So this morning Gary told me a story. A true story. It happened last night and it goes like this:
Last night 3 of Brian's friends (well, two friends and a friend of one of the friends) all did something at one of their houses and then came over here, late-ish, to spend the night. At some point in a late night of video gaming they realized they would really like some soda. There's a chain drug store just two blocks away. They sell soda. One guy has twenty bucks. So the five of them leave. One boy is really, really tired. From a distance one might wonder if he is high or drunk. One boy is hyper (per usual). He is wearing socks and playing "Mission Impossible," tiptoeing along the side of a building.
And the police drive by. They stop. They get out. They say in their radios that they might need back up.
"Do you boys know there is a curfew in Our Small Town?"
The boys are separated. They are asked about drugs, weapons, made to show what they do or don't have in their pockets. One officer, looking at the younger boys, says, "Any of you on probation?" Gary decides that they aren't looking at him and so aren't asking him. He says nothing, knowing that if they ask him directly he will have to tell them.
At this point in the story I have to tease Gary. "That's your third felony in as many months."
"Yep. Two D's and now out after curfew."
"Oh, yeah, technically the D's can be counted as two."
"Yep. You're bad."
Gary though is having a great time telling me how each boy reacted. Brian is apparently a really bad actor when he is scared. "No sir, we didn't know there was a curfew. We tried to Google it, but we couldn't find it."
The littlest guy (the one playing Mission Impossible) is trying to act tough. The exhausted one, a boy with a mop of curls is saying as little as possible. The police tell them they should take them to the detention center for the night, or at least call all their parents, but they will give them 2 minutes and 30 seconds to get back inside our house. Clearly the police believed their stories.
So Gary was laughing, telling me the story, knowing that I will be cool about it. He said that the kids were so worried that the police would tell their parents. I said, "I'll do that."
For the first time Gary is worried. He told all the boys not to tell anyone. How can he be the one to tell? I said, "Don't worry. I'll tell them the cops called to verify their story." I also advised Gary to tell his girlfriend. Brian and one of the other boys goes to the Art Charter School. She will hear about it.
So I went downstairs. Friend One (a boy who has been part of every serious misbehavior in which Brian has engaged. As Brian said when he was four, "Well... [Friend] put the idea in my head, but when it was there I wanted to do it too") says, "So, I hear Gary told you what happened last night."
"No. The cops called to verify your story, then I talked to Gary."
"Oh." He's got the oh-man-this-is-serious face.
"So, everyone is going to tell their parents, right?"
All three nod. Friend One has that practiced sincere look that impresses adults who haven't known him since he was a baby. Little Guy is just looking at his lap. Curly-headed guy looks nervous. I say, "Because you know that I WILL call them to make sure you've told."
This gets through to Little Guy, whose eyes open wider as he nods again, still not making eye contact.
Curly-head guy introduces himself. Yep, we've never met. I told him my name and then I said, "I have a policy. When kids do something really stupid and as a consequences of doing it they realize how stupid it is, I don't punish them." They all sighed. "Of course, I have no control over what your parents will do." Anxiety returned. "I do want to know though, can I trust you all to spend the night again? Will you promise that you will not go out after curfew, that you will not leave the house without our knowing?"
They all promised.
Brian was asleep during this. As I finished writing the above he came to the kitchen for breakfast.
"I heard you had some fun last night."
"We just wanted to get some soda."
"And what did you learn?"
He grinned ruefully, "The police are everywhere."