Tuesday, June 21, 2005

 

In Which I Tell A Slightly Less Heartwarming Father-Son Story...

Was walking past a playground the other day. It was really hot, in the way that it is in a city, where you can see the heat rising off the road, where you can feel the weight of the air.

Despite the heat, despite the fact that school was out, kids were playing by the dozens over at the jungle gym and swing sets. And the heat, the feel and smell of the air, the noise of the kids, it suddenly transported me back about 15 years to a time when I lived in Chicago, just down the street from an elementary school. I was walking to the El one day in late spring. It was an unseasonably warm day, feeling almost as much like summer as this summer day did now. It was the same kind of heat, the same background noise.

Except that all of a sudden, on that day 15 years ago, the playground got really quiet.

I slowed up and saw that a few kids who had been out for recess were in a silent semi-circle around a distant corner of the fenced-in playground. More kids were murmuring and some were running to the corner. A couple of the monitor moms were running that hard, fast, ungainly-yet-fearsome run of mothers-detecting-trouble. These were my neighbors. I knew these moms and their kids, at least to say "hi" to, and it troubled me to see them so worried. But it wasn't clear what the problem was. It wasn't a fight; the kids were too quiet.

Then I was one mom mouth a very clear word to another mom. A simple word, one syllable, three letters.

I hopped the fence and ran after them. I beat the moms and most of the kids to the corner of the lot. And then I saw the gun.

It was a little black pistol. A .25 caliber of a style I was all too familiar with. This wasn't a bad neighborhood in Chicago, but that wouldn't stop someone from driving by and pitching it out. Or worse, maybe one of the kids had dumped it there. For other kids to find.

The two playground monitors were white-faced when they saw it. They were acting like it was a ticking bomb. A few kids were standing there, staring at it, hypnotized in that way kids are when the Great Forbidden calls to them. More kids were coming.

Make it safe, said a loud but familiar voice in my head.

Without thinking, I snatched the pistol up, being careful to keep it pointed at the ground. One of the moms stifled a cry. I found the catch that released the magazine, yanked back on the chamber and locked it open. There were three bullets in the magazine. And one round in the chamber. It popped to the ground.

By this time, the principal had arrived and I handed her the loose bullet, magazine and empty gun for safekeeping, but she had that look that said, Oh God, we're all in trouble now. And I was kinda thinking the same thing.

I had to hang around for the cops to come collect the gun. The moms stayed too, to back me up (I think they thought I was going to be arrested for handling the gun or something. These were not people who grew up around firearms, so everything about the experience felt scary and foreign to them). When the police finally arrived, I explained that I handled the weapon only to make it safe because there were too many curious kids around. I was sort of expecting a lecture about mussing up fingerprints or contaminating a crime scene, but it never came. And now that I think about it, why should it? What crime scene?

Anyway, the cops were pretty sanguine about it (I was going to ask one how often they responded to these kinds of calls, but I really didn't want to know the answer). They didn't lecture me. Just asked a few questions about how I came to be on the playground, took my name and address down for any follow-up, and now that I think about it, they may have called me back a couple days later. It's surprising how much of this I've forgotten.

What I do remember is a moment when one of the cops looked at me and asked, "Do you own a gun?"

I was a bit taken aback. "Me? No. I hate 'em."

"Then how'd you know how to unload it?" he asked.

"My dad taught me how to handle guns. He had one just like that," I said.

What I didn't say was, He almost killed me with it once...



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Comments:
Sadly, I think this is a much more frequent event nowadays.

This is going to be one of those horrifying stories that you can't not read isn't it? Like seeing an accident on the highway - ya just gotta look.

Like the changes you made - looks good.
 
The suspense is killing me...
 
As rurality says ... now I am really hooked.

Plus eh ... i just notice I am linked here ... :)

Thanks. It means a lot.
 
Crazy Story...

I'll have to blog about the one time I witnessed a mugging...

Thanks for the link to your site.

I posted Day 1 of my road trip.

Check it out!
 
I really enjoyed the content on your blog about swing sets will be back very frequently! I actually have my own swing sets exposed blog with all kinds of stuff in it. You�re welcome to com by
 
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