I had my first run in with the law in the second grade. At that time, my family and I
lived in Pensacola. My father was out of the Navy and was attending
thanks to the
G.I. Bill. My mother was a seamstress and housewife. Through my youthful eyes I didn't
realize how tight our money was and I was blind to the good fortune of the small townhouse
we lived in. Our house was a two-story duplex made primarily of brown brick; the top floor
had wooden siding (painted brown). Each of the front doors was sheltered by a balcony,
which was supported by skinny, cedar columns. Both halves of the building were laid out
identically: A living room up front, with a kitchen and dinette in the back; above these two
rooms were the bedrooms and a bathroom. My parents' room faced the
Schwab Court, while the room my sister and I shared overlooked our large, corner-lot back yard.
With Dad going to school and Mom working at home, money was very tight. My
sister, Julienne and I spent most of the year outside; to be fair this was partly because Mom
would lock us out, so she and Dad could get some work done. For the most part all of the
kids on the block were friends and we would play ball on the asphalt or build forts in the
grass. My best friend in the neighborhood was a boy named Douglas. He was a lanky black
kid slightly taller than I, which wasn't much at seven years old. Douglas had a round face
that was exaggerated by his Afro and a friendly outgoing smile. Practically every day he and
I would race matchbox cars, play in anthills or just ride bikes for hours. On the whole,
neither of us were bad kids.
One overcast afternoon Julienne and I were halfway through our walk home from
school when we came across a key forgotten on the road. We picked up the key and
continued on our way, each examining it for clues to whom it might belong. Maybe it had
been dropped by one of our classmates during their trek home? Its orange Fred Flintstone
keychain revealed nothing. We could only guess it was someone's house key. The
following Saturday must have been a particularly "lovely day out" because Mom had
locked us out to play. I can't remember whose idea it was, but Douglas, Julienne and I
decided to find the owner of our new mystery key by trying it in every lock on Schwab
Court. Once we had found the key's mate we could simply leave it for the owner. We
started on the north side testing each door. By an incredible coincidence the key we had
found four blocks away actually opened a door.
The third townhouse, the fifth door we tested, was similar to ours. However, because
it was vacant it seemed much bigger inside. We timidly entered the house; since no one
lived here we didn't seem to be intruding. It was cool inside, a welcome respite from our
forced exile. The air was mildly damp and smelled slightly of mildew due to the
We explored each of the rooms, tip-toeing through the deep pile, brown shag
carpet. I ventured up the stairs sliding my hand across each varnished, wooden banister on
the way to the top. Douglas and I looked in each closet. I couldn't believe it -- in this
otherwise empty house the closet contained a few abandoned toys. The three of us were
quite elated to have found a completely new place to play. We returned to the house secretly
over the next week, never locking the door when we left. On one occasion we brought
Douglas' dog with us too. His dog was a Cairn terrier that looked just like "Toto".
Unfortunately, the one time we had his dog in the empty house he pooped on the rug. After
that we didn't dare return.
The next weekend the jig was up. In the late afternoon, just as the sun was below the
rooftops, my sister and I noticed a police car turn into the driveway of our
The cops surveyed the scene; after asking the immediate neighbors, someone had fingered
us! Ever since they had arrived I had been watching from the front window. When I saw the
two officers walking toward our house I was mortified. I ran upstairs and peeked through
the boards of the balcony as they approached. When they reached the driveway I hid teary
eyed in my mother's closet. As the policemen talked to my father I was convinced that I
would be going to jail. I buried my face in my knees and waited an eternity for them to
It turns out Linda, a diminutive woman with a bush of brown hair and a pointy nose,
who was the owner of the property, had called in a Breaking and Entering after finding the
evidence that we had been inside. After being forced downstairs the police questioned both
Douglas and me and even took our fingerprints (for our permanent records). When the
truth came out, Linda graciously decided not to press charges as my parents
forced me to
make a frightened and cringing apology. I was covertly indignant however: how is it
breaking and entering if you have the key? And besides, it wasn't even my dog!
In the end,
my parents never dissuaded me from believing I would be sent to jail and the fear definitely
led to a healthy respect for the law.
Node Your Homework for
Dr. William Strickland, my ENC1101 professor.
March 1, 2004. I recieved an "A" on the pre-Everything2 draft of this paper.