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Climbing into the limo with great haste, James and Eleanor carefully inspect every inch of Colby. Eleanor touches his swollen, bruised cheeks. Colby flinches back as if she struck a nerve. Then Colby shakes uncontrollably, and he sweats profusely as if he has the flu.
“Cold?” James asks.
“No. I want some so bad—”
“You’ve become addicted,” James says broken hearted.
“Maybe. I’m not sure.” Colby says as he looks down.
“Don’t worry; we’ll take care of you,” Eleanor reassures him.
James leans forward and says to his chauffeur. “Let’s get home quickly, please.”
The driver nods his head and focuses intently on the road.
Gently shifting his son to ease the discomfort, James holds his only son. Colby asks for a water bottle chilling in ice. Wiping away a tear from his eye, his parents want to hear the whole story.
“What happened, son?” James asks.
His eyebrows raise up as he continues to lean on his father. “I got there the Thursday before the Fourth of July and wanted everything to be perfect for Jeff, Scott, Bobby, and Andy.”
Leaning in, she puts her hand on her face with her pointer finger next to her temple, Eleanor listens with great interest.
“The next day I arrive at the Old Juan Dolio Beaches in Santo Domingo about an hour before I meet up with my friends.”
James already knows the story does not start well and remains silent.
“I was surprised that no was there. Weird. I look around and find out the perfect spot. Within a couple of minutes, I put on sunscreen and relax as the waves come ashore.”
Now James’ wants to speak, but knows it’s best to listen as there’s more to come.
“Suddenly, three guys come out of nowhere and point at me. Not sure what they are saying at first, but they surround me where one says in broken English, ‘you go with us.’”
“Hmm,” goes James.
Colby explains more. “I tell them ‘no,’ and one of them who is dressed in all black the pulls out a gun from under his shirt.”
Now shaking uncontrollably, James is unsure if it is the trauma or the drugs. Colby’s condition now appears to resemble as if he shivers.
“Then a black speedboat comes up to this dock. I hear pop, pop, pop coming our way as they shove me in the vessel. The driver speeds off, and they notice they have nothing to tie me down. The one who spoke to me pulls out a bag of pills from the dashboard where he orders me to take these pills, or they will kill me.”
James could not hold back, “and that’s when you took it?”
Colby raises his voice to affirm his story. “I had no choice. They had the damn gun in my face.”
Fearing he told too much, Colby is now afraid to look at his parents.
“It’s ok son, go ahead.” Eleanor requests.
Pausing again, she gently nods her head.
“So he hands me the ziplock bag of multicolored pills.” Then in broken English, they say, “you’ll feel good. Take some.”
James now fights his own emotions. From frustration, anger to angst, he musters every bit of focus to persevere. From his prior experiences in war, he has seen first-hand the people on the street strung out and quickly identifies how bad of a situation Colby was in the Dominican Republic. While informally assess his son, James contemplates the next steps for treatment.
Colby continues. “Initially, I felt lightheaded like a hard night of drinking.”
Internally processing who he can contact, James knows Colby will need therapy at the minimum.
“A couple of minutes later they kick in. The sky spins, and I am feeling like I am drunk.”
Colby takes a sip of his water.
“Eventually they take me to their hideout where they assist me off the boat and onto a floating pier. They drag me into this big hangar type building, and they shove me to the floor.”
Concerned, James insists that he finish. “Go on. Might as well tell us the rest.”
“Next thing I knew the effects were going away, and they forced me to take more. I refused initially, and they beat the crap out of me.”
James now considers in-home therapy versus treatment facility as he fears the worst situation possible.
“Fearing that they would kill me, I gave in, and they hand me a water bottle and four more pills. Right after swallowing them, I ask, ‘what am I taking’ to which they said, ‘oxycodone.’”
James now struggles as much as his son on which action to take. His mind takes him to the location where he tries to relive how painful the whole ordeal must have been for Colby.
“How long were you there you think?”
“Maybe, two—three days. Within that time, I was forced to take more pills and popped them like it was Skittles. Now I can’t stop myself as I love the way they make me feel.”
James instinct is to act immediately. He realizes that some combination of methadone with other detox remedies are essential because short-term treatments at a facility rarely allow patients to recover fully.
“Colby, we want to know everything. Don’t stop.” Eleanor pleads.
“Then they smile as I have no clue what is going on.”
The surreal experience of his son being addicted now reminds James of stories printed in newspapers about the struggles of the youth across the nation and their addiction to drugs and alcohol.
“On the last day, the leader comes and says with a Caribbean accent, ‘you know these pills aren’t cheap Mon, and I need to get more. I want my money.’”
The sharp-witted son now appears frail and confused. “How much? A couple hundred?” Colby asks.
The limousine driver looks through the rearview mirror and makes eye contact with James to let him know they are home.
“They laugh hysterically.”
Colby takes another sip from his bottle.
“Oh, no, my friend. Try twenty-three thousand.”
Now embracing Colby, James cannot control his emotions as tears flow from his eyes.
“I tell them I do not have that kind of money.”
James looks to Eleanor as they prepare to get out. Without saying a word, they are on the same page.
“As I sit there, I hear them talking about me and know it is not good.”
The limo stops at the entrance to the mansion.
“One night, they push me in a trunk and take me to this place. Guess it is a restaurant, and they take me to a door behind the wall. From there, I don’t remember much.”
James now becomes enraged and sits silently.
“You don’t remember calling your dad?” Eleanor asks.
Shaking his head, Colby gently says, “no, guess they took my cell phone too when they abducted me.”
Thinking of the right words to say, James says in a soft voice, “well —it’s all over. We’re home now, and we’ll take care of you.”
The limousine driver assists them out of the car as Eleanor dashes to the front door. She kisses his forehead as he walks by and gets them into the estate. James aids Colby in finding relaxing clothes while Eleanor preps his bed.
“Thank you, mom and dad. I going to use the bathroom and lay down.”
Closing the door, he turns to Eleanor and says, “we need to find an in-home treatment specialist for him.”
Nodding her head in agreement, she scurries to his office comes back with a list she prepared while James waited for the plane to land. She hands it to him, and he peruses it.
“I —I can’t believe this happened to our son.”
“I know babe. We must be strong for him.”
“And now I must watch and pray that he makes it.”
“We will do everything we can to make him better. Even if it costs me everything, I have.”
Wiping a tear from her face, Eleanor stands there thinking of several scenarios. Like any other mother, she worries about her son and must go back and see him.
“I’m going back up to check in on Colby.”
“Good idea. I’ll go with you.”
Walking up to the room, James places his hand on her shoulder. Eleanor turns back around and leans her head on his. Stopping by the door frame, they open it slowly. They watch Colby sleep like he was a baby.
“I don’t know is how long it will take for him to recover. We must be patient and work with him through this. That is why I want him to recover at home rather than at a treatment center.”
Eleanor nods her head.
“Let’s go ahead and make plans tonight. In the meantime, I also need to get back with the guys.”
She knows what her husband says is right and that they must remain patient through the ordeal. He leans in and kisses her forehead.
Together they enter Colby’s room as they want a closer look. Eleanor gently brushes off his hair to his side while looking at him with her soft eyes.
“They don’t know how much I appreciate them. I owe Josiah more than just a favor; I owe him a job.”
Eleanor quietly leaves Colby’s bedside to retrieve his old clothes inside the bathroom while James walks out of the room.
Within a second of entering the bathroom, Eleanor screams. “Oh my God.”
James enters the faded white tiled bathroom as Eleanor where his shorts are thrown against the bathtub. She picks them up and empties out his pockets where she feels a piece of plastic.
She pulls out the plastic and notices four pills inside it where she now dreads the worst.
Together they go back to Colby’s side.
Their senses are heightened as they wonder if he took any pills.
At first, nothing appears to be wrong. Looking for clues, they try not to wake him.
Then Colby twitches. Suddenly, he gags. Then out of nowhere, his muscles tighten. It’s as if he is not breathing normally.
James sits on the mattress to keep him from falling and attempts to keep Colby’s airway open.
Eleanor freezes and weeps.
“Oh my God, James.” She yells out.
As James sits down on the bed; he asks Eleanor for one of the
“Oh my God. Call 911. He’s taken Vicodin.”
Knowing minutes can mean life or death she scurries to the phone and punches the three digits. “911 what is your emergency?”
Eleanor frantically tells the story. “My son took some Vicodin, and we need an ambulance here immediately.”
“Is he breathing?”
“Not like he should—It’s like he is struggling.”
“Check the airway to make sure that nothing is blocking it. If you see him stop breathing, administer CPR.”
“James, did you hear that?”
“Yes. Doing it as best as I can.”
“What is your address?”
Eleanor gives their address to the 911 responder.
“Mam, we have someone in route, and they will be there within minutes.”
“Ok. Please hurry. You gotta save my son.”
“They will do everything they can mam. Just stay on the line with me until they arrive.”
While James sits next to Colby, the dispatch officer overhears, “don’t worry son. They’re coming.”
Sirens wail in the distance. They can only hope they are close and they fear the worst has happened.
An eternity passes while they wait for the first responders. Seconds seem like hours. Finally. Red, white lights with the blaring sound of help arrive. Racing off the ambulance, they rush to Colby’s bedroom.
“Are they there now, mam?” Asks the 911 operator.” Yes, thank you,” Eleanor says
“I going to hang up and let you talk with them.”
They see James in his frail condition doing his best to administer CPR. With his eyes in the back of his head, he remains unresponsive.
“What happened?” asks the EMT.
One pulls out their medical kit.
“He is returning from an overseas trip and told me he had taken several opioid pills over the span of a week with some heavy drinking. From what I gather, he was in a fight That’s why you see him roughed up.”
They open their kit and retrieve their tools while putting their gloves on.
“We come back to check on him and find a bag of Vicodin pills while he is in bed.”
“How many did he take?”
Their attention now turns to Colby. “Colby, are you there? Can you speak to us?”
They now pull out a stethoscope. One paramedic listens to his heart while assessing his condition with detail. The stern looks on their faces reveal that the situation is the utmost severe and has not started off well.
“His respiratory drive is depressed; his breaths are shallow at a rate of about six per minute.”
Now one paramedic gets the sleeve to check Colby’s blood pressure.
“How long has he been in this condition?”
“About ten minutes.” James frantically responds.
The sleeve pumps up, and he listens.
“He’s tachycardia at 120 bpm with sinus rhythm.”
“On the ride home, he began to shiver while drinking some water.”
It gets unusually quiet as he listens to the heartbeat. Another paramedic checks his eyes.
“Pupils are pinpoint and sluggish.”
Out of the kit comes the Bag Valve Mask to assist his breathing.
“No medical alerts?”
“No sir,” replies Eleanor.
The medics frantically continue to assess. “Radial pulses—bounding/weak/thread—”
“Let’s administer him one mg of Narcan.”
Scared to death, James can’t help but ask. “Excuse me, but what is that?”
“Narcan is another name for Naloxone, which is a drug to reverse opioid overdoses.”
One medic adjusts Colby’s shirt to open his shoulder area. “Inserting it into his deltoid muscle.”
While one of them inserts the needle, the other put oxygen on his face. Seconds pass painfully by like an eternity. They watch and wait. Eleanor falls to her knees and prays. “Dear God, save my boy.”
Then a sluggish response.
“Uh—” Goes a disoriented Colby.
“Colby, I’m Darryl. Can you hear me?”
He shakes his head back and forth. The other listens to his heart and takes his pulse.
“His pulse is still, 110. Regular and symmetric.”
“Let’s get him on the stretcher and to the hospital.”
Both paramedics extend the gurney and carefully transfer Colby. Within one minute, they secure the wheel locks inside the ambulance and prepare to leave. They verify that they can transport their patient once they conduct all checks to ensure that his status does not deteriorate.
Shifting the gears into drive, they begin their trip. Following behind the ambulance, James and Eleanor zoom towards the University of Virginia Health System University Hospital. Parking the car, they both scamper towards the visitor’s lobby. The first responders rush through the double doors to get Colby into the emergency room.
As they check in, the nurse says they must go to bay twenty-one. She presses the button and the large wooden double doors open. Walking anxiously, they find the room. A team of nurses and the medics surround Colby in the small room.
“What do we have?”
An EMT begins the report. “Twenty-two-year-old male, opioid overdose. He was found unresponsive by his parents. Father states he took Vicodin but unsure about the amount. Parents report that patient told them he was drinking heavily and took many opioids over the past week.”
The physician pulls out his gloves and puts them on.
“Unknown of other substances. Pt became responsive after one mg of Narcan but remained in sinus tach at 110 bpm with pulses 2+ and symmetric in all extremities. Patient stable in transport.”
The doctor looks over Colby.
“Let’s move him.”
All hands are placed on Colby as they transition him from the medic’s bed to the hospital bed.
“All right everybody let’s move him on my count. One-two-three.”
They shift his weak body over to the hospital bed. EMTs stay around but only momentarily to safeguard that no extra support is needed. Eleanor and James look on helplessly. A nurse approaches them.
“We need you guys need to go and will update you when we have more news.”
She walks them out to the lobby while the rest of the nurses and physician tend to Colby. While walking them out, the nurse asks the fundamental questions such as allergy conditions and if Colby is taking any other medications.
As the nurse prompts for more clues, James remembers a critical piece of information. “This is what he took,” as he shows the baggie to her.
The nurse knew there was no time to waste. “I’ll let the doctor know immediately.” She returns to the room.
Meanwhile, the attending calls out the steps like a quarterback calling out an audible.
“I need vitals, EKG, and labs,” and “put the pt on the monitor.”
A nurse calls out, “respirations thirteen bpm.”
“Ok, let’s make sure he has a no blockage in his airway.”
“Where—Where am I?”
Colby looks around for clues to regain his senses. Seeing shadows initially, he cups his hand over his eyes to see the doctor as his pupils adjust to the bright light. Colby slowly stables as the physician wants to learn more.
“You are at the hospital. I’m Dr. Bailey. Need to ask you some questions. How long were you taking the pills?”
“About a week.”
“How many were you taking a day?”
Here Colby is hesitant as he is afraid, to tell the truth. He fabricates part of his story.
“I took them all at night after I had some beers. Maybe two every night.”
Dr. Bailey’s eyes tell the story of continued concern.
“Do you remember what the pills look like?”
They all see Colby try to recall.
“White, oval with some numbers and letters on them.”
All of them listen with great interest.
“What did they say? Do you remember?”
“Hold on Colby.” Dr. Bailey requests.
Dr. Bailey takes notes on a small piece of paper and hands it to the nurse with the nurse who walked out James and Eleanor return. She shows Dr. Bailey the pills she retrieved.
“All right, go ahead.”
Colby resumes. “I think they said OC and had numbers like twenty, forty —maybe eighty.”
She reads it and leaves the room.
“What did you take tonight?”
“I took three.”
“Ok, we will run some tests and want to make sure you recover with no setbacks. Need you to be patient with us, and we’ll be back. I’ll bring your parents in just a few minutes.”
Dr. Bailey leaves and goes to the waiting room.
James and Eleanor see him. “How is he? Did he tell you he ingested opioid?”
Fearing the worst, Dr. Bailey takes them to a room where they can discuss Colby’s situation privately.
“Mind following me?” Dr. Bailey asks.
They walk into a secluded location as he slides the glass door. Dr. Bailey takes off his glasses and speaks. “Yes, he told me. The OC on the pills he took this past week stands for Oxycontin, and those numbers vary the dosage. He seems stable for now, and I thought you might want to go back there and be with him.”
Eleanor asks. “I’ve heard of people getting OD, but how bad is opioid?”
“Opioid is one of the fastest growing epidemics sweeping our nation. Narcotic pain relievers cause three out of four overdoses and roughly 16,000 deaths annually.”
James curiously asks, “why do people take painkillers if there is no need for it?”
The physician replies, “basically they take it for the feeling of euphoria.”
“What kind of treatment plan were you considering Mr. Holloway?”
“We are looking for an in-home with the help of Dr. Joy Browne and her team. She has a track record of keeping close to sixty-three percent of her clients sober for over twenty years.”
“That’s pretty good,” Dr. Bailey acknowledges.
“Yes, I am expecting a call from her this morning and will finalize it today.”
“Good. I’ve seen some research on her, and she is one of the best in the country. He will need lots of support early on.”
“Thank you so much, Dr. Bailey.” James gladly says. “I do have one more question. What about his other injuries?”
Dr. Bailey still tries to connect the dots. “I was going to ask you about that.”
James knows he must answer this question carefully.
“The drugs he ingested put him in a position where he was beaten up pretty badly. From what I gather, it was more than just one night.”
“Did he tell the authorities?” Bailey asks.
“Truthfully, he was overseas, and I was going to ask him more about it in the morning.”
Scratching his head, the Dr. Bailey attempts to picture this happening. Unsure, if the statement is true, Dr. Bailey can only go with what he is told.
Somewhat satisfied with the answers, Bailey walks them back.
James and Eleanor surround Colby’s bedside with Dr. Bailey.
“What you just experienced was an overdose. A typical overdose is limp, cold and unresponsive and your body seizing is one of the worst side effects of taking any opioid.”
“So why did he seize? Wouldn’t he have to take a lot of pills to make that happen?” James asked.
“I would think so, but to be honest, I’m not sure why he seized.”
The grateful parents look at their son as Dr. Bailey speaks.
“Hopefully the tests will provide us some insight.”
James looks at Colby dead in the eyes. “Son, don’t lie to me.”
Guilt sets in as Colby calls out. “Dad, I’m not.”
“What?” James states in disbelief.
“I’m not lying. That’s all I took.”
“They are here to save you, and you better be completely honest.”
“No, sir. I promise I’m telling you the truth.”
Dr. Bailey resumes. “We will run a few more tests just to make sure that everything is all right and will get you up in a room. He’ll need to be here for at least a couple of days.”
James and Eleanor breathe a sigh of relief. “Thank you again,” Eleanor says.
“When he gets discharged, keep an eye out for conditions like drowsiness, constipation, lethargy, paranoia, and nausea.”
“Yes, sir,” James replies.
“If he experiences any of these symptoms at home, call your physician immediately.” Dr. Bailey gives a polite nod and walks out, and the nurse finishes up taking blood.
“It’s going to be all right,” Eleanor says holding his hand.
Forty minutes later the nurse returns.
“Mostly, the tests confirmed the overdose, but no traces of anything else. We will get some x-rays in the morning so we can look at your other injuries and let the swelling down. Once a room is available, we will move you upstairs. Last, Dr. Bailey wants you to see your physician within two days of you being at home.”
Like any family, they sit there and wait. Eleanor brushes her fingers through Colby’s hair. Three hours later, a nurse enters the room. “Ok, time to go. You’ll be on the third floor.”
Breathing a sigh of relief, the family gathers their belongings. Colby, assisted by his mom, gets settled into his room. The room is painted light blue and has two beds with a small table between them. A TV sits on the corner of the window and opposite wall. If you looked out of the window, you would see part of the ER roof and the parking lot. James senses that his son will be taken care of as his room is twenty feet away from the nurse’s station. Inspecting the room, he notices the that connects the remote and call button to the station.
Feeling slightly better, James looks at his messages to see if Dr. Browne returned his call. Eleanor sees him glancing at his phone.
“Why don’t you get that setup? I’ll stay here with him.”
She grabs her husband’s hand and squeezes it letting him know it will be all right.
He’s feeling the urge to talk to Eleanor and motions for her to leave momentarily while the nurse is in the room. She steps outside.
“What’s wrong honey?” Eleanor asks.
“Nothing. Glad this is over.” Tears run down his face.
“I just can’t believe our son is addicted to drugs.”
“We will get through this. What we experienced today was a miracle.”
“Yes, thank God.”
“Go get some rest, honey.”
“I will. Just have one more thing I have to do tomorrow.”
“What is that?” She wonders.
“I need to call and thank Bud and Josiah. Take them out to dinner or something.”
“Yes, you do. You make sure you find Josiah a job.”
“Don’t worry. I already have one in mind.”
“Love you, Babe.”
“Love you too.”
“Ok. Call me if anything changes.”
They exchange a kiss, and James leaves the room. Going downstairs, he heads towards their car. When James pulls the door, he retrieves his phone and notices that Dr. Browne has left a message. Meanwhile, Eleanor converts the chair into a makeshift bed.
She replays the whole ordeal in her mind. “I did not know how dangerous the situation was with Colby.”
Ending the call, James finds himself only a few minutes away from his home. Finally arriving there, he crawls into bed. Filled with adrenaline, his mind races. He knows how close he was to losing his only son.
Looking at the clock, he sees it is 4:07 in the morning, about the usual time he gets up. Turning over, he finally drifts off to sleep.
James has his family back and now it is time for them all to heal.
Waking up after a little four-hour nap, he knows he has other responsibilities. He struggles to crawl out of bed to turn his alarm clock off.
“Crap.” Realizing the time, he walks out of the bedroom and into the kitchen. Starting the Keurig, he retrieves his phone from the charger. He calls up Josiah, and it goes straight to voicemail. He leaves a message for him to call him.
Turning his focus back to his family, James calls to get an update on Colby.
“Dr. Browne. How’s Colby doing?”
“He’s still sleeping but I can tell his body is still having some withdrawals.”
“Runny nose, hot and cold sweats, and goosebumps.”
“I see. How much longer will it take for him to recover fully?”
“Hard to say. I don’t want to give you an answer since each case is unique.”
“I understand. Please continue to update me as to his status.”
Morning comes too quickly for others.
Omar hasn’t slept since the drone stared him down and he paces back and forth in his lair weighing all options. Turning to his lieutenant, Roland, he says, “they will find me. I know it.”
“What are you thinking, boss?” Roland asks concerned.
“I don’t know yet.”
Together they discuss options for his empire and how to regroup from the close call. Both men include all their operations, their hideouts, personnel, and assets that must be moved. Then he gets the idea he was searching for. Scouring the office facing a marina, he finally finds one.
Pulling it out from under the stack of bills, he opens a Caribbean navigational chart.
Spreading it out across the table they ponder. Thinking strategic but looking at all logistics, the consider all the islands. Some are off the table as they have too many residents or authorities while some are too remote and way off course for their needs.
“There!” Exclaims Omar.” What is it, boss?”
“We’re going here.” As he points to his next location.
“St. Thomas?” Roland asks. “But why?”
“We can still keep our operations intact, and we can go underground if needed. I also have an interest there already established.”
“Are you sure?”
His question and uncertainty strike Omar hastily. “Yes, you fool. Tell the others but do not use your phone or computer. Instead, contact them by our other means.”
“When you do you want to leave?”
“As soon as possible. Get going now.”
As Roldan departs, Omar peers out of the window overseeing the ocean and small fishing boats out in the harbor. He knows it is critical to remain undercover and to leave in the shroud of the night.
Back in Virginia, it is well past noon. Bud and Josiah get into the truck and head back home. Josiah powers up his phone and notices that his friend left a message. Having the Bluetooth on enables both to speak to James.
“What’s going on James?” I say.
“Everything. What have you two been doing this morning?”
“Bud and I are leaving Langley.”
“Langley?” James asks. His voice is even more puzzled.
“Yea, Colvin asked us to come up and debrief with him about the operation.”
“Wonder why he wanted to debrief with you since it was a nonmilitary exercise,” James asks.
“He didn’t say. All he said to us was they believe it is more than drugs that Omar is into. That’s why he was so obliged to help us,” Bud interjected.
“Probably so,” James replies. “We’re not in that circle anymore so we’ll never know their reasons.”
“I know,” I say to James. “Just glad he helped us when he did.”
“Amen!” Bud echoes.
James returns his focus to us. “Sorry I didn’t have time to speak with you guys sooner.”
“It’s ok. We know you have a lot on your mind,” Bud says.
“How’s everything?” I ask.
He sighs, “we had a rough night.”
My heart skips a beat. “What happened?”
“He took some pills and seized after we got him home and took him to the ER.”
Listening, Bud asks Colby’s whereabouts. “Is he still there?”
“Yea — at least one more day.”
“What time did y’all get home last night?” Bud asks.
“I got home around 3:30. Colby and Eleanor are at the hospital.”
We breathe a sigh of relief.
“At least he’s getting the help he needs.”
“Thoughts on what to do for rehab?” I inquire.
“We have a therapist who will help him. I’m not sure how long it will take.”
“Understand. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many students in the same condition.”
James knows the words I say are too real as he has heard me express my frustration about students and their drug abuse. I know it still hurts him much and changes the conversation.
“So, Josiah, what are you doing Sunday morning?”
I act as if I am trying to remember what my busy schedule looks like. “Oh, the usual —having fun at my make-believe job.”
Bud’s eyes roll.
“In other words, you have no plans?”
“Then you must join me tomorrow for breakfast.”
Curious, I can’t help but wonder what he’s up to.
“I’ll explain more when you get here.”
“What is it?”
James knows if he says anything, I’ll not go. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”
His landline phone rings. “Hey guys, I need to take this.”
James ends our call, and we both wonder his plans.
My mind now wanders. “What is he up to?”
Bud replies, “I have no clue.” As he thinks about the call, Bud attempts to make a joke.
“Well, all I can tell you is that it should be a significantly better situation than we just encountered.”
Finishing up our small talk, Bud and I hop off the interstate and drop him off. Later that evening I find myself still exhausted from the excursion and stay at home. Glancing at the clock, I notice the even goes by fast, but my mind still wanders at what will come about in the morning.
Eventually, I drift off to sleep.
Greeting the Sun, I wake up and start the day. Hopping into my truck from the west side of Richmond, I enjoy sipping on my Starbucks venti white mocha Frappuccino.
Enjoying the drive on I-64, I watch the Sun slowly rise and sit on the limbs of the trees. The large branches reach out and tickle my arm as it sits on the window. I zone out while listening to 80’s music.
I also daydream about Omar and Colby. Noticing I am a few minutes late; I pull up to the gated fence. The security guard walks up to the truck. “Mr. Rollins, happy to see you again. Please come in.”
“Thanks so much.”
The black steel gates open inward, and I pull my truck through the barrier. Still awestruck by the size of the estate, I could not help myself but envy Pippin Hill Farm. Getting out of my vehicle, I take a few deep breaths of the fresh mountain air and savor the moment while appreciating a panoramic view of the breathtaking landscape.
In the distance, low-level fog surrounds the vineyard and red bard over five hundred feet away. Horses galloping around and neighing. Meanwhile, I hear dogs barking and the crows cawing. There’s nothing like clean mountain air.
Walking up the mansion’s steps, Eleanor sits on the front porch with her coffee in hand.
“It’s so good to see you again. Please come in.”
Nodding my head, she escorts me to their kitchen that looks the back of the estate. “Want some coffee?”
“Don’t mind if I do.”
Colby hears my voice from down the corridor.
“What’s up?” He says with a huge smile. I get up and hug him.
“Nothing,” I reply, looking over the fading bruises he accrued in Bermuda.
Looking him over, I see he is on the mend. “Looks like you are healing nicely.”
He replies, “The doctor discharged me late last night and said a couple more weeks, and I’ll be good as new.”
Smiling at him, James looks at the both of us and asks us to sit down. They have a cook from St. Thomas. James introduces her. “Josiah, this is Annie.”
“Hello, it’s nice to meet you.”
“The pleasure is mine, sir.” Annie piles up the links and bacon strips on elegant China. Thinking to myself, I laugh.
James asks, “what’s so funny?” to which I reply, “this sure beats the morning cereal routine I am accustomed to having every day.”
Dining and laughing with the family, it reassures me they all are healing. Finishing up my large and generous breakfast, James asks me to come with him for a walk. Taking the steps down to the orchard, I ask, “Colby going to be all right?”
James pauses and looks out on his kingdom, “I pray that he will be. I’m learning that there are no guarantees with addicts and don’t want to deal with this again.”
Returning to our walk just in front of a dirt road sitting by a pond, James points things of interest to him. He shows me where lightning hit a large tree on the mountaintop.
“Right there was one of the nastiest storms I’ve seen on this mountain.” Then he shows me what he says are the best crops of grapes in years. “These grapes have enjoyed the best weather for grapes in fifteen years.”
It’s things like this that remind me of our friendship.
He turns saying with a stern voice, “what’s your story, Josiah?”
“What’s your next chapter? Where do you see yourself in two years?”
Pausing for a moment, I tell him, “don’t know.” He tunes out the rest of the world and channels in on the conversation.
“Let’s face it; you were screwed, royally.” We both sit down on a bench overseeing the gardens.
“A bad manager destroys the people he works with.”
“You can say that again.”
“They either leave or remain under the radar for fear of their suppression.”
“One statistic I read stated that seventy-five percent of people leave because of their boss and not necessarily the job.”
“You don’t have to tell me. I know from personal experience.” James puts his hand on my shoulder.
“Oh, I know. But you don’t know you have something extraordinary in you. That’s why people love you.”
As the morning fog fades, we look out at the horses running across the fields.
“Why do you think your school did better than the others?” He asks a question I’ve already processed.
“Weren’t you at the hardest school in the district?”
“Some people would say so, yes. But I didn’t think it was.”
“Exactly. But why do you think that?”
“Because I refuse to accept failure. If we are going to succeed in education, we must do more than everyone else.”
“That’s my point, Josiah. We must be different.”
I follow his conversation.
“Schools must be more resilient and determined. The stats even say the same thing.”
“How so?” I ask.
“Take, for example, a Program for International Student Assessment report I read this past Spring. American students are the third most tested compared to the world, and in another report from the Air Force Collaboratory, ninety-two percent of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs will require some technical, associates or bachelor’s degree by 2018.”
“Wow. I knew schools tested kids to death, but not to that extent.” I acknowledge.
“You and I know we are not preparing our children to be successful.”
“Exactly.” I concur.
“Oh, I couldn’t agree with you more. As someone who has a vested interest in my company, I know that many graduates are not ready for today’s jobs.”
“Wonder why that is?”
“Today’s employers want employees that are analytical, possess effective communication skills, interpersonal, show leadership, carry a positive attitude, be devoted to the team and be tech savvy. After reading that article, I agree with it wholeheartedly.”
My best friend confirms my exact thoughts.
“That’s just part of my frustration. Educators, just like businesses, know what we need to do, but are unable to make the necessary changes.”
James now segues the conversation back to schools. “So, what did you do to make a difference in your building?”
“I started this.” I pull out my phone and open the cloud. Having the document up, I hand him the phone.
“I created ten points I wanted my school to implement.” James’s eyes light up. It’s a familiar look I’ve seen when he gets an idea.
“This is what education should be about. Not about the phony crap we go through every day.”
Turning James asks candidly. “You made this?”
“Yes, from my experiences and the research.”
James shifts the conversation.
“Thought about sharing this with anybody?” He wonders.
“Nope. It’s been something I have compiled over the years.”
James now sees an opportunity for redemption for saving his son. He listens and looks for the right moment to weave in his notion.
“I’ve only implemented bits and pieces of it. If I had shared it, someone would have just destroyed it.”
“I can see that,” James states back.
“Some people just ain’t open to new perspectives in public education.”
“So, if you have the chance to make a difference again but do it better, would you?”
Listening more intently, I said, “don’t know.”
James then softly grabs the back of my arm. “I have an idea that just might make a difference.”
My attention turns to him even more than ever.
“You work phenomenally with kids and know how to make a school run efficiently.”
Where is he going with this?
“The problem is that you are confined to everyone else’s rules.”
I nod my head in agreement.
“What if you had genuine autonomy to do what you want?”
“I’ve dreamed about it before—about what autonomy would look like and how society would change if a school had this opportunity.”
James continues. “I want you to be the principal of a high school where you have the chance to everything you want.”
The moment he said principal, I look directly into his eyes. “What?”
He goes on. “I would only require one of three things from the graduates. When they graduate, they either get a job, go to college, or enter the military.”
Looking back at him, my intuition can only see doubt and fear of recurring themes.
“I’m not sure if I’d be the one for it.”
“Why not, Josiah?”
“Why would I get another job as a principal when I quit? Who would want to hire me?”
James returns the smile and says, “what if it is not here? In fact, where I’m thinking is not even in Virginia.”
Perplexed with this answer, I respond, “Where then?”
My jaw drops on both excitement and surprise. “Where? St. Thomas — as in the Virgin Islands?”
He places a hand on my shoulder and says, “my friend, you’d be surprised. St. Thomas has many similarities as an urban city in America.”
Wanting to know more, I bite in hook, line, and sinker. “How so?” “It’s a gorgeous island, a major tourist destination, and a great climate. But approximately two-thirds of residents depend on food stamps, and one-fourth of the families live in poverty.”
“It’s true.” He continues.
“Gangs, such as the Gangster Disciples, infest the islands just as much as the U.S.”
I want to hear more.
“Check this out; I read an article where the FBI states that the Virgin Islands has the highest murder rate in the U.S. in 2016 where most of them go unsolved.”
“Are you serious?” I ask inquiringly.
“Absolutely. No joke.”
Trying to picture it, I can’t help but wonder why a beautiful island has so many problems like this.
“Then why do the commercials look so appealing as if it is truly a paradise?”
Then it hits me. “Damn politics.”
He motions his head in agreement.
Dying to hear more, I ask. “Do you know anything about their education system?”
James resumes his pitch. “Actually, I do.” He gets up, and we walk.
“For public schools and education in St. Thomas, two-thirds of their eleventh graders can’t read proficiently. Unqualified teachers fill the classroom and cannot adequately teach the children. They struggle to make connections with real-life experiences consistently and work with business partners.”
In my mind, I see my school and the same battles taking place.
“The school system is insufficient which causes it to have a weak educational system. The schools are not working for their children either.”
“St. Thomas is American and deals with these inadequate policies.”
“Unfortunately, yes. St. Thomas mirrors the United States. Education is one piece of this puzzle. Think of how many times we see students going to the streets before they graduate. Drugs, Gangs. You name it.”
My mind goes back to ineffective Sheets and his inability to raise the quality of education. His failure to look outside the box has inhibited many students from excelling and adds to the difficulties many American students experience daily.
James adds. “You know yourself what the research says — put your best people in the worst-case situations.”
I zone out as I am unprepared for his next words. “That’s why I want you to do it.”
James attempts to build my confidence by saying, “you would be the boss and have to report to no-one? I can see you working with the community on making their children better citizens. Something you definitely do not see or hear happening in America.”
Finding the right words, I choose my words carefully.
“I don’t know. It’s an open wound right now.”
Unsure what to say next, awkward silence takes over. “Nope. Sorry, I can’t.”
Feeling a little disappointed, James says, “I knew you would say this, which is why I want you to come with me there.”
“Now?” I respond to James.
“Yes, I have my jet already prepared to leave. FATSO awaits. It’s not like you have to go to work.”
We see Colby looking over the rail of his balcony as he waves at us.
James yells out, “Colby; we’re leaving for St. Thomas. Let’s go!”
“Cool beans. Ok, dad.”
Feeling guilty now I turned him down; I attempt to say the right thing. The least I could do is go with him there and act as if I’m entertaining the idea.
“All right, I’ll go, but I can tell you now I’m not changing my mind.”
Walking back up to the mansion, we prepare to leave for the quick getaway.
As we go into the massive home, I keep saying to myself, “what in the world did I just I agree to do?”
I have never been to the Virgin Islands nor do I have the desire to go now. I can only hope we won’t be there long so I can put this behind me.
Why did I agree to go?