The next morning Mr. Kotter walked into his classroom to find three Sweathogs sitting quietly in their desks. "What's this?" he asked looking around at their sombre faces. "This has to be the first time in Sweathog history that any member has been found to be in their desks and ready for class before the bell has rung."
"Hey Mr. Kotter, have you heard anything about Horshack?" asked Vinnie, ignoring Kotter's light jab.
"No, I haven't heard anything since I dropped him off at the nurse," replied Kotter. "But I'm sure he's fine. It was just a broken arm. It happens to people all the time."
"Yeah, well then why ain't he here?" countered Washington.
Mr. Kotter sighed. "Look guys, it's entirely understandable that Horshack would miss a day of school after what happened. I don't think it's anything to worry about."
Just as he finished speaking these words, Arnold Horshack himself came bursting into the room. "Sorry I'm late Mr. Kotter, but I had some trouble trying to hold on to my books and open the front door to the school at the same time using only one hand." Sure enough, all his books along with his Roy Rogers lunchbox where clutched to his chest by his left arm while on his right Horshack was sporting a bulky white cast that encased him from palm to elbow.
Epstein immediately jumped out of his chair and grabbed Horshack's books from him. With a look of genuine guilt and remorse on his face, he quickly blurted out everything he had spent the night thinking about. "Arnold, I am so sorry about what happened. It's all my fault and I completely understand if you're mad at me. I shouldn't have hit so hard. If you need anything, I mean anything, you just let me know. Please, you've got let me make it up to you. I'll carry your books, do your math homework, anything! Just please don't be angry with me."
Arnold just smiled and shrugged. "It's okay Juan, I'm not mad at you. It was just an accident." Horshack moved to take his seat at the end of the row, but Epstein pulled him back. "You're gonna' come sit by me." Epstein turned and growled at the kid in the seat next to his until he moved. Horshack kind of felt sorry for the poor guy having to move on his account, but was flattered by the fact the Epstein wanted to sit next to him.
"So Arnold, why didn't you stay home today?" asked Mr. Kotter has Horshack settled into his seat.
"Why would I stay home? I'm not sick or nothin'," Horshack replied.
"But doesn't your arm hurt at all?"
Arnold blushed a little at Mr. Kotter's show of concern. "Aw, not much. It just sorta' aches a bit. The hospital sent me home with a bottle of these pills that helps with that, but I think they're makin' me act kinda' dopey. Do you think maybe I stop taking them, Mr. Kotter?"
Kotter shook his head, "Arnold, I don't think a side effect like that is going to cause any noticeable difference in you." Mr. Kotter chuckled at his own joke as he turned towards the black board to start class. "Yesterday we were talking about the responsibilities of each of the different levels in government."
As Mr. Kotter was beginning his lecture, Horshack was finding it impossible to hold a pencil in his casted right hand. Awkwardly, he switched to his left and started to laboriously form messy letters on his page.
He hadn't even managed to finish one painful sentence before Epstein noticed his friend's struggles. Leaning over, he whispered, "Hey, don't worry about it. I'll copy my notes out for you at lunch, okay?"
Horshack gave Epstein a big smile of relief. "Gee thank, I really appreciate you helping me."
"Hey, no problem," replied Juan giving Horshack a hard pat on the shoulder. "I told you I'd do anything, didn't I?"
Lunch hour eventually rolled around and Horshack was busy asking people to sign his cast. After only fifteen minutes his cast was almost entirely covered. Never had he felt so popular. Even some girls had signed it. What he didn't see was Epstein standing just behind him the whole time glaring threateningly at anyone who so much as hesitated to sign his name.
Having completed the task of decorating Horshack's cast, the two boys headed for the cafeteria to grab something to eat. The place was packed, but Epstein managed to clear a table of some garbage and a couple of small freshmen. Horshack sat down and cheerfully opened up his metal lunch box while beside him Epstein began to diligently copy out his morning notes. Seconds later they were joined by Washington and Barbarino.
"Hi guys! I saved a space on my cast for you." Horshack said excitedly, pulling out his magic marker.
"Okay," said Vinnie taking the marker. "What should I write? How about 'To my favourite football receiver from your greatest pal'?"
"That's real nice Vinnie," replied Horshack. "but I don't think there's enough room for all a' that."
"In that case, I'll just write 'Nice Catch.'"
"Now it's your turn Freddie," said Arnold taking back the marker once Barbarino had finished scrawling his name. "Whatca' gonna' write?"
"Not now man," said Washington with a dismissive wave of his hand. He was turned around checking out a girl who was sitting a few tables down from them.
Epstein casually reached across the table, and took a firm grip of his shirt. "The man asked you to sign his cast," he in a low voice.
For a tense moment Washington and Epstein just stared at each other. Suddenly Washington turned to Horshack with a big grin. "Hi there," he said in his basso profondo voice. With great flourish Washington added his own signature to his friends cast, adding a small stick figure playing basketball underneath.
Horshack gave his distinctive laugh when he saw it. "Thanks Freddie."
"Hey no problem man," replied Washington as he turned back to look at the girl again.
Still laughing, Arnold opened up his lunch box and brought out a small bottle of pills.
"Hey, what are those for?" asked Barbarino taking the bottle for a closer look.
"The hospital gave me those." Arnold replied. "I'm supposed to take them at meal times. They're so my arm doesn't hurt too much."
"Says here: 'May cause drowsiness, excitability, and difficultly concentrating," read Vinnie. "Sounds like your normal self to me. In fact, these pills might even make you act a little cooler."
Washington and Horshack just laughed at Barbarino's jab, but Epstein growled as he snatched the pills away from Vinnie. "Shut up about Arnold!" The other boys stared at him stunned.
Vinnie kind of shrugged at him. "Hey man, I was just makin' fun."
"Yeah well, not anymore," spat Epstein. "Everyone's always pickin' on Arnold because he's short and kinda' goofy, but now he's got me to stand up for him. So you guys might as well scram."
"But Juan, I don't--" Arnold tried to cut in, but Epstein waved him silent.
Vinnie stood up indignantly, "You can't tell me what to do. I'm Vinnie Barbarino!"
"You wanna' try and push it Vinnie?" asked Epstein raising a clenched fist.
Washington grabbed Barbarino's shoulder. "Come on man. We'll deal with this later."
"Yeah, up your nose with a rubber hose," said Vinnie tugging at his jacket. "I'll see ya later, Horshack."
Epstein glared at them until they left the cafeteria then sat down again beside a very quite and miserable Arnold Horshack.