His mother did, in fact, want to hear how the appointment had gone. Timothy guessed, based on her body language and tone of voice as she asked, that she’d been somewhat worried that Dr. Putnam would disparage her unilateral ban on psychopharmacology. When Timothy told her that the doctor had been entirely on her side with respect to that issue, she seemed so relieved that Timothy felt the time was ripe for him to share the notion of meditation. He couldn’t recall the foreign word Dr. Putnam had used, but the concept of “mindfulness” seemed, at first glance, rather straightforward. His mother appeared not skeptical but rather more at a loss when Timothy told her, as best he could, what Dr. Putnam had shared with him about mindfulness meditation. She had, of course—like Timothy—heard of the term “meditation” before, but she had, if anything, less real awareness of it than he had. It was not that she had anything against it in particular. She was not religious, and so had no spiritual objections to the notion, though she would later tell Timothy in passing that she’d had an aunt who proclaimed with all seriousness that meditation and yoga were practices designed to leave one open for literal demonic possession. She quite frankly simply had no basis on which to evaluate the usefulness of the practice. So, in the end, she shrugged and told Timothy that she’d wait and see what Dr. Putnam said if and when he called.
While waiting for that call to come, Timothy had an episode that produced his first—though not too severe—run-in with the police.
He was on his way home from school one afternoon and approaching a crosswalk where the light was just turning green, the walk-sign quite clearly coming onto “walk”. Ahead of him he saw, as if in slow motion, a freshman—he assumed the boy must be a freshman, he barely looked old enough to be in high school—stepping into the crosswalk as the light turned, as obedient to traffic laws as one could hope for a young man to be. He also saw, all too clearly, a car approaching the intersection from the direction in which the light had just turned red. It was obviously not slowing down, but was, if anything, speeding up. Perhaps its driver was somehow processing everything with a few seconds’ delay, because whoever it was acted as if they were trying to beat a yellow light, when that light had very clearly turned. Perhaps that driver saw that there was not yet any cross-traffic, and so thought to speed through the red light before any arrived, which would happen within seconds. In any case, the driver was not watching for pedestrians, though the presence of the young boy, and of Timothy behind him, was plain, with nothing blocking them from view of any traffic.
Timothy could see what was about to happen. The boy was going to walk out into the crosswalk, following the rules just as he ought to do—somewhat oblivious of his surroundings, perhaps tired from the day’s activities—and he was going to be hit by the oncoming car, which was exceeding the speed limit even as it clearly meant to go through a red light.
Timothy did not think, but he took a springing step forward and seized hold of the freshman’s backpack, which was thankfully worn as it had been designed to be rather than over one shoulder. Using his greater weight, he threw himself backward, literally pulling the boy off his feet from where he had been, three or four feet into the intersection.
A comical “yawp!’ sound came from the boy’s mouth as he found himself flung backwards. His trailing foot missed striking the front fender of the speeding, light-running car—which looked to be a used Acura—by perhaps two inches. Then the boy stumbled backward onto the pavement, his backpack mostly breaking his fall, his reflexes preventing him from hitting his head.
Timothy, in the meantime, had already been planning his next move, though perhaps “planning” was probably not the correct term. Certainly, conscious thought had little involvement in the process. But he knew, in the global processing system that was his entire conscious and unconscious mind, that he was not merely going to do his best to pull the unwitting young student out of harm’s way. Thus, when he yanked backward, he did so with a twist of his body, so that instead of falling backward into him, the boy sailed past his left side.
A trained judo practitioner could hardly have done better.
Then, even as the boy sailed past to stumble to the ground, Timothy spun, thoughtlessly dropped his own book bag, and reoriented down the street, taking off running almost in the same instant, chasing the rear of the offending vehicle.
Whereas some others might have begun hurling invectives, knowing that their cause was impossible, using shouted profanity as at least a release of emotion, Timothy simply howled in fury, by no means ceding the battle. He fully intended—at whatever level intentions were operative—to catch up with the car and to pound it and its driver into unrecognizable pieces.
To the minor credit of the driver, the car slowed down and almost stopped not long after having run the red light. Possibly the driver had realized finally that, but for Timothy’s presence, his or her car would have struck and possibly killed a high school student, in the process of running a red light. It was impossible to say whether it was the illegality of that situation or the simple matter of the driver’s conscience that mattered most. Whatever the case, whoever it was seemed to want at least to stop and catch his or her wits.
Then, undoubtedly, the driver both heard and saw Timothy approaching.
As oblivious as the driver had been either to Timothy or the other boy when going through the light, it was impossible to miss the evidence of complete, irrational rage in Timothy’s form. A charging Hun on horseback with a drawn sword could hardly have been more obvious in his willingness and intent to cause death and destruction.
The Acura spun back into full motion just in time, when Timothy was only a few yards away from its rear-end. Whether he would have sprung up onto the car’s trunk or would have gone around the side to the driver’s side door was unclear. He could not have told someone if they had asked. It was a moot question, though, because he couldn’t quite reach the car as it sped back into motion, the two-lane road on which they both proceeded thankfully not at all congested nor marked by many stop signs.
Timothy, still not really thinking, almost stumbled as the car moved forward. This diverted his gaze downward, and he saw some rocky debris, the sort that was so common in that area. Barely slackening his pace, he stooped and grabbed a fist-sized rock that was really a bit of discarded concrete from some past construction project. As he ran, he continued to yell, as best his lungs would allow him while still keeping him breathing to suit his fast pace.
As he ran, he pulled his arm back and let fly with the stone he’d picked up. The road was straight and, though not a frequent participant in any organized sports, Timothy was reasonably good at such things. The car, drawing steadily away, with still far from a stone’s throw’s distance, and the rock cracked heartily against the rear window of the vehicle. It didn’t do a lot of damage; the car was pulling away, so the missile’s relative velocity was significantly reduced, and it wasn’t all that heavy a rock to begin with. Nevertheless, a mark was made, with some minor spider-webbing around it.
Timothy, not at all satisfied—not really even conscious of the mark he’d made—continued to run and to yell.
The Acura, after being hit by the rock, began to slow just a bit. Perhaps the driver considered stopping and facing the mad young man pursuing him on foot in a traffic lane, inflamed enough by the fact that the car had been damaged to be willing to face the pursuer. This would have been foolish; injuries would certainly have accrued, likely to both parties, and the risk of a fatal encounter was not zero.
Not even close.
But just as that began to happen, lights and a siren sprung up from a cross street, and a local police car pulled out, the officer apparently having seen Timothy hurl his rock at the fleeing Acura. The car, or rather its driver, guessing correctly that it was not the target of the police vehicle, renewed its faster pace—this time staying well within the speed limit—and continued to pull away.
The police car pulled fully into the lane behind Timothy, giving almost comical chase to this teenager who, despite being healthy and enraged, was not even approaching twenty miles per hour. Timothy might have been deaf and blind for all that he reacted to the vehicle behind him. When the police car’s loudspeaker rang out, “Hey, kid, stop right there!” it might have been the twittering of a passing bird for all the notice Timothy took of it.
An oncoming car passed, and then there was a long clear space in opposing traffic, helped by the fact of the cop car’s siren and lights. The policeman skillfully pulled into the left lane, passed Timothy, and then pulled back into the right lane coming to a halt a few dozen yards ahead of him.
To the police officer’s likely surprise, Timothy did not break pace. He simply dodged around the police car on the right, instinctively avoiding any oncoming traffic, and continued on his way. His eyes were fixed on the receding rear-end of the offending Acura, and his mind was even more focused. He did not take time to secure another missile, for that would have further opened the gap between him and his impossible target.
It didn’t take the officer long to readjust tactics. The police car quickly pulled back into motion, drove back around Timothy and got far enough ahead of him that, by the time it stopped, the officer—a young, physically fit man—had time to race out of his car and move around its front to intercept Timothy. He seemed to recognize that words would be pointless, so he didn’t call for Timothy to stop this time.
He almost missed. To his credit, he didn’t draw his gun, nor even his Taser or pepper-spray. Instead, he went into a low crouch and, even as Timothy moved to go around him, plainly not recognizing him as a person, let alone an officer of the law, he dove sideways into Timothy, taking him down onto the grassy berm.
Timothy was not deterred. He tried immediately to return to his feet, barely noticing the officer except as an obstacle. This caught the policeman off-guard, and he almost lost control, but he was able to seize Timothy by the ankle, bringing him down onto his face in the grass. From this position, Timothy barely lost a beat before scrambling with his hands and his free leg to try to keep moving forward.
The officer quickly grabbed Timothy by the waistband of his jeans, holding him in place, saying, “Jesus, kid, stop it! I don’t want to have to cuff you, but I will if you don’t stop.”
Timothy did not yet recognize what was happening, except to understand that his quarry, the Acura, was now turning onto a side-street and would be out of sight in seconds.
He howled a bit more loudly now, his breath freed from the need to run, and he scrambled harder, almost freeing his leg and beginning to pull his pants down.
The officer, grunting, “Motherfucker!” more at the situation than at Timothy, quickly shifted himself until he was sitting on Timothy’s thighs. Timothy was not small for his age, but he was outweighed by the officer by a good fifty pounds or more. There was no way for him to escape. This did not stop him from trying. He continued to scratch at the grass with his arms, trying to pull himself forward, while fruitlessly wiggling his legs, enraged that the Acura was getting away…indeed, had more or less gotten away at the point.
“Christ, what the hell are you on?” the officer said, and with some resignation, he pulled his handcuffs from where they were stored on his belt. He seized Timothy’s scrambling right hand, correctly guessing that it was the dominant one, and snapped one cuff around that wrist. He pulled it back now, not without strain, and then grabbed Timothy’s other arm, yanking it to meet its counterpart, and snapped the other cuff on it. It was not as easy a task as it would normally have been for a good-sized, muscular officer to overpower a sixteen-year-old boy, but the contest wasn’t in real doubt.
Timothy growled in outrage, his fury wanting at least to find some outlet. To the officer’s sincere surprise and beginning fear, Timothy bit into the grass on which his face was pressed, and he yanked a tuft out with his teeth, shaking his head back and forth like a shark.
“What the hell…” the officer said. He was reaching for his walkie-talkie to call in for assistance and probably an ambulance for eventual psychiatric referral in addition to drug testing when he heard the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps.
Shifting his hand to the butt of his sidearm, still keeping his weight on Timothy, the officer twisted to his right. He relaxed a bit when he saw that the approaching steps were made by the running feet of another teenager, noticeably younger and smaller than Timothy, this one wearing one backpack and carrying another. He was panting with what was clearly unaccustomed exertion.
“Officer!” he gasped as he approached, slowing down as he saw the policeman’s hand touch his pistol. “Officer, it’s okay. That kid…that kid just saved my life.” As if in afterthought, he put the second backpack—Timothy’s backpack, which he’d picked up from where Timothy had dropped it—down and raised both his hands.
The officer, almost moved to laughter by the comical image of this young, skinny kid raising his hands as if he were a suspect—even as he realized with some horror that it had been the smart thing for the boy to do—asked, “What are you talking about?”
“I’m serious,” the newcomer panted. “I was just crossing the street back there, and that car…that one that went off that way…” He gestured in the general direction of where the Acura had gone and turned, leading the officer to glance that way before returning his gaze to the new boy. “…ran the red light. Really fast. If that kid there hadn’t grabbed me by the backpack and yanked me backwards, it would’ve hit me. I’d probably be dead.”
The cop looked incredulously down at Timothy, who apparently had taken another bite of turf, but had recognized it for what it was and was spitting it out, not growling as much.
“This kid?” the policeman asked.
“Yeah,” the newcomer replied, already beginning to catch his breath. “He pulled me back away, and then he took off right after the car.” He looked down at Timothy, a bit of troubled doubt on his face, as he added, “I guess he was really pissed…I mean angry at the guy for running the light and then taking off.”
Something in the boy’s retelling of these events began to penetrate the swirling cloud of red-black anger that dominated Timothy’s awareness. He slowly came to realize that he was on his front, face down in the grass, with a man sitting on his legs and his hands bound behind him.
The cop looked down at Timothy again, then back up at the new boy. “Do you know him?” he asked.
“Not really,” the boy said. “I mean, I think I’ve seen him before. We walk home the same way. I mean, he goes to my school and everything, but he’s not in the same year as me.”
Looking down at Timothy then back up at the newcomer, the officer asked, “So I guess you wouldn’t know whether he uses any kind of drugs, would you?”
The boy looked painfully uncertain about how he should proceed, but the sincerity of his words was plain as he said, “No, I wouldn’t. I’m sorry. I mean…I’ve never seen him act anything but normal, and…I mean, he’s always by himself when I see him walking home, but he never seems to be causing trouble or anything.”
Both the boy and the officer started slightly when Timothy’s muffled voice said, “I don’t do drugs.”
The officer, looking down at Timothy now, cocked an eyebrow. He asked, “Oh, are you going to talk in real words now? What did you say?”
“I said, I don’t do drugs,” Timothy replied, his voice clearer now, as he lifted his head a bit from the grass. His embarrassment was intense, and it made his subsequent sentence feel ironic even to himself as he followed up with, “Even prescription drugs make me act crazy.”
Timothy couldn’t see the officer’s face, but he could well imagine the look that went with his comment, “Drugs make you act crazy? Are you saying this is you not crazy?”
Timothy could hardly fault the officer for his incredulity, but it still felt absolutely humiliating to be asked that question. He was gradually coming to a recognition of the identity, or at least the job, of the man who was holding him where he was, and this added to his mortification. He was also finally beginning to process consciously what had happened in the preceding moments, which couldn’t have been more than a minute from the time the car ran the red light.
“Yes,” he said, finally. His voice was muffled again, because he planted his face back in the grass. The smell of the soil was rather soothing, but the bitter residua of the taste of grass in his mouth reminded of just how mad he must have seemed. “This is me not crazy.”
He heard the other boy, whose voice did not sound familiar at all, but whose identity was clear, say, “Honest, officer. He really did save my life. I’d be dead if he hadn’t pulled me back.”
“Okay,” the officer said. “I believe you. That doesn’t change the fact that you…” he gently prodded Timothy in the back, apparently not quite ready to let him up “…threw a rock at a car and then tried to…well, I guess you could call it resisting arrest.”
Timothy couldn’t argue. He simply said, “I know. But…I really didn’t know what I was doing. Or…well, I really couldn’t…I couldn’t stop myself.”
“Yeah, well, I can believe that,” the officer said. After a brief pause, he added, “If I let you up, are you going to sit here quietly?”
“Yes,” Timothy replied. “I will.”
His voice, hoarse from recent yelling, must have been convincing enough, for the officer almost immediately shifted and rose, firmly but gently helping him to turn over and sit up. He cocked his head and gazed intently at Timothy before asking, “Is it safe to take the handcuffs off?”
“Yes,” Timothy replied with a nod. “I wouldn’t try to hurt you or anything.”
The officer gave a humorless chuckle and said, “I wasn’t really worried about that. I was more worried about you trying to run away.” Timothy watched as the officer pulled out a key ring with numerous items on it that did not look like normal keys to him. He couldn’t see which implement was used, but the officer leaned behind him, half-crouching, half-sitting on the grass, and soon Timothy felt a release in pressure from the metallic rings around first his left then his right wrist. He brought his hands around in front of him, morbid curiosity leading him to look for any marks the cuffs might have left, but there were none.
The officer, putting his cuffs back in the pouch where they belonged, turned to the other boy and he said, “I guess you can head on home, if you’re up to it. You feel okay? You’re not hurt, are you?”
“No, I’m fine,” the boy said, then added, “thanks to him.” After a few seconds he asked, “Do you…like, not need me to…to make a statement or something?”
The officer chuckled again, this time sounding honestly amused, and he said, “No, I don’t think so. I don’t think I’m going to be making any arrests here today. But thank you. You’ve saved your friend here a lot of trouble.”
Timothy expected the boy to protest that he was not his friend, but instead, the response was, “Well, it was the least I could do. Seriously, I probably would be dead now if he hadn’t been there.”
The officer nodded, and the boy moved as if to turn, then he looked down, picked up the backpack he’d dropped and said, “This is his book bag. I…I didn’t want anyone to steal it or anything.”
“Right you are,” the officer said. He reached out an arm, and the boy handed him the bag, which he put down on the grass beside him. “Thanks again. You get on home now, okay?”
“Thanks,” the boy said.
“And do watch for traffic, all right?” the officer said. “I’m going to talk to your friend here for a few minutes, so he’s not going to be around to watch your back.”
Timothy expected an offended response from the boy, but instead the officer’s comment drew a laugh that was stronger than it ought to have been, plainly boosted by relief and a bit too much adrenaline. “Yeah,” the boy said. “I’ll do that.” He gave a thumbs up, then, looking at Timothy, he said, “Thank you,” before heading back the way he came.
When the boy was out of earshot, the officer—who had turned to look at him with a serious but not unkind expression—asked Timothy, “What’s your name?”
Timothy, oddly surprised that the officer hadn’t added the word “son” to the end of his query, though there was almost no way the man was old enough to have fathered a sixteen-year-old, said, “Timothy.”
“Timothy…?” the officer repeated, trailing off, his meaning obvious.
Timothy, wishing he could do otherwise but certainly not willing to stonewall the officer, grumbled, “Timothy Outlaw.”
The officer raised his eyebrows, drew back his head and nodded slowly. “Ah,” he said, clearly recognizing why Timothy might feel embarrassed to admit his last name given the circumstances. “Well, Timothy…do you do this sort of thing often?”
Timothy was going to say that he did it far more often than he wished, but then it occurred to him that the specific meaning of the officer’s question was not absolutely clear. “Which sort of thing do you mean?” he asked.
“I mean saving other kid’s lives and then trying to chase down the people who put them in danger,” the officer said.
“Oh,” Timothy said. “No. I think…this is the first time. That I’ve saved anyone’s life, I mean. If I really did.”
“He seemed to think you did,” the officer said. “And I don’t have any reason not to believe him. Obviously, the driver of that car did something that really got you mad.”
“Yeah,” Timothy mumbled. “He was a real…jerk.” He assumed that the driver of the car had been a man, but he supposed it was just as possible that it could have been a woman. It would hardly have made a difference to him in the heat of the moment.
The officer sighed, and then he said, “Well, I can understand you being angry. But it’s a little bit nuts to go chasing after a car on foot…and it’s really not good to be throwing rocks at a car. You could’ve caused an accident, yourself, you know. And you could’ve gotten hit by a car yourself, running in the street like that.”
“I don’t care about that,” Timothy said.
“What do you mean?” the officer asked. “That you don’t care about causing an accident, or that you don’t care about getting hit by a car?”
Eager to correct any misapprehension, Timothy said, “No, I definitely wouldn’t want to cause an accident. That’d be really bad. I mean I wouldn’t care if I got hit by a car.”
He thought his words were morally unassailable, but the officer looked honestly troubled. “Well, you should care,” he said. “I would care if you got hit by a car, and not just because it’s my job to try to keep things like that from happening. And I’m pretty sure your friend there would care.” He nodded over his shoulder in the general direction of the receding back of the boy Timothy had grabbed out of traffic.
“He’s not really my friend,” Timothy said. “I mean, nothing against him, I don’t mean that. I just mean that I don’t know him.”
“No, I get that,” the officer said. “But I doubt he’d think of you as anything less than a friend, either.”
Timothy, embarrassed in a new way now, shrugged. “I don’t think I make a very good friend.”
“Is that right?” the officer asked. After a moment, he added, “Did you know who I was, or what I was, when I tried to stop you?”
Timothy’s embarrassment grew stronger still, and he looked down at the grass in front of him as he muttered, “Not really. I don’t think…I wasn’t really thinking about anything else but that car. I mean, I guess I wasn’t really thinking at all.”
The officer nodded, tilting his head, looking quite thoughtful—Timothy watched him from the corner of his eye, more closely than he probably seemed to be watching. He was surprised by how forgiving and understanding the officer was being. He supposed, if the other boy hadn’t come and made his declarations, things would have gone quite differently, and he would probably still be in handcuffs. Still, this police officer was quite impressive; he seemed more thoughtful and even minded than most of Timothy’s teachers, an impression he would not have guessed based on the characterizations of police officers he’d seen in the media.
“You said that even prescription drugs make you act crazy,” the officer said. “I guess that means you’ve been put on prescription drugs before?”
Timothy, not liking to think about the changes that had happened to his thoughts in the brief period of his antidepressant trial, just nodded.
“If you don’t mind my asking,” the officer said, “what was it for? I mean…ADHD, seizures, something like that?”
Timothy was surprised by the officer’s apparently knowledgeability, but he supposed he really had no idea what might be important for a cop to know. He shook his head and said, “No, I don’t have seizures. They checked for that. And they checked for tumors and things, too. And I’m pretty sure I don’t have any attention deficit thing…I mean, I’ve never had any troubles keeping up in class or paying attention or anything.”
“I see,” the officer said. “But it sounds like somebody thought something was going on, since I don’t think most kids your age are thinking about tumors, for crying out loud.”
With a single breath of mordant laughter, Timothy said, “No, I guess not.”
“So…what is it?” the officer asked.
Timothy idly wondered if the man wasn’t getting tired squatting there in the grass next to an insane sixteen-year-old, but the officer gave no sign of fatigue. He must’ve been very fit, again belying much of the stereotypical donut-eating impression popular culture gave of many local police officers. He wished he didn’t have to embarrass himself in front of such a person, who did a job with which he himself could surely never safely be entrusted. Unfortunately, there was no excuse not to answer, and he felt no sense of proprietary privacy regarding his actions. “It’s…well, it’s like what you saw,” he said. “I kind of…lose my temper.”
“You lose your temper?” the officer asked, clearly expecting more.
“Yeah,” Timothy simply replied.
Plainly not satisfied, the officer said, “Everyone loses their temper. I’m guessing your situation is a little more extreme than just that.”
“Yeah,” Timothy admitted. “I get…well, I mean, I guess you saw. I just…when something sets me off in just the right way, I just…I go nuts. I mean, I just kind of stop being able to think or to control myself, and I just…I just want to hurt things…to break things.”
With a tilt of his head, the officer said, “By ‘things’ I’m guessing you mean ‘people,’ don’t you?”
“Well…yeah,” Timothy said. “Pretty much. I mean, it’s only people that usually get me mad that way. When I was on that Paxil stuff, I also got mad at these wasps, but that was…that was different. I wouldn’t normally be bothered by them, because they’re just…just animals, just bugs, you know? But people do…well, they do stupid and mean things, and they hurt other people, and it really…I don’t know. I just lose it.”
“Yes, so I see,” the officer said. He paused thoughtfully for a moment, then said, “Well, like I said, I get you being mad at the person who nearly ran your friend down. And I wish I’d seen it, because I would’ve chased them down, and they’d be who I was dealing with now. You didn’t happen to get their license plate number, did you?”
“No,” Timothy admitted with shame. “I didn’t…I don’t notice stuff like that. I don’t even know what kind of car it was.”
“I’m not too surprised,” the officer said. “You were like a wild animal there. I’ve never quite seen anything like it. Have you ever…hurt anyone? Or yourself?”
“I…well, I mean, I broke my hand, before, and I’ve…I’ve hurt people some. A little. Nothing too bad. But, like I said, I’m not a very good friend.”
“Meaning you’ve hurt a friend before?” the officer asked.
“Yeah,” Timothy said, feeling an odd satisfaction in being brutally, uncompromisingly accusatory toward himself. “I hurt my friend. I…well, I hurt myself a lot more that time. But I deserved it, so that’s okay.”
The officer paused for a moment, then said, “I know a lot of defense attorneys who’d say that, if you can’t control yourself, and it’s not what you’d decide to do if you were able to decide, then you don’t really deserve anything bad. I’ve never been very sympathetic to that point of view, but…well, in your case, I have to admit, it sure didn’t seem like you were in control of yourself.”
Timothy shrugged. “I should be,” he said.
The officer shrugged almost identically and said, “We all should be a lot of things. I, for instance, should be moving my car out of traffic.”
Timothy, following the officer’s verbal lead, looked up and for the first time really connected to the fact that the officer had parked his cruiser, lights still flashing, in the road. He had pulled it somewhat to the side, but anyone driving in that direction still needed to go around it, which required waiting for oncoming traffic to clear. It was not a terribly busy place and time for traffic, but nevertheless there was beginning to be a slight backup.
Timothy, mortified that he was the indirect cause of such a problem, shook himself and said, “Oh, crap. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it,” the officer said. He rose to his feet quickly and easily, neither grunting nor even giving any particularly strong exhalation. “Some things are worth a little inconvenience.” He held out a hand to help Timothy up, which Timothy took, rising to his feet easily. His legs felt a slight post-exertion heaviness, and he suspected that he’d be a little sore later, at least for a while.
Once they were both upright, the officer turned to look down at Timothy, who realized for the first time just how tall the man was. “Listen,” the officer said, “I know this may not be useful, but…well, who knows, maybe every little bit chips away at whatever’s going on and will help you get control of this thing that’s bothering you. But look, it’s pretty obvious that you’re a good kid. I mean, you didn’t lose your temper over some girl, or over someone looking at you funny or anything like that.”
Timothy thought forcefully and shamefully of the time he had tried to hurt Earl over misusing his name for the amusement of other boys, but he didn’t correct the officer.
The officer went on, “You lost your temper over someone doing something really stupid and dangerous that could have killed somebody…that probably would have killed somebody, or badly hurt somebody, if you hadn’t been there. And, you saved that kid’s life first. So, whatever it is that’s causing you this problem, that’s so bad that they’ve looked for tumors and seizures and everything…and I’m here to tell you, you were definitely off your nut there for a minute…but whatever it is, it’s not all bad. Or at least, you’re not all bad, so whatever sets it off isn’t going to be all bad. Not all the time.
“Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, that you’re not a bad person. I haven’t been a cop for that long, but I’ve seen a few truly bad people. Not very many, thank God. Turns out most of the time when people do bad things, they’re just being stupid, or feel trapped, or aren’t thinking very straight…probably even the person driving that car was that way. Which doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be punished, but it does mean that they’re not evil. And neither are you.”
Timothy, who had never really thought of himself in terms of good or evil, anyway, but just in terms of destructive versus constructive, said simply, “Yeah, I guess so.”
The officer frowned a little, obviously wishing he could somehow say more, or perhaps that he knew what to say. He looked back at his car, and Timothy wondered if he was going to offer to drive him to his house, and maybe wait around to meet his mother. That would be a problem, of course, since his mother wasn’t due home for a few more hours, but it was a moot point. The officer said, “Well, I’m going to get going. I’m not going to ask you to follow up with me or anything, and I don’t think I’m even going to write up anything about this. Though, if I see you on the streets, I might give a honk and a wave, if that’s okay with you.”
Timothy, very surprised that this was offered as something he could refuse, nodded and said, “Sure. Yeah, that’s fine.”
“Thanks,” the officer said. “I’d like to be able to at least keep a weather eye on you here and there. Not that I think I need to worry much, but…I’d hate to see anything bad happen to you.”
Timothy thought he was far more likely to do something bad than to have something bad happen to him, but he didn’t correct the officer. Instead, he simply said, “Thank you.”
He thought the officer could tell that he wasn’t thinking very good things about himself, but no further comment was made. The man nodded, offered a hand for Timothy to shake—which Timothy took and shook as per protocol—and said, “Be careful, okay. Go straight home.”
“Right,” Timothy said. And, after he watched the officer get in his car, shut off his flashing lights, and drive off, that was just what he did.
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