"Father Fischer will see you now, Mr Anderson," the administrative assistant told Channing.
Channing rose and the young lady's gaze followed him. He tugged at the hem of his jacket and ignored her. He thought he'd gotten used to women staring at him all these years but apparently not. They still made him nervous.
"I have all your CDs," she said to him. "Please follow me."
Channing sighed. He didn't need to be recognized. He followed her down the hallowed hall of the Saint Gabriel Parochial School to meet with Father Francis, the principal.
The young woman opened the door for him and stepped aside.
Channing entered the principal's office. The door closed behind him.
"Please take a seat, Mr Anderson," the priest said after shaking his hand.
Channing sat down and nervously looked around the room. He'd had some not so nice memories of being sent to the principal's office as a child. After numerous detentions he finally learned his lesson about misbehaving in school.
"I guess you're wondering why I called you here today."
Channing shook his head. "No sir, this is starting to be routine. What has he done this time?"
"I would chuckle, but this is a serious matter," Father Fischer said.
Channing looked around the room. The school looked fine; he hadn't noticed an ambulance or police car on the way in, so it couldn't be too serious. "So, what's he done?"
"He's been disobedient and disrespectful to his teacher and his classmates--and he used a swear word."
Channing grimaced. "Which one?"
Father Fischer glared at him. "Does it matter, Mr Anderson?"
No, he supposed not. "How long is he suspended for this time?" He had a concert coming up, so the kid would have to stay with his grandmother.
"He's not being suspended this time," Father Fischer said. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to expel him."
Channing gasped. "What? There are no other elementary schools left to send him to."
"I'm sorry. We've done all we can for him but his disruptive behavior can't be tolerated any longer. We have young, impressionable children here who shouldn't be subjected to foul language."
The good father didn't seem a bit sorry. "What am I supposed to do with him? The state law says he has to be educated," Channing said.
"I would recommend you hire a tutor to homeschool him. "Then maybe in a couple of years you can enroll him in a nice public high school after he learns how to behave."
Damn. He was so sure it would be different this time. Channing rose. "Okay, thanks for everything. Where is he?"
"He's with the school's counselor. I'm so sorry about this, but I wish you all the luck with him."
Channing headed toward the door. "Thank you."
"Don't forget to stop by the administration desk for a copy of his records. You might need them."
"Yes, Father." Channing left the man's office with his shoulders slumped and headed to Sister Francis' office to get his son.
"Hey, daddy," Dominick said, when he stepped inside the counselor's office.
Dominick Virgil Channing sat on the sofa across from the sister's desk, looking like an angel, dressed in his little black shorts and jacket, white shirt, and red tie. He had his father's blue eyes, blond hair, and exuberant personality. Unfortunately, he probably also inherited his lack of discipline and disregard for authority figures. "Good afternoon, Sister Francis. I've come to take Dominick home."
"It's nice to see you again, Mr Anderson," Sister Francis said. She remained seated.
Nick slid off the sofa to his feet and ran over to him.
"Say goodbye and thank you to Sister Francis," Channing told his son.
"Goodbye, Sister Francis. See you tomorrow."
"Goodbye, Dominick. Be a good boy."
"It was nice knowing you, Sister. And thank you for all the help."
"I wish I could have done more," the kindly sister said. "I put the card of a noted child psychologist with Dominick's records."
"Thanks." He didn't think his son needed a shrink.
Nick grabbed his hand and started tugging him toward the door.
Channing waved goodbye to the nun, went to the administration office to get Nick's records, and left the school.
* * * *
"What's he done this time?" Virginia Anderson asked her brother when they talked over the phone later that day.
"He's cursed at school and was disrespectful," Channing answered.
"How long is he suspended for this time?"
Channing sighed. His family all knew about Nick's behavior. "He's suspended for good."
"What? Do they realize he's been kicked out of every elementary school in Boston?"
"Yes," Channing said. "Father Fischer suggested I hire a tutor and homeschool him."
"He needs a damn exorcist," Virginia said, matter-of-factly.
Channing would have cursed his sister if she hadn't spoken the truth. He'd hire one if he thought he could help. "I need you to help me find a tutor."
"Why would I know a tutor? I don't have any kids."
"You do have friends who have kids. Ask around for me." Even though Virginia was a lesbian, both of them strongly supported her friends who had either adopted or had children through surrogacy.
"You are aware you're supposed to be leaving the country in a month?"
How could he forget? His band had been practicing for weeks for the concerts in Europe. He initially planned to ask his mother to babysit, but not now. "I'm looking for someone to move into the house. You know like a live-in nanny."
"A live in nanny/tutor? Got you. Anything else?"
"Yes, preferable single without kids or other attachments--and who knows how to keep the house clean--and cook."
Virgil chuckled. "You're looking for a Mary Poppins."
"Yes, exactly. Someone magical who can perform miracles," Channing said.