"I Fought the Law"

October 14, 2008
By Matt Johnson, Mabelvale, AR

This all began with the discovery of “the spot.” I heard it from a friend who has a friend who knows a guy who’s into graffiti and he says it’s a place where they go to practice their work. So naturally, being interested in any and everything that breaks away from the everyday monotony of the ever so politically correct suburban lifestyle, I wanted to check this place out.

So after school that day I drove my beat up gray cavalier to the county line fifteen minutes out of town. I putted my way to the parking lot of the local Piggly Wiggly and stepped out onto the cracked, stained concrete. The area wasn’t too crowded. At 3:30 the main street that intersected the entire town was pumping a moderate supply of vehicles to their specified destinations while the Piggly Wiggly parking lot adjacent to this street was only a little less than half full with Piggly Wiggly personnel. Making my way across the lot I tried to remember the directions my informant previously revealed to me: “Just follow the road to the left of the parking lot. It will loop around the back of the Piggly Wiggly building where you can walk up a hill that is just tall and close enough that you can step right onto the roof. But the roof is fenced off so you’ll have to find the section where the chain link has been removed. After that you’re home free.”

I had no problems finding it except the section of cut chain link, which was hidden behind dense shrubbery. I stepped onto the black tar roof and breathed deep the scent of fast food from across the street. A few more steps and I could smell spray paint. The next thing I knew I was surrounded by tags and murals of all different styles. Some were obscene. Many were surprisingly tasteful. But most all of them were extremely talented. I spent half an hour examining the rooftop, the air conditioner units, and the four-foot brick perimeter like an art gallery.

After experiencing every single piece of art I gazed off to the street below. People were still hurriedly scurrying to their destinations, entering and exiting the Piggly Wiggly parking lot. That’s when my epiphany occurred concerning the rooftop on which I stood. I would use it to orchestrate the event that would go down as the defining moment of my senior year. Better yet, the defining moment of my high school career.
I anticipated that night for the past two weeks. Because it was so cold, I wore my black jacket that people say makes me look like James Dean and my Yukon hunting hat (you know… the ones with the furry flaps that go over your ears). That probably wasn’t the coolest looking thing in the world but I didn’t care because it was warm and I wasn’t really trying to impress anyone in the first place. There were absolutely no stars out that night which made it fairly difficult to setup all of our equipment. I could barely see my hand in front of my face it was so dark but nonetheless we managed and were ready.
I began to tune my guitar when I heard feet creaking across the rooftop. They came filing in more and more, whispering quietly and laughing under their breath. I turned to my three band mates and sighed anxiously. “You guys ready?”
Daren, a skinny hippy-looking kid wearing only jeans, a white t-shirt (despite the cold weather), and really trashy facial hair, picked up his drumsticks, situated his bare feet on his kick drum and high hat pedals, stretched his arms up, and yawned. “Why not?”
“How ‘bout it?” Jay said with a faux country accent, giving me an enthusiastic thumbs-up with the hand he wasn’t holding his guitar in. He was the goofiest of us all but dressed the most stylish because of his constant concern of how he appeared to the ladies.
I turned to Daniel sitting on his bass amp and looking as if something was weighing on his mind. He was gnawing on his fingernails with his arms tucked tight against his smaller frame. I imagined his green track jacket wasn’t doing much for him in the cold.
“How’s it going Danny Boy?”
He stood spitting out the remnants of fingernail he was chewing on and pushed his glasses higher on his nose. “Just do it before I change my mind.”
“Okay.” I smiled.
I could hear the crowd behind me finally getting settled down. They were anticipating what would happen next with almost more eagerness than we had. I closed my eyes and after a few seconds of silence, save the sound of the street below and the cold wind, I opened them and faced the crowd.
Four clicks of Daren’s drumsticks, then the rooftop was flooded with a barrage of light and sound. The powerful lights we setup revealed eighty of our closest friends screaming their enthusiasm at us. The sound of the high-energy rock music mixed with the roaring of everyone on the roof could probably be heard throughout the entire town.
After just a few minutes a crowd began to form in the parking lot below. Soon all the Piggly Wiggly personnel were pushing their way out the door to see what was going on outside. Cars began to turn into the lot and people came out of surrounding stores to see where the music was coming from. And I stood there playing like a madman at the center of it all, brimming with pride.
Surprisingly we got five whole songs out before the cops showed. When I heard sirens I spoke into the microphone, “Thanks for coming guys but something tells me it’s probably time to go.”
I turned and smiled to my band mates behind me as the crowd casually made their exit. Everyone was happy and smiling having shared that exhilarating, slightly illegal memory. Even Daniel was smiling; who had seemed to loosen up since we started playing. We knew it would end like this so we decided we would at least go out with a bang. So as the cops made their way to the roof we began to play “I Fought the Law” by the Clash. I thought it much less threatening then our other option “We’re Not Going to Take It” by Twisted Sister.
It’s funny. I actually enjoyed being arrested by Officer Jenkins. He was a middle aged, overweight, mustache-wearing police officer that, at first, I thought was the embodiment of the stereotypical cop. Then, after the stiff formalities of being handcuffed and thrown in the back of a police car, I realized what a unique personality he had. He laughed all the way to the station as I sat in the back singing, “I fought the law” then him entering in with, “and the law won.”

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