|Ringleader Ricky and the Squawker!|
i was seven and a half and eager to be eight.
fortunately, eagerness couldn't change the calendar back then.
i had just completed a rather nasty b&e (i.e., break and entry for law abiding types) at the popoff house with ringleader/four-year-old brother, ricky (a.k.a., "handsome devil"), and strong arm, "bones" eslinger (the neighborhood kid who defined "keeping bad company").
yada, yada, yada—blah, blah, blah.
mom, having been alerted to the affair within an hour by neighborhood watchdog gertrude vanderbeek, grilled me somethin' good, squeezing me for information—had i heard anything on the street about what had transpired at the vacationing popoff's house?
i cracked like a fallen robin's egg under her enhanced interrogation techniques, spilling names and pointing fingers like no one's business.
and when my squawking was all over, she didn't buy my story that ricky was the puppet master, making the argument that if he still wasn't toilet trained, how in the world could he have orchestrated this debacle.
she had a point.
so i took the hit, and some hit it was.
she proceeded to call the police, had me cuffed and thrown in the back of the town cherry top (i.e., police car to you do-gooders), and hauled my guilty ass off to the scene of the crime—detective sheridan and she in the front, i whimpering in the back, behind the steel cage barrier with mounted shot gun just on the other side i suppose on the off chance i should try to make a break for it.
detective sheridan asked, "how old are you son?"
one thing i knew, other than a short life of crime, was that when someone who was not your father addressed you as son, something bad was about to be said, and if that someone was a detective, well then, it was about to be very, very, very bad for sure.
mom yelled, "well, cat got your tongue? tell him how old you are."
i answered quietly, "seven and half." (i don't normally say "half" anymore, although i continue to answer quietly).
he looked at my mom and said, "you have a lucky boy there ma'am, because if he were eight years old, we'd be taking him up the river right now."
i wondered, "up the river"? what river? the only one i know is in the bible, and that's nowhere near here as far as i know.
mom chimed in, "do you know what that means?"
i mumbled through my quivering lips, "na na no."
she said, "we'd be taking you to prison to do some hard time."
i took pause to think about what she had just told me: hard time? prison! that's where they took rocky sullivan in "angels with dirty faces". and they filled him up with electricity. holy mackerels andy! i was indeed lucky—by a mere six months.
i looked out the back window of the squad car and cried my own river as the callous maple leaves snickered in the sultry summer breeze.
and i swear, way off in the distance, i could hear the tinny bugling of "taps" played faintly and slowly—one death note after another.
mom had heaved a heavy hand that horrible day.
tough love at its toughest best.
and while the tears rolled down my cheeks, as i slumped limply in the back of that black and white, pushing the slipping cuffs back up my sweaty hands, i swore off crime forever.
i haven't so much as jaywalked since.
and now i want others to know.
let my story be told.
if only i might reach one lad, save one life, put the silver in some one's cloud lining, then this haunting indiscretion would not have been for naught.