Thursday, March 18, 2011
“Hey! I didn’t do nothing! I don’t care what this moron says!”
“Sir! You need to calm down or I’ll Tase you again!”
“Man, I’m telling you! You’re making a mistake! I didn’t jump that dude!”
“Hands in the air, Sir! I won’t tell you again! Good, now turn around and kneel down.”
“Man, you’re going to feel real stupid when you find out what a big mistake you’re making here!”
“I’m sure I will, now, you have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand these rights?”
“Yeah, Man. Whatever.”
“You just sit right there Shorty while the grownups have a chat.”
“Hey Phil, got a new one for you guys.”
“Oh hey Rick. What’d this one do?”
“Went up to the recruiting station. Hit the recruiter over the head when his back was turned.”
“Really? Why’d you do that? Oh not talking, huh? Well, a little stay in here should make you drop that tough guy attitude. Those baby muscles you got won’t help you none in here. Five minutes I bet you’re begging to talk to me.”
“Hey check out the midget! Hey! Little Dude? What you in for?”
“I said, what you in for Little Dude?”
“What? Man! Come on! If you’d have said they caught you and your six brothers gangbanging Snow White, I might believe that one, but assault? Really? Come on keep it real with me.”
“It’s going to be real if you don’t shut your drunk mouth.”
“Hey! You don’t disrespect me up in here! I’ll make you my . . . Ow! Guard! Guard! Come get this crazy midget offa me!”
“Hey! You inmates settle down in there! And you, Shorty! I’d better not have to come in here again or I’ll lock you down in solitary and leave you there over the weekend. You got that?”
“Now get your little carcass out here. Time for your phone call.”
Friday, March 18, 2011 5:00 p.m.
A short young man stopped in front of Midtown Music Hall Bar, a restaurant housed on the ground floor of an old building with a historical preservation sign out front. He was short, four inches shy of five feet, but wide and muscular with shoulders and arms that threatened to tear through his short sleeved shirt. Hazel eyes in a light brown baby face frowned at an address scribbled on a piece of torn off notebook paper.
“This has got to be it,” he muttered. He opened the door and walked inside.
The interior was large; hardwood floors and brick walls suggested roots in a previous century. He glanced around curiously searching for stairs or offices. He paused by a sign on the wall proclaiming that William Jennings Bryan spent his last night here following the Scopes “Monkey Trial,” but died the following day in Dayton, Tennessee. The young man’s eyebrows rose slightly.
He finally found a directory indicating that the office he wanted was on the second floor.
“Of course there’s no elevator,” he muttered. “That’s just awesome,” he sighed as he started up the wide staircase. He saw the office as soon as he reached the top and strode toward it, knocking on the open door.
A silver haired man with narrow shoulders squinted through thick glasses over a large stack of papers. He looked rumpled but efficient― dark suit with the sleeves of both his jacket and shirt rolled up. “How can I help you?” he asked.
“Uncle Aaron, it’s me, Zac! Zac Matthews.”
“Zac? What brings you down here?” the man hobbled painfully around a big antique oak desk to greet Zac. “I haven’t seen you since the emancipation hearing,” he said.
Zac’s face was solemn. “I need you to defend me, Uncle Aaron, or I’m going to jail for a long time,” he replied. He stared down at the floor as he spoke.
Rondstadt’s shoulders sagged. “You’re not mixed up in those steroid drugs are you? Tell me you’re not. My God! We just buried your mama and daddy. Lord knows your nana, she doesn’t need another shock!”
“’Roids? Me? Heck naw! It ain’t drugs! I . . . I’m facing assault charges, Uncle Aaron.”
“Assault charges? Zac, what in the world . . . .”
“I didn’t mean to do it. Just that recruiter kept pushing me, saying I couldn’t join up.”
“Zac you’re not making any sense,” Rondstadt said. “What does an Army recruiter have to do with you getting locked up for assault? Now talk sense so I can try to help you.”
“I tried to join the Army, Uncle Aaron.”
“Yes, I remember you saying something about doing that at the funeral but I thought we agreed you’d wait until you graduated.”
Zac shook his head. His jaw muscles twitched.
“I couldn’t wait, Uncle Aaron. After I got emancipated I went and registered for the GED and took my GED test. Passed it and went to see a recruiter.”
“Oh Zac! Why would you do that to your nana Son? I mean you’re barely sixteen years old…”
“I’m seventeen now, Uncle Aaron . . .”
“You’re still too young to do something like this. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, Son!”
Zac shook his head. “Uncle Aaron, I always knew life was going to be hard for me on account of my height. People prejudging me, kids calling me names, the jokes.”
He stood up and fidgeted. Rondstadt’s office was too small too cluttered with piles of case files to allow him to pace.
“Mama and Daddy never treated me any different even before they adopted me, when they were just my foster parents. They always treated me like everybody else. Daddy was my hero, Uncle Aaron.” Zac’s voice was hoarse. “And he never got to see me graduate high school ‘cause some . . . idiot didn’t have the common decency to just stay home when he’d been drinking!”
Rondstadt held up his hands. “Okay Zac, calm down. I need you to tell me why you got arrested, you did get arrested right?”
Zac nodded. “Yes Sir. I got arrested. Nana had to come down to the precinct and get me out.”
He drew a deep breath. “Like I said, I got my GED and got emancipated since I knew Nana would never sign the enlistment papers. Soon as I could, I headed down to the Army recruiter and tried to join up. They wouldn’t take me. Just patted me on the head like I was five years old and said ‘Sorry! Army doesn’t take midgets. Have a nice life though!’ I . . . I kind of lost it.”
“Lost it, huh?” Rondstadt asked with a raised eyebrow. “Define ‘lost it’ for me.”
“I challenged him to wrestle. Said if I could pin him he should let me join up.”
“What? Zac, tell me he didn’t agree to that.”
Zac nodded. “At first he said no. I kept pestering him and he agreed.”
“Let me guess — this little wrestling match is how you came to be arrested,” Rondstadt said.
“Daddy said if I ever needed anything to come to you, Uncle Aaron.” Zac stared directly at Rondstadt for the first time. “You’ve helped me with a lot of stuff since the funeral, but this is pretty big. Will you help me Uncle Aaron?”
Rondstadt sighed. “Your daddy saved my son’s life in Desert Storm. I told him I could never thank him enough for that. I promised your daddy the day I met you — pacifier in your mouth and you spilled juice all over my second best suit — I’d always have your back like he had my son’s back.” He paused and put a hand on Zac’s shoulder. “Of course I’ll help you Son.”
“Thanks, Uncle Aaron.”
Rondstadt patted Zac’s arm and rolled his sleeves down. “Come on Son, let’s go grab a Coke and you can tell me all about it.”
Want to read more? Keep an eye on this blog for the release of A Different Kind of Giant due out this Spring!