Marlin and I cooked up a plan one Friday in school. Matter of fact, a bunch of us rowdy ninth graders made plans to sneak out in the wee hours that night. Everyone hunkered together in the corner of the cafeteria during lunch talking jive about being bad asses and waking all the gentle folk in the neighborhood at dark thirty in the morning. Everything from hopping the news truck to stealing golf carts at the country club on River Road were seriously considered. Someone mentioned breaking into the school and trashing it. I nixed that idea quick. Vandalism and stealing never felt right to me.
At some point, it was decided to go on safari. We would all bring balloons, fill them with water and hunt moving vehicles. That scheme did not set off my warning, "this is a stupid idea" bell. So we all agreed, it was water balloon night. Yeah, must have been ten of us who made plans to bring balloons and meet behind Brown's Market. We could fill the balloons from the spigot that stuck out of the ground near the back door. Old Man Brown never turned it off.
About 11:30 PM, I looked in my parents room. Mom was propped up, mouth gaping open with a paperback on her stomach. A soft snore alternating with a wheeze told me she was out for the night. Dad was passed out in fetal position next to her. After piling pillows and dirty clothes under my sheets to hide my absence, I opened my window and climbed out on the front porch roof. I skittered down the front pillar and double timed it to Brown's. I hoped I was not too late to hook up with everyone.
This was going to be so cool. I had only ever snuck out with Snake and Jackie. We used to do it all the time. But Snake got shipped off to military school this year and wouldn't be home until summer break. And Jackie was farmed out to some school in Pennsylvania for what we all thought would be forever. Tonight was to be a new group effort. If everyone showed up, we were going to get out of control, I just knew it. And I couldn't wait.
What makes sneaking out so special to a fourteen year old boy? I can remember so many nights laying awake under my sheets fully clothed until the rest of the house was finally down for the night. Laying there almost shaking in anticipation of excitement and adventure I could not even visualize, but was sure would be there once I got outside. And usually coming home 4 hours later after a night of just wearing out shoe leather but still feeling good. Satisfied to just be out there, because breaking rules is what 14 year old white boys are supposed to do.
Marlin and I hooked up at Browns. He had been there awhile. We filled some balloons, smoked a couple of cigarettes, and wondered where everyone was. Tired of hanging around and disgusted that no one else bothered to make it, we headed up Old Georgetown Road and crossed to the NIH grounds. In the shadows, we worked our way North to the strip mall up near the Beltway. We were hatching some plan to toss the balloons at the cars whizzing by on I-495. Not much thought went into that plan. I guess it was good that it never hatched. While we hung out deciding where best to position ourselves, suddenly a spotlight found us. Cops! Shit! Marlin and I looked at each other. He bolted one way, I bolted the other.
As it turned out, my way was the wrong way. I wasted 20 minutes and all my breath dashing through yards, up alleys and hopping many fences. All the while two cops chased me on foot and I could hear cars coming in my direction from the other side of the block. I kept going until I could go no further. Somehow I had run in a big circle and ended up back at the shopping center and the wooden fence that separated it from the neighborhood. Had I been on my side of Old Georgetown Road, I would have lost them in a heartbeat. But this was a neighborhood I did not know well, so I had gotten turned around. I crawled breathless into the hedge that ran along the fence. I laid down and hoped the rasp of my breath did not reveal my whereabouts. When my body finally calmed down and I was considering the idea of moving on, 2 cop cars pulled up not 20 yards away. Four cops got out and began a sweep.
They were good. They were methodical. They found me. They handcuffed me and tossed my sorry ass in one of the cruisers. They were not very gentle either. One of the cops had tripped over a fence in some yard while chasing me on foot earlier. He torn up his uniform pants and the knee underneath them. He clamped the cuffs on, making sure it hurt when he did it. All he said was, "I couldn't believe you cleared that fence. Looked like there was two feet of air under your shoes. You were moving."
Now I was really scared. My first real brush with the law. Instantly, without even thinking about it, I knew my life at home was going to be Hell on Earth for the rest of my life. Dad would flail me, skin me alive, and then beat me senseless. I was in deep shit. 14 years old, handcuffed, sprawled in the back of a cruiser and headed off to jail.
At the cop shop, they quizzed me, frisked me again, and dumped me in the drunk tank. There was one other soul there. He was not just gloriously drunk, he was also gay. He perked right up when I came in. And even though I sat as far away from him as I could, he found ways to narrow the distance between us. I was creeping out. A horny gay drunk and me, a 14 year old virgin white boy. The cops loved it. Bastards. They had a grand ole time over my misfortune. It did not dawn on me nothing could happen, as this holding cell faced the busy part of that police station. There was always a cop in view. And now that I think about it, I think the gay guy was just having some fun at my expense. But it still creeped me out.
After about an hour, a cop came to the cell. He informed me my father would not be right down. He said my father was headed back to bed. He would deal with me in the morning. But only if he felt like it. I was astounded. I was sure my ole man would not miss the chance to head right down so he could ream my ass out for the next 4 hours. But he didn't come. That freaked me out. I had taken an immediate dislike of jail.
My initial shock of actually being behind bars progressively turned into a nightmare as I began imagine all the worst case scenarios possible. By 7:00 AM I was positive my ole man was going to leave me there through the weekend. I was one miserable kid. Thankfully the drunk gay guy had passed out and was not eye balling me or flinging slurred words at me anymore.
Dad came to spring me about 10:00 AM. I had been in that holding cell for nine hours anyway. When I walked out of the cell, I saw Dad and he saw me. The look on his face was all I needed to top off probably the most miserable night I had had in my short life to that point. I remember getting a lecture from the cop who I guess was the man there, but I didn't listen. I just nodded my head and mumbled yes sirs and no sirs and looked at my feet. Finally, I was in the car with Dad and we were heading home. The expected anger and yelling never happened. He never said a word. And he never mentioned it to me again until many years later when we were both half in the bag and I brought it up. He said he just couldn't get mad. I had looked so miserable, he figured I had been through enough to learn whatever lesson I was going to learn from it already. If he had blown up, it would have been only to make him feel better. Wouldn't have done much for me.
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