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 UWF 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 cul-de-sac, 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 air conditioning. 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 secret hideout. 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 leave.

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.

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