Stargate Horizons


As soon as Jacob got back home, Laura asked how things had gone.  He told her everything.

"I can't believe the Child Welfare people could be so negligent," she said.  "How could they not know that Daniel needed psychological help?"

"Maybe they did and just chose to ignore it, hoping it would eventually resolve itself."

"That's just terrible.  He is such a sweet little boy.  It breaks my heart what he's going through."

"Yeah.  I've got to make a phone call, ask a favor from someone."

Jacob went into his study and shut the door.  He dialed the number of an old friend.

"Hey, Brad, how are you doing?"

"Jacob.  I'm doing good.  It's nice to hear from you.  Have you talked to George lately?"

"Oh, not in a few months.  You know that he's stationed in the mountain in Colorado Springs, right?"

"Yep, that's what I heard.  So, to what do I owe the pleasure?  Or are you just in the mood to chat about old times?"

"I wish this was a social call, but I need some help, some information, actually.  I need to find out the details on the death of two people, husband and wife archeologists.  From what I know, it happened in New York City and probably took place a month or two ago, maybe less.  Their last name was Jackson.  I don't have first names.  They had a son, Daniel."

"Is this something that the military would have an interest in, Jacob?"

"No, it's strictly personal.  It has to do with the boy.  I just need to know how and where they died and if there's anything . . . out of the ordinary about the whole thing."  Jacob thought of something.  "Oh, and, while you're at it, could you find out what you can about the male parents of both of them?"

Brad chuckled.  "Sure, Jacob.  Would you like me to tell you what the Jacksons had for breakfast on the morning they died?"

Jacob smiled.  "No, that won't be necessary.  Thanks for doing this, Brad.  I could probably go searching through the obits of old newspapers, but that would take a long time and wouldn't give me all the info I want."

"All right.  I'll see what I can come up with.  What number should I call you at?"

"Oh, I'm in a new place, Rome, New York.  I'm stationed at Griffiss.  I'm on leave right now, so call me at home."  He gave his friend the number.

"It might take a couple days for me to have something for you," Brad told him.  "I probably won't be able to get started on it until tomorrow."

"That's all right."

It turned out that Jacob didn't have to wait as long as he'd thought.  It was just after lunch the next day when Brad called.

"Well, that didn't take long," Jacob said, having taken the call in his study.

"That's because I realized last night that I already knew the story.  I'm surprised that you didn't know about this yourself.  It made the headlines."

"What did?"

"Melburn and Claire Jackson were killed in an accident at the New York Museum of Art last month."

Jacob frowned, not recalling the story.  "Exactly when did this happen?"

"On the twenty-fourth."

"Well, that explains why I didn't hear about it.  We were on the road, moving all our stuff here, and then we were busy unpacking.  I was off out of town right after that.  I wasn't paying attention to the news."

"Well, it was a bad one.  Since you said that your interest had something to do with the boy, I dug for information specific to him.  He saw it happen, Jacob.  The chain holding an Egyptian coverstone snapped, and it fell on them.  The kid saw his own parents get crushed to death."

'Dear God.'  Jacob lowered himself into a chair, horrified by the news.

"After I found that out, I made a few more inquiries.  I guess that, for a while, people just ignored the kid as they tried to dig the Jacksons out.  Then somebody woke up to the fact that the boy was watching the whole thing and stuck him in a storage room.  He was there for a good three or four hours before the cops took him away.  He was catatonic by then."

Jacob was almost starting to feel sick.

"He was taken to a hospital.  It was three days before he came out of the catatonia."

"Damn," Jacob cursed, closing his eyes.

"Yeah.  The poor kid was seriously messed up."

Now it all made sense to Jacob.  The reason for Daniel's behavior was crystal clear.  It also made Jacob even angrier over the actions of boy's caseworkers.  They must have known what happened, yet they put him right into foster care, basically abandoning him to the system.

"So, what is your interest in this?" Brad asked.

"Daniel Jackson goes to the same school as my kids.  Sam's made friends with him.  I knew that something was really wrong with him, especially after I saw him have a flashback, but I didn't guess it was this bad.  Were the Jacksons living in New York at the time?"

"No, they were just there for the set-up of the exhibit.  They came straight from Egypt.  They were part of the archeological team that excavated the coverstone."

"What did you learn about Daniel's grandfathers?"

"Well, Terrence Jackson died twelve years ago from cancer.  Nicholas Ballard, Claire Jackson's father, is an archeologist.  He's in Belize.  I guess he's kind of a nutcase, insisted that some crystal skull he found there teleported him to where he met giant aliens."

Jacob laughed.  "You're joking."


Jacob decided that maybe it was just as well that Daniel didn't go live with his grandfather after all.  The last thing that boy needed was to be taken care of by a crazy old man.

"Thanks for finding all this out, Brad," Jacob said.  "I owe you one."

"Uh huh, and don't think I'm not gonna collect on the debt."

"The thought never crossed my mind."

"Well, I need to get going.  The wife's pissed off at me for taking time out of the first free weekend I've had in two months."

"Oops.  Sorry about that.  I'll talk to you later."

When Jacob came out of his study and Laura saw the look on his face, she knew that something was wrong.  Fortunately, Sam was in her room, suffering through being grounded, and Mark was out with friends, so they didn't have to wait to talk.

"What did you find out?" she asked.

Jacob told her.  Tears filled Laura's eyes, a couple spilling down her cheeks as she pressed a hand against her mouth.

"Oh, Jacob.  That poor little boy.  When I think about what he saw. . . ."

"I know.  It's no wonder he's such a mess."

"What can we do about this?"

"Well, first thing Monday morning, I'm going to be on the phone with the Child Welfare people who acted so irresponsibly and negligently and find out what the hell they were thinking.  After that, I'm going to talk to the school."

"But Jacob, you don't have any authority for that.  We're not Daniel's foster parents or guardians."

"No, but we are concerned citizens and taxpayers who pay the salaries of these people.  I'll tell them that I'm acting on behalf of Daniel's foster family.  Mrs. Underwood did say that she'd appreciate me making inquiries.  I'll get it in writing, if that's what they want.  It's way past time for somebody to take responsibility and give that boy the help he needs."

Laura wrapped her arms around him.  "You are such a good man, Jacob Carter.  It's one of the reasons why I love you so much."

They sat in silence on the couch for a couple of minutes.

"I think we should keep what we learned from Sam and Mark," Jacob said.  "It would be too much for them to handle, especially Sam.  She's really come to care a lot about Daniel."

"I agree.  You know, I've never seen her get so attached to someone so quickly."

"Me neither."

"It's going to break her heart when she has to say goodbye to him."  Jacob looked at her.  "Don't give me that look, Jacob.  You know as well as I that, sooner or later, another transfer will come."

"Maybe not.  I could put in a request to make this a permanent assignment."

"Would they really go for that?"

Jacob sighed.  "No, probably not.  Maybe in a few years."

"I guess all we can really hope is that the transfer doesn't come before Daniel is recovered."

"Hon, it could take years for him to recover from this.  There are guys who came back from the war five, six years ago who are still dealing with what they went through over there."

"But children bounce back so much faster than adults do.  I mean, that's what everyone says."

Jacob shrugged.  "Maybe you're right.  I hope you are."

From the moment Jacob Carter woke up that morning, he was on a mission.  Unlike other missions he'd gone on, this one would not affect the people of an entire country, just the fate of one little boy.

As soon their office hours began, he was on the phone with the Child Welfare department that would have handled Daniel's case.  It took a while for him to finally get Daniel's caseworker on the line.

"Mister Babcock, my name is Captain Jacob Carter.  I'm calling on behalf of the foster family for one of the children you're a caseworker for, Daniel Jackson."

"Yes, what is this about?" the man asked, hesitation and a touch of suspicion in his voice.  "Are you with the police?"

"No, I'm a captain in the Air Force.  I have some questions and a whole lot of concerns about the way Daniel's case was handled.  Are you aware of all the facts about the death of Daniel's parents?"

"Yes, I know the details of the case."

"Then you know that the kid actually witnessed what happened to his parents?"

"Yes.  I'm sure it was a pretty traumatic moment for the boy, but we see the results of a lot of tragic stories here, Captain Carter.  It goes with the territory."

The utter lack of sympathy in the man's voice incensed Jacob.  "Oh, and do you see a lot of kids there who are having repeated nightmares and violent flashbacks that leave them virtually catatonic?"

There was a long moment of silence.  "Captain Carter, though I have no doubt that Daniel is still dealing with issues about the accident, I'm sure that his foster parents are just overreact—"

"There is no overreacting, Mister Babcock," Jacob interrupted harshly.  "With my own eyes I witnessed one of Daniel's flashbacks, and I'm the one who held him as he lay unresponsive afterwards.  I fought in Vietnam, as did a lot of my friends.  I know what a flashback is."

There was another long pause.  "All right.  I'm sorry to hear that the child is having a difficult time.  We were given a report by the hospital and by the psychiatrist who evaluated Daniel, but it's difficult to gauge the severity of a problem just from written reports.  I'll be sure to add a note to his file."

A note to his file?!  Jacob curbed his temper with an effort.  "I'd like to know two things, Mister Babcock.  The first is why wasn't the family that is fostering Daniel informed of the details of his case?  They had no clue that Daniel's parents died horribly right before his eyes and were completely unaware of his psychological history."

"For the sake of the privacy of the child and his family, we only disclose to the foster parents what we consider to be necessary in order to care for the child properly."

"And you didn't think it was necessary for them to know how emotionally and psychologically damaged Daniel is?!  Didn't you think that they might be more able to give him the care he should have if they knew about his special needs?  Or is it that you didn't tell them because it would make Daniel a difficult child to place?"

"Captain Carter, I object to your accusations!"

"Object all you want.  I'm calling it like I see it.  Here's my other question.  Daniel is an eight-year-old child who witnessed his mother and father get crushed to death.  He was catatonic for three days afterwards, is having flashbacks and frequent nightmares, is severely withdrawn, and apparently hasn't spoken a single word since it happened.  Why in the hell didn't he receive some kind of therapy?"

"Captain, there are a lot of emotionally and psychologically damaged children that come through our doors.  I could tell you all kinds of horror stories.  This department can't afford to give all those children the therapy they need.  It's just not possible.  Our budget—"

"I don't care about your damn budget, Mister Babcock.  I care about this little boy who was violently ripped from his life in the most horrible of ways and thrown into a situation that is no doubt confusing and terrifying to him without any care or concern over his psychologically well-being."

Mister Babcock was clearly getting pretty angry now.  "I don't appreciate you painting us as unfeeling people, Captain Carter.  We do have concern for the welfare of the children we place in foster care.  But there is only so much we can do for each individual child.  Our caseload is enormous.  If you had any idea what we have to deal with, maybe you wouldn't be so quick to judge us."

Jacob decided that it was time to cool down.  This wasn't helping.  "I know that you probably have a lot to deal with, Mister Babcock.  I also know that I wouldn't want your job for all the money on Earth.  But something else I know is that, without some kind of treatment, it will probably take many months for Daniel to reach the point where he can interact normally in society and will likely continue to have problems for years to come, which is a terrible thing, especially considering that he very likely has a genius level I.Q."

Jacob heard the rustling of papers, no doubt the man looking through Daniel's file.

"I see nothing about him having above average intelligence," Babcock said.  "In fact, he showed indications of being below average in that regard."

"Oh, and do children with below average intelligence speak six languages, read and write five dead languages, read adult-level books, and sculpt copies of ancient Greek ruins out of sand?"

That resulted in the longest pause of all.  "Excuse me?" the man finally said.

"You heard me.  And here's something else for you to chew on.  I learned most of that by spending just a few hours with Daniel at a park.  I have to wonder what else could be learned by spending a whole day with him."

There was a lot more paper rustling.  "I, um . . . I'll be sure to add that information to his file."

"You do that.  I'd guess that, if you people had found that out for yourself, Daniel wouldn't have been mistakenly stuck in the first grade.  Oh, and rest assured that I will be informing the school of their mistake as well."

Mister Babcock cleared his throat.  "I admit that perhaps we did process Daniel into the system a little faster than we should have.  We've had an especially large number of cases over the past few months, and we're swamped.  I'll be sure to talk to my superiors about this.  We may send someone out to speak with Daniel and the, um . . . the Underwoods and do a reevaluation of the case."

"I'm sure they'd appreciate that," Jacob responded, not hiding the sarcasm.

"Now, I have some work to get back to, so if you will excuse me, Captain. . . ."

"Fine.  I'd like you to take down my number.  Add it to Daniel's file wherever you please.  I have a personal interest in his welfare and would like to be kept informed."

"I'm sorry, Captain, but, since you have no legal connection to Daniel, it would be against policy for us to contact you directly regarding his case.  However, I will take your number in case we need to call you for more information."

After giving the man his number, Jacob was just about to end the call when a thought occurred to him.

"Mister Babcock, I'm curious about something.  Daniel's parents died in New York City, so why is he here?  Why wasn't he placed with a family there?"

"His maternal grandfather was very adamant that Daniel not be kept in New York City.  He didn't want his grandson anywhere near the place the child's parents died.  It was agreed that, until the boy was more psychologically stable, that would be a good idea."

So, the kid's grandfather did give a damn after all, or at least a little.  "So, why Rome, then?"

"It's a small city, which would likely make the transition easier for him, and there were several available foster families in the area that we believed would be suitable for his placement."

After ending the call, Jacob left his study.

"How did it go?" Laura asked.  "I heard you ranting."

"Let's just say that it didn't leave me with a glowing impression of those people."  Jacob told her what Babcock had said.

She shook her head.  "Unbelievable.  I guess, though, that we can't really throw stones unless we've been in their position.  It must be a very difficult job."

"I suppose so.  But when I think of how badly Daniel's case was mismanaged, I have a tough time being sympathetic for the people over there.  Thank God that, if anything ever happens to both of us, we've got family that will take in Sam and Mark."

Laura sighed.  "It does make you look at things from a new perspective, doesn't it.  I've never really given all that much thought to the kids who are put in foster care, what it must be like for them.  And what's really sad is that there are so many couples out there who long to have children but can't.  Daniel is such a sweet little boy.  I know that, once he was better, anyone who adopted him would be so blessed to have him."

Jacob nodded.  "I agree."

"So, what's next?"

"I think I'd better call Mrs. Underwood and fill her in on everything.  The woman's got some shocks in store for her."

The woman was, indeed, shocked, as well as horrified and appalled when she found out the details on the Jacksons' deaths and the lack of proper action that was taken in regards to Daniel.

"Are they going to pay for his treatment?" she asked.

"Not likely.  But I'm not going to give up yet.  I'll talk to a military psychiatrist I know.  He may be able to suggest someone who'd be willing to work with Daniel for free."

"Thank you so much for your help, Captain Carter.  I wouldn't have known what to do about this, and I don't handle confrontations very well."

"I'd like your permission to speak to the school about Daniel's placement in first grade," Jacob said.  "Academically, the boy doesn't belong there, but, until he recovers enough to communicate normally, placing him in a higher grade would probably be worse for him.  Honestly, he belongs in a special school, but I seriously doubt that would be possible."

"Yes, please do talk to them.  Maybe they can suggest something."

Jacob called the school and made an appointment to speak to the principal and Daniel's teacher after school hours.  Because it was regarding a child that he had no legal authority to represent, they insisted that at least one of Daniel's foster parents be present.  A call to Mrs. Underwood resulted in her agreeing to be there, although it was clear that she'd really rather not be.

By the time all the calls and arrangements were made, it was close to noon, and, on impulse, Jacob decided to go pick up his son and daughter and take them to lunch.  And perhaps Daniel just might like to go as well.

The lunch bell had just rung when he parked his car.  He headed into the school, looking around for his kids amid the seas of children.  He spotted Mark first.

"Dad?  What are you doing here?" the boy asked.

"I thought I'd take you and Sam out to lunch."

"Uh, me and some of my friends kind of had plans."

Jacob hid his disappointment.  Lately, he and his son had been growing apart.  The captain knew that it had a lot to do with the frequent moves and his time away from the family.

"All right.  Maybe some other time, then," he said.  "Do you know where your sister is?"

"Probably with Daniel.  The guys told me that she's been hanging out with him a lot."

"And where would that be?"

"Outside, I guess, under the tree."

Jacob recalled what his daughter had said about the tree.  He asked for directions to where the outdoor eating area was, then wished his son a good afternoon.

It was easy to spot the tree, it being the only one of decent size on the school grounds.  His eyes dropped to the lone figure beneath it, thinking that he'd seldom seen a lonelier sight than that little boy sitting all by himself as dozens of other kids gathered just a few yards away to eat with friends.

Then a familiar blonde-haired figure came running up to the tree.  Jacob smiled as his daughter sat right down beside Daniel.  He headed over there.

"Daddy!" Sam cried in delight.  "Why are you here?"

"Oh, I thought that you and Mark might like to eat lunch out for a change."  The change in Daniel's demeanor upon hearing those words did not escape Jacob's attention. The child's expression had become sad and somber.  "And I thought that Daniel might like to join us."

That's it.  The tiny spark of life in the boy's face was back.

"Wow, that would be so cool," Sam said.  She turned to Daniel.  "Wouldn't it?"

He gave a little nod, daring to lift his eyes momentarily to Jacob.

"It'll be just the three of us, though," the captain explained.  "Your brother has other plans."  He looked at his watch.  "We'd better hurry if we're going to get our lunch in time."

Sam jumped up and took her father's hand.  Daniel got up more slowly and approached them.  Jacob held out his hand to the boy, who looked at it, then up at him.  For several seconds, the blue eyes gazed at him with uncertainty, then he hesitantly took hold of the outstretched hand.  Jacob smiled down at him and gave the hand a little squeeze.  It had been a small step of progress, but a step all the same.

Sam wanted hotdogs, and Daniel was in agreement, so that's what they got, along with fries and soda.  They ate at one of the tables outside the restaurant, Sam animatedly chatting about what they'd done in class that morning.  Jacob noticed that Daniel appeared to listen to every word, his eyes only leaving Sam when he took a bite of his food.  The captain suspected that the boy would be a very good listener when he grew up.  He just wished that Daniel would join in on the conversation.

'Patience, Jacob,' he told himself.  'Give him time.'

Jacob was surprised by how much he enjoyed the lunch and vowed that they'd have to do it again sometime, although, normally, it wouldn't be possible since he'd be working at the base.

The lunch break was nearly over when they got back to the school.  Jacob gave his daughter a hug goodbye and told her he'd see her later.  She walked off back to class.  Daniel took a few steps after her, then paused.  He fished into his backpack and got a pencil and piece of paper.  He wrote something down and pressed it into Jacob's hand.  Then, with a brief look into the man's eyes, he left.

A lump formed in Jacob's throat as he read the note.  It had just two words on it: "Thank you."

Folding the note and putting it in his pocket, the captain smiled softly, then walked away to his car.

It didn't take a trained observer to see that Mrs. Underwood was nervous as she and Jacob waited outside the principal's office.  Beside her sat Daniel, who had a worried look on his face.  Did he think he was in trouble?

When they were called into the office, Mrs. Underwood told the boy to wait for them.  He did so without even a hint of complaint.

Mister Parker was a man of medium height and build, mid to late forties.  Daniel's teacher, Mrs. Fairchild, was in her fifties, plump and short.

"Now, what can we do for you?" Mister Parker asked.  "Is this regarding the fight that happened on Friday?  I assure you that the boy who caused it will not be any more trouble.  He is presently on suspension with a warning to never do something like that again, on threat of expulsion."

"No, it has nothing to do with the fight," Jacob replied.  "It's about Daniel Jackson.  First of all, I have to ask how much you know about the death of his parents and the circumstances that led to him being here."

"Very little, actually," Mrs. Fairchild replied.  "We were given some information by Daniel's caseworker, but not a great deal."

"Then you probably don't know that Daniel actually witnessed their deaths."

"What?" the man and woman said at the same time, clearly shocked.

Jacob told them the whole brutal truth, what Daniel saw, his days in a catatonic state, the flashbacks and nightmares, everything.  Both the principal and the teacher were deeply shaken.

"My lord," Mister Parker said.  "We had no clue about any of this.  Why weren't we informed?"  He looked at Mrs. Underwood, who nervously twisted the strap of her purse.

"I didn't know either," she said.  "They didn't tell me."

"This is appalling news," said Mrs. Fairchild.  "That poor little lamb.  No wonder he's so quiet and shy.  You know he hasn't spoken a single word in my class?  Not one.  I didn't want to push him because I knew he'd recently lost his parents and that he was grieving.  So, I just let him be."

Jacob focused his full attention on her.  "How is he doing with his schoolwork?"

"Oh, just fine.  He's getting A's on all his tests and assignments.  Frankly, I think he could go up a grade.  We believed, because of the way he acted, that he was, well, mentally slow, but I think that he may not be as slow as we thought he was."

"Given what we now know, I agree," Mister Parker said.  "It's obvious that his behavior is due more to psychological trauma rather than a learning disability."

'Boy, are they in for a surprise,' Jacob thought.  "I'd like Daniel to come in here now.  You need to see something."

The boy was brought into the room.  He looked scared, his head ducked very low, shoulders hunched.

"Hey, Daniel," the captain said warmly.  "Come sit over here."  He patted the chair that had been placed between him and Mrs. Underwood.  "I promise that you're not in any trouble.  Nobody's mad at you."

Daniel settled in the chair, and Jacob smiled down at him.

"Okay, Danny.  Do you remember all that stuff you told me that you can do?  Well, I'd like for you to tell Mister Parker and Mrs. Fairchild about it.  First, tell them how many languages you can speak."

After a long pause, Daniel held up six fingers.

Jacob took a pad of paper and pencil from the desk and gave them to the boy.  "Please write down the names of each of those languages."

The child did so, and Jacob handed the pad to the principal.  The man stared at the paper, then at Daniel.

"Daniel, is this true?" he asked.

The boy nodded.

"Can you write in all these languages as well?"  When he got another nod, he wrote a simple sentence on the pad and gave it back to the boy.  "Can you translate that sentence into all the languages you know?"

Daniel answered by getting busy on the translation.  It took several minutes, but, at last, he handed the pad to the man, whose eyes grew progressively larger as he scanned the writing.  Then he frowned.  "What are these?" he asked, pointing at some characters and symbols he didn't recognize.

Jacob looked at them and smirked.  "Ah, those are probably the five dead languages Daniel knows.  You did tell him to translate the sentence into every language he knew."  He pointed at one row.  "I believe those are hieroglyphs."

Mister Parker stared at them more closely.  "By jove, they are hieroglyphs!"  He gaped at the child.  "Daniel, how do you know all these languages?"

Jacob was the one to answer the question.  "His parents taught him.  They were archeologists.  He spent a great deal of his childhood in Egypt and traveling with them all over the world."

Mister Parker stared at the paper.  "This is . . . this is extraordinary."

"Daniel is also reading books that are well beyond the reading level of my daughter, who is in the third grade."

The man's expression changed to embarrassment.  "Well, it looks like we made a serious error in judgment when it came to his grade placement.  We had no previous school records, nothing to tell us that he was gifted.  We will, of course, rectify this immediately."

"I'd like to discuss that with you," Jacob quickly said before the man could continue.  He looked down at Daniel.  "You did very well, Danny.  Could you please go back out to the bench?  We won't be much longer."

The child left the room.

"Though I agree that, academically, Daniel should be in a higher grade," Jacob said, "I'm worried about him emotionally.  In the higher grades, his lack of communication and other problems will be even more of a stumbling block.  And I'm betting that he will get teased even more by the kids in his classroom if he's put in a higher grade."

"You may be right," Mister Parker said, "but I can't, in all conscience, leave him in first grade.  It is far beneath his abilities.  He'll stagnate there."

"I suppose that a tutor would be out of the question."

The man shook his head.  "We don't have any program in place for free tutoring, and I would assume that the family could not pay for such a thing."  He looked at Mrs. Underwood, who appeared to be very embarrassed.

"No," she admitted.

"And I doubt that the state would pay for it."

"Not likely," Jacob responded.  "They won't even pay for the psychological treatment Danny needs."

"Then I see no other alternative.  For now, we will only move him up one grade.  We'll keep him there for the rest of the semester.  After the winter break, if we think it's warranted, we'll move him up to the third or possibly fourth grade.  I dearly wish that we had a free program for gifted children here.  The child is obviously extraordinarily intelligent."  Mister Parker looked back at Mrs. Underwood.  "With your permission, I would like to give Daniel some tests to evaluate his intelligence level."

"Um . . . all right.  I guess that would be okay."

They set up a time for the testing, which would be on Friday after school.  Jacob asked if he could be present to hear the results.  Mrs. Underwood said that was all right, so the principal agreed.

Everyone got to their feet.  Mister Parker shook Jacob's hand.

"Thank you for bringing all of this to our attention, Captain Carter.  I'm rather embarrassed by our blunder."

Jacob decided that the man was a good sort, and, really, the blame for this mostly belonged to the people at Child Welfare.

"I'm just glad that we found all this out," he responded.  "Daniel is a remarkable child, and I want to see things improve for him."

Back when I was in grade school, my father worked the graveyard shift, which left his afternoons open. On many school days, he came and took me out to lunch. My favorite place to eat was a fast food place that specialized in hotdogs. It's one of my fondest childhood memories, and I decided to incorporate it into this story.

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