Authors: Ann Walsh
OTHER BOOKS BY ANN WALSH
, with Kathleen Cook-Waldron (2008)
, ed. (2005)
By The Skin of His Teeth
, ed. (2001)
The Doctor's Apprentice
Winds through Time
, ed. (1998)
Across the Stillness
The Ghost of Soda Creek
Moses, Me and Murder
Your Time, My Time
Copyright Â© 2013 Ann Walsh
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without prior written permission of the publisher, or, in Canada, in the case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from Access Copyright (the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency).
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Ronsdale Press wishes to thank the following for their support of its publishing program: the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund, the British Columbia Arts Council and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Book Publishing Tax Credit program.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Walsh, Ann, 1942â, author
Â Â Â Â Whatever / Ann Walsh.
Issued in print and electronic formats
ISBN 978-1-55380-259-4 (print)
ISBN 978-1-55380-260-0 (ebook) / ISBN 978-1-55380-261-7 (pdf)
Â Â Â Â I. Title.
At Ronsdale Press we are committed to protecting the environment. To this end we are working with Canopy (formerly Markets Initiative) and printers to phase out our use of paper produced from ancient forests. This book is one step towards that goal.
Printed in Canada by Marquis Printing, Quebec
This book is dedicated to
the volunteers of Restorative
Thank you to Sandra Hawkins, who first introduced me to Restorative Justice; Rod Hawkins, Crown Counsel, Williams Lake, BC, (ret.) and Judy Ross and Nola Crocker of The Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education British Columbia for their expert advice; Bev Cook for her astute weekly critiques; my fellow writers and friends (Kathleen Cook Waldron, Ainslie Manson, Becky Citra, Heid Redl and Verena Berger) for listening to draft after draft of the manuscript in progress, and to Ron and Veronica Hatch for having faith in the book and adding it to the Ronsdale Press list.
If readers have questions about Restorative Justice or the Canadian criminal law, please check out
. The website is hosted by a retired Crown Counsel and a Restorative Justice practitioner. Information about epilepsy is available from The Centre for Epilepsy
This story and all characters are fictional. All references to Restorative Justice (RJ) circles are based on the RCMP model for Community Justice Forums.
THE SOUND OF THE ALARM
pulsed against the walls, and echoed back so loud it filled my head as well as the hospital corridor. I ran for the stairs, no way I was going to take the elevator. Down them, two at a time, my heart pounding in my chest, my feet pounding on the steps, my head pounding as if it were about to explode. One floor, another, another. Six, five, four. Between the third and second floors, I bumped into a woman who was inching down the steps, clutching the railing. She yelped, but I didn't turn aroundâkept moving as fast as I could.
When I reached the main floor, there was chaos. Nurses flew by me, charts in hand, ushering flocks of hobbling,
shuffling patients towards the doors. A few people pushed intravenous stands ahead of them, the IV bags wobbled as they threatened to come loose from their supports. Hospital gowns flapped open, backsides flashed. Not pretty. A couple of wheelchairs were pushed toward the main doors by people in street clothes, probably visitors. One nurse held a crying baby. Another held the arm of an old man, urging him to keep moving. He was also crying. I blended into the frantic crowd and left the hospital.
I walked a few blocks until my heart settled down, then called the theatre, even though I knew it was too late. Maybe, just maybe, they'd waited for me; maybe the director really wanted me for the part. This audition was for a large role in the first community theatre production of the season. It wasn't just another high school play; this was my chance to act with really good amateurs. The part was made for me, and the role was a big one. I'd be on stage almost all the time. If I got this part, I would show everyone what I could do. It could be my big chanceâfor a minute, in spite of everything, I had another vision of my name in lights in Times Square.
I'd made it through two earlier auditions. At first there were nearly twenty of us, then eight, and today was the final call-backâonly me and a blonde girl. I was the better actress. I deserved that part. I could have had it if . . .
I got the director's voice mail, left a message. “Hi, this is Darrah Patrick. I had to go to the hospital with my brother. An emergency. I'm sorry I missed the audition, could I please come tomorrow?”
I was going to say that I'd memorized the lines in the scene he had given me to study, blah, blah, blabbity-blah. But instead I gave my phone number and hung up.
It wasn't two minutes before my phone buzzed. “Got your message, Darrah. I hope there's nothing seriously wrong with your brother, and I'm very sorry you couldn't be at the audition. When you didn't show up, we assumed you'd changed your mind. So I told the other girl the part was hers. I'm sure you understand.”
“Of course,” I lied.
“We'd love to have you help backstage. We could use someone to handle the props. Would you be interested?”
My voice was tight as I said I'd let him know about being props girl, goodbye and thanks. Thanks for nothing.
Props? Moving coffee mugs and vases around during scene changes and making sure the whiskey bottle was filled with tea steeped to the correct colourâno thanks. I wanted to be on stage, under the lights, acting.
But I wouldn't be because, instead of taking me to that final audition, my hysterical mother had made me come with her to the hospital. She was speeding and leaning on the horn as if this were a real emergency instead of just another one of Andrew's seizures. He'd had it in the car while they were waiting for me in the school pick-up zone. But by the time I got out of class, it was over. He'd already passed out, the way he always did after one of his “fits,” and Mom was doing what she always didârushing him to the hospital. She didn't need me to sit beside him and hold him up; his seat belt was doing
a good job of that. I should never have climbed into the car with her.
After the director's call, it took me half an hour to reach home. I had left my jacket in Mom's car, and the sunny September day had turned cold and cloudy, but I walked slowly anyway, ignoring my freezing fingers. My phone buzzed once, then twice more. Mom. I ignored it. It buzzed again. Dad. I ignored him, too.
When I got home, it was late, after five. Dad was home, early for him, and there was a policewoman in our living room.
“We've been waiting for you, young lady,” said the constable. “Sit down.”
“Oh, Darrah!” said Mom. “Oh, Darrah, oh, Darrah, oh . . .”
At first I denied it. “Of course I didn't pull the fire alarm. Why would I?” There had been no one in the hallway to see me. As mad as I had been, I'd still had sense enough to look around.
The constable grinned. “Ever hear of security cameras, miss? Hospitals are full of them.”
“Whatever.” I shrugged. “So what? It's not a crime.”
“Actually, it is. You have violated Section 437 of the Criminal Code of Canada.”
Mom gasped. “What's that?”
“Darrah is guilty of âwillfully, without reasonable cause, by
outcry, ringing bells, using a fire alarm, telephone or telegraph, or in any other manner making or circulating or causing to be made or circulated an alarm of fire . . . '” the constable itemized, reading from her notebook. “Section 437.”
I shrugged. “Whatever. It's no big deal.”
“It's against the law to shout âfire'âor pull a fire alarmâ when there isn't any danger. Just as much as stealing or murder is against the law. It's a very big deal.”
“But I'm not a criminal.”
“You are now.” The constable's face was serious.
“Why did you . . . oh, Darrah . . .” Mom again, crying harder.
“I don't know. I guess I was upset.” My voice was thin, my throat seemed to have tightened so much I could barely get words out.
“Upset? Please explain.” The constable poised a pencil over her notebook. The constable was short and had dark, curly hair. Her uniform fit perfectly, and she had a dimple on her cheek. But even though she was tiny and cute, she scared me.
“Mom promised I could audition, said she'd take me, then she wouldn't drop me at the theatre.”
“But, Darrah, Andrew was . . .”
“Mom, the doctors told you not to take him to the hospital every time he has a seizure. They taught you how to look after him. You could haveâ”
“Your mother was worried about your brother.”
“Sure, Dad. Like always.”
“Tell me exactly what happened. For the report.”
“Report? What for? Will it be in the newspaper?” Dad looked horrified.
“This is for the official police report, sir, but it might be mentioned in the paper. No names will be released if it does appear, because Darrah's a youth. But she will be charged and will have to appear before a judge.”
“I'm not a âyouth.'”
“In the eyes of the law you are, miss. In criminal law anyone under the age of eighteen is considered a youth.”
Criminal law? Judge? Could I go to jail? “I'm sorry, I didn't know . . .”
“Sorry isn't enough, miss. Do you know someone was hurt when you pulled that alarm?”
“Hurt?” I thought about flapping hospital gowns and crying babies. Maybe someone flapped themselves into a heart attack? “How . . .”
“When the alarm went off it startled an elderly woman on the stairs. She missed a step and fell. Broke her leg and possibly sprained her arm. She says someone went past her, running, and bumped into her. Was it you?”