kid you about something like this, Dermot." Walt Lyle
said very seriously. "I know how badly you need and want a safe place to
live while you get your life back together. I also know that you and Lando
have become good friends, and Mark thinks you're pretty cool, too."

"He does?"

"He does. Although, I admit, he has to throw in a few words about
your difficulty with math being a sign of something or another unpleasant.
He says the same things about his brother, though, so I don't think that's
going to be a problem."

"Gee, that would be great, Mr. Lyle. What are the details Mrs. Harper
mentioned? I'll do anything you want," Dermot rashly promised.

"Don't make any sweeping promises until you give this serious thought,
Dermot. Yes, we have a nice house, and yes, we've done this kind of thing
before, and yes, we're willing to share our home with you, but we need to
reach understanding about a few things first," the cautious lawyer stated.

"What? What kinds of things?" an anxious Dermot wanted to know. "You
know Doc Shipley treated me for my STDs, so I'm not contagious or
anything."

"No, it's not that. Let's deal with the easy matters first. I have a
thirteen year old daughter. She constantly surprises me with what she does
know, but I think it would be better not to discuss your rape or your
hustling in her presence."

"Not a problem. I don't really like talking about that stuff anyway,"
Dermot assented.

"Then, not to put too fine a point on it, there is your language. It
gets kind of vulgar at times, Dermot."

Dermot had to think about that. "I really am not conscious of that
most of the time. I guess that comes from living with Uncle Steve, and
then living on the streets. I can't promise I'll never slip up. It comes
out without me thinking about it. All I can say is I'll make a conscious
effort to clean up my act."

"So far, so good. If you had promised never to utter another vulgar
word, I would not have believed you, Dermot," Walt said with a smile. "But
this last matter is not going to be so easily dealt with. As of this
point, the only remaining hesitation I have, Dermot, has to do with your
comfort in our home. As I'm sure you know by now, we are a Catholic
family. We attend Mass each Sunday, but our Catholicism is not confined to
an hour on Sunday mornings. As you have good reason to know, we have our
weekly holy hour as part of the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration program at
St. George. We pray before meals. There are crucifixes and other images
in the house. You would be constantly reminded of our Catholicism. I know
you have had some very unpleasant experiences with some aspects of our
Church. I would not want you to be constantly uncomfortable as a result of
that. Do you think, given your previous experiences, you can be happy in a
Catholic home?"

That certainly caused Dermot to stop smiling. He had been thinking of
sharing space with Lando, but had ignored this aspect of the Lyle family.
He wanted this more than anything he had ever wanted since he gave up
wanting his father back. But could he honestly answer yes to Mr. Lyle's
query?

"I don't think I could go back to being Catholic," he cautiously said.

"That's not the issue. We would certainly not demand that you adopt
our religion. History pretty much shows that the attempt to impose a
religion on an unwilling person is bound to be unsuccessful, resulting in
mere outward conformity at best, and rebellion at worst. I'm simply asking
whether you would be comfortable with us practicing our religion in your
presence. We can't pretend not to be Catholic, you know, any more than we
can expect you to pretend to believe as we do."

Although he did not mention it, Walt noted that Dermot said he could
not "go back" to being Catholic. That was an aspect of the matter he had
not considered before this, although it made sense, Barry being an Irish
name.

"Okay, you're laying it out for me, so I'll be honest. I'll have to
think about it. At this point, I simply cannot make any promises," Dermot
finally decided.

"Oh, Dermot ...." Mrs. Harper began.

"No, the boy is right," Walt insisted. "It has to be an honest
answer, or the whole thing will not work. And, Dermot, if your answer is
'no,' that does not mean we'll give up on you, but Mrs. Harper will simply
have to find a different foster family. It's done all the time. We have
to find a good match. While you're making up your mind, my wife and
daughter will stop by to see you in a day or so. They have their say as
well in anything like this. I don't think you have anything to worry about
on that score, though. Lando and Mark have both given you their seal of
approval, and the advanced publicity from those sources will undoubtedly
influence Mrs. Lyle and Emily."

That afternoon, Mark came by to give Dermot his next tutorial in
geometry. He had a big grin across his face.

"I hear you may be coming to stay with us. I know Lando would like
that. The little creep talks about you all the time. I think he's more
than a little fond of you."

"Really?" Dermot deadpanned.

"Oh, come on. Surely you have to realize that you are more than a
social project for Lando. Mind you, I'm no expert in guy on guy things. I
don't pretend to understand your disgusting perversions," Mark teased,
"but, like the old saying goes, 'chacun ... son got, dit la femme qui a
baser la vache.'"

"What's that mean?"

Mark smiled. "It's about the only thing I remember from two years of
high school French. It means: Each to his own taste, said the woman who
kissed the cow."

"Yuck!"

"Not much different than one guy kissing another guy, in my opinion,
but to put it another way, de gustibus non disputandum."

"You're showing off," Dermot objected.

"Yep. But I guess what I'm saying is, I wouldn't mind having you
around, even if you are like Lando. Now, let's get busy with those
geometry problems."

That evening, Lando came to visit. He was practically dancing he was
so excited at the prospect of Dermot living with him. They spent a good
hour talking about that, not sparing themselves the worry over the religion
issue. Finding no ready answer, they concentrated on the literature Dermot
was supposed to be covering as part of his home schooling. Mrs. Harper had
provided him with some questions about the assigned works, which included
ROMEO AND JULIET later in the curriculum. Now there were various poems to
read and interpret. Dermot had to write out his analyses of these works,
and Lando had his laptop as usual, and helped by editing Dermot's writing,
making condescending remarks about his grammar and word choice, to which
Dermot responded with, "I'll bet your vocabulary about life on the streets
is pretty limited, too." Considering Dermot's age, and his experiences
since last May, his command of the language was actually pretty good, which
he attributed to spending time in the public library reading.

The last poem they read together was "Miniver Cheevy," a depressing
work by Edgar Arlington Robinson. When they had finished the reading,
Dermot sighed. "That's me," he said. "'Child of scorn, rued the day he
was born.' I seem to do nothing but cause trouble for the people I like,
and sure was scorned by those I didn't like."

"Don't get to down on yourself, Dermot. We'll work things out,
somehow," the ever optimistic Lando asserted.

"I don't know, Lando. This is serious stuff."

"I know it's serious stuff, but that doesn't mean we can't handle it.
We've just got to." the boy pontificated.

"Will you miss me if I can't go stay with your family?" Dermot fished
for a compliment.

For an answer, Lando leaned over and kissed Dermot. Then they both
stared at each other wide eyed.

After a moment of heavy breathing, Lando said, "I shouldn't have done
that. Now my hormones are acting up, and I'll disgrace myself if I'm not
careful."

"I'm all yours. If you don't think that nurse will interrupt us, I'll
be more than willing to take care of that bulge I detect in your jeans,"
Dermot offered, hoping to nudge things up a few notches.

Lando blushed and looked uncomfortable. "I'd love it, but not yet."

"Why not?" Dermot demanded.

"You'll just get mad if I tell you."

"No. I promise. You've hinted at this before. If there's no
boyfriend involved, what's the problem?"

"It's Lent," Lando said with a sigh.

"Lent! What the hell does Lent have to do with anything?"

"I knew you'd get upset. In our family, we abstain from sexual
activity during Lent."

"What! That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of!"

"Maybe, but that's what we do. I don't know how it got started. I
know a lot of kids at school don't do anything like this. But the Lyles
do. My dad told me, when he found out I was becoming sexually active -
just jerking off at that time - sex is the greatest physical pleasure God
had given us, so it is an appropriate sacrifice to make to offer it to God
for the six weeks of Lent. Unless a sacrifice involves something you
really like, it's not real. Believe me, it's not easy, especially now that
I know you."

Dermot looked in amazement at his friend. "I don't believe you.
You're not real."

Lando looked like he had been struck in the solar plexus. "Just as
real as you, Dermot. I think I'd better go for now. See you tomorrow."

Lando sorrowfully made his way out. Dermot continued to stare
unbelievingly. Then, shaking his head, he said to himself, "We've got to
work out this Catholic thing. We've got to!"