The Outcasts

by Cole Parker

12

After two relieved, happy and excited boys had left the Headmaster's house, Clive Hogsford was summoned back into the Headmaster's study.

"Sit down, Hogsford. I have heard what really has been going on. You didn't tell me what you've been doing to Blake. You didn't tell me of the assault on Tanner. You didn't give me a very full account of your actions, did you now, Hogsford?"

Hogsford paled. But he wasn't the timid sort, and he knew he had right on his side, but the Headmaster's question clearly put him on the defensive. "I've done nothing, sir. I was attacked and defended myself. If they said otherwise, there are witnesses. As for an assault on Tanner, I didn't do anything of the sort, sir. Does he have proof of that, sir? It may be his word against mine, and I have friends who will back me. Blake will say anything, you can't trust his kind sir. I'm sure you've expelled him for attacking me. We don't want his kind here, sir."

"His kind, Hogsford?"

"He's a homo, sir. Pardon me, a homosexual."

"These friends that will back you. How can they back your claim you didn't assault Tanner? That would mean they must have been with you constantly. How could they be? How could they know you never assaulted him?"

"He was attacked after games, sir, and I was with my friends then. They'll tell you I had nothing to do with it. He's a homosexual, too. Both he and Blake."

"And does that give you the right to take matters into your own hands, Hogsford? Do you feel it your obligation or responsibility to personally assist us in removing homosexuals from our school? Why do you think this is acceptable behaviour?"

Hogsford's confidence had been high when he had entered the study. Now, looking at the stern and unforgiving expression on the Headmaster's face, he realized that what he had done might not be considered acceptable, and there may be a price to pay for it. He tried quickly to think of a defensive stratagem that would work in his behalf, but the look on the Headmaster's face was preventing much useful thinking at all. The only thing he could think of that might save him was adamant denial that he had taken part in any of the things he'd been accused of.

"But sir, I didn't assault Tanner, and I was attacked in the dining hall and was only defending myself. I've done nothing wrong, sir."

The Headmaster's glower did nothing to restore Hogsford's confidence. Neither did his ensuing words.

"I don't recall telling you that Tanner had been assaulted after games today, which is what you told me a few moments ago. I merely said he'd been assaulted. As it happened so very recently, it is unlikely you'd have knowledge of it unless you were either a participant or a witness, and you mentioned neither. In any event, if this comes down to your word against his, and his is supported by subsequent actions which included an attack on you by two much smaller boys with much less experience than you at fighting, the only logical reason for which would have been an angry response to the attack on Tanner, do you not think the conclusion to be drawn here is rather obvious?

Hogsford could think of nothing to say to that, and so remained silent.

The Headmaster looked at him for a moment, then turned his back on him, swivelling in his chair to face his desk. His eye fell on the picture of the son he missed so terribly. As always, his painful memories caused him the deep and abiding regret that he could not go back and do things differently.

He turned back to the silent boy.

"Hogsford, I will have to consider this matter. I want to take a little time with this, not act hastily. I will decide what the school's appropriate response to this situation must be. In the interim, while this is being decided, you will be on suspension. Your parents will be notifed to collect you immediately. Mr. Wardlowe will accompany you to town where a hotel room will be booked for you during your wait for your parents' arrival. You are not to be on school grounds until this matter is decided. You may go now."

Hogsford rose. He was not the type of boy who normally felt nervousness, but now, he did. This was not how he had expected this to turn out. With uncertain steps, he left the Headmaster's study. Mr. Wardlowe was waiting for him in the hallway.

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