b& & v&

Some days it just doesn’t pay to take your head off the pillow.

I had the flu. I had on the warm side of a hundred and two degrees of fever. I had been sick in bed for a couple of days. I had also, as is my custom when sick, eaten enough to shame Mr. Creosote. I made it upstairs and checked the fridge, and lo! I was out of food.

So I went to the market to stock up on supplies, planning thereafter to return home and play another 48 hours of flash games.

How I made it to the market is a mystery even to me. I should probably have seen a doctor; I definitely should not have tried to operate a motor vehicle. Yet all those years playing Pod Racer must have left their mark. I made it to the market, there to buy numnums aplenty.

I must have been acting a little strange. I don’t remember acting strange, but at 102 in the shade, my memory isn’t something I’m going to rely on.

I put my items through the scan, flirted with the girl at the register, gave up a significant portion of the GNP of Panama, and went towards my car.

As I was leaving the store a guy with a white do-rag and mirrored sunglasses came up and pushed me.

“What?” I said, or something to that effect.

“Get back in the store, sir,” he said.

“What?”

“Get back in the store.”

“Who are you?” I asked, my heart already starting to race. I don’t really do well with physical violence. Probably because I am just far enough past my teen years to realize that I am not immortal.

“Just get in the store,” he said, and took a step towards me.

“What? Why? Who are you?”

“Sir, get back in the store!” he said, his voice rising. He took another step forward. I should add that he was less than one step away from me at this time.

“Who the hell are you?” I said, trying very hard not to freak out and drop my groceries.

He took out his wallet, flapped it in my face, and then put it away. It was open for approximately a microsecond.

“What was that?” I said. “Let me see some ID or get away from me.”

He did it again. I expect I could have seen what was inside his wallet, if I were the camera that they mount over the finish line at the Indy 500.

He pushed me into the store. Like, pushed me.

“Fuck you!” I said, and walked around him. I started moving very fast, very much freaking out now.

He ran in front of me, then started jogging backwards. “Sir, get back in the store!” he said, and kept repeating this.

“Stop following me!” I shouted. “Someone call the police!”

I got to my car. “Give me your jacket!” he shouted.

“What?”

“GIVE ME YOUR JACKET!”

“FUCK YOU!”

I opened my car door, took off my jacket, and threw it in the car. I got into the car after it.

I reached out to close the door behind me. The guy put both his hands on the door, and wouldn’t let me close it.

“SOMEONE CALL THE POLICE!” I shouted.

“Sir, you are physically threatening me,” he said.

“FUCK YOU! THIS IS MY CAR, I’M GOING HOME!”

I tried to close the door. He held on.

“Sir, you are assault me. Get out of the car.”

“THIS IS MY CAR,” I said, starting to cry by this point. “I JUST WANT TO GO HOME!”

Finally I just reached over and started the car. He left my door at this point. I closed it, locked it. He then stood in front of my car, and raised his arms.

I put the car into the gear, and drove about a foot to the left. He went to the left. I jacked the wheel to the right and drove around him. Faked out. Good.

I drove out of the parking lot, shaking like hell. I turned down the road, and started driving towards the police station.

Along the way I saw a police car. I considered stopping and flagging it down, but by that time it was already past.

Then I saw another police car. In my rearview mirror. Two, in fact. And another one driving right at me.

Like, at me. On my side of the road.

None of them had their lights on. So I kept driving.

Right before I was about to head-on it, the one in front of me put its lights on. A cop left the passenger’s side, stood behind the door, pointed a gun at me, and screamed “GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE CAR!”

“What?” I said, probably too softly for him to hear.

Then there were lots of voices shouting at me, giving various reformulations of the same demand.

“Okay!” I shouted.

They kept screaming. I looked in the rearview mirror. More guns.

“Let me just unfasten my seatbelt,” I returned.

They kept shouting.

“My belt’s buckled,” I said. “Let me just unbuckle it.”

They just kept shouting.

Finally I got fed up. “I’M REACHING DOWN TO UNBUCKLE MY SEATBELT,” I shouted. “DON’T SHOOT ME.”

They didn’t. Though they didn’t look far from it.

Apparently most felons don’t wear their seatbelts, or something.

So I unbuckled and opened my door. I got one foot out, then the other. Then there was a gun in my cheek.

“Get down on the ground!” another cop shouted.

“Uhh…”

They must be required to say that, or something. Next thing I know I’ve got my left cheek on the pavement, and they’re slapping handcuffs on me the weight of small anvils. Also, they are very cold. And way too tight.

“What’s going on?” I ask, or kind of moan.

“WHERE’S THE KNIFE?” someone shouts at me.

I try to lift my head. “What kn-,” I start, before someone grabs me by the hair and slams my head into the ground.

“WHERE’S THE FUCKING KNIFE?” they repeat.

“What knife?” I ask. I remember the tremble in my voice.

They ask again. I reply more strongly, “WHAT KNIFE?”

They then leave me on the ground for about ten minutes, and nobody tells me anything.

“What’s going on?” I ask, a few times. The gun shoves into my cheek pushed me back down.

“I’m cold,” I say at one point. This is November. I have the flu. My jacket’s in the car. I’m on the ground, eating pavement. “Can I have my jacket?”

No reply.

“Can I get in a car?”

Nothing.

“Can you put me in a car, please?” I ask.

“No.”

Well, that’s better than nothing. I guess.

“My hands hurt. Can you loosen these cuffs?”

Nothing. That wasn’t a really high-percentage one though. Even though I’m pretty sure my hands are bleeding at this point.

Finally they come over to me. “Sit up,” they tell me.

I try. I can’t. “I can’t,” I say.

They kind of shove me, there on the ground. “Sit up!”

“I can’t. I have a bad back.” Which is doubly true after getting shoved around for a quarter of an hour.

So one of the cops grabs me by the cuffs and halls me to my feet, nearly dislocating my shoulder. They frog-march me to the curb and set me down there.

“Can I have my jacket?” I ask.

“No.”

“Seriously,” I say at one point, “I’m freezing. Could you just arrest me so I can go into the squad car?”

They don’t reply.

I look over. They are searching my car. Twice they curse as they break something. I am not amused. I am also shivering onto the Richter scale.

Finally I remember what I was doing.

“I want to report someone,” I said. “There was this guy in front of the market. He-”

“Quiet!”

“NO! He ATTACKED me!”

“Who?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “He had a hat…”

“The mall security guard?”

Oh.

“I don’t know,” I say, “he wouldn’t identify himself.”

“He said he showed you his ID.”

“He showed me his wallet. He wouldn’t identify himself.”

“He says he did.”

“I want to report him,” I said. “He was pushing me, and scaring me, he assaulted me, and I was driving to the police station to report him.”

“Shut up,” they said.

Great.

One of the cops asks me if I have my receipt from the market. I say, yes, it’s in my wallet.

“Where’s your wallet?”

“In my pocket,” I say.

“Give it to us.”

I stare at them for about ten seconds. Finally they hall me to my feet by my cuffs, pull out my wallet, and take on the receipt. They sink me back to the ground, and I sit there.

I remember saying something to the effect that “this is going to make a really great LiveJournal post.” I think I’m funnier than I am.

A while later they came over to me with some of the stuff that was in my car. The first thing they show me is my lip balm.

“Where did you get this?” they ask me.

“The market.” The same market I was shopping at just an hour or so before.

“It’s not on your receipt.”

“No,” I said. “I didn’t buy it today.”

“You stole it.”

“No,” I said, “I-”

“They said you were shoplifting.”

“I- no,” I say. “That’s my chapstick.”

They take out another item. It’s my hand lotion. “Did you steal this too?”

“That was a Christmas present from my mom!”

“Uh huh.”

“They don’t even sell that at this market!”

“How do you know?”

“Because I shop there every week! What the hell is going on?”

This gets repeated with a few other items. Anything that isn’t explicitly on my receipt – including the chain around my neck – gets confiscated as having been shoplifted. Also all of my groceries, including things that are on my receipt. Which is fine because it’s almost all frozen goods which are, by this point, far from frozen.

Finally I calm down enough to ask a question. “Who are you?” I say.

One of the cops just snickers.

“I’m not kidding,” I say. “I want you to identify yourselves.”

“We’re fucking cops,” says the fat one. Lady Cop and Cop With Bad Combover are just standing there with their hands on their guns.

“What kind of cops?” I ask. “Where are you from?”

“Here,” one says.

I have no idea where ‘here’ is. The landscape around me is entirely unfamiliar. Perhaps I was not driving the right way to the police station. Wouldn’t surprise me. I have a high fever and am scared mostly out of my mind.

“Where’s ‘here’?” I ask.

“Are you on drugs?” they ask me.

I sit up straight. “I would like to see some identification,” I say to the nearest person with a gun.

“Kid, we’re in police cars,” the fat one says.

“Is that a ‘no’?”

He walks away from me. Yes, they refuse to show me a badge.

Then we just sit there. I realize that we are in a residential area, and a bunch of people are standing on their lawns, staring at me. I groan and flop over onto my side. They pull me back to sitting by my cuffs.

“I just want to lay down,” I say.

“No.”

Well, that’s that.

“Can I have a blanket, please?”

“No.”

We sit there for about half an hour.

The cop with terrible hair looks up at me from where he’s standing with his thumbs in his belt loops. “Did we read you your rights yet?” he asks me.

“What rights?” I ask.

He doesn’t seem to hear me.

A tow truck comes and starts jacking my car up to tow it.

“Where’s my car going?” I ask, very much freaked out.

Once the car is already over the horizon, they hand me a business card. It has the name of a towing agency. Four towns over.

“What should I do?” I ask them.

To their credit they did look at each other, prior to not answering.

Finally I just give up and sit there and shiver.

About twenty minutes later, I’m shivering pretty badly. Not for the first time, one of the cops asks me if I’m on drugs.

“I’m sub-free,” I say.

He scoffs. I didn’t think people actually scoffed anymore.

“Where are the drugs?” they ask me.

I glare at them.

One of them opens the trunk. He then runs over to me. “Where did you steal this grave?” he shouts.

I /boggle at him. “What grave?”

“Don’t play stupid.”

“No, what grave?

“Kid, the grave in your car.”

“Officer,” I say, “what are you talking about?”

He waddles over to the car and reaches into my trunk. He pulls out The Dingus.

“That’s a headstone,” I say.

“Where the hell did you get this?” they ask.

“From Kennebunkport,” I say.

He shakes it at me. No mean feat; the thing weighs like eighty pounds. “If I hear reports that this was stolen, I’m gonna come for your ass,” he says.

“Be my guest,” I say. And ignore him.

The cop standing near me leaves. I just stare at the pavement. I remember the way the grass grew up from the cracks between road and sidewalk’s edge. I’m not surprised; I had quite some time to stare.

“Are you a terrorist?” another cop asks me. My God there are a lot of them.

“What?!” I ask, pretty alarmed.

They hold up a can of lighter fluid. “Are you an arson?”

I consider what would occur if I was to correct them. “No,” I say.

They shake the can at me.

“Don’t shake that. It’s flammable.”

“Are you a terrorist?”

“NO!” I shout. “I spin fire?”

“What?”

“I spin fire. In the circus.”

“Circus?” says the lady cop. “Is that a gang?”

“NO! THE HAMPSHIRE CIRCUS!”

“He’s on drugs,” says fat cop.

“What’s with the gang and the drugs,” the lady cop asks me, or something like that.

“I’m in the circus! At Hampshire College! Listen, what… what…” and here’s another time when I break down crying.

They try to keep getting me to talk about the gang. Finally I just look at the nearest cop and say, “I WANT A LAWYER.”

At least that shuts them up.

Eventually they put me in a squad car. Where I sit for about twenty minutes. Then they put me back outside again. Then a new squad car comes up. They put me in the back. A nice-seeming cop with a shaved head drives us away.

“Hello,” he says, “my name is Officer _____. I’m with the Hadley Police Department.”

Already I love him.

“My name’s David,” I say. “Sorry about all this.”

“It’s alright.”

“Who were those other cops anyway?”

“Those are Belchertown PD.”

“I was in Belchertown?”

“Yeah. But we’re going back to Hadley.”

“Hadley – why Hadley?”

“That’s where the crime was.”

“What crime? What am I charged with?”

“Nothing right now. But I’m afraid I am going to have to put you under arrest.”

I just look at him. “Haven’t I been under arrest for like two hours?”

“No.”

“Uhh… okay.”

“You know how this works, right?” he asks.

“Nope.”

He seems surprised. “First time you’ve ever been arrested?”

“Yes. Very much.”

“Did they read you your rights?” he asks me, referring to the other cops.

“Nope.”

He shakes his head. He doesn’t say anything. I don’t ask.

So he mirandizes me. He does so slowly, asking me if I can understand, if I have any questions.

“No, I understand,” I say. “Thank you for taking care of me.”

“Of course.”

“Why didn’t they read me these rights before?” I ask.

“It doesn’t matter. You know that it doesn’t matter when your rights get read, right?”

“I don’t think that is how that works,” I say, “but I get the idea.”

“Do you want to talk about what happened?” he asks.

“Not without a lawyer present,” I say. “If that’s okay.”

“Sure.”

We talk about what it was like growing up in Kennebunkport versus Hadley. We make smalltalk until getting back to the station.

I feel much better about things. Except for the fact that I’m sweating and shivering at the same time. And, y’know, in handcuffs.

The police station is next to a school. Right behind the station is a soccer field. There are kids playing soccer. The car stops right next to them, and we wait there for the thirty million years it takes the garage door to open.

The police station looks like a house. It even has vinyl siding. The garage fits two cars and a hip-fridge. The other car is a police car. We pull in next to it. And get out.

“Can I have my jacket?” I ask him.

“Sorry, not yet. I’ll get you a blanket when I can.”

“Thanks.”

He leads me into a hallway where a video camera is pointing downwards. He then leaves me standing there for about ten minutes. I resist the urge to mug for the camera. Also to sink to my knees and shiver.

After about ten minutes, I fail in this latter. Which perhaps also counts as failing the former.

The good officer comes in and gets me, and takes me through the door into a Very Scary Room. The floors are water-proof parquet. The walls are stone. There is a bench along one wall, down within a foot of the ground. A counter divides the room at waist height. There is a large drain in the floor. It basically feels like the set of a post-Soviet horror movie.

Here I am fingerprinted, and one or two forms are read to me. Then, a questionnaire is given to me.

“Are you or have you recently been under the influence of drugs or alcohol?”

“No.”

“Are you currently or have you recently been in psychological therapy?”

Not sure what business that is of his, but, “No.”

“Have you now or ever been diagnosed with a mental illness?”

“No.”

“Have you ever attempted suicide?”

Ahh. “No.”

“Has anyone you know recently died?”

Well. “I suppose my grandfather died about six months ago.”

He looks up at me. “Please take off your belt.”

God dammit. “I’m still handcuffed.”

“Oh.” He takes my handcuffs off – could have done that before fingerprinting me – and I remove my belt. My pants are now being held up solely by my thumbs. This is what happens when one gets one’s clothing from the free pile.

I take everything else out of my pockets, and put them in a little plastic bin.

“Do you have forty dollars?” he asks me.

I take my wallet out of the bin, thumb through it. “Nope. Five bucks.”

“You’ll need forty dollars for bail money,” he says.

“Do you take credit cards?” I ask.

“No.”

“I don’t suppose there’s a cash machine nearby?”

“No, sorry. When you call someone to bail you out, make sure they have thirty-five dollars.”

He hands me my cell phone. “You can make one call.”

Great. Who to call?

I call Aryan. No answer. I leave messages for Lathe and Boson. Also Little Connecticut. Little Connecticut Female. Little Adam. All my friends are in class.

Finally I break down and call CrazyMiss. She is Hampshire staff, and on my Div III committee.

“Hey, CrazyMiss,” say I.

“Well hi there. How are you?”

“I’m OK, I’m OK. Listen, can I ask a favor?”

“Uhh, okay.”

“Can you come to the Hadley police station and post bail for me.”

Pause.

Pause.

Hysterical laughter.

“No, I don’t think so,” she says. “What the hell did you do, anyway?”

“Not sure yet. They won’t tell me. I think they think I’m a drug dealer and arsonist for the circus.”

“What?”

“Exactly.”

I hung up and went through my contacts again. Who do I know who has a car?

“I only get one phone call, right?” I ask.

“Take as many as you need,” says the officer. Prince among men.

Finally I buckle. There is no alternative.

I call VeganCupcake.

“Hey,” I say, “can you do me a solid?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

“Come to the Hadley police station and bail me out.”

To her credit she doesn’t laugh. In retrospect, not sure that it wouldn’t have helped.

She comes right over. Of course I don’t know this, because they then put me in a cell for two hours.

They don’t give me my jacket back. Eventually I do get a blanket. I curl up on the ground and wrap myself in it. It is felt and it is warm. I am shivering uncontrollably, so that isn’t nothing.

The cell is basically a shower stall, replete with drain in the floor and one large glass wall. The only difference is, the glass is bullet-proof.

There is also a rimless metal toilet. I decline to use it.

About halfway through they come in and take my picture with a little digital point-and-shoot. Takes them a few tries to get a good picture. I ask for tylenol. They promise me some. I never get it.

After about two hours have elapsed, the officer comes in and asks me to sign a few documents. The first indicates that I am who I am – having never identified myself, I assume they looked at the contents of my wallet. The second item says that I am forever banned from my favorite market. Whatever. I sign it. I have no choice in the matter; they can b& whoever they want. Free country.

The third piece of paper contained a statement to the effect that I had just been shoplifting. And, moreover, that I felt really, really bad about it.

“I’m not signing this,” I said.

“Of course,” the officer said, and took it away from me.

The next piece of paper had a preamble to the same effect. Following this was a “list of stolen objects,” with room for twenty or so items to be entered. The only thing entered on this page was, “see attached page.” There was no attached page.

“What is this?” I said, pointing to the paper.

“Oh, that’s normal,” the officer said. “We’ll fill that in later,” he said.

I suddenly realized that I was holding a pen. “I’m not doing anything else until I talk to a lawyer,” I said.

Again, the magic words. The papers disappeared. I gave back the pen.

“Your ride’s here,” the officer said.

“Can I go now?”

“No, not yet.”

God dammit.

“Could you tell her thank you for waiting?”

“Sure. Sorry for the wait.”

He left the cell. I paced back and forth, because it was warmer that way. Stone in November is not a good surrogate for central heating.

About fifteen minutes later, I was taken back to the Very Scary Room, where a sandy-haired man was waiting for me. He took one look at me and seemed to relax like a stress ball just let go.

He asked me my name and introduced himself. He asked me what my job was; I said, student. He asked me where; I said, Hampshire. He asked me what I was studying; I said, pre-law. At that he took on an air almost avuncular in tone.

I believe he was some sort of pre-bail official. I think, but am not sure, that his job was to take responsibility for people prior to their arraignment and the setting of a formal bail by the court. He spoke with the need to impress me of a man who had a financial stake in my understanding his words. The money that Cupcake gave to him, and the money which they took directly from my wallet, must have been his fee; forfeit, I assume, if I jumped this mini-bail.

He gave me a very stern talking-to about appearing at court the next morning. At 8 the next morning, to be precise. “Do it,” he said, “or this guy here will come track you down.” He jerked his thumb at Officer _____. “He’s very good. He will come track you down and drag you to court.”

Of course, they have no idea where I live. But that’s not the point.

“What courthouse?” I ask. “Northampton?”

“Belchertown,” they say. He then gives me a friendly five-minute disquisition on local politics. At least three different people would explain this to me before this was all over.

“Goddamn politics,” he said. “The Northampton court was fine. Worked well, everything was fine. But they voted to make a court in Belchertown. Give them some government jobs. Bring in some taxpayer money. Spread it around. Now the Northampton court is basically empty. Empty all the time. Parking tickets, that’s about it. It’s a swindle.”

“Will I get my forty dollars back?” I asked.

“No, those are fees.”

Welcome to America.

He signs off on me, and the good officer instructs me to leave the police station the way I came in. I am then to walk around to the front of the building, go inside, and ‘check out’.

“Can I have my coat back now?” I ask.

“No, not yet.”

I go out back, into the garage. The door locks behind me. A low rumbling noise starts up; I freak out until I see the garage door start raising. It is almost twilight. There are still kids on the soccer field some thirty feet away. I ignore them, leave the police station, walk around to the front, enter the police station.

The door is locked. Cupcake is waiting for me.

“My God, how are you?” she asks.

Friends are awesome. Especially in bad times. Especially when they are the sort of friends who know that, in such times, they would be apoplectic.

“Got any tylenol?” I ask.

She ducks over to her car (which is named after a character from Les Miserables, but in the grand pseudonymous style of my journalism, I shall call Quasimodo. Also, it is a hatchback.) She brings me a jar of Advil the size of a former Soviet republic. I calculate the amount that will kill me, and take one less than that.

My pounding on the door we eventually are let into the police station. It is laid out like a bank; an island in the center, a few teller’s windows behind glass. The lights are off. Nobody’s home.

I wonder, from a purely strategic standpoint, if now would be a good time to freak out.

“Hello?” I call out.

Eventually a cop comes out. He hands me three a handful of papers, a bag of groceries, and – lo! – my coat.

It occurs to me to wonder whether or not the coat should have Associations for me, whether I should not put it on because it would be Too Traumatic. But – nope – nothing – after ten seconds of shivery soul-searching I find it nothing but poor sartorial output in desperate need of cleaning. Perhaps I am not the sensitive young man I once was. Also, I am fucking cold.

As a starving artist in 19th century Paris, I might not have burned my manuscripts to keep warm. But I sure would have burned my flatmates.

The grocery bag is not in good shape. Most of the items in it were once frozen. Now thawed, the condensation they have released has turned the bag into wood pulp. There are also two broken bottles in the bag – remnants of wine bottles I had brought from Maine some few months before – now devoid of contents. These have sliced the bag to ticker tape.

I grab it by the soggy bottom. “Shall we?”

“Yes, let’s,” says Cupcake. “I’m late for FiCom.”

Fuck all things forever.

We get in the car – Bag into the trunk – and I look at the papers they have given me. The first one tells me to get to the Belchertown courthouse in – I check my cell phone, now returned to me – about fourteen hours. The second one is a receipt for my car, telling me that the lot where it is impounded is now closed for the day. It is also located far enough away as to be beyond walking distance or bus routage.

The third piece of paper informs me that I have been charged with two felonies. The first, “criminal shoplifting in the amount of over five hundred dollars.” The second, “assault with a dangerous weapon.”

It’s this second one that catches my eye. Since it carries a maximum penalty of $250,000. Also, y’know, five years in jail.

I believe I may have groaned.

I get to campus. Cupcake drops me off and The Hatchback of Notre-Dame speeds away. I don’t live on campus. But my house is not located anywhere near someone with a car. Therefore, I think that going there is a bad idea.

Also, I am well shy of my right mind.

I go to The Polyphasic Motel. Little Connecticut is there, also Little Connecticut Female, Smelly, and Fatty. These monikers might not be up to my normal naming standards. This is because I didn’t make them up.

I was a bit of a wreck. They were solicitous. LC gave me hugs and groped my ass and made off-color jokes about prisons and cavity searches. LCF (unrelated to the mentor of Torchia) empaneled herself as defense counselor and reviewed the matter with me for some hours, postulating assumptions upon which to base a chain of subsequent reasoning. Smelly seemed faintly repulsed by the entire affair, a reaction which I credited more to her lack of context in which to place the situation. Fatty made a joke and went to Magic Draft. It was nice to be fussed over, but I do confess his indifferent, assholic aplomb was refreshing in its way too.

I cannot relate too much of what went on, mainly because my memories of this time do not much remain with me. This I attribute to (besides the factors aforegiven) the fact that I was, for the first time in half a day, not in imminent danger, or under the feeling of being so. The adrenaline left me. I was no longer alert. Everything faded into a kind of background; I can think of no more accurate description, however trite it may be, than a camera-lens being twisted until focus turns to blur.

After a fashion Boson returned from class. He was sleeping two non-consecutive hours per day at this point (polyphasic sleep being quite clearly one of Those Things You Encounter In College), and was somewhat more bleary-eyed than a sub-free person has any right to be. We had lived together the year before, and were very good friends. I asked him if he could drive me to court the following morning. He being the only one of them (us, now) with a serviceable car.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“Why not?”

“I’ve go nature walk at 9.”

“Boson,” I said, “Higgs. Baby. If you don’t drive me to court at 8, a warrant will be issued for my arrest in the State of Massachusetts.”

“Commonwealth.”

Boson.”

He stared off into the distance for about fifteen seconds. “I don’t know…” he said.

“FUCK YOU DRIVE ME TO COURT.”

“Oh. Sure, okay.”

God bless friends.

He needed one of his naps, and I needed every minute of sleep I could get. I didn’t have any way of getting to my apartment to get my clothing, or my bed. Even if I did, I had no way of getting back. I needed to be on campus in twelve hours.

Although I did have an idea where I could stay.

I called up Europa.

I had spent the night with her a few nights beforehand. In an entirely platonic fashion; we had been at an event until 4AM and I stayed up with her until around 8, whence I went home. That being the second time I’d ever so much as spoken to her. But she had offered her couch if I ever needed it. And I needed it.

I called her up. She offered me her couch. I slept in her bed. Shut up.

I woke up at 7:30 the next morning and we showered together shut up. Then I walked over to The Motel and Boson drove me to the Belchertown courthouse.

I arrived at 7:55. The building didn’t open until 8:30. Despite what was said by the notice which they gave me, which had ever indication of carrying the full force and effect of a subpoena, court was not due to convene until 9:15. Yet another large frozen chunk of time I was going to get to spend outside, in November, with the flu.

I was the first person into the courthouse. I made idle chitchat for about forty minutes with a very sweet, heavily medicated woman whose husband had just stolen a car – again. She was thinking of calling her parents to tell them but she was embarrased. I don’t think I said six words to her the whole conversation. We were both well fine with that.

I also chatted briefly with a very pregnant Latina, a black guy who had showed up to court in a matching two-piece hoodie covered in paint stains, and a Chinese man who spoke no English at all. Then I got a call saying that the lawyer my mother had hired, couldn’t be there that morning. Oh, and if I could, I should bring about $1000 in cash in case I had to cover bail. Otherwise I might have to go back to jail.

Whatever. At least I was wearing the best necktie in the building.

Before we go any further, I feel we must share a word about the bailiff who mans the door at the Belchertown courthouse. He is an ogre. I do not mean this to describe simply his size, or his physical appearance, or his demeanor (though all these things are aptly described thereby). From the moment I laid eyes on him I was struck with his mythical stature, clearly something which the brothers Grimm might have encountered in the dark recesses of their medieval lives. I have never before nor since had such a reaction to another human being, to associate them in my mind only with a creature out of darkness and myth. Yet I cannot do any other: he is an ogre.

He kept the gate to the Courthouse. He stood astride it like it was a bridge or moat. His massive belly swayed before his giant’s frame, his shining bald cranium some foot nearer to the ceiling’s soulless white lights than was my own humble head of hair. His face was red with drink, his eyes level and angry and bored, his mouth and the flesh around is jutting forward like an ape’s, his ears flaring out with a complete lack of self-consciousness less masculine than animal. I never felt him likely to jump across the X-ray machine and attack me; but I was quite sure that, if I ever turned my back upon him, he would be quite capable of casually reaching over to me, plucking me up by my the scruff of my nick, and swallowing me whole – his facial expression never changing from one of surly disinterest.

I have often questioned whether he would hold such a mythic stature in my mind, if I had not encountered him under such pressing circumstances, which gave him such power, and which found me so blasted out of my mind while chasing the pyretic dragon. In any event: I was to see him six times over the next seven months, and at no point was his stature ever diminished in my eyes. Nor did I ever cease to look down to make sure he was not carrying a wooden club.

Bad enough he was always carrying a gun.

Anyway. I went into the courtroom. The judge showed up; all rose. I sat there for an hour and a half. Then I was called to the front of the courtroom. The judge mentioned nothing of my particular charges, bail payments, or anything whatsoever of my innocence or guilt. They asked me if I could come to court for a pre-trial conference some six weeks hence.

“Sure,” I said. Was I going to argue?

They gave me a green post-it with a date printed upon it and a reminder to be at the courthouse by 8:15. Other pieces of paper I was to receive throughout this process mentioned 7:45, 8:30, 9:00, and 9:30. Not one agreed with the schedule posted in the courthouse, whereby the courtroom did not open its doors until 9:15.

I surmised, then, that I was free to go. I sat in the corner of the room for about ten minutes, just to make sure. Then I left. A free man. Technically under arrest for multiple felonies, but free nevertheless.

I walked the four miles to the town common, where I was told a bus stop was to be found. If it is there, being found is not one of its more notable traits. I went into four buildings and asked after it, but none could say with certainty. So I did my thing where I called people up and down until I could find one to shame into picking me up. Blessings be upon Daywalker’s house. He came and fetched me, and we stopped at my house on the way back to pack a bag for me.

I could not very well stay at my house. I had things to do on campus, and people I needed to be around for purposes of support and cuddles and giving me Advil. My house was a few hours’ walk to school, and the weather was turning very cold, which I was well enough to notice a significant minority of the time. So I would have to arrange a place to stay on campus.

To this end – among others – it was only natural that I began a relationship with Europa. And, in the course of twelve hours, essentially moved into her room. Where I then remained for the next four days, for it was a long week-end, and the car impound was not open.

At one point I said to her, “You are just taking advantage of my addled mental state and questionable illness-induced sanity in order to get your hooks into my heart and your hands into my pants.”

She nodded vigorously.

(Here the author pauses in his writing to pour himself a slug of brown liquor.)

After four days had passed, I took the public bus to Mount Holyoke, the nearest bus stop to the impound which had my car. On the way I stopped at the library to grab a book, then kept walking. I was halfway across the campus when cop cars came at me from both directions. Fortunately this happens to me all the time at MoHo, and freaked me out no more than anything else that week.

An older male cop came at me. “Scuse me, sir, but we’d like to ask what you think you’re doing here.”

“Walking across campus,” I said.

“Uh huh. Why you doin’ that?”

“I’m a 5 College student,” I said. “I do this twice a week.”

“Yeah? And why’s that?”

“Because your college has a library that doesn’t suck.”

That one stuck in his head for a few minutes.

“Want to see my Student ID?” I prompted him.

“Let’s see some ID,” he said.

I reached for my wallet, showed it to him. He also asked for my driver’s license. I gave it to him. I was hardly up to a fight over such a minor point as my student rights.

The resident of the other cop car, a young lady cop, walked over to me and stood there with her hand on her gun. On the other hand, she was looking at the male cop like he had a head full of dumbshit. I ignored her.

“And where are you going again?” asked the male cop, his southern-boy accent fading with wondrous rapidity.

“To pick up my car,” I said truthfully, “and go back to Hampshire.”

The lady cop sighed and stepped forward, and talked to me almost like an equal. “We had someone call in a report that a sketchy-looking man with a beard was walking across the campus.”

I stared at her.

“You know anything about that?”

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s me.”

She stared at me.

“You’re him?”

“I mean, I’m a sketchy-looking man with a beard walking across campus. Sounds like I’m your man.”

Pause.

Pause.

“Listen,” the lady cop said, her expression pained, “I’m really sorry. Some of our girls are really young, they don’t get off campus that much-”

“Woah!” I said. “Don’t worry about it. I’m… uh… I’ll just get off campus now.”

“You don’t have to…” she said, not very convincingly.

“Yeah, I’ll just… come back some other time.”

“Thank you,” she said, and turned around and left.

“I don’t want to hear anything more about you,” said the male cop.

“Good luck with that,” I said, and kept walking.

Fortunately I am a true child of the GoogleEarth generation, and managed to find my way well enough. It was a few hours’ walk along country roads with no sidewalks but I am also a true child of rural Maine. I had no trouble.

I picked up my car – paying over $200 for the privilege – and drove home. About an hour there, alone, and I was about to put my head in the fireplace. So I went back to campus, and all that that promised.

For the next week I enjoyed a rehabilitative swing between Europa’s bed and blacksmithing. My time at the forge, already in excess of what most Div III students spent on their projects, increased stupendously. For the next month I put in at least 50 hours a week bent over an anvil. I sure as hell wasn’t good for anything else.

A week later I went to visit my lawyer. He was quite conciliatory. Suggested that the worst that would happen would be the charges get dismissed outright. But he said it would be likely that we could get things sealed in their entirety, like they’d never happened.

And the sun came out.

I asked him if I ought to go to a psychotherapist, so that I could say that I was so doing. “What a good idea!” he said. “And now I can say that you came up with it yourself! Good! Very good!”

Then we talked about law school applications for ten well-billed minutes. Then I went back to the Shire.

I hit metal for the next two weeks, and slowly screwed my head back on straight. I got a call from my lawyer to the effect that my pretrial hearing was being moved (by him) to January, so that I could get a few more therapy sessions under my belt. “Your court-date got v&!” quoth Hrothgar, who stood right by me through this entire ordeal.

(To be b& is to be banned from something; to be v& is to be absconded with, as by a police van. These themes became as common to my life for the next few months as the protagonist’s leitmotif in a Wagnerian opera.)

I closed out the semester and went home to Maine. I did a little writing, began to be productive in my more normal activities once again. I came back and was prepared for my first court date when, with 24 hours notice, I heard from my attorney that it had once again been pushed back. “v& again!” quoth Hrothgar. I tried to ignore it, and get on with my life.

My next court-date was likewise v&. At the next I showed up to the courthouse with my lawyer, only to request another extension. My next court-date, due to the vagaries in his schedule, was also v&. In the interrim I taught an accredited college class, completed two independent studies in the sciences, wrote three novellae, and hit enough metal that, were I working for an American company, I could have qualified for overtime near every week.

My circumstances changed sufficiently from the day of my arrest – when Europa and I began our thang – that I no longer felt able to continue our relationship in the same way. Instead I spent most of my spare time on the couch in 71, or in the office of the literary magazine, or spinning fire with the circus, or in one or another fashion trying to clear my head.

The fateful day did finally come! Some six months after the day of my arrest, and I was due to appear in court for a pre-trial conference. My lawyer said he would be present at 8:30, so I made sure to be there by 8:25. He arrived promptly at 9:45. He shook my hand, and went to talk with the ADA.

He called me into the hallway after an hour or so had gone by. “They’re bein’ assholes,” he said to me. “They’re willing to reduce the charges to misdemeanors, but they want to quaff them, and they won’t seal.”

“Quaff?”

“CWAF. Continue Without A Finding.”

“So I’ll plead guilty?” said I, alarmed.

“No, not at all. All you’ll admit to is that there’s enough evidence available for them to call the matter to trial, but not enough evidence for you to be found guilty.”

“So why not just dismiss things outright?”

“Because then they look bad,” he said. The phrase wrongful arrest came to mind.

“So not guilty of anything,” I said.

“No. Your arrests will be on file, but they’ll be arrests for misdemeanors. Just don’t get arrested again for six months and it will all go away.”

“Can we do any better?” I asked.

“We can try to get another extens-”

“Nope!” said I. “Let’s do it.”

I paid $350 in court fees, and $1500 in legal fees. Within three days I had paid my debt to society in every fashion required of me. Now all I have to do is try not to shiv any greengrocers for five more months, and I’m free as speech. I think I can manage that pretty well.

I am still b& from the market. Apparently a little thing like demonstrated innocence doesn’t affect their appreciation of me. They contacted me via letter and requested a small cash payment to cover their fees associated with my arrest. I am fairly confident that they will receive a check from me when (monkeys|apes|pygmy rhinoceri) sprout wings and fly out of my (&c).

Of course the event colored my last year in college. Colored it like a can of spray-paint applied to a connect-the-dots. But it was in many ways a good experience for me. It taught me, more than anything else, how to push something to the back of my mind, and just keep living like it wasn’t there at all.

It took me the better part of those six months to get to the point where I could do that, where I could ignore it and just go on living my life. Not a short period of time, not over the span of a human life. But I am sure that I will encounter many such inconveniences, such v&ings of my attentions and freedoms, all throughout my life. Next time I will be that much better prepared to work through it, to work around it, and to go on living the life that I want to live.

Or maybe I should stop looking for the silver lining, admit that I got royally screwed, get drunk, and sue everybody.

-kennebunkport, 2010

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~ by davekov on 31 May 2010.

6 Responses to “b& & v&”

  1. … Is this a true story? There is some serious artsy short protest movie potential here.

    • That’s very kind of you to say. As to the story’s factual basis… ask me in five months :)

  2. Can I play David in this protest movie?

  3. Hey asshole. Give me your number. Or –a call. I have had neither.

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