Charlie made me do it. I was a good boy. Really. I was.
I was six and Charlie was seven. We were next door neighbors so we were, by default, friends. I have no idea where he is today. We had a fight and I bit him once. We stopped playing together and then eventually our family moved far away... ten blocks.
But before that we were friends and played together all the time. It was 1976 and I wore a yellow baseball hat, a red, white and blue wrist band, cut off jeans and a mesh tank top with the number 76 on it - all the time. I was stylin'. I have no idea what Charlie wore, though I am sure it was equally as cool. It was '76 after all. We played all the time. We played with each other and with the neighborhood kids. Our street even had it's own baseball team. We were organized by one of the older kids on the block. He and a friend from the north part of town arranged a baseball league. We lived on Maple Avenue and went by the moniker of the Maple Maulers. I can only recall one other team and they were the Forest Firemen. They lived on Forest Avenue.
We had shirts with numbers. I got one too even though I was six at the time and didn't really play. I was essentially the team mascot. Still, having a t-shirt with a number and being part of the Maulers gave me a sense of belonging. It was like we had our own gang. Nobody messes with the Maple Maulers... or their kid mascot.
Maybe it was the gang influence. Maybe it was age. Maybe it Charlie or maybe, just maybe, it was just a lack of impulse control that got me into trouble with the law.
I regret to this day that it happened. I wish I could have taken back my actions, but I cannot. I cannot take back the forward motion of my little arm that launched a wooden scrub brush at Bobby D'Andre and his bicycle. I cannot take back the fact that it hit him and made him cry. For that I feel bad.
But he was a punk. He was a seven year old punk.
The day of the incident he kept riding his bike down our street. The street that belonged to the Maulers. He taunted us. He said things that pushed our buttons. He wouldn't leave me and Charlie alone. So we plotted how to take him out. How could we let this punk know that he was on our turf. He had to learn. He had to be driven away. We were going to make an example out of him. No one messes with the Maulers. No one.
So we found a wooden scrub brush. It was probably one Charlie's dad used to keep his white walls clean. Charlie handed me the brush and told me that I should throw it at Bobby. It didn't feel right, but Charlie convinced me to do it. I thought I'd give it a try the next time he drove by. So I did. I did not really think I would hit him. I did not really think I would even come close. But I nailed him. I nailed good and hard with that brush. So hard that he started to cry immediately and raced home. There was no doubt he was going to tell his dad about this. He said so as he peddled off in tears.
So we hid. We went to our back yard and laid low. All was good until later that evening when my father got home. I do not know what was said. I do not know who he spoke with. All I know is that I was in serious trouble. Mom and Dad wore scowls. That was never good.
They told me in a very calm, yet stern manner that the Wilmette Police had called them and that I was in trouble. They had to take me to the station for an investigation into "the incident". I was mortified. The police? How could this have happened? I was only six years old! I didn't think six year olds could go to jail. What was happening to me? How could I have ruined my life so easily. My life was clearly never going to be the same. How could I get out of this? Could I blame Charlie? Was he in trouble too? Did the police call his family? I needed to talk to him immediately to get our story straight, but my parents prevented me from talking to him. There were no stops along the way. It was straight from the house to the car to the station. I was going down. Big time.
I remember the drive to the station. It was dead quiet. I remember the walk from the car to the station as dead quiet too. I swear there wasn't a cicada chirping, the wind stopped blowing and everyone, EVERYONE on the street stopped what they were doing and stared. There he goes. The foolish boy who could not control his impulses. Too bad. So young. I was a dead six year old walking.
As we walked into the station I stared at the ground. I could not bear to meet anyone eye to eye, lest that be all it took for them to pronounce me guilty and send me straight off to jail. They could do that couldn't they? Look you straight in the eye and immediately decide that your case was hopeless? They could do that couldn't they? Eyes down. Don't speak unless spoken too. Use your very best, most polite manners and no matter what do not give them an excuse to lock you away.
We sat in the hallway for an eternity before an officer finally came out from a back room and asked Dad if he could speak with me about the incident. Alone. Dad said yes. I followed the officer to his desk and he directed me to a chair to sit in. He then asked me about the incident. He knew what happened and let me know that he had already spoken with Bobby and his parents about the incident. Crud. He also told me that Charlie was there too. He was in another part of the station being interrogated about the incident by another officer. Double crud. He let me know that he had already heard Charlie's version and now wanted to hear from me what happened. So I told him.
I told him that we went to the same school as Bobby. I told him that Bobby lived on another street. I told him that Bobby was teasing us and not saying nice things to us. I told him that Bobby was bugging us.
And then he asked about throwing the scrub brush at Bobby.
"Who threw the scrub brush at Bobby?"
"Why did you do it?"
"Charlie told me to do it."
"Did you think that was a nice thing to do?"
"You knew it was a bad thing, didn't you?"
"Did you know you could have seriously injured Bobby?"
"No, sir. I mean, I guess so. I mean, I didn't think about that."
"What do you think the police should do about this now?"
Holy crud. This wasn't really a question. It was a set up for him to tell me what my punishment was going to be.
"I don't know, sir." I said
The rest of the interrogation was a blur. I couldn't think. Here I was about to be told that my life as I knew it was over. Should I cry? Would that get me sympathy? What about running? Maybe I could make a break for it and live life on the lam. Sure, I could do that. I had plenty of friends. I bet Stutz would figure out a way to help me. Maybe he could leave a window open and I could slip into their basement to sleep at night. No, wait... I could be found out. I'd have to keep running. The cops found out about the scrub brush incident pretty quickly. They would find out even quicker that Stutz and I were good friends. Running wasn't an option. I was going to have to take my lumps.
And then, somehow they let me go home. I was a free man. I was not going to jail. I was going home!
Wait. Mom and Dad couldn't send me to jail but they could also make my life miserable if they chose. And they did. They told me that this was not over and that I had to apologize to Bobby... with his dad there... and Charlie and I were not to play with each other any more.
Title for this post suggested by Jenne.