Samantha – Counseling

Samantha was in the broadcast booth to check out the layout so she could hook a clock radio into the field sound system, when someone passing by noticed the door was unlocked. The door was directly opposite the window that looked onto the field, and she was under the counter beneath the window, checking out the amplifier.

––– # –––

Knowing I was about to be exposed, I watched in horror as the door knob turned. I almost didn’t hear the other voice my heart was beating so loudly. “I wouldn’t worry about it. Whoever’s working in there has a key.”

The knob stopped. The door was still closed. I held my breath. A person in here on legitimate business would respond to what was going on. I lowered my voice as much as I could. “Hey, thanks for the concern. I’ll be a while longer.” I prayed they didn’t hear the tremor in my voice or recognize it.

The first voice said, “Sorry to disturb you.”

“No problem.” I waited, counting the seconds. Finally I heard them moving off.

Relief swept over me, and I slumped against the wall. I sat there for the longest time, waiting for the shakes to subside. I wondered if I was really cut out for this. If I was going to do this, I couldn’t put it off. The game next Saturday was the last home game of the season, and the team wouldn’t be in the playoffs. This would be my last chance.

I kept thinking I needed a co-conspirator, someone to watch out for me. However, I was willing to take responsibility for my own actions, but I couldn’t be responsible for getting someone else in trouble. … Well, maybe Ingrid Hoffman, but that was another matter entirely.

Finally my shaking subsided enough that I was willing to get up. I was finished with this reconnaissance. I eased the door open a crack and looked out. When I didn’t see anybody I opened it far enough that I could look around. I didn’t hear anyone or see anyone. I slipped out and closed the door. Making sure one more time that no one could see me, I locked the door and pocketed the key.

Then I heard someone coming up one of the tunnels. I moved to the opposite stairs and headed down to that tunnel. I managed to reach it and duck inside before the other person came out. I suddenly grasped the disadvantage of being a red-head and trying to be sneaky.

All the way home I questioned my resolution to carry out this prank. I had expected it to be a rush, but all I had felt while almost being found out was fright. I wished desperately that I had someone I could talk to about it. If Brian were still alive … No, I wasn’t going to go there. It had to be me and me alone … or did it?

Mom was seeing a grief counselor, and it seemed to be working. They’d offered me counseling too, but I had wanted to hurt then. Now I didn’t. Maybe a counselor could tell me if pranks were my way of dealing with the hurt that was still there. I doubted they would condone the pranks, but maybe there was something else I should be doing.

––– # –––

I was able to see my counselor at her office on Thursday. Olivia, a strikingly pretty, short brunet, appeared to be young, somewhere in her twenties I guessed. She wore a frilly white blouse and a black skirt short enough to have distracted a man as she sat with her legs crossed. I had other things on my mind. She listened to me whine about Brian’s death. Then she asked me, “So what are you doing about it?”

I thought about her question for a moment. What was I doing about my grief? I didn’t know. Maybe simply hoping it would fade away with time. “As far as I know I haven’t done anything.”

She templed her fingers in front of her face, touching her lips with her finger tips. “The responses to loss differ for everyone because there is no such thing as a typical loss. Each individual grieves in their own way just as they live their own lives distinctly. We speak of five stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but how we deal with each stage is intensely personal. Not everyone goes through them the same way nor do they necessarily go through all of them. There is no universal right way. From what you’ve said to me, I’d say you have worked your way through your version of denial and anger, but you seem to have skipped bargaining and gone directly to depression. There is nothing wrong with that. That’s just your unique way of dealing with grief.”

I hesitated. It was time to get to the point. I wasn’t sure I wanted to trust someone else with what I was preparing to do, but I was talking to her now to get this out of my system. Should I be plotting out these devious pranks? Would they do me any good in relieving my grief? I couldn’t put it off; I had to tell her what I had in mind. I spilled everything, including nearly being caught in the booth.

“And you want me to tell you if you’re doing the right thing?” She paused. “You realize I can’t do that. Let me ask you this, do you believe you’ll get some kind of satisfaction out of pulling of outrageous pranks and getting away with it?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “Right now I resent the fact that Ashworth targeted me, and I want to get even.”

She frowned a little as if she were considering what I said. “As a general rule getting even is rarely effective. On the other hand, if you were doing it for fun, it might relieve some of your stress.”

“Okay, let’s say I’m doing it for fun. What about that?” I pressed for a commitment from her. Should I do it or not?

She peered at me for a few seconds before answering. “Look, I can’t solve your problem for you. The best I can do is tell you what I think. You have to decide what to do.”

“But you said it might relieve my stress.”

“It might.”

“So what would you do?” I expected another question.

She surprised me. Instead of answering with something about making my own decision, she answered my question. “I’d go for it – as long as nobody would get hurt.”

“But I want to hurt Ashworth. He hurt me.” I could feel my anger rising.

“So we’re back to that. Will you really gain anything from hurting Principal Ashworth?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’ll tell you what, go ahead with your prank and tell me next week how it felt.” She walked to the door to let me out. “I’ll see you next Thursday.”

I didn’t feel better as I walked out.

Samantha – The Broadcast Booth

After reconciling with her father, Samantha had a new target for her anger, Dr. Ashworth. He had been prejudiced against her even before he had blamed her for the graffiti. She decided to get even with him by playing pranks carefully crafted to leave no evidence that she had done them. The first one came about serendipitously.I got up early Monday morning and went for a run. The marathon was coming up soon, and I needed to increase my mileage. The easiest way to do that was to run twice a day. I added the run to my morning schedule.

—#—

A cold front was moving in, pushing up more storm clouds ahead of it. I kept watching them as I ran, and they got increasingly ominous. When I saw that first lightning strike, I decided it was time to head for home. When the thunder took only four seconds—less than a mile—to reach me, I decided a shortcut was in order.

The street I turned down already had trash cans out for pickup. One of the houses had a small pile of odds and ends separate from the trash. The sign said, “Help Yourself.” I don’t know why – I was in a hurry after all, but I stopped to take a quick look.

There it was, the answer to my first prank, an old clock radio. I put it under my arm and started running again. I didn’t immediately know what I was going to do with it, but ideas hit me as I ran for home.

The one that eventually got my vote was more complex than I would have liked, but it would also be the most public. Principal Ashworth took pride in announcing the home football games. I wondered how he’d react to being preempted by a rock and roll radio station. I figured the teams would continue playing without too much distraction, but Ashworth would be flabbergasted. And I knew how I was going to set it up.

First, I had to gain access to the booth. I had the feeling it shouldn’t be too hard. The hard part would be doing it without being noticed. Anyone having access to it would be suspect after the game.

I knew Coach Ford had access because she used the public address to run pep rallies. I guess she figured the amplification would make up for any lack of attendance. I went after her in a roundabout way so she wouldn’t know what my goal was.

I caught up with her after girls basketball practice in the gym.

As I walked up, she noticed me. “Samantha, how’s your marathon training coming?”

“Coach Ford. Great. I’m doing nine miles a day during the week, and I’ll do a fifteen miler on Sunday.”

“How’s your time?”

“Six thirty five.”

She smiled. “Nice. With time like that you can qualify for the Boston Marathon when you turn eighteen.”

I brought up my purpose for approaching her. “I was wondering if you needed any help in the broadcast booth for the rally Friday.”

She brightened. “Well, I could use a runner. Some things I just can’t say on the public address.”

“I’d be happy to help. What time would you need me?”

“The rally starts right after school lets out. If you could pick up the keys from the principal’s office, I could come directly out and help with the set up.”

That had been too easy. Of course, it would connect me with the broadcast booth, but we didn’t have a home game for another week, and I’d have Coach Ford to vouch for me for this week. The only question was how could I get a copy of the key?

I fretted over that for the next couple of days. In the meantime I rewired the clock radio. Dad hat a great workspace set up in the garage. I’d used the soldering iron and other electricians tools for several projects in the past, so I had a good idea of what I was doing. I soldered an audio cable onto the terminals for the wire to the radio speaker and put an RCA plug on the end of it. I planned to clip the speaker wires when I had everything hooked up to the amplifier in the booth. That way it would be harder to trace where the signal was coming from and shut it off.

When I had the wiring completed, I replaced the backup power battery and tested the alarm clock function with a local rock station tuned in. Everything worked as I wanted. I still had several problems to work out, but I was confident I could.

By Friday afternoon I had figured out the key problem. It would take some work as I later found out. I picked up the key from the principal’s office. Ms. Farrow eyed me suspiciously when I told her Coach Ford wanted me to get it. She even made me sign for it. I stopped by the restroom on my way out to the athletic field and took several pictures of the key, making sure I got a straight on shot of its profile.

I took a detour on my way home and went into a hardware store where I bought a blank key like the one for the broadcast booth. I also bought a bit for Dad’s rotary tool.

After dinner I set to work to make a duplicate key. I had made a template from one of my photos. I glued it on the blank and clamped it in Dad’s heavy vise. Then I spent the next two hours painfully resisting the urge to rush as I cut away the excess metal. Then I carefully smoothed the rough edges.

I held the finished key up close to the fluorescent light over the work bench and examined it. There were a couple of places where I had nicked the template. Hopefully the key would still work. I didn’t want to go through this again. I was beat.

The next Monday before I left school for home, I made my way to the booth. I kept looking over my shoulder to be sure no one was watching. The football squad was practicing on the field, and I had to cross open space to reach the booth. I tried to walk casually and look like I was watching the team because I admired what they doing. By the time I reached the booth I was fairly sure no one had even looked in my direction.

The door to the booth was on the side away from the field. I took one last look around, and tried the key. I had to jiggle it a little to get it work, but I was in. The amplifier was on a shelf under the counter that ran along the front of the booth. I crawled under the counter.

There was space enough behind the amplifier to place the clock radio. I’d just have to turn off the digital display so it wouldn’t attract attention. I pulled the amplifier forward to check the back. Yes! There were two empty input jacks. I checked the front. Each input jack had its own volume knob and a mute switch. So far so good. The electrical outlet was was several inches to the side of the amplifier. It had three open sockets, which meant that if someone wanted to plug something else in they would see the power cord to the radio. That was a chance I had to take.

Voices! My heart thudded. Someone was walking by outside. I heard the doorknob turn. A voice said, “Whoever was in here last forgot to lock up. We should check inside.”

Samantha – Payback

Originally posted on March 27, 2017 by Gordon Savage

Samantha had done what she considered to be the right thing. She had called home to report that she had gone UA (“Unauthorized Absence” for those of you who are unfamiliar), taking full responsibility for what she had done. It left her father in a quandary of sorts. She had deliberately disobeyed, but she had also reported herself. On top of that he had realized she had been telling the truth, which meant the grounding wasn’t justified. What was he supposed to do?We drove home in total silence. I looked at Father. His face was grim, and he was staring at the road. I knew better than to say anything. All I could do was sit there imagining what he would do when we got home. It take long for me to find out.

As soon as Father closed the door, he stopped and froze me with a look I can’t describe. I resisted an urge to drop my head. Instead, I came to attention and stared him in the eye.

“Sammy”—He never called me that except when he was apologetic— “Dammit, you’ve put me in a fix. What you did tonight made me understand that you didn’t lie about the graffiti, and you didn’t deserve to be grounded. I have to apologize for that. On the other hand you disobeyed orders. I don’t know which is more important.”

He paused. “So help me, if this had happened last year I would have put you in a military school to teach you some self-control. As it is, a semester – if we could get you in – wouldn’t do you or anyone else any good.”

He looked me up and down. “Right now I should be chewing you out royally, but I recognize my own part in this and your grit for informing me of what you had done. So here’s what’s going to happen. Your grounding is terminated; however, for now your 10 o’clock curfew will continue, and if you screw up again … well, you figure it out.”

I stood there speechless. What had just happened? I had disobeyed, a cardinal sin, and I had gotten off with a reprieve. I had to rethink Father’s – my Dad’s – actions. I was still mad at him for Brian’s death, but he had been more than fair with me, and Brian wasn’t forced to join the marines. He’d made that decision based on Dad’s urging, but it was Brian decision.

Dad snapped his fingers in front of my face. “Sammy, are you alright?”

I realized I’d been staring into space. “Uh. I’m fine… and thank you. May I speak candidly?”

He raised his eyebrows. “Certainly. What’s on your mind?”

I looked down. Then I gritted my teeth. “I need to apologize. I was so mad at you for making Brian join the marines, but I realize it was his decision. I don’t know if he did it to make you proud of him or what, still it was his choice.” I paused to gather my thoughts.

“I’m glad to hear that. I hope that I have my Samantha back.” He actually hugged me.

I teared up. “I love you, Daddy.”

— # —

An hour later I continued to be in shock. What had happened? Dad had forgiven me, and I had forgiven him. The feud was over. I could get back to my life. I should have been elated or maybe a little sad. Instead, I was still feeling angry.

And it wasn’t at Dad. It was at Principal Ashworth. Even before the graffiti incident, he had been after me for some reason, maybe the prank. He had no right to profile me.

The more I thought about it the angrier I got. The idea was slow forming, but I was going to make him pay. He didn’t like my pranks? He’d learn about pranks. I began thinking of ways I could play practical jokes on him – without getting caught.

Samantha – Over the Wall

Originally posted on March 20, 2017 by Gordon Savage

When she was told she couldn’t go to the dance, something broke in Samantha. She was so angry with her father she ignored her own responsibility for being grounded and decided on outright defiance. She was going to the dance no matter what. If that caused more punishment, so be it.

I was initially so enraged I couldn’t think of anything but my determination to get to the dance despite being forbidden in no uncertain terms by Father. When I finally cooled down enough to start really thinking, I realized I had a monumental task.

First and foremost I had to get out of the house on a Saturday night without being noticed. As I continued planning, my anger faded to a smoldering resentment. By the time I went to bed I had worked out a plan that both excited me and terrified me.

Starting Monday, I began taking make up, toiletries, and such to school and leaving them in my locker. The hard part was getting my dress there without attracting attention. I finally took it to the cleaners on Thursday and had them deliver it to me at school on Friday. I hoped it wouldn’t get crushed in my locker.

Saturday came, and I pouted all day. That wasn’t lying. I was unhappy with what I was going to do. I picked at my dinner, more because of nerves than because I wasn’t hungry.

After dinner Mom had rented a movie to watch. She and I cleaned up the table and loaded the dishwasher. As soon as we finished, Mom announced the movie would start as soon as everyone had assembled.

I made a show of being grumpy. “I’m not interested. I’m going up to my room.”

“Are you sure, Honey? You don’t seem to be spending much time with the family lately, and you wanted to see this movie when it first came out.”

“Not tonight.” I headed up the stairs.

To give everyone time to settle down in the living room, I took a quick shower. When I had finished, I put on my sweats and pocketed my cell phone. I opened my door a crack to listen. Nothing but a murmur from downstairs. Out on the landing I stopped to listen again. The only thing I heard was the soundtrack from the movie. From the top of the stairs I looked down to ensure no one was in sight. So far so good. I eased down the stairs.

About half way down I heard the sound of the microwave and popcorn popping. Swearing to myself I hurried back up the stairs. Sure enough, before I reached my door, I heard Mom say, “I’m going up to see if Samantha wants to come join us for popcorn.”

I slipped inside and quietly closed the door. I thought for a moment I’d sit down at my desk and turn on my laptop. Then I had a better idea. I climbed in to bed. I pulled the covers up so my sweats didn’t show and lay on my side facing away from the door.

In a few seconds Mom knocked on my door. When I didn’t answer, she opened the door. “Samantha, we’re having popcorn …”

Trying to look sleepy, I turned my head toward Mom and went, “Wh…?”

“Oh, sorry, Honey. Never mind. Go back to sleep. See you in the morning.” She closed the door.

I waited a few minutes and made my way downstairs. This time I got all the way down. I hurried into the kitchen, stopping at the back door. Straining my hearing to make sure no one was coming from the living room, I opened the door and slipped outside. I had made it this far, but it wasn’t time for celebration yet.

There was no fence between our house and Captain French’s. I ran across our backyard and through his backyard. Careful to stay close to the house and below the window sills, I made my way to the street in front.

I pulled out my phone and dialed Dwayne. In a few minutes he pulled up in front of me. As I got into his car, he said, “Hi. I love your dress.”

I punched his arm.

When we got to school, the dance had already started. I carried my dress and things into the girls restroom and hurriedly changed. Then I took the time to make sure I looked as if I had gotten ready at home.

When I came out, Dwayne went wide-eyed and said, “Wow. Now I really do love that dress.”

The dance itself was a dream. Dwayne was a terrific dance partner, and several other boys, including Bill, danced with me. I enjoyed myself more than I had in weeks.

At the intermission Coach Hendricks ran up the stairs to the stage. He made a big deal of congratulating the football team for their victory in the afternoon. He called some of the players up for special recognition, and finished by leading a cheer for the team. Then Mrs. Campbell, one of the English teachers, announced the Homecoming Queen, Lisa Marconi, and the Homecoming King, Daniel Goodman.

Afterwards, Lisa came up to me at the punch bowl. “That should have been you up there, Sam.”

I was genuinely flattered. “I … I don’t know what to say. As far as I’m concerned you deserved the title.”

She looked mildly embarrassed. “You were on the list for consideration and Principal Ashworth vetoed it.”

I suppose I should have been upset, but that statement neither surprised me nor bothered me. “So he was already after me for some reason, and the graffiti gave him ammunition. I may need to have a talk with him. Thanks for the info… and I meant it when I said you deserved the title.”

The rest of the dance passed so quickly I almost passed my deadline. The scoreboard clock said 9:33 when I looked at it. When Dwayne and I finished the dance, I walked him to the seats and said, “I’ll be back in a minute. I have to make a phone call. It’s time to face the consequences.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll tell you when I get back.” I hurried out of the gym and went to my locker. I checked my phone. No missed calls and no messages. Good. At least no one was panicked yet. I speed-dialed Father.

“Admiral Pederson speaking.”

“Father, this is Samantha. I’m at the dance, and …”

“You’re where?” the phone erupted.

“I’m at the dance. I wanted to make sure I called you before anyone found I was missing. I’m ready to face my punishment. I’ll be in the gym.” I hung up.

Dwayne didn’t understand. “You called your father? Are you crazy? We could have sneaked you back in without anyone noticing.”

“Maybe, but I’ll feel better about myself this way. I take responsibility for my actions and I don’t lie. Let’s dance.”

I was dancing with Dwayne when Father came into the gym. I didn’t see him until he walked up to us and tapped Dwayne on the shoulder. “Mind if I cut in?”

Dwayne jumped like he had been jolted with electricity. He stepped back from Father with a horrified expression on his face. “No sir. Go right ahead.”

Father took my arm gently and said, “It’s time to go home.”

He turned and started walking with me toward the door.

I waved goodbye to Dwayne. “See you in school.”

As I walked toward the door, I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew it wouldn’t be good.

Samantha – Invitation to the Dance

Originally posted on March 15, 2017 by Gordon Savage

Samantha dreaded facing her father, expecting to receive added grounding for getting away with having help to finish her punishment at school. Plus she was still furious that he wouldn’t believe her when she told him she had not put the graffiti on the school.

––– # –––

One thing about Father being in the navy, his time was rarely his own. He had been called in that morning to an emergency meeting. He didn’t get home until after two in the afternoon, giving me plenty of time to stew. By the time he walked up the steps, I had had come up with a list of possible outcomes, none of them pleasant. I was beginning to wonder if getting even with him for Brian’s death was worth the difficulties I was going through.

I waited for him downstairs doing homework on the kitchen table. Mom intercepted him and told him what had happened. He came into the room with a non-committal expression. I stood up to face him and came to attention. He hadn’t told me to, but I had to show him that I understood this was serious.

He looked me in the eye for a second. “So, you pulled a ‘Tom Sawyer’ at school today?”

I wasn’t prepared for that question and had to think about it. Tom Sawyer had conned other children into helping him whitewash a fence. “No, sir, not exactly. Several kids had gathered to heckle me while I cleaned up the wall. I stood up to the most obnoxious one and told him off. Apparently it made an impression on him because he decided to help. When he did, a lot of the other hecklers joined in. I didn’t con any of them.”

A fleeting smile crossed his face. “So, what am I supposed to do with you? Your mom says you also stood up to Ashworth and got away with it.” The smile returned. “Actually, I’m proud of you. You’re going to make a fine leader someday. As far as I’m concerned you met the school’s requirements and I see no reason to extend your grounding.”

I tried not to show my relief. In fact, I decided to make one more plea for him to recognize that I hadn’t been lying. I think that if it had succeeded, my life would have been decidedly different. At least I would have quit trying to hurt him. “Sir, you have to believe me. I didn’t paint the graffiti on the school building. I’ll never convince Principal Ashworth, but you must know that I don’t lie – ever.”

The smile faded. “I know you’ve been in a lot of trouble since Junior died and your behavior hasn’t been up to your standards, so I don’t know if you’ve added lying to the list of irresponsible things you’ve done.”

All hope faded.

––– # –––

The lunchroom was noisy as usual that Monday. I did a quick scan and spotted Dwayne by himself at a table near the windows. When I had picked up my lunch, I carried my tray over to his table. He looked up as I approached. I smiled, perhaps a little too brightly. “Hi, Dwayne. I just wanted to thank you again for your help Saturday.”

He stood. “You’re more than welcome. Would you like to join me?”

Would I? Okay, he wasn’t as handsome as Bill, but he was good looking, and he was taller than I, even if only an inch or so. And he was smart. I wasn’t about to complain. “Thanks.”

I put my tray down next to his and sat. “I never did find out the big guy’s name. Do you know who he was?”

“Not really, but I’m pretty sure he’s on the football team.”

“That’s a shame. I’d like to thank him as well. If I can find the time, I’ll try to find him.”

“I hear you told Principal Ashworth off.”

I couldn’t help grinning. “It wasn’t that big a deal. I simply told him I met the terms he gave me and I wasn’t going to do any more.”

“So why did you put your initials on that quotation? I hate to say it, but that wasn’t real clever.”

I let the insult pass. I knew he didn’t mean for it to be one. “That’s what’s so frustrating. I didn’t put up the quote. Someone else did, apparently to get me into trouble.”

“And they succeeded. I wonder if it was Ingrid. I know she set up the hecklers. That’s the reason I was there.” He suddenly looked embarrassed. “Not to heckle. To head it off.”

I grinned again. “Maybe I should thank her. A lot of those guys were a help, especially the big one.”

He laughed. “They were, weren’t they?” He paused. “On another subject, do you have a date for the Homecoming Dance?”

Wow! That was a surprise. “Are you asking me to the dance?” I mentally cross my fingers.

He didn’t hesitate. “If you’re available, I sure am.”

Then I remembered. “I’d love to, but I’m grounded. I’ll have to ask. Maybe I can get a pass this once.” I could see his disappointment. It thrilled me, not that he was disappointed but that he was that interested in me. “I’ll do my best, but if you find someone else, I’ll understand.”

“I won’t be looking for someone else.” He put his hand on mine.

––– # –––

Mom initially said no. “You understand grounding is a punishment.”

“Yes, but I’m being punished for something I didn’t do. My grounding for the police prank would be over now.”

She didn’t respond right away. Finally she said, “I understand what you’re saying, but I’m not going oppose your father. If you can convince him, I’ll accept that decision.”

Okay, that put me in a difficult position. Mom had finally come around, but I knew arguing with Father was going to be a waste of energy. I didn’t want to set them against each other. That was a recipe for disaster, and to be honest I didn’t think I could convince Mom to do it anyway. “Could you at least tell him you support my request?”

“If he asks for my opinion, I’ll tell him what I think.”

I Knew that was the best I was going to get, so I resigned myself, sighed, and went up to my room.

Father got home just before dinner, leaving no time for discussing the Homecoming Dance until afterwards. While I helped Mom clean up, I had a hard time not hinting that she should talk to Father. When we were finished, I stood waiting. Mom examined me. “Do you want me to talk to him first?”

“If you would tell him I want to talk, I’d definitely appreciate it.”

I was seated at the kitchen table when Father came in. “You want to talk to me?”

I stood. “I do.” I made my request, finishing with, “This is the last big dance in high school except the prom. Up until this graffiti thing, which I did not do, I admit I had earned my groundings. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for an exception to my grounding for this one occasion. Especially since I was grounded based on something I flatly deny doing.”

I stood there waiting. I didn’t have long to wait.

“Denial or not, I don’t feel I can trust you at this time. No, you will complete your punishment before you can go on any date, including special occasions.” He started to turn away.

I was ready to plead. “Father …”

His expression stopped me cold. “This is not open to discussion.” He walked out of the room, leaving me standing there with my mouth open.

I was hurt and disappointed but mostly angry. I rushed up to my room and slammed the door behind me. Seething, I leaned back against the door and made a decision. I was going anyway.

Samantha – Punishment

Originally posted on March 6, 2017 by Gordon Savage

Knowing that arguing or complaining about her ”sentence” would gain her nothing, Samantha gathered her cleaning supplies together and walked to the school on Saturday morning to start her punishment.

When I left home that morning, I was livid. Mom had offered to drive me, but the distance was less than my daily run. So I walked, and it cleared my head. I was still angry, but I made up my mind to get the job done as quickly as I could.

Dr. Ashworth was in his office. I briefly considered trying one more time to convince him I hadn’t done it, but I knew he would ignore any logic, like why would I sign something like that if I had done it. Instead, I checked in, showed him my supplies, and headed out front. On my way out I got a bucket and brush from the custodian’s closet.

What I hadn’t expected was an audience. At least thirty kids from the school had showed up while I was inside. I hadn’t noticed, but their cars had been parked on the street when I showed up. Sure enough, Ingrid Hoffman was among the onlookers.

I unloaded my backpack on the ground in front of the graffiti and filled the bucket from a nearby faucet. While I was doing that, the gallery started up catty conversations about me and what I was doing. I was tempted to turn on them and shout I didn’t do it, but that would have just let them know they were getting to me. Instead, I got to work.

A few minutes later one big jerk from the football team walked up and kicked the bucket over. “Oops.” He grinned scornfully.

I’m not sure what he expected from me, but he didn’t get it. I walked over to him silently and stopped directly in front of him. He was almost a head taller than I, but I glared at him, looking directly in his eyes until he blinked. My voice grated as I said, “You blinked first. Go fill that bucket and bring it back here, now!”

The gallery went dead quiet as if anticipating an explosion. It didn’t come. The galoot picked up the bucket and headed for the faucet. I went back to applying the paint remover. The gallery broke up and headed for their cars. The big guy brought the filled bucket back and followed the crowd. Ingrid was the last to leave.

As she did, Dwayne Lindquist parked across the street and came over. He didn’t acknowledge Ingrid. Instead he came up to me. “Can you use some help?”

I smiled for the first time that day. “Gladly.”

A few minutes later the big guy came back and offered his help. The number of helpers grew to the point we were getting in each other’s way, and I had to turn some of them away. I thanked each one profusely. With all the help we were finished in a little over an hour. I thanked everyone who had helped and headed inside. Dwayne waited.

Dr. Ashworth looked stunned to see me so soon. He almost dragged me out to inspect the work. I had to struggle to keep from laughing as he first got as close as he could and looked the work over, even taking his glasses off to examine what we’d done. Then he moved around viewing from every angle. Finally, he stepped back frowning. “You were supposed to do this by yourself.”

“You didn’t say that, and I’m not a mind reader.”

“It was supposed to be punishment.”

“My job was to get the graffiti off the school wall. I did that. With help, yes, but not getting help wasn’t in the job description.”

He harrumphed. “Well, you can finish off your punishment with detention.”

I put my hands on my hips and faced him. “That wasn’t in the job description either. If you want to punish me further, you’ll have to take it up with my parents. For now I’m going home.”

I walked out of his office with him staring at me with his mouth open. Maybe it wasn’t the smartest move I could have made, but it sure felt good.

Dwayne helped me put the custodian supplies away and then drove me home. On a whim I leaned across the console and kissed him before I got out of his car. He acted surprised, but his eyes lit up. Before anything else was said or implied, I got out of the car. I waved goodbye and watched him drive off. Then I turned for the front door.

Mom was waiting for me. “You got home early.”

I could see the curiosity in her eyes. “That was Dwayne Lindquist. He and a few other students helped me get the paint off.”

“And drove you home,” she noted. “Do you like him?”

I thought about that. “Yes, but nothing serious.”

“Well, if you do, I suggest you try to keep out of trouble for a while.”

“Mom, you know I didn’t put that graffiti on the school.”

“I know that, and you know that, but staying out of trouble is the only way you’re going to convince your father. Come to think of it, he may be upset because you got off so easy.”

Now that was a pleasant thought, not!

Samantha – I Don’t Lie

Originally posted on February 27, 2017 by Gordon Savage

As far as the principal was concerned the initials by the graffiti were incontrovertible proof that Samantha was responsible. She protested that she didn’t do it, but to no avail.

I never did find out who actually put the graffiti on the school wall, but I suspect it was Ingrid Hoffman. She had broken up with her longtime boyfriend, Dwayne Lindquist, and he had taken an interest in me. When he did and she noticed it, she stopped me in the hall.

Her face was red and her eyebrows furrowed. Her voice reminded me of a snake’s hiss. “You keep your hands off Dwayne, or you’ll be sorry, you hear?”

I admit I don’t take kindly to threats. I put my hands on my hips and stared her in the eye. “Are you threatening me? You don’t decide who Dwayne takes an interest in. He does, and he says you’re the one who broke up with him. So buzz off.”

She must have initially thought she could intimidate me. When I glared down on her, I think it scared her. She stepped back looking shocked, but she made one last attempt. “You’re going to be sorry.” She turned and stalked off, clearly fuming.

I know, circumstantial evidence, and it really didn’t matter. I was the one who got the blame for the graffiti. Dr. Ashworth was sure I was the one who did it, and he refused to even consider anyone else. He called my mother and demanded she come to his office. Then he took my phone and sat me down on the same bench I had waited on before. He handed the phone to Ms. Farrow and stomped into his office.

Mom showed up with Father thirty minutes later. While Mom checked in with Ms. Farrow, Father came over to where I sat. He stood in front of me with a scowl on his face. “Now what the hell have you done?”

I stood up, partly out of habit and partly because I felt less overawed that way. I couldn’t keep the anger out of my voice. “Someone spray painted graffiti on the front of the school and signed it with my initials. I didn’t do it.”

“Don’t lie to me.”

That made me even angrier. “I … don’t … lie! … Ever!” I glared back at him.

Ms. Farrow broke us up. “Principal Ashworth will see you now, all three of you.”

Instead of asking Mom and Father to sit down, Dr. Ashworth stood up and delivered my sentence. I was to come in on Saturday with paint remover and other appropriate cleaning material and remove the graffiti. Any further offenses on my part would be grounds for suspension.

What hurt most was that neither Mom nor Father offered any objection or defense for me. They believed I was guilty. Well, Father did anyway. That evening he notified me that my grounding would be extended another month and dismissed me.

I stood my ground. “You’re not listening to me. Why don’t you believe me when I say I didn’t do it?”

He started to walk away without saying another word.

I raised my voice. “I didn’t do it.”

He stopped and faced me. “After all the trouble you’ve gotten into lately, it’s hard to know what to believe.”

What to believe? I had long before learned better than to lie. I challenged him. “Did I lie to you about going to the mall? Did I lie to you when I pulled that stunt with the police car? I don’t lie. You taught me well.”

A strange expression flickered across his face and disappeared into his unemotional expression. For a second I thought I had hit a nerve, but he turned and walked away.

I was furious. “Don’t you walk out on me!”

He faced me again. He barked, “That’ll do! I’ll not take any more excuses from you, and don’t you ever try to order me around, young lady! Now get up to your room before I add another month to your grounding.”

The tone of his voice was absolutely frightening, and I knew I had lost my last chance to get him to listen. I ran up the stairs with blinding tears in my eyes and plopped down on my bed sobbing.

A few minutes later Mom knocked on my door. “May I come in?”

I peered up at her in the doorway. She seemed genuinely distressed. Finally, I realized I wasn’t mad at her and nodded weakly.

Stepping into my room, she closed the door and walked over to the bed. She sat down beside me and stroked my hair. “It’s not the end of the world you know.”

I was tempted to bury my face in her shoulder and just cry it out, but I resisted the urge and choked out, “It’s not the punishment. It’s the fact that you and my father don’t believe me. I’ve never lied to you, not ever. You know that.”

“Yes, I know that, dear. I’ve tried to tell that to Brian, but he won’t listen. I think you’ve hurt him the past few months and he no longer trusts you.”

I realized she might be right, but it wasn’t fair. I don’t lie.

Samantha – I Didn’t Do It

Originally posted on February 20, 2017 by Gordon Savage

Samantha had had a good scare. She had also violated her curfew and she knew she was in real trouble. Instead of chewing her out on the way home, her father let her stew. By the time they pulled into the garage, she was in tears.

I was afraid to get out of the car because I knew what was coming. Father walked around to the passenger side and, after he opened the door for Mom, he opened my door. Grim faced, he pointed at the doorway into the house. Reluctantly I released my seatbelt and followed Mom in.

Inside, Father pointed to the living room. I headed that way knowing I had better not say anything. I stopped in front of the couch and stood at attention, showing I knew what was coming – but I didn’t. He walked around me as though I was being inspected. Finally, he stopped in front of me. I stared straight ahead, which meant I was looking at his mouth.

The lines around it were hard, and his brows were furrowed. “You know how much trouble you’re in.” It wasn’t a question. “You broke curfew by a whole hour before you harassed two police officers. You drug one of your friends in with you and got her in trouble as well. What do you have to say for yourself?”

I knew that whatever I said wouldn’t absolve me. “I … have no excuse, sir. I screwed up.”

He surprised me by smiling. “I don’t know what to do with you. That prank was so funny, but you did break curfew.” He paused briefly. “Do you have any excuse for breaking curfew?”

“No sir, I just wasn’t watching my time.”

My answer seemed to satisfy him. “Okay. Here’s what we’re going to do. For blowing curfew you’re grounded for the next six weeks.” Six weeks! No way! I did a quick check of my mental calendar. That meant I’d miss the homecoming dance. I almost objected, but he continued, and was I glad he did. “However, your prank was harmless and actually kind of clever, so I’m knocking two weeks off. You’re grounded for a month.”

He must have seen my relief. “But I want to make something very clear. The legal definition of harassment requires it to be repeated. That, and the fact that this was your first run in with the police, was the reason you got off with a warning. Any new pranks on the police, and not necessarily the same kind, could legally be classified as harassment. So be careful around the police. Do you understand?”

All I could do was nod.

“Good, now get to bed. … We’ll go pick up the Mustang from impound tomorrow. Incidentally, any cost comes out of your allowance.”

––– # –––

I was so relieved I missed that last part and went right to sleep. Father knocked on my door at six in the morning. After breakfast we went straight to the impound lot and picked up the Mustang. There were no fines, but there was a towing fee. $90 took a healthy toll on my allowance.

It didn’t matter much. I was stuck in the house or at school for the next month. Unfortunately, trouble was waiting for me at school. It hit two weeks into my grounding.

“Samantha Pederson report to the principal’s office.” The announcement came over the public address while I was putting my books away for lunch. What now? I closed my locker and made my way to the school offices.

Ms. Farrow was standing at the counter when I came in. She was a heavy set woman in her late fifties. She was wearing a green sheath that did nothing to hide her bulges. Her hair was died auburn and she wore it shoulder length. Her eyes were a pale brown, and I could catch the glint of contacts in them. “The principal wants to see me?” I made it a question.

She pointed to a bench across from the counter. “Have a seat. I’ll notify Principal Ashworth you’re here.”

I sat … and waited. It was at least fifteen minutes before Dr. Ashworth came out of his office. Stern faced, bald, and overweight, he walked up to me like a charging rhino. He was wearing a dress shirt and a tie, and I could see where the shirt was soaked with sweat under his armpits. “Come with me young lady.” He headed for the door without slowing down. I had to rush to catch up.

We went out the front entrance and turned left. A few feet from the steps he pointed to the brick wall. “What’s the meaning of this?” It was a spray painted version of a quote from Winston Churchill, “Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.”

“It’s a quote from Churchill. He claimed that people avoid the truth they don’t want to believe.”

He smiled at me ravenously as if I had just swallowed the bait. “So you know this quote?”

“One of my favorites.”

His smile became even more predatory. He pointed to the end of the quote. There were three letters: “SRP.” “Aren’t those your initials, Samantha Ruth Pederson?”

I’m not slow. I just hadn’t noticed them. A chill went through me. “Now wait a minute. I didn’t write that.”

He stood with his hands on his hips and continued smiling as if he had just tricked me into confessing. “I checked. You are the only student in the school with those initials, and you just admitted it’s your favorite quote.”

“But I didn’t write that, and if I had I certainly would not have been stupid enough to end it with my own initials.”

“Who else would have a reason to put your initials there?” He turned toward the steps. “Come along. I need to talk to your parents.”

“But I didn’t do it.”

Samantha – The Prank, Part 2

Originally posted on February 13, 2017 by Gordon Savage

Samantha had never been this frightened. The police were taking them to jail and the sentence could be six months.

As soon as he started driving, the tall policeman commented to the other, “I don’t see any reason to bother a magistrate at this hour, do you? I mean we have them dead to rights.”

The other guy considered for a minute. “You’re right. It can wait till morning.”

It only took a few minutes to drive to the police station. They unstrapped us and had us get out of the cruiser. The tall guy grabbed me by the upper arm, and the other one did the same with Renee.

I was terrified but under control. Renee was crying. “Please, it was just a prank. No one was hurt.”

They removed the handcuffs. We were fingerprinted, photographed, and relieved of our purses and the stuff in our pockets. Then they sat us each down at a phone and said, “Make your call. I’d suggest to your parents.”

This was worse than the ride over. I had been terrified before, but now I had to talk to my family and tell them I was under arrest. Trembling, I dialed our number. Naturally Father answered. “Admiral Pederson.”

I broke down. My tears started flowing, and I choked up. I was so scared I forgot to call him Father. “… Daddy … Renee and I are in jail. … Please come and get us out.”

“What!” I had to jerk the phone away from my ear. He was so loud I could hear him with the phone in front of me. “You’re in jail?”

I was tongue-tied. “I … We … Uh …” I was scared to death and couldn’t get out anything meaningful.

After a few seconds Father’s voice came back, quieter, deadly calm, and strangely resigned. “Tell me where you are.”

I put my hand over the mouth piece and turned to the tall cop. “Where are we?”

“Tell him you’re across I-64 from the municipal airport.”

I did.

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes. Don’t do anything to get in more trouble.” He hung up.

I put the phone down, still shaking.

Renee had finished her call as well. The older policeman led us through a locked door into a long corridor. There were two cushioned benches along one wall. A woman sat on one of them. The first thing I noticed was her bright red lipstick. She was wearing a black leather mini – make that micro – skirt, a bright pink top that exposed a bare midriff, knee high black boots, and black tights. Her bored expression brightened noticeably when she saw us.

The other bench was occupied by a disheveled man who appeared to be asleep, including a loud snore, so we had no choice but to sit next to the woman if we didn’t want to stand. She slid over and patted the bench next to her. “Hi, girls. They picked you up too, huh?”

As I sat, she looked me over thoroughly. “You girls are awfully young to be doing tricks. Take my advice and get out of the business now.”

I could feel my neck getting warm. I was blushing. She thought we were hookers! That meant she probably was one herself.

“So, how’d they catch you? They got me with an undercover cop.”

I was tempted to explain why we were there, but I didn’t see any point. I put my elbows on my knees and buried my face in my hands. Then I heard the man slurring, “My, my.”

When I craned my neck to see him, he was sitting up with a dazed expression. He continued his slurred speech. “They get younger every year. Sorry, girls I’m out of cash.”

Talk about adding insult to injury.

He swayed to his feet, and mumbled, “Where’s the restroom around here?” He turned and staggered down the hall away from us. When he reached the end of the hall, he opened a barred door and disappeared from sight. It took me a second to realize he had gone into a holding cell. In a moment I heard a zipper and then liquid flowing into a toilet. For some reason I was embarrassed for him.

He wobbled back and dropped onto his bench. “So we’re in jail? It’s better than lying in the street.” His speech was still slurred. He lay back down on the bench, and seconds later he was snoring again.

“Well, that was interesting,” the woman said. “You meet all kinds of characters in lock-up. If you have to keep doing johns, at least be careful.” She pointed to a scar on her left cheek. “I got this from a john who was arrested with me. He knocked me down while they were separating all of us into boy/girl cells. Of course, I have to be thankful he did it. The cops cleaned me up and let me go because of it.”

It seemed like hours later the locked door opened. The cop stood there and called, “Renee Williams, your parents are here. You’re going home.”

She jumped up and started for the door. Then she stopped and gave me an anguished smile. She mouthed, “Sorry, Sam,” and rushed to the door.

Great! Where were my parents?

The woman gave me a wide-eyed stare and said, “Parents? You’re not one of us?” She smiled. “Believe me, you don’t want to get into the business.”

We waited in silence for what felt like an hour. When the door finally opened, I jumped to my feet. The cop stayed there for seconds before he spoke. “Samantha Pederson. It’s your turn.”

I looked at the woman. “Good luck.” It was all I could think of to say. I headed for the door.

Father was there. He looked unemotional as I came out. I was so relieved that I ran to him and hugged him, forgetting how I wanted to punish him. “You are exceedingly lucky,” he said. “They won’t charge you … this time … but let it happen again … Honey, what were you thinking?”

“It was just a prank.” I stepped back. “Can I go home now?” Then I saw Mom waiting on the other side of the room.

He continued to watch me impassively. “You understand how much trouble you’re in at home? We’ll discuss your punishment on the way home. Now let’s get your stuff.”

Samantha – The Prank, Part 1

Originally posted on February 6, 2017 by Gordon Savage

I’m skipping the next few weeks. Samantha found out that being grounded was harder than she expected, but she gritted her teeth and didn’t complain – mainly to keep from upsetting her mother any more. As expected Bill found someone else to go to the movie with, although it wasn’t Lynda. She had moved on.

Samantha waited a whole two additional weeks before getting into trouble again. She managed to talk her mother into letting her take the Mustang convertible to a birthday party that was supposed to be over by 9:00 pm. She and Renee left shortly after ten, making her late for a curfew she had earned with her overstayed mall visit.

“Was that a great party or what?”

Renee was so exuberant that I couldn’t help but smile. I glanced at her. She had removed the scrunchie from her ponytail and her hair was swirling in the warm wind flowing over and around the windshield. As I came to a stop at the four way, I glanced past her and noticed a police car parked by the curb of the cross street. Its lights were off and for some reason the street lamps were off on that side of the road. I would have never noticed it if I hadn’t been looking right at it. I knew I had come to a complete stop. No problem. Then I thought, Hey, those guys are being sneaky. I’m going to teach them a lesson.

I drove on and turned right at the next intersection, being very careful to signal.

“What are you doing? Is something wrong with the car?” Renee went from giddy to serious in a flash.

“Did you notice those cops back there? They were hiding in the dark so anyone who didn’t stop wouldn’t see them.”

“So what’s another traffic trap?”

“I’m going to have some fun with them. Are you in?”

“What kind of fun?” She looked puzzled as I pulled up at the next corner. There wasn’t a stop sign, but I wasn’t taking chances.

“You’ll see.” I shut off the car’s lights—the mustang didn’t have running lights when I cut the switch off—and turned onto the cross street. When we turned onto the next street, I hugged the curb and eased forward until I was almost on their bumper. I stopped and simultaneously hit the horn and the passing lights.

I turned the lights back on and pulled out into the driving lane. We smiled and waved enthusiastically as we passed the cruiser. Being careful to stop completely at the intersection and signal, I made the turn onto the street we had been on. I had just started the turn when the police car’s bar lit up and the siren chirped.

Renee glanced over her shoulder. “Oh, boy. You’ve done it now.”

I pulled over to the curb. I fished my brand new license out of my wallet and had Renee pull the registration and insurance card from the glove box. In the side mirror I could see the driver of the police car get out. Tall and thin, he was kind of cute in his police uniform. Then I saw he had drawn his weapon. I turned my head so I could see the other officer. He was short and a little overweight. He stopped at the rear of the car with his pistol drawn. Both he and the cute guy had the angriest expressions I had ever seen. If it wasn’t for the guns, I would have laughed.

I smiled brightly at the tall guy as he walked up. “Hi, officer. Beautiful evening isn’t it.” I nodded at his gun. “Surely firearms aren’t necessary, are they?”

He didn’t smile, and his voice was stern. “Out of the car, now. Both of you.” He stepped back, still holding the gun at the ready.

My heart had started beating rapidly, and I could feel beads of sweat forming on my forehead. This wasn’t going like I had expected. Actually, I had expected to drive away and have a good laugh on the way home.

As soon as I closed the door, I asked, “Can you put that thing away? You’re making me nervous.”

“Turn around.”

I did.

“Now put your hands behind your back.”

I did, and he started putting handcuffs on me. I saw that the other officer was doing the identical thing with Renee. Her expression was pure terror, and I was beginning to feel the same way. “What’s going on? It was a harmless prank.”

“Harassing a police officer is a felony in this state.”

My stomach did a flip-flop, and I began to feel nauseated.

“It carries a mandatory six month sentence.”

Now I really felt sick.

He continued, “Where’s your license and registration?”

My voice trembled. “They’re on the driver’s seat. What are you going to do with us?”

He picked up the papers. “We’re going to take you into the station and book you.”

“For blowing the horn and flashing the lights?”

He picked up my purse and pulled the keys out of the ignition, and the other officer picked up Renee’s purse. “Let’s go.” He pushed me toward the police car, none too gently.

“Hey, you can’t leave the car with the top down.” I faced skyward. “It looks like it’s going to rain.”

“The tow truck driver will take care of it.”

The drive to the station was no picnic. They put us in seat belts but left our hands chained together behind our backs. I tried to make peace on the way in. “We’re sorry. It was just a joke.” Neither of them paid attention.