I listened as the disheveled high school boy related how he was going to sue the high school. My feet shuffled under my desk in uncomfortable anticipation of leaving in the mid-afternoon. "I fell up the steps," Conner said.
Eased back to the conversation I looked at him as if I knew what he was talking about. "Why do you need to sue, little fellow?"
"I fell up the steps," he restated.
Thinking about what steps he could have fallen up or down on the level land, where the one-story inner city high school was constructed, I watched him bend forward and fold his left ear over to demonstrate the extent of his injury. I half-looked at an injury I could not see and at the same time presenting a look on my face of sincere interest.
"Over next to the science lecture hall."
"Right over there," Conner pointed to the wall of my portable building. Somehow, this high school student, the pride of his family, had found the only place on campus that could be called steps (two) to fall up.
"Did it embarrass you?"
"No, not really. It was during lunch."
The thought passed through my mind how falling in front of many students was less embarrassing then falling up two steps when you're alone? It was quickly replaced by his voice continuing on with the story. "It hurt me right behind my ear. It hurt all night."
"Concrete and human heads are generally an unfair match." I said.
"Wow, you can say that again, but don't. It still hurts," he said, while rubbing behind the opposite ear. I watched him rub the wrong ear and wondered what the real story was?
I would not begin to know the complete story until the School-Resource-Officer approached me. He is a somewhat effective young policeman in a government school setting. "Did Ashton attend all of his classes yesterday," he asked?
"To the best of my knowledge," I half-heartedly assured him. "However, if you need some information about what's going on around here I'd pull him in for a talk."
"Probably a good idea." I watched Officer Burns walk down the wooden ramp leaving my aged portable classroom. He is generally a man of few words and I suspected few original thoughts. Always on his desk was the school and sheriff's department book of rules and polices, along next to a Nintendo game controller. I wondered if he was ever a street cop? I'd heard rumors that he was very good at playing Grand Theft Auto on his game console.
Less than fifteen minutes later I watched the policeman escort Ashton into his office. I was sure he could extract any information he needed and probably some he didn't. Still I had not connected the sore ear, falling up stairs, and the current incident being investigated. Enlightenment would be forth coming to me within the next thirty minutes.
Almost to the minute, Officer Burns opened my classroom door and allowed Ashton to enter. The SRO leaned into the opening and asked to speak with me. "What can I help you with, sir." I said exiting my portable.
"Do you know these five kids?"
I looked at the paper note he cupped in his left hand. I also noticed his right hand resting on a 9mm pistol on his belt. My sense was that he felt safer in that position while on school grounds. "Sure, I know all their names and at least two of them have spent considerable time in my behavior class."
After I gave him their last names he told me what had occurred, thanked me and again walked down the ramp from my portable. Now the story was getting interesting as I began to put the pieces of the puzzle together. It went something like this.........
During first period two days earlier, Conner, Angelina, Kasey, and two other non-descript players had decided that a joy ride, in a stolen car, was what they needed to break the boredom of a grueling high school schedule. So, being inventive young souls, they found a rundown Mazda to fulfill their desires. The Mazda belonged to a friend of Angelina, Cybil Livingston.
Cybil would never be mistaken for the sharpest tool in the high school shed. She drove much to fast onto the student parking lot daily, because she could not decrypt the instructions on her alarm clock. Bounding from the tiny four-door import she always tossed the car keys on the dash in front of the steering wheel in plain sight of one thousand and ninety seven other students, most itching to leave campus during the day. Sometimes, Cybil would comment how good the gas mileage was for her misfiring little Mazda. If she knew the truth, several students borrowed the car daily and some of them even replaced the gas they used.
Angelina was the leader of the Grand Theft Auto gang. She wanted to smoke a cigarette, pickup a soda, and just ride around. Conner was not interested in stealing a car. He was interested in Angelina. Going with her meant there was a slim chance he could get closer to her especially in a small, four-door Japanese car. He never gave the three other students a second thought about being in the car.
If you're out having fun during second period of a mundane school day, why not speed? Why not speed on a wet two-lane country road? Why not speed on a wet two-lane country road and pass a cigarette around to five people? Then the cigarette took a tumble from the waiting fingers of the driver, and Conner attempted to rescue Angelina from imminent harm. Kasey reached from the rear seat to grab the steering wheel. Of course, the automobile was not out of control until Kasey jerked the steering wheel into a hard right turn. This solved the problem of the hot cigarette in Angelina's lap. It dropped from the seat to the roof as the car tumbled over.
"I hit my head on the roof. Dude, it still hurts," Conner said.
Mustering my concern I ask, "Are you all right?"
"I guess so."
"Which hurt more, the car wreck or falling up the steps?"
Conner, looked at me and you could almost hear the gears turning in his brain. A glaze crossed over his teenage face and he said, "You figured it out, man!"
I didn't belay the point, because now Conner understood his story of falling up the steps to cover what really injured his head wouldn't float. He had dedicated most of the night creating and fine-tuning a story to account for his injury. Again, the point had been driven home to him that it is always easier to tell the truth. You don't have to remember as much.
The ending to the great Grand Theft Auto caper was not written for another three days. All of the participates, except Angelina, received three days suspension out of school and the strong possibility all would be charged by the local authorities. Angelina was transferred to the area alternative school mostly due to her long record of infractions. Conner took his three days out of school in stride, sleeping late each day, playing Grand Theft Auto on his Playstation, and generally going and coming as he pleased. All believed their partners in crime were “kool” anti-heros.
Conner, returned on day four with a warning from his principal that one more infraction of the rules would result in his immediate transfer to the alternative school where Angelina now pursued her education. He lasted ten minutes into the beginning of the school day. He managed to become angry; the reason still remains unclear, and stormed out of his first period class. He now gets to pursue the "love of his life" at the alternative school. I hope Angelina's very large boyfriend, that attends the same alternative school, understands.