The Boy in the Bin

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18) A PRELUDE TO PROBLEMS

Raphael didn’t need to wait long to find out what his parents would say when they found out about the exploding balloons at school. Sylvia already arrived home because she took the day off early. When Raphael walked in the door, she told him the school called and informed her of what happened.

“I want you to go to your room,” she informed him, “until your father gets home.”

“But Mommy,” Raphael cried, “I didn’t ...”

“I don’t want to your arguments yet ... Go to your room.”

Raphael wanted to tell his side of the story, but his mother acted furiously. He might be better off to do what she said and try to explain later. He headed down the hallway to the solitude of his room.

Sylvia went through a busy day herself. She called MassEye Investigations and talked Mr. Mark Lawrence. He informed her that his firm would be glad to handle surveillance on her husband and take photographs if necessary. The cost would be $ 300 per day, plus expenses. Raul usually came home at around 6 o’clock during the week. She decided she could afford to tail him for ten days; starting this coming Friday.

If something didn’t develop by the end of his surveillance, she would drop the matter and consider her $3000 investment simply an investment. Raul came in the house at a little after 5 o’clock and Sylvia approached him. She told him about the call she received from the school when he interrupted her.

“I got a call from the school,” Raul announced. “They referred to something about an exploding balloon?”

“From what I’ve been told,” Sylvia commented, “Raphael and Johnny pulled a prank together. The Principal said they created a dangerous situation and luckily nobody got hurt. The teacher is mad as hell and wants the school to pay for getting his suit cleaned and replacing his dress shirt.”

“Is Raphael in his room?” Raul asked.

“I ran him off as soon as he got home from school. I wanted to talk to you first.”

Raul went down to Raphael’s bedroom and told him to come out into the kitchen. The entire family settled down at the kitchen table, which would be normal for this time of day.

“I understand you got into some trouble today,” Raul started.

“Johnny did something bad,” Raphael squeaked in his defense. “I didn’t ndo anything nbut hold the balloon.”

“What did he do?”

“The teacher did a demonstration,” Raphael explained. “He put ntwo different gasses in ntwo different colored balloons Johnny nthought mixing the gas in one balloon nwould be fun. When the teacher lit them, they exploded. The teacher got mad and paddled us.”

Raul thought about a proper response for a minute. He decided he didn’t like someone hitting his boy in school. If Raphael got into some fight with another student, Raul probably would accept discipline. He never smacked his kid around though, and he would not allow someone else to use a paddle on him.

“I’m not accusing you of being wrong, Son,” he told Raphael, “but you’re not right either. From what I understand, the likelihood of you being at the wrong place at the wrong time is strong. I don’t agree with any corporal punishment without my approval. I will go to school with you tomorrow and get this thing settled.”

Raphael breathed easier knowing his father didn’t seem mad at him. Sylvia added they would both go to school tomorrow and demand a conference with the teachers.

“Now we’ve got the school situation settled,” Sylvia agreed, “I will get dinner served.”

The next day, Cal got a real surprise when all three members of the Hernandez family piled in the car; waiting to go to school. Raphael sat in the front seat, with mom and dad sitting in the back. Raul asked Cal how his schedule stood for the morning.

“I got nothing planned, Mr. H,” he said. “Whatcha be needin’ me ta do?”

“I would like to make sure you wait for Sylvia and I at outside school,” Raul declared.

“We’re attending a conference this morning, but we will need to make sure you shuttle us back home afterward.”

“You gotz it,” Cal replied. “Whateva ah can do ta help.”

When they got to the school, Raphael immediately went to his first class. Raul and Sylvia announced they would like a conference in the Principal’s office. The Principal met and invited them to sit down.

“I understand you got into a problem with my son yesterday,” Raul began.

“Yes Mr. Hernandez,” the Principal , “we did experience a small problem. The Science teacher reported Raphael and another boy caused a small explosion in class. He claims both he and some other children escaped being been hurt by the incident.”

“I understand,” Raul continued, “he took discipline upon himself and paddled the boys.”

“We are strict here at Village Community School,” she boasted. “Sometimes we need to use special means to get our message across to the students.”

“Well,” Raul stated, “I hope you will get my message. If I ever receive word of you, or any of your staff taking drastic matters like this again, I will own this school. My wife and I handle the punishment in the house, and punishment doesn’t include paddling. We pay good money for Raphael to attend this school and don’t expect him to tell tales of beatings.”

“Perhaps,” the Principal warned, “you should talk to Lieutenant Sherman from the NYPD. He found the situation interesting your son was involved in two incidences of violence here at the school. He is planning on investigating the matter. If you are threatening a lawsuit of any kind, I highly suggest you reconsider.”

All Raul’s bravado got him nowhere. He found out order, he didn’t intimidate the Principal. Even with the threat of a lawsuit, she insisted Raphael could’ve been wrong both times.

“I’m sorry,” Raul sputtered. “I didn’t mean to imply I would be suing you. I want to clarify things though; I condone no one striking my son.”

“The teacher is Mr. Whitlow,” the Principal remarked. “He insists someone needs to reimburse him for the dry cleaning of his suit and replacement of his shirt. Are you willing to take responsibility for the bill?”

“Providing he is willing to put his paddle away,” Raul affirmed, “I would be willing to pick up the tab for his ruined clothes.”

“OK Raul, I think we are done here.”

Both parents left the meeting and went out to the car where Cal sat waiting. Raul gave him directions to his office on Avenue C while Sylvia sat quietly, pondering away in her own world.

“Our meeting,” Raul complained, “didn’t quite work out the way I expected. I never anticipated the Principal would involve the cops in a school problem.”

“The problems all come back to Johnny,” Sylvia argued. “That little bastard is a bad influence. You can recognize this yourself. Our son would never originate the thought to pull a stunt like mixing gasses on his own. We need to break those two up.”

“I’m reluctant to separate them Sylvia,” Raul objected. “Raphael doesn’t hang out with many friends and if we remove Johnny from the equation, we may create an even bigger problem.”

“I’m not trying to be mean,” Sylvia responded, “but something needs to be done. This is two incidents now where your boy Johnny manipulated Raphael into some bullshit.”

“Twice Raul, twice.”

“Well,” Raul pressed, “I don’t think breaking them up is critical at the moment. I think we can benefit from a little talk with Raphael and explain the situation to him. He’s so innocent and trusting. I think that’s why he lets Johnny lead him around.”

They arrived at Raul’s workplace and kissed goodbye. Sylvia said she would go into work, even though she would be late because she wanted to get caught up.

“Oh,” Raul mentioned “I forgot to tell you. I’m going to a board meeting Thursday night. I won’t be home until about 9 or 9:30 P.M.”

“Well thanks for informing me,” Sylvia shot back, “Perhaps I’ll go play bingo with the neighbors.”

Raul slammed the door closed and Cal took off down Avenue C.

Bingo? Raul thought; she hasn’t ever played bingo in her life.

Sylvia’s mind focused on other thoughts. She intended MassEye Investigations to follow Raul on Friday. With this latest revelation, she needed to update the schedule with Mark Lawrence.

She didn’t believe in night time board meetings .

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