Don’t Stop The Rockin’

He was out on bail. Employment was a joke. Small town, with front page notoriety, so no real chance to escape scrutiny. He did some landscaping and lawn mowing, but he was broke. Constantly. He was still smoking a half-ounce of pot a week, the cost of which added up real fast. He tried selling weed to select friends just so he could pinch a little. The problem was he had no money to invest, so he couldn’t buy any quantity up front. His savings were tapped out due to legal fees, and family wanted nothing to do with him. Days ran together, and he was getting increasingly anxious. Like something was about to happen. He had no idea what, but it seemed big. Maybe as big as what put him in jail in the first place.

He climbed out of bed at dawn and kicked a sneaker across the floor. His wife asked him what was wrong. I don’t know, he said. He was just miserable and bored and scared. He knew he was only out on bail, which meant he’d eventually be tried and sentenced. He and his wife were only married four months, and she was carrying his daughter. Questions ran through his head. Will my daughter remember me, he remarked? Admittedly, he was not really sure he wanted to be a dad. Not at eighteen years old. He was a bit of a wild one. A hellion. Out all night. He’d already cheated on his pregnant wife six times. This usually happened when he was bored or depressed. His wife was known for falling asleep early in the evening, while he would pace and channel-surf and get high.

This particular night, he grabbed a black back pack and started loading it. A pair of gloves, a hammer, several screwdrivers, and a glass cutter. He wasn’t sure where he was headed, but he needed money. Sadly, what he really needed was weed. He hadn’t been able to sleep for nights. He would lie on the couch, watching TV and trying not to have the voices in his head drown out the audio coming from the television set. Earlier, he’d been practically stomping around the living room, talking to himself, yelling at God, and trying to think straight. If you’re real, God, kill me now. I don’t want to go on like this!

He left the apartment, heading for the bridge over the Susquehanna River. It was really cold out, and the wind off the river was biting. He headed to Fourth Street, climbing up onto the railroad underpass. He caught his breath as he looked around. It was 1:45 a.m. Nothing was open. There were no cars on the road. Looking over to the left, he’d decided where to go. He climbed down the railroad underpass and headed to the local YMCA. He crawled behind some bushes and took out his glass cutter. Within minutes, he had the latch open and the window up. He climbed inside.

He headed down the hall, passing the main desk, and entered the snack room. He stood there staring at about fifteen vending machines. He got out his hammer and a large flat-head screwdriver and got to work. Damn, this is not easy, he thought. He was about to try a different machine when he saw headlights out front. He crept over to the windows and peeked out. Cops! Two cars. He ducked just as a spotlight lit up the window. He gathered up his tools and quickly crawled out of the snack room and down the hall toward the pool area. Maybe he could hide until they left. Spend the night. Then sneak out with the regular patrons in the morning. But that plan dissolved as he heard radio chatter and saw flashlights entering the long hall. He tried more than once to climb up on top of the huge HVAC ducts, but they were too far off the ground. Just as he was about to turn and run to another part of the building, he was lit up with flashlights.

Freeze! The first cop yelled. Suddenly, he realized he was holding a large hammer above his head. Drop the weapon! But it was just a hammer. What was all the excitement? I said drop it, now! As the hammer clashed to the floor, he said, It’s only me. You see, this was a small town, and his last arrest had put him on the front page of the town newspaper, above the fold. Full picture. Name. Alleged offense. This was going to be a long night.

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