Not my Fault

April 1, 2008
By Danielle Lenart, Ramsey, MN

I am in jail. A man I knew very well was murdered two days ago. I didn’t do it. I know what you’re thinking, “why should I believe a criminal?” Right? But first, let me explain . . .

“Otis! Will you hurry up! I have something important to tell you!”

My “friend” Alan-Clyde shouted. We were running along the road behind hour neighborhood. I was lined with dumpsters and alleys. Alan was the kind of kid who people were kind of afraid of. In school he got in trouble a lot. He ran away from home every two weeks or so, and claimed he only went back because the cops dragged him there. Now, he was giving me an angry look, “You’re so slow!”

I was running as fast as I could. And it wasn’t fair; my shoe was only half on. We turned left into an alley and came to a stack of wooden boxes that served as our “fort.”

“Okay.” He said. “You know that old guy Mr. Walker who lives at the end of the street?”

“Yeah” I replied breathlessly. “I raked his leaves once.”

“Well that was a mistake! That guy means big trouble for me. Yesterday I was hangin’ with some high school, just breakin’ stuff, and that guy called my stupid parents!”

Alan did that sort of thing all the time. He hung out with the wrong people and did the wrong things. I always told him that he was going to end up in serious trouble, but he never listened.

“So I was thinkin’,” He said. “That it’s time I took care of certain annoyances.”

I gulped. I didn’t know what that meant. But to me it sounded like something that shouldn’t be happening. Something that only happens in movies. Violent movies. I walked home alone thinking about what he had said. It would be dark soon so I quickened my pace. My neighborhood was not a good place to be after dark. I saw a few teenagers grouped together by a trashcan. They were talking loudly and with swaggering steps. Maybe these were the high school kids that Alan had hung with last night. I ran past them and all the way home.

I opened the back door that I used to get in. My room was in the garage. We put a small heater in there in the winter. But in the summer, the air was heavy and wet. Nobody else was home. My mom would be home later. She worked eleven hour days as a parking lot attendant to keep the bills paid. Who knows when my dad would be back though.

I wrote a quick note to my mom saying I was “out” and left the house.

Now it was dark but still warm enough to be outside without a jacket. I kept to the main road and avoided the alleys until I came to Alan’s house. His front lawn was littered with old metal car parts and old rusty bicycles. Alan’s bedroom window was open, and the light was on. Just before I could proceed to the bush, a rope with knots in it cascaded from the window. I kept hidden and watched Alan climb down and land softly. He had something in his hand that I couldn’t see. He ran through his yard and I followed as fast as I could without being seen. Then I felt something sharp on my leg and I reached down to feel what had happened. I had a tear in my pants and I was bleeding. I had cut it on a sharp, twisted piece of metal. I covered my cut the best I could and continued to trail him.

He finally stopped in front of a house I knew well. The house of Mr. Walker. My hands started shaking and I felt my legs tremble. I saw Alan heading toward the back of the house. I followed him again, limping as I walked. My leg was still bleeding pretty badly but I didn’t let that slow me down. It was a really nice house. It was big and white with a perfect yard. Alan tried the back door. I wasn’t surprised that the door was locked. Apparently neither was Alan. He took out what he had been carrying, a knife. He used the handle to break the glad window. The he reached in and unlocked the door. He snuck inside, and disappeared into the house.

My heart was pounding so hard I could almost hear it. I was shaking and I began to think about how Mr. Walker would feel. Inside his own house, maybe sleeping. Not even knowing what was about to happen. I felt sick to my stomach.

It was at this time that I decided to wait this out. I wish I wasn’t such a coward. I stayed hidden outside behind a tree. I didn’t have to see them to know what happened though. From where I was, I could hear a yell and then a crash. The light was on in a room upstairs, which I assumed to be Mr. Walker’s room. After Alan left the house, I ran inside. Fearing what I might see.

At first it wasn’t as bad as I thought. There was no damage to the house. But when I reached Mr. Walker, he was lying on the floor by a red puddle that was growing steadily larger. I began to feel weak and walked back downstairs to call 911. When I looked down, I realized there was a trial of blood leading to and from the bedroom. It took me a minute to realize that it was mine.

When the police arrived, they asked me a lot of questions. They saw the blood and I said it was mine because I’d been cut by something sharp. They shook their heads, took my arm, and ushered me out to the car.

Now I’m still in this cell. Spending my summer afternoons where I could be outside enjoying myself. Maybe I could be eating ice cream, going to the beach, or just relaxing in the shade. I was just starting to doze off on my cot when my lawyer came in.

“Otis, we may have some good news.”

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