The detective hit me across the face with a back hand and I knew I was in trouble. Blood formed on my lower lip. I let it flow, not taking my eyes from this man who gained my immediate attention with a force he evidently knew how to use on some wise-ass kid not being straight with him.
We were in the bathroom of a union hall where my best friend’s brother was celebrating his marriage earlier in the day. I was 13 or 14 and had just “hit” several cars in the parking lot, opening unlocked doors for spare change and cigarettes when I came across this large calibre handgun. Was sitting on the console of the car in plain sight.
Tucked it into my suit pants and I entered the hall, going straight to the bathroom. Started to show off my “find” to someone I knew and failed to look around the rest of the room, where one of Philadelphia’s finest — a detective in civilian clothes and one of the wedding guests –saw the gun and decided to investigate.
“Where did you get that?” this tall, muscular blonde man said to me, his steely eyes watching not only what I said but how I said it. “I found it,” I quipped, as I try to turn away from him.
Wham! He hit me and demanded I tell him the truth. Which I did. In a roundabout way without spilling the beans about my latest spree as a juvenile delinquent. Somehow I knew even then there were certain things not to divulge to a police officer without a lawyer present.
“It was lying in plain site and I just took it from a car,” I said in all sincerity, not mentioning the other petty thefts I attempted. Stealing a gun is a felony offense in Philadelphia, I later learned as a criminal defense lawyer. Using one in a crime calls for a mandatory sentence of five to 10 years in jail. Unless you’re a juvenile. Then the state gets to control your living arrangements up to age 21, in some cases.
I relinquished the gun, wishing I had never come to the wedding reception, let alone try to get away with possessing a firearm. I got scared. My future looked bleak. I fell back on the only thing I could think of to help.
I started praying. Praying so hard the vibrations might rival a Gabriel blowing his horn in the Old Testament. And, it worked. The officer spoke to Eddie Keller, the fellow who just got married who “vouched” for me, saying I was a good kid. “A little stupid, at times,” he said, smiling at me with the cop on one side and my best friend, Johnny Keller who was Eddie’s younger brother, on the other.
Don’t know what happened to the gun. Nobody pressed charges. I feel some Divine intervention had taken place keeping me out of more trouble or a loss of life at a possibly young age.
Corporal punishment has had its place in our society. Never forgot the lesson I learned. Guns are nothing to play with. Particularly in the hands of such a dumb kid as yours truly.
Kids do the stupidest things. I’m pretty sure I might have died a couple times without divine intervention– and I do not doubt the same is true for my kids. They tell me things now that raises the hair on the back of my neck. Glad they are adults now– but you know what? I have recently realized that it doesn’t matter how old they are. You always worry.
If my 18-yr-old is not in by 10 pm on a school night, I worry. Fall asleep on the couch sometimes waiting for him to show up and I’m too relieved to see he’s okay to yell at him for being late.
Less than four weeks until graduation. If we can just be arrest and accident free until then . . .
My boys got into their share of trouble, but they’re good in their hearts if you know what I mean. Just this past Mother’s Day I was thinking that I not only love them, but they are the kinds of men I am proud to be ‘friends’ with. They are really kind, loyal, caring individuals. Morally upright and responsible. Both have spent time in jail. My best wishes to your son in all he does.
Some of my best friends did time in jail. A few others I could name (lawyers included) should have never been let out after visiting.
Wow. Talk about dodging a bullet (so to speak). You were amazingly fortunate.
Yes, I dodged the bullet and like to say I went straight ever since. Except for counterfeiting a draft card in my high school printing shop to make it read “21 years old” so I could drink in Pennsylvania bars. And some experimenting with grass, LSD, and . . . I better check on the statute of limitations. Most are five years. But the crime of stupidity lasts a lifetime. I plead guilty, with time off for good behavior.
Michael–you dear little delinquent! I love these stories (did you start the book yet, by the way?! 🙂 ). And isn’t it nice when you recognize that you’re being looked after?
The whole gun thing scares the s#@% out of me, and I’ve been drumming it into my son’s head that if he’s ever with a friend who pulls out a gun (even if he swears it’s “not loaded”), he’s to leave IMMEDIATELY. (I keep seeing that scene in “The Sixth Sense” (a Philadelphia story, I believe) in which the boy sees the ghost of another boy whose friend accidentally shot him with his father’s gun). I’m thinking that when we’re living in Florida he’s much more likely to meet kids whose families keep guns. Yikes. But he’s ridiculously responsible (God knows where he got that!), so I do trust him to do the right thing.
Thanks for the post, and for turning my mind to guns and ghosts (couldn’t help making a mini-poem out of it…)!
This is my book. I’m putting my “stuff” out there in hopes that one day I can compile it all from the Blog and somehow make it more permanent.
Feel like I’m confessing some stupid things I did in hopes that someone will learn from my mistakes. I straightened out (Well, mostly) and don’t mind opening myself to ridicule after determining I can be one of those “holy fools.” Did you know that all religions have ’em? Holy fools are in Sanscript as well as a sect of the Sufi. They’re mentioned in the Kabalah. People act out of the norm in order to tell of a higher truth.
thanks again. I’m excited!
Tell you what–one day I’ll return the favor by recounting just a few of the MANY incredibly stupid things I’ve done (and the delinquency couldn’t all be categorized under “juvenile”!). I can top anything you’ve done, I think!
I did read that “holy fool” is a concept that runs through a lot of faiths (all the good stuff does!). I’m glad you’re excited–let us know what else you find out!
God dam! I might have been a “holy fool” all of these years and didn’t know it. It could apply to many who walked the beat of a different drum yet had God or Allah or whatever you call the Force as our goal.
We were on the path the whole time, even when doing the stupid things. Well, maybe not when I was with that girl in Panama City and we went into that backroom and she showed me what Paradise was really like with her tatooed arms and those crazy unshaven legs that . . .
Ok, ok. Got off the subject, What do you expect from a Fool in Love?
I’m quite sure that the girl from Panama “counts” there on the path, too–unshaven legs and all (I think I went through a very brief unshaven-legs period at my hippie college, and I’ve always wanted a little tiny tattoo–just a little white owl with blue eyes…)!