Thursday, August 04, 2005

To think, I could have had a helicopter

Today, America sleeps restlessly if they sleep at all knowing that this fugitive has been given a light sentence and walks the streets freely. Seriously, what kills me about the story, other than the fact that people seriously considered juvenile jail time for what was clearly a child acting out in an inappropriate, but not criminal fashion was this line:

Police responded with three cars and a helicopter after the 11-year-old threw a stone at a group of boys who rode by on their bikes and pelted her and her brother with water balloons.

Um, get a grip folks. Three cars and a helicopter!??! When I was 12 I would sometimes go down to the creek behind my parent's house just to be alone and surly or sulk or sad or what have you. One day I was feeling particularly gloomy, as many children do at that age, and I needed some time by the creek. A girl from the neighborhood who was about my age came by and we spoke a little bit. I was beginning to feel slightly better, but still wanted to be alone a bit as well when the neighborhood brat, the young kid who got under everybody's skin and who spent a lot of time trying to act superior, showed up and started bothering us.

To be sure Billy, the brat, didn't realize the extent to which he was bothering us. He was just being Billy which is to say he was being thoughtless and annoying. He thought it was all just a game. The fact that I was clearly annoyed made it a better game. Realizing this and recognizing that Billy was about 4 years younger than me, I decided to walk away. The girl asked if I wanted company and I told her thanks, but not today. Billy decided that he had one last chance to ratchet things up a notch before his fun was gone, so he picked up a rock. The rock was about 4 inches across and like most rocks near a creek it was generally smooth, though a few jags stuck out here and there. Holding his brown and tan rock in his hand, Billy declared that he was going to throw it at me.

The girl told Billy that wasn't a good idea. I turned and told Billy that it wasn't a good idea. Billy disagreed. In fact, he told us that he thought it was quite a good idea. I told him not to do it or I'd walk him into the middle of the creek and set him down in it. He told us that he was going to do it. I told him once again what I'd do, then I began to walk away. Naturally, Billy through the rock. He hit me in the back of the neck, near the base of my skull. I was hurt. Tears rolled down my cheeks, though I didn't want to cry. This amused Billy even further.

Angry, but in control, I walked towards Billy. He was laughing harder as I got closer. Then, his tone changed and he explained that I couldn't put him in the creek. His voice shaking, Billy explained that his shoes were new, that they were corrective shoes, that his mother would "kill me" if I ruined them. As I picked him up by the waist, I explained to Billy that he should of thought of that before he through the rock and that I had warned him what the consequences would be. With that, I picked Billy up, walked him to the middle of the rather cold creek, and plopped him down in the center. The water was only about a foot deep - we all knew this as we played in it throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Billy easily ran out and beat me to the bank. He reiterated that his mother was going to "kill me" then ran off. When I got to the bank, the girl was looking at me a little surprised.

"Want to go for a walk?" I asked.

"You warned him" she said. And with that, we went for a long walk. By the time I returned home, my clothes were dry. The incident with Billy was no longer at the forefront of my thoughts.

By Monday, I had come down with a cold. The thermometer proved that I had a fever. My mother had me stay home from school. I wasn't miserable, but I didn't want to be home, either. It was October and we just thought that it was an early fall cold.

The doorbell rang that morning and my mother answered it. She spoke with whomever rang the bell at length, which was odd. When she entered my bedroom, she told me that Billy's mom was at the door. My mother asked me if I put Billy in the creek as Billy's mom had said that I had done. I confirmed that I had done it. My mother asked why I had done it and I told her the whole tale along with the fact that the girl could confirm it. My mother told me that she didn't blame me and that she might have done the same thing. She then went and told Billy's mother this same thing (I over heard the conversation because I stuck my head out of the bedroom door).

I had forgotten about the incident at the creek. It then occurred to me that walking into the middle of the creek and then walking around in wet clothes was probably the reason I caught a cold. There were consequences of my actions that I didn't intend, I thought, but I was willing to live with this one. It made me smile and offered me some relief. My mother didn't punish me, but she did suggest that I should have just told on Billy. At twelve, that wasn't my style. I settled my own scores when I could rather than be a tattle tale.

Just think, however, if I were twelve today. Hell, I might throw the damn rock myself and then tell on myself if I thought that I could get 3 cop cars and a helicopter - a helicopter - to come to the scene. That poor girl must have been scared shitless, especially so given the fact that she speaks little to no English. Then to be locked up for 5 days and only seeing your parents for 30 minutes during that time? To be told you might have to go away for as long as 4 years?

Damn, I'll stick to kids settling their own scores and letting their parents determine punishment. In this case, harm was done and it was bad, but I'd rather trust the parents to deal with this rather than the government trying to use the law for parenting. An investigation may have been called for, but this was an over reaction.

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