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One Little Coat
It was one of the first nice days of spring. All the snow had finally melted, the grass got back its bright green color, and the trees were starting to get their leaves back. It was the first nice day to spend outside and eighth grade was coming to a close. What I had thought was just an average day turned out to be one of the most life changing days I had experienced.
My friends Garrett, Sean, and I were all sitting in Sean’s room trying to think of what to do. Sean was on the computer and Garrett and I were getting bored. We started rummaging through Sean’s drawers hoping to find something to entertain us. Then, that is when we had found it: Fireworks.
“You guys wanna go light these off?” I asked excitedly.
“Yeah let’s go do something, I’m bored.” Garrett said in agreement. Sean turned around and looked at the fireworks. Then he got up and said.
“All right. Let’s Go!!!!”
About ten minutes later, we arrived at the park with all of the necessities: the fireworks, matches, and a bag of goldfish. Across the park was a bunch of middle age European people playing soccer.
“Do you think they’ll care?” I asked.
“Of course they won’t, I do this all the time.” Sean replied. The fireworks we had found in Sean’s drawer happened to be old fireworks and to our disappointment, only produced green sparks after we lit them. The disappointment of the fireworks was too much for us. We needed something more. Something exciting something that would get the adrenaline flowing. So we decided to light our empty goldfish bag on fire with the matches. The bag caught and then burst into a little tower of flames, but then quickly went out. Disappointed and bored we slowly started heading back towards Sean’s house. Until, something had caught Garrett’s eye.
“There.” He pointed. Over in the direction he had been pointing was an abandoned coat. It was left piled onto the woodchips near the playground. He went over to the coat and picked it up. Simultaneously we all knew what we wanted to do. Then Garrett and Sean started walking over to the swing set. I started to have doubts. I started thinking, what if this coat belongs to someone? No, I reassured myself, there’s no way someone will miss it. People leave things on the ground all the time and never even noticed they left them. With my mind made up I felt better and walked over to Sean and Garrett.
“Light the tag, I heard it goes like a wick.” I said smiling. Then Garret struck the match and set it down on the tag of the coat. To my surprise the tag actually did work like a wick. The flames slowly crept from the tag down to the collar of the coat.
“My god...” I said surprised. “It actually worked.”
“Yea dude lets get outta here.” said Sean sounding anxious. By this point the top layer of the coat was coated in a blanket of flames. We decided it was best to left the park. Slowly we started walking away. Just as we were about to turn the corner and leave the park, a red truck pulled up to the curb of the road.
“What the f*** are you doing!?” The angry voice startled us. All of a sudden my body stopped working. I couldn’t move my legs, or speak, or do anything. It was like the fear had put me in a trance. We looked to the truck to see who it came from. A short, stocky, middle aged European man got out of the truck, and hastily walked over to us. “That was my son’s fucking coat!” I looked over to where the coat was and saw that most of it had caught on fire by now. “Which one of you did this?” He asked angrily. “Was it you?” he asked pointing to Sean. No response. “Was it you?” He pointed to Garrett next. No response. Then he pointed at me and asked. “Was it you?” I didn’t say anything either. Then the man said. “You’re coming with me. He grabbed me by the collar and started pulling me to his truck. He had a strong grip, so there was no way for me to escape. Garret and Sean slowly followed me as I was being pulled by the man. They didn’t want to leave me behind. Once we got to his truck he ducked into the truck real quick and then back out. In his hand was a cell phone. Then the man started babbling in what sounded like a mix between Polish and English. The only thing I could really pick out was him saying something about calling his wife, and him saying something about not knowing the phone number for the police. Then he flipped open his phone and began dialing his wife’s number. She picked up and there was more babbling in Polish. Then he hung up and said. “My wife should be here in about ten minutes.”
In about ten minutes or so his wife arrived. If I thought that this guy was angry, she was on a whole other level. By this time, the coat resembled a small bonfire. And when his wife saw it she started shouting up a storm.
“What the f*** is wrong with you?! You kids are fucking idiots! What the f***!?” The words were loud and startled us just as the man’s had. However, when the man had stopped yelling and started to calm down, she kept yelling. The yelling kept going on and on for what felt like hours. It started to frustrate me. This whole situation was starting to frustrate me. I felt confused. This was all happening too fast for me. And all I really wanted was for that woman to just stop yelling. I wanted to yell back at her and tell her to stop, but I knew that it would just make the situation even worse. Finally, the yelling started to die down and then she took out her own cell phone. She was calling the police.
It didn’t take very long for the police to arrive. Two cop cars showed up along with a large bright red firetruck. This threw my mind into another state of confusion. Why would they send so many officers for a coat? A whole firetruck too? All of these people just for one little coat? Then the cops started questioning us. I can’t remember exactly what the questions were but I know they were just their routine questions. After the cops were done asking us their questions and the fireman had finished putting out the small bonfire, we were put into the police car and sent to the Police Department.
The police department was a much friendlier environment. There was no yelling. And the cops didn’t really treat us like we were bad people. They made me feel like they knew that we had made a mistake and that we weren’t really bad kids.
When they were done giving us further questioning they had our parents pick us up and then gave us tickets telling us that we were to have a hearing in front of a peer jury.
The whole next month was a blur for me. My parents decided to ground me for a month and I didn’t blame them, because I knew I had done something wrong.
Before I knew it, it was already time for Garrett, Sean, and I to attend our hearing. They sent each of us in one at a time. I was sent in last, because I was the last of the three of us to show up. I was very nervous just sitting there, waiting for them to call my name so I could go find out my fate. Finally, after what felt like days of just sitting there, they called me in. When I walked in I was surrounded by a half circle table of about a dozen kids. They looked like they were maybe freshmen in high school. They had me tell them my side of the story. Then they kept asking me all sorts of questions. I remember I found their questions to be very appalling. Especially when one girl asked me.
“Why didn’t you just try and put the fire out?” She asked as if she thought she were a lawyer on a real trial.
“With what?” I responded sounding irritated. “There was nothing around me to put it out with, I was in the middle of a park.” She was silent for a second. I could tell she was trying to think of something, anything to make me sound like the bad guy.
“Well... You could have used wood chips... or something.” Really? Are you seriously suggesting that’s what I should have done? I would like to see you use wood chips in my situation. I wanted to say something back but I remembered that my parents had told me not to try and make any trouble so that they would give me the lightest sentence as possible. With that as motivation I decided to just keep my comments to myself and let them finish what they wanted to say.
When they had finished asking me questions they sent me outside to go wait with Sean and Garrett. Shortly after they brought us back in to tell us their verdict.
“For the destruction of a Park Ridge swing. We have decided to make you each pay a $25 fine and you will each have to perform 17 ½ hours of community service.” I personally thought the punishment wasn’t that bad. The 17 ½ hours went by pretty fast and before I knew it I was ungrounded. Still... I thought to myself, all this trouble over one little coat?