Copyright © 2001
Tommy Sorenson was a teller of tall tales, from the time he started to talk. He had an incredible imagination, and he enjoyed sharing it with other kids and even adults, and he had a wonderful mother who loved and cared about him, and he hadn't made any other friends, because who needed other friends when he had a friend like his mother.
But then he started school, and his wonderful mother went back to work, and hired Bridget the Nanny to look after him. And that day his wonderful mother changed. She had been itching to get back to work for years, and now she had returned to her job, for the same firm that her husband worked for. His mother was the kind of person who put herself wholeheartedly into whatever she did. While she had been taking care of Tommy, all of her attention had been focused on him. Now that she was back to work, that attention was transferred to her new job. Both of them loved what they did, and they felt wonderful that they were providing for Tommy's future, and they never thought about the present, and he rarely even saw them, they so often worked late.
His kindergarten teacher, Miss Starch, had a passing resemblance to the Wicked Witch of the West, and the personality to match. She didn't really like children and should never have become a teacher in the first place. She had taken a particular dislike to Tommy and had discovered him telling some of his stories and she hadn't bothered to listen to them and from the first, considered him a terrible liar. Being a malicious person, she told all the other teachers how bad a liar he was. When the other children began to realize that if they blamed something naughty that they did on Tommy, Miss Starch always believed them, and never Tommy. She began to spread the fact that not only was he a liar, but a troublemaker as well.
By the First Grade, Tommy had become a convenient scapegoat for all the other children, because by then all of the teachers knew he was a liar and a troublemaker. So Tommy began to withdraw into his own world of imagination, and stopped telling his wonderful stories, and while he was never either a liar or a troublemaker, he had stopped saying, 'I didn't do it.' because nobody believed him anyway.
Bridget the Nanny, was no Mary Poppins, more like a younger version of Miss Starch. She dutifully took care of him, and he always had clean clothes, and good food, but she never gave him a bath, which had been a fun time with his mother, saying he was old enough to bathe himself. She didn't tuck him into bed at night, as his mother had done, or give him a nice back rub and read him a good bedtime story. Tommy realized for some reason his mother no longer cared about him, and often cried himself to sleep.
Every year he tried to make friends, and every year he seemed to succeed, until those friends got into trouble and turned on him. Having such a convenient scapegoat in Tommy, they blamed the trouble on him and of course, they were believed. This year he hadn't tried to make friends. He knew that friendship existed, he'd observed it among his schoolmates, but by now he knew there would never be a friend for him. He was still polite, and if anyone had bothered to look, he was a nice little boy. While he was never bullied, he still was an outcast, yet he was not embittered and he still loved school, because he had an insatiable love of learning.
Then one time Mr. and Mrs. Sorenson went to San Francisco for two weeks, leaving on a Saturday. The very next Monday, when she got ill, Bridget did what she was supposed to. After getting Tommy off to school, she phoned the hotel in San Francisco where Mr. and Mrs. Sorenson were staying and left them a message that she was sick and she was going to her sisters, so she would have someone to take care of her. But the hotel was so busy that the message was misplaced, so the Sorenson's never got it. Bridget also called Mrs. Sorenson's office and left a message on her answering machine telling her about her illness. Being a nice person, to everyone except Tommy, who she had almost forgotten existed, so seldom did she see him, Mrs. Sorenson had given her secretary two weeks off, so there was nobody to receive the messages from the answering machine.
Neither Mr. or Mrs. Sorenson dealt with the public, they dealt only with others in their company. The answering machine told their colleagues where they could be reached, so she had made no arrangements for anyone to check the answering machine.
And of course, his teacher knew that Tommy was often late and skipped school quite often so that she didn't even pay any attention to the fact that he wasn't there. However, if she had bothered to look, if anyone had cared enough about Tommy to look, they would have discovered that Tommy had never missed a day of school in his life, though it wasn't always his decision. In all that time, he had been late once, he had just become invisible to his teachers, unless something happened and they needed someone to blame.
Tommy was walking to school Monday morning, knowing that Bridget wouldn't be there when he got home, and he was confused. Bridget was taking time off from work because she was sick, but she had never let him take even a day off when he got sick, shooing him off to school no matter what his complaints were. So of course, he no longer bothered to even say anything when he wasn't feeling well, he just headed for school anyway. He had missed many of the childhood illnesses that his schoolmates had gotten, including the visible ones, like the mumps, measles and chicken pox, so his teachers, who didn't really see him, never even noticed when he was ill.
In fact he wasn't feeling well today either, and though he didn't know it he was suffering from the same flu that Bridget had. Feeling dizzy, he sat down on the sidewalk, bringing his knees to his chest and resting his head on them. After a few minutes, no longer feeling dizzy, he got up and despite the fact that he knew that Bridget wasn't at the apartment, he was too ill to go on to school and he headed for home.
Being an expensive building it had a doorman, but the doorman was doing his job, part of which was helping the tenants to bring their shopping up to their apartments, and he didn't see Tommy come home and enter the building. Tommy was just going up in one elevator as the doorman was coming down in another. So, nobody knew that Tommy was home.
Letting himself into the apartment, Tommy remembered to close and lock the door, and dropping his backpack he rushed to the bathroom, making it just in time to lose his breakfast into the toilet. After ten minutes of emptying his stomach, Tommy had nothing more to bring up, and the need to vomit was gone. Tommy got shakily to his feet and after washing his face and rinsing his mouth, he stumbled to his room.
Of course, his bed was neatly made up. Bridget insisted that he make his bed every morning. Pulling back the covers he pulled off his outer clothes and dressed only in his underpants literally fell into bed.
Across town, Bridget's sister, Ingrid, who would have made a much better Nanny for Tommy, was very concerned and took her sister to the hospital, where she would get the required care for the very severe case of the flu that she had. She had been worried about Tommy, the boy that her sister took care of, but before she got too sick, Bridget had assured her sister that she had gotten in touch with his parents and told them that she was ill. Ingrid knowing how conscientious her sister was, believed her, not knowing she had not talked to them directly but simply left messages.
In the hospital Bridget, who was getting the proper medications, though not feeling very good, was soon getting better. In San Francisco his parents were loving their vacation, and in San Diego, Mrs. Sorenson's secretary was enjoying her unexpected vacation, and contemplating retirement, but in the apartment Tommy, who was getting no medications, was getting worse and worse.
Mr. Russell, the new Vice-Principal of Tommy's school, was also a conscientious person, but he also loved children, so it was unfortunate that he and his wife, who taught the second fifth grade class in the school and also loved children, were unable to have any.
Since the beginning of the school year, he had been examining the record of each child in his school, and it was a large school, being a combined grade school and middle school. The only way he felt he could get to everyone fairly, was to go by alphabetical order and the week before Bridget and Tommy fell ill, he had finally gotten to the S's. Of course, S had the largest number of names and in his school, there were more than normal, so it wasn't until early Tuesday, of the week that Bridget and Tommy fell ill that he got to Tommy Sorenson.
Since Tommy was such a liar and troublemaker, according to all of his teachers, Mr. Russell was spending much more time on Tommy than he had intended. He had already found out that most of the things the teachers !!KNEW!! about Tommy were completely false.
That he often skipped school. Aside from one other student in the entire school district, the computer told him, Tommy was the only child who had a perfect attendance record. It would have told him that Tommy had missed Monday, and Tuesday, but the data, except in certain circumstances was compiled every Friday.
That he was always late. Again, the computer told him that in all his time at school, Tommy had been late, once, in the third grade.
That he was a poor student. Based solely on tests and exams Tommy was an outstanding student, but the teachers were inclined to ignore those results and dwell on what their preconceived notions told them, that he was a bad student.
That he was a liar and a troublemaker. Tommy had on occasion admitted that he had caused trouble, but no more than any other child had. Mr. Russell had questioned the children of both fifth grade classes, and found that everyone of them except one, who had just begun to attend this school only this year, had, like any other children, tried to shift the blame to someone else when they got into trouble. Since kindergarten it had usually been Tommy, and since they were always believed, they had continued to blame Tommy.
On Wednesday of that week, Mr. Russell, received notification that Tommy Sorenson had been absent, from school for the third straight day. That was one of the special circumstances that was programmed into the computer, when a student missed classes for three days in a row without notification from parents or guardians, that fact was to be directed to the Vice-Principal, who was in charge of attendance.
Mr. Russell immediately became alarmed. That wasn't the Tommy Sorenson he had come to know in the last couple of days, of looking over his records and talking to the other children. He phoned the Sorenson's home, and just got an answering machine. Consulting his records, he found Mrs. Sorenson's business number, and called that number. Of course, he got another answering machine, this one directing him to a San Francisco hotel.
More alarmed now, Mr. Russell called the Nanny's listed next of kin. Ingrid told him that Bridget was in the hospital, and she had been worried about the boy Bridget took care of and had asked her and been told that she had contacted his parents. Now Ingrid was also alarmed and she said she would call the hospital and call him right back.
When Ingrid got in touch with Bridget and found she had just left messages for Tommy's parents, she felt like giving her a good talking too. The language she thought of using might even have gotten Bridget's attention, but instead she slammed the phone down and called Mr. Russell back.
Really alarmed now, Mr. Russell called the San Francisco hotel, to talk with Mrs. Sorenson. He was unable to get in touch with her, and was told by the hotel that they didn't know where the Sorensons were at the moment, but he did find out from the hotel that the message concerning Tommy had never been delivered to the Sorenson's.
Luckily, Mr. Russell had friends in high places. Calling his brother the Police Captain, he conveyed his urgency to him, and the Police Captain knowing that his brother was no alarmist, called his brother the Judge and got a search warrant for the Sorenson's apartment.
They were just in time. A few more hours and Tommy, as ill as he was, would have died. The Sorensons came flying home to be with their son and for a short time everything was right with Tommy's world.
Nobody could be blamed, because everybody had done what they were supposed to. The Sorensons had told Bridget they were going to San Francisco. Bridget had called the hotel leaving a message telling the Sorensons that she was ill. They all blamed it on a misplaced message at the hotel.
Well everybody but Mr. Russell blamed it on that. Unable to tell the Sorensons and Bridget what he really thought of them, he did what he could, he tore a strip off of his teachers and made them ashamed of what they had been doing to Tommy. and transferred Tommy to his wife's class, so school changed for Tommy.
He now had a sympathetic teacher who had no preconceived notions, that he was a bad person. She seemed to be able to see right through students who had done something wrong and tried to blame others, so they had learned not to try.
But in a few weeks Mrs. Sorenson was itching to get back to work, and like before her life became devoted to her work, and again Tommy was abandoned, if not physically, then mentally. It had been mutually agreed between the Sorensons and Bridget that she wouldn't return, and Mrs. Sorenson secretary who was contemplating retirement, because she felt the business world no longer suited her, was persuaded to become Tommy's new Nanny.
She was a grandmother who had raised five children, she had several grandchildren of Tommy's age, and while she didn't become one of the family, she knew children and she became Tommy's friend.
So things improved for Tommy, school life was better, home life was better, and while Tommy missed the wonderful mother he once had, he no longer expected to see her again.
But Tommy had been shockingly abused, not physically but emotionally. Would he, like so many abused children, grow up to abuse his children? We can only hope not.
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