Divesting Jimmy

After-school football went along swell, like every practice Jimmy was out giving his best. After two-hours of blocking, tackling and running plays, he was looking forward to a shower, getting dressed and the long bus ride home, where he could either sleep or finish what homework he’d been assigned.

Jimmy cut up with his teammates as he slipped his feet into his worn out boots and headed for the exit. As he did so, he pulled on a vest, something he was known for around the high school – a signature of sorts for the Sophomore athlete and student.

As he stood by the row of buses, waiting to get on board, he saw an uniformed officer walking up the sidewalk towards him. He was accompanied by a man in a three-piece suit and they looked very serious.

Before either reached Jimmy, they stopped and the man in the suit pointed in Jimmy’s direction. For his part Jimmy looked to his right thinking that the man was pointing out something beyond him.

Since he was the only person in the direction pointed, he realized the pair was looking at him. He waited as they quickly strode up to him.

“Yup,” the suited man said, “that’s my vest!”

“Turn around, son,” the officer commanded, “You’re under arrest for theft.”

Before he knew it he was in handcuffs and being escorted passed all of his friends to an awaiting cruiser. Less than ten-minutes later he was in a holding cell by himself and wondering what he’d really done.

A detective came up to the bars and asked, “So Jimmy, where did you get that vest?”

“I found it,” he answered.

“Where?” the man queried.

“It was draped over a bush outside the front doors of the school,” the teen responded.

“You didn’t pick it up in the locker room last week?” came another question.

“No, sir,” Jimmy replied.

“Did you think to turn it in?” the detective wanted to know.

Jimmy looked down and his feet and ashamedly answered, “No.”

The detective then walked away, leaving the young man alone to think about the conversation. He had an awful feeling in the pit of his stomach and he wanted to throw up.

An hour later, he was on his way to the juvenile detention center on the outskirts of town. It was there that he learned that he’d be spending the weekend and would see the county judge on Monday morning.

“But the football game, tomorrow…” he pleaded.

“Yeah, what of it?” the guard shot back.

“I’m supposed to play!” Jimmy returned.

“You ain’t going anywhere,” the man stated.

The weekend was a long drawn out affair. Jimmy was held in a room that had only a mattress and a blanket.

He had long given up his street clothing for a white jump suit that was two-sizes too big for his frame. And he had no privacy as he was checked on every 15 to 20 minutes or so, even when he tried to sleep.

Come Monday, he was he was awakened earlier than the rest of the boys being held at the center, he was fed and allowed to quickly shower. Then he was handed some clean clothing, his own clothing, meaning his parents had been to the facility and he never knew it.

The thought left him sad and he cried as he dressed himself for court.

Within the hour he found himself seated outside the court room in a plain room waiting for his case to be called. The wait left his gut churning as his nerves built up in him.

Finally, it was his turn and he was escorted into court. It was the first time he had seen his parents; the old man looked angry and his mama, grief-stricken.

It was almost more than he could take as he stood before the Judge. His mind raced with ways to explain to his dad about how this had happened, and the mistake he’d made by not turning the stupid vest in the first place and how he had learned a lesson from everything that had gone on since Friday.

Jimmy was so busy thinking that he didn’t hear what the District Attorney had said. The next think he recalled was the bang of the Judges gavel on the podium.

“What’s happening?” he whispered to the Public Defender.

“You’re free to go,” she answered, “The DA doesn’t have enough to hold you on the charges.”

That Tuesday, Jimmy learned that because he had been arrested and accused of theft, he was no longer on the football team. It was at that moment that he also realized that from then on, no matter whether he did it or not, he would be questioned or simply blamed for anything that turned up missing.

“And all because I didn’t turn that damned vest into ‘lost and found,’ when I took it off that bush,” he could often be heard muttering to himself, every time he found himself under suspicion.

Advertisements

Words

The last couple of months, all I seem to be doing is crying. Since March a number of things have happened in my life that have unsettled me.

My youngest sister’s died, knocking my legs from under me, my son suddenly and without much notice, moved clear across the country to New York state, an event that was tantamount to a gut-punch,

Then, amid several hiring refusals following lengthy job interviews, my third grade teacher’s death happened. And then learning of the passing of one of my high school teachers has rocked my foundation — and I found myself crumbling.

Without thought, I wrote about this to my friend’s on Facebook, “I’m ready for a break,” jus’ before that,  “Since I can’t sleep, I was trying to figure out what to do; read, write or stay in bed. I think I’ll cry myself to sleep.”

So I had unwittingly prophesied twice into my life…

Once I figured this out, I couldn’t help but think of the woman the prophet Elisha told that she would have a child. When that child was about 12, he died.

But instead of mourning his death, she rode to ask Elisha to come pray over the boy and resurrect him. However as she galloped across the desert, she was stopped by the Prophet’s assistant who asked her three times if everything was alright.

Each time she answered, “All is well,” instead of saying her son was dead.

She refused to speak something negative, knowing that her words carried life and death in them. Instead, she spoke positively, “All is well,” and through her faith, all was well as her son was raised up from the dead.

Then last night, I cracked (a break) and I literally cried myself to sleep. This is what I call a teachable moment because the time is now, amid our sadness, including mine, to be wise and carefully judge our words, because they, like hers, carry with them the power of life and death.

Having cracked in the middle of the night reminded me of this…

Early, near the turn of the century, I first read the story of ‘The Cracked Pot,’ and how because of its imperfection the water-bearer never returned home with a full allotment of water for the household. And instead of fixing the crack in the pot, the water bearer left it and used it daily to water the side of the trail in which he had planted flowers.

On the other end of the pole the water bearer used to carry water from the well to the house was a perfect pot. It had no flaws in it, thus providing as much water for the house as it was designed.

The moral of the story is that the water bearer (a representation of God) used both the cracked pot and the perfect pot for what they were designed to hold water. However, because God knew the one pot was flawed He used that flaw to build beauty into the world, while the perfect pot did everything it was supposed to do, and nothing more.

This morning, I am still cracked, but I am not broken and the tears I shed last night are God’s to use in His garden and I pray He’s watering you, His flower, today.

The Smartest-Dumb Thing

During the first of three-weeks of what was lightly termed an ‘Indoctrination Course,’ by the Marine Corps, I learned to react immediately when a Drill Instructor directed me to do something. In reality the old saw, “When I tell you to jump, the only question I wanna hear is ‘How high?’ really doesn’t apply.

Why I was being yelled at has become lost to me over time, however I do recall shouting back, “Aye! Aye! Staff Sergeant!” as I took off at a full run across the Grinder, a large unfriendly and unpopular patch of cement used for everything from marching, drills, physical training to discipline.

Before I got very far the Staff Sergeant shouted my name (something you don’t ever want any DI to know) and I stopped on a dime, coming to attention. And as quickly, he was all over me, wanting to know ‘what the hell was wrong with me.’ The only thing I could think to answer was, “I’m not a Marine, Staff Sergeant!”

He paused for a few seconds to look me in the eye. I figured he was about to lower the boom on me as he responded, “That’s the smartest-dumb thing I’ve ever heard! You get any brighter you might as well go ahead and join the Air Force!”

“Aye, aye, Staff Sergeant,” I yelled back.

From behind me I heard a voice say, “Sarge, he’s already done that…”

The Staff Sergeant looked beyond me, towards the voice and growled, “Corporal, if I want any shit outta you I’ll squeeze your effing head!”

That caused the other nine ‘recruits’ in the course to bust out in laughter. I suddenly found myself standing alone on the Grinder, watching my mates dash across the open surface, and listening to the poor Corporal get dressed down, being reminded that he was “there to assist, not correct the senior NCO when he screws up.”

Notes on the Media

Here’s the bubble the national media lives in: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Dallas-Fort Worth. When you see political opinion polls, know that these top five markets are from where those numbers come from and with the first four being populated with Progressives, those figures are necessarily skewed to the far-left of center.

And the IS has it: Unfortunately, with a dishonest national media and unconstitutional justice system, all one needs to be IS a suspect to be considered guilty. Finally, someone needs to remind the media that during a press conference, ‘no,’ IS an entire answer.

Perspective

Two friends had been out a little later than they should have. They came home to their wives late and then met the next day.

One man said to the other, “Was your wife angry because we were out so late last night?”

The other man said, “Nah, she came to me on her hands and her knees.”

“No kidding? How did it happen?” the first man asked.

The second man looked kind of sheepish and said, “She crawled across the bedroom floor, looked under the bed and demanded, “Come out from under there you coward, and fight like a man!”

Zenda of the Marines

“Third time’s a charm, my…” Zenda let the thought fade as she pulled the door open to the local unemployment office.

In fact, it was her fourth venture to the office as she battled the bureaucracy to get an unemployment check. Zenda, a former Sergeant of the Marines, had recently left the Corps after eight-years and had hopes of using the money to pay for some long overdue downtime.

A few minutes later, Zenda stood in front of the man behind the counter, arguing the state’s policy on the receipt of unemployment and the man was having none of what the Black woman was saying. As Zenda became more frustrated, the louder her voice grew and soon everyone was looking in the direction where the argument was taking place.

Suddenly, she felt a hand grab her right above her right elbow. She look in that direction and found herself face to face with a short, balding man wearing a security officers uniform.

Fighting off the temptation to used the Hollywood cliché of ‘remove it or lose it,’ Zenda smiled and politely asked, “Will you please let go of my arm?”

“You need to leave,” the man responded, “now.”

At five-ten, she stood a good four inches taller than him, so Zenda looked him up and down, then tried to pull her arm from the man’s grip. Still he held her tight above the elbow.

Without warning, Zenda flung her arm back ward, then a quickly jerked it forward, swinging it in a wide arc that broke the security office’s handhold. As she tore herself free, she saw him grasp the butt of his 9mm with his right-hand  and begin to draw it from its holster.

In one swift move, she grabbed the man’s hand as the pistol cleared leather and swept both of his legs out from under him. As his legs rose to the level of the counter top, she twisted the firearm from his hand, and he dropped with a heavy thud to the poorly carpeted floor.

Immediately, she popped the clip from the pistol, flicked the eight bullets from it and tossed the now empty magazine behind herself, then cranked the slider back causing the single copper-colored bullet to eject from the weapon. Then showing a certain deftness, she caught the bullet as it jumped from the gun.

Not missing a beat, she yanked on the receiver, pulling it from the frame of the Beretta. Zenda casually tossed it in front of where she was standing, then dropped the rest of the gun on the floor, kicking it off to the side.

“The next time you touch me or threaten me with a firearm, you better come with back up,” she instructed the man as he continued to lay on the floor.

Then with the remaining bullet, holding it between her thumb and middle-finger, Zenda snapped the unfired projectile at the man much like a soda bottle cap or a penny, where it bounced painfully off of his forehead. Finally, with her head held high and back straight, she walked out of the office.

Within an hour, Zenda was in jail, charged with assaulting the security officer, disturbing the peace, and unable to post bail. Her unemployment check arrived the following day.

Valeria Van Zanten, 1913-2017

Sadly, another touch of my childhood has slipped into Heaven — and it’s so bitter-sweet, leaving traces of tears on my cheeks.

Valeria Van Zanten passed away on May 4, 2017 in Crescent City, California, at the age of 103. She was born August 19, 1913, also in Crescent City.

Born to Swiss immigrants, Alice and Victor Del Ponte, who homestead 200 acres near Klamath, California, she attended the one-room Terwah School in Terwer Valley and graduated from Del Norte High School in Crescent City.  In 1930, by the age of 16, Valeria was attending Humboldt State University, where she and a friend lived off-campus in an Arcata apartment with a monthly rent of about $17.

“It was Depression time, and we didn’t have very much money,” Valeria told the Humboldt Magazine in 2012. “I was very lucky to be able to go to school. I recall attending HSU or a little over $25 per month.”

As my third-grade teacher, she used to tell about how she wasn’t allowed to go on biology field trips because she was girl. Mrs. Damm, as we knew her then, explained that she was left behind and made to practice her taxidermy skills.

Later, I learned the ‘field trip incidents’ are what drove her wish to read “The Little House on the Prairie,’ by Laura Ingalls-Wilder. To her, she once explained to me, Laura was ahead of her time and she could see herself in the little girl’s character.

And while I can only guess, I’m sure that the many field trips we took while in her third grade class were a result of having been denied going on field trips as a university student. I know many of my childhood friends will never forget hiking down to the old sweat lodge along the Klamath or the rock-hopping amid the tidal pools along the coastline of Crescent City.

Valeria graduated with her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1934, and within two years was teaching at Klamath Union School in Klamath. She was initially forced to resign her teaching post when she married, but after insisting that the ‘rule’ were not equally enforced, she won her job back.

I met Mrs. Damm in late summer 1965, shortly after the building of Margaret Keating School which replaced the old Klamath Union, after two catastrophic floods along the Klamath River destroyed it the year before.

Employed by Del Norte County School District for over 30 years, upon her retirement in 1973, Valeria took up traveling, visiting  places like Europe, Israel, Syria and Peru.

“All of my life, I was fascinated by Machu Picchu,” Valeria explained in the same 2012 interview. “To think that from [a] little farm and little school that I would one day stand at its base was just incredible to me.”

Not only was Valeria one of my grade school teachers, she was also my sister Deirdre’s God-mother. She was a member of St. Joseph’s Parish in Crescent City and past president of the Alter Society of St. Robert and Ann Catholic Church in Klamath, where we attended mass.