Chapter One

November 1970

A Friday Afternoon

Miss Feeney is writing math problems on the blackboard. She turns to her class of fourth graders and after she finishes she notices one of her students is looking very pale. She walks over to him and bends down. "Bobby, are you alright?"

He lifts his head. "My stomach hurts."

"Do you feel nauseous?"

"No, it just hurts."

She returns to her desk and writes up a pass. "Here you go. Go see the nurse." As he gets to the classroom door, he holds his stomach and cringes in pain. She turns to her class, "I am going to leave you alone for a moment, however Mister Bryson will be listening." She leaves the room holding Bobby by his shoulder. She gets the attention of Mister Bryson.

A short walk down the hall and they reach the nurses office, "Miss Dilbert?" she says.

She turns immediately, "Yes. Oh what is the matter?"

He is bent over and holding his stomach. He has tears in his eyes. "It hurts!" he screams. She takes a hold of his arm and walks him over to a little cot. She helps him to lie down. "That feels worse," he says as he tries to sit up.

The nurse takes hold of his elbow, he covers his mouth. A moment later with her help he gets to the toilet bowl and vomits, not once but twice. He tries to lie down but the same feeling comes over him and he sits on the cot holding his stomach.

The Goren Home

Frances Goren is busily cleaning her kitchen, the phone rings. She wipes off her hands, "Hello."

"Good morning, this is Miss Dilbert, the nurse from Thomas Jefferson Middle school. May I please speak with Mister or Misses Goren?"

"This is Misses Goren."

"Bobby is here with me and he has become ill this morning, he is complaining of severe stomach pain and he started to feel nauseous when he got to my office. He has gotten sick twice since then." She pauses. "Did he complain of any stomach pain this morning?"

"No he seemed fine."

"I think it would wise to send him home."

"I don't drive so I will have to call my husband, hopefully he'll be there within the hour, or maybe I could ask a neighbor." Frances says sounding agitated.

"Ma'am please calm down. He's not running a fever." She looks over at the little boy. "He seems to have………." Bobby gets up from the cot once again and makes his way to the toilet bowl.

"Someone will be there soon, I can assure you." Miss Dilbert hears the phone click.

"Bobby I just called your Mom, someone is coming to pick you up to take you home."

An Hour Later

Joseph Goren arrives at the school; he makes his way to the entrance and opens the door. He looks up and down the hallway. Which way? A girl is walking down the hall toward him. He waves his hand at her, "Excuse me, which way is the nurses office." She points to the left. "Thank you." The girl continues her journey without speaking a word.

Fifty feet or so he finds the sign for the office, the door is open and he peeks inside. He sees an attractive blonde haired woman sitting at a desk. Wow, this is the school nurse. They didn't look like that when I went to school. He clears his throat, "Miss Dilbert."

She looks up; past her, he hears a soft moan. He walks past the young woman and sees his nine-year-old son looking very pale. "Hey what happened?"

"I don't know," he says looking at the floor. Joseph sits down next to him on the cot. He looks up at his father and suddenly starts to gag. He gets up off the cot and Joseph follows him into the little bathroom. He holds his sons forehead and rubs his back but no fluid comes out. He stops gagging and stands up.

Joseph turns to Miss Dilbert. "How many times has he done that?"

"He had gotten sick twice when I called your wife and once again soon after this would be the fourth time. I asked your wife if he was feeling ill this morning. She said no. Did he say anything to you?"

"No, nothing."

"If you will sign this you can take him home," Joseph signs the release form and thanks' Miss Dilbert.

The drive from school to the Goren home is a very short ride. As soon as Bobby gets in the house, he starts to gag once again. He runs into the bathroom. His parents follow him upstairs. His throat is starting to get sore and his stomach muscles are hurting. He holds his stomach and he sits down on the floor. His father grabs his hand and pulls him up. He puts his arm around his shoulder and leads him into his bedroom. He changes into his pajamas and gets into bed. He has calmed down and soon after he is asleep.

Bobby sleeps for close to two hours. Still no fever, a severe pain causes him to sit up in bed; once again he starts to gag. "Oh no, not again." He says as he runs into the bathroom. Frances hears him and quickly goes upstairs. "Bobby." She sees her young son once again gagging but no fluid. She feels his forehead and he feels warm. She helps him back to bed and takes his temperature, 98.6

Joseph did not return to work. He is standing at the door. "I'm going to take him to the hospital."

St. Mary's Hospital

His stomach is completely empty and he is now dehydrated he is given an IV drip and a very mild sedative. He feels relaxed but he stays awake. "An upper GI series is warranted," says Doctor Cameron.

A nurse walks into his room with a small jug, "Ok young man I need you to drink this, it is supposed to taste like a vanilla milk shake…"

"Suppose to?"

"Yes." She shakes her head, "It doesn't and I don't want to lie to you."

He smiles as she opens up the jug and hands it to him. "Take your time."

He hesitates, "What if I throw up again?"

"Good question, just drink it slowly."

He drinks down the liquid and after an hour, he is taken to an examination room. X-rays are taken to examine his esophagus, stomach, and small intestines. Joseph and Frances walk with him to the examination room; they are ushered out when the x-rays are taken.

Bobby is returned to his room and soon after Doctor Cameron meets up with the Gorens outside his room, "The test results reveal nothing, no ulcers, tumors, hiatal hernia, scarring, blockage, and no abnormalities of the muscular wall of the gastrointestinal tissues."

Joseph and Frances return to his room, Bobby sits up, staring at them. Joseph speaks. "There's nothing wrong." He turns toward his wife, "There's nothing wrong with him, so why is he in so much pain?"

"Why are you looking at me," she retorts. He stands erect and crosses his arms, smirking at her, "Don't you….how dare you blame me for this, Joseph."

Unaware to them Doctor Cameron has entered the room he overhears their conversation and his fixation is on Bobby, he shows no signs of discomfort at the exchange between his parents.

"Then explain the test results," he points at his young son. "There is nothing physically wrong with him," he says sternly.

The doctor clears his throat. They turn their heads. "Perhaps the two of you can finish this conversation outside." He walks between them, "I want to see my patient."

They bow their heads, stand still and quiet. "Any pain, Bobby?"

"No," he swings his legs off the bed. "Can I go home now?"

"No, not yet, I'm determined to find out what happened," he lightly pokes him in the stomach and Bobby laughs. "In there." He checks his watch, "I still have a few hours left to this Friday night."

They hear a slight moan from him, "Bobby," Frances takes his hand.

He bends over and holds his stomach, "It's starting to hurt again." Frances sits on the edge of the bed and holds him. The doctor says, "Bobby would you lie down please." He presses on different parts of his abdomen. Bobby cringes in pain throughout. Cameron orders for a mild sedative. "Tomorrow I will schedule him for a lower GI series.

He wakes up very early the next morning to a young nurse. He looks toward her and then the door. Her smile is very warm, he feels comfortable. "They just went across the street to get a quick bite to eat." She raises up the bed, "Do you feel any pain?"

"My throat hurts a little and my stomach feels sore." He looks to the window, the shade is drawn, he is about to speak when she places a thermometer in his mouth, then takes his pulse. Minutes later she removes the thermometer, "98.6," she jots the temperature down and his pulse rate. He sticks his arm out, she smiles, "Yes blood pressure time."

"Is it night or is it just dark in here?"

She jots down his blood pressure, "It's very early Saturday morning." As she places the chart on the front of the bed, she hears him breathing loudly. She takes a hold of his hand. "Honey what's the matter." She has been witness to quite a few in her career but an anxiety attack from a nine-year-old boy, very unusual. She buzzes for Doctor Cameron. He enters the room, looking confused and upset. "Bobby what's the matter?" he looks to the nurse. "Please lower the bed." He examines the young boy. He reluctantly administers a sedative a few milligrams stronger than the last one. Bobby falls back to sleep soon after, a few hours later he is once again taken to an examination room.

A young man introduces himself, "I'm Doug, and I'm a radiologist. You've seen this liquid before."

"Do I have to drink it?"

"No, I will put this liquid in your colon."

"What, I mean how?"

Doug holds up a tube, Bobby's eyes widen. He starts to tremble, "I know it's not a pleasant thing, Bobby. However, it's the only way. We have to find out why or what is making you sick, now you may feel a little uncomfortable, the barium will cause fullness and pressure in your belly and you're gonna feel like you have to go to the bathroom. But you won't go, try to relax, ok?"

"Ok," he says nodding his head. After the barium coats the lining of the colon and rectum, the x-rays are taken and once again, Joseph and Frances are escorted from the room.

The results of the test were contaminated and Doctor Cameron reluctantly had to reschedule. "I'm sorry but the results were not clear. We will have to repeat them."

"Today?" Frances asks.

"No not today. Tomorrow morning."

Sunday Afternoon

Once again Doctor Cameron and his associates look over the x-rays, "Nothing, there isn't anything there." He sets down the x-rays. "Maybe it's emotional, not physical." He sits down at his desk, picks up the phone. "Who are you calling?" asks Nurse Price.

"I'm calling Social services."

Doctor Cameron once again meets up with the Gorens, "Mister and Misses Goren, there are no abnormalities. No signs of abnormal growths, ulcers, polyps, diverticuli, or colon cancer." Joseph sits down Frances remains standing. Cameron exhales, "I have contacted child services, they are sending someone here within the hour…………"

Joseph stands and comes nose to nose with Cameron, "You think we did something to our son?"

Cameron takes a step back, "I don't know Mister Goren, you and your wife have been witness to the tests that I have performed on him, I can not find anything physically wrong with him. I'm sorry but I had to call them."

Later That Day

Janet Wilson arrives at the hospital and Doctor Cameron in paged. "Doctor Cameron I'm Janet Wilson, from Social Services."

"It's nice to meet you."

"Tell me what's been happening," she says as the walk side by side down the hall.

"He came in Friday afternoon with severe stomach pain, I have run upper and lower GI series and have found no abnormalities."

"Any sings of physical abuse?"

He shakes his head, "None." Cameron escorts her to the waiting room where they find Frances and Joseph. "Mister and Misses Goren," Cameron says. "This is Janet Wilson from Social Services."

She extends her hand, "Good afternoon."

Joseph steps forward, "Good afternoon?" he questions her. "My wife and I have been up for two days I'm not even sure what day it is."

"I'm sorry for that, I truly am but Doctor Cameron thought it right that I pay a visit to speak with," she looks at a piece of paper. "Robert."

"We call him Bobby," Frances says.

"Then Bobby it is, would you please take me to his room?"

Frances and Joseph lead the way to Bobby's room, "All those arguments you start probably…" Frances grabs his arm, "If you didn't give me anything to be upset about I wouldn't have to question your actions."

"It's your imagination Frannie, just your imagination."

"My imagination," she stops walking. "My ass," Frances mumbles.

Joseph is the first one in the room followed by Frances and then Janet Wilson. She notices the young boy sitting on the bed; his head is turned toward the TV. He turns his head slowly to look at who has walked into the room; the smile on his face is genuine. "The Giants are losing again Dad, I told you to root for the Jets."

Joseph takes a quick look at the TV, "Never, how are you feeling?"

He swings his legs off the bed, "Good."

"No pain at all today?" Frances asks.

He shakes his head, "Can I go home now."

"No not just yet," Joseph says as he holds up his hand. Bobby looks past his parents and sees the stranger. He moves back on the bed, "Oh no, not another doctor."

Joseph turns, "No, she's not a doctor. This is Janet Wilson. She wants to talk to you about," he hesitates.

"About what?" Bobby blurts out.

"Anything, anything you want." She says in a soft voice as she walks closer to his bed.

His parents remain silent and still. He shrugs his shoulders, "Ok," he says shyly. Janet turns to face the Gorens, "If you will excuse us, please."

Reluctantly they leave the room, "Why would he want to talk to a stranger, we're his parents." Frances exclaims as the door closes behind them. "Afraid he'll talk about you, Frannie." Muffled voices are all that is heard.

Throughout their conversation Janet kept her focus on Bobby. He shakes his head slightly and she can see a look of embarrassment on his face. She moves a chair closer to the bed, "Doctor Cameron tells me that you'll probably go home tomorrow, I suppose that you are happy about that."

"Sure, it's getting boring in here."

"Bobby," he ignores her. She pats his hand, "Bobby, what are you thinking about."

"Nothing," he says very unconvincingly. He looks to the door. She turns her head to follow his gaze. "Your parents argue quite often, don't they?"

He shakes his head, "No."

She sits back in the chair, rolling her eyes.

Bobby continues, "They fight," he sits up in the bed, "Sometimes they are really loud." He lowers the volume on the TV. "When I was little I use to hide in this little cubby-hole in the basement."

"Use to?"

"Yeah, I don't fit in there anymore."

She smiles at the boy, "What do you now?"

"I listen," he says firmly. "Most of the time I don't know what they're talking about…I ask my brother, sometimes he tells me but usually he just tells me to shut up or it's none of my business." He moves his head to catch her eye. "But if they are loud enough and I can hear them doesn't that make it my business."

"I would have to agree with you."

"Do they ever get physical?"

"With each other?"

"Well no how about with you or your brother."

"You mean hit us? When they are fighting?"

"Yes that's exactly what I mean."

"No," he says very unconvincingly, "It's usually late and we're supposed to be in bed, but………"

"But what?"

"You can't help but hear them; it scared me when I was little, but not anymore." He says bravely.

Later That Afternoon

"His parents seem to be in a love hate relationship, it bothers him but he is not afraid of them. He wants to go home, he tried to make me believe that they have never hit him in anger but you stated before that you saw no signs of continued physical abuse. He seems more embarrassed by their behavior. They snapped at each other in front of me when they were leaving the room and I saw no sign of discomfort on his face. Mind you, I'm going to check them out again, in about a week or so. Pay a surprise visit to their home."

"I heard his parents also; he blamed her for his illness. I watched his demeanor; I saw no sign of discomfort either."

"When I was a kid," Janet says as she and Cameron walk down the hall. "I had this Aunt and Uncle, when the cousins and I were older, they had no children of their own, anyway we would take bets as to when the argument would start. Every holiday without fail, these two would scream at each other. They were married for over forty years."

"Were," Cameron says.

"Yes my Uncle passed away last March. Send him home whatever caused this…………"

Cameron interjects, "Maybe it was physical and it had passed by the time the tests were run, I don't know. I know one thing he hasn't had any pain all day."

Early Monday morning Bobby is released from the hospital. Doctor Cameron and his associates could never pin down exactly what caused nine-year old Robert Gorens' illness.

TBC