“What’s up?” Pumpkin says over and over with a quick nod of his head to the teenagers walking past us. They nod in return, some calling him Dough Boy, some call him Young Blood.
“Do you know every juvenile delinquent in Toledo?” I ask.
We are waiting to meet his new probation officer. There is a lot of traffic in the courthouse today. Lawyers, parents, offenders, clerks of court, probation officers and police officers run from one counter to another. Some are huddled in groups, talking before going into court. Every now and then you hear, “Boy, what the hell?” hollered right before a mom smacks a “boy” who stands taller than her and is covered in tattoos. Most of the parents are hearing the full story about their kid’s charges for the first time from court appointed lawyers. Kids sure don’t look like kids anymore. They say hormones in factory farmed milk causes eleven year old girls to have boobs and hips. What I want to know, is what causes these boys to have tattoos, attitudes and beards?
Finally, after forty-five minutes of waiting, a bald Hispanic man wearing a stripped suite with a matching handkerchief in the pocket and Stacy Adams shoes calls Pumpkin’s government name. We get up and walk toward him. He immediately looks Pumpkin in the eye and extends his hand. Pumpkin mumbles, “What’s up?” as he shakes his hand. Without letting go of pumpkin’s hand or breaking eye contact the man says, “My name is Billy Rodriguez, I was born in New York City, I believe in God and I ain’t afraid of you.”
Oh, shit. This man takes his job seriously. He won’t just push Trey through the paces and release him from probation. Trey does not do well with authority, obviously. As we follow Mr. Rodriguez to his office to go over the terms of probation, people greet him saying, “Hey, Preacher.” He nods and shakes a few hands.
“Preacher?” I ask.
“Yes, I am also pastor. Attending my services counts towards community service hours,” he says.
“She doesn’t believe in God,” Trey announces, trying to move the focus to me.
“I was talking to you. She didn’t break the law, she doesn’t have community service hours, you do.” I mouth the word asshole to Trey. He shakes his head yes, pointing at Mr. Rodriguez’s back. I shake my head no and point back at Trey. He smiles.
We get to his office and sit down. As soon as Mr. Rodriguez shuts the door Trey begins, “I was thinking…”
“Let me stop you right there, young man. I don’t care what you were or are thinking. You have a thinking problem, that’s why you are here. And I am here to tell you what you are going to do. Understand?” he looks at Trey waiting for him to acknowledge that he indeed does understand. Trey stares at him. I know what he is doing; he is running through all the possible responses he could give and the possible outcomes. Leaning back in his chair, Trey simply says, “Yes, Sir.”
This may appear as a victory to Mr. Rodriguez, but I know what it really is. Pumpkin needs more time. He needs time to watch him and decide the best way to handle him. Once that is done, he will always be three moves ahead. Mr. Rodriguez turns to get Trey’s folder. Trey looks at his back coldly. When the officer turns to us, with folder in hand, Trey’s face is smiling.
“Ok, we have burglary, drug abuse, truancy and fighting. Your drug of choice is marijuana? I never heard of a pot head robbing houses. You sure that’s your drug of choice?”
“Yes, it is,” Trey says.
“But, I see here you’ve also done cocaine, heroin, mushrooms, acid and all kinds of pills.” He says referring back to the file. “Now, it makes sense. So, what’s your drug of choice? I think the real answer is, whatever you can get, whenever you can get it, however you can get it,” he looks up. Trey doesn’t respond. Mr. Rodriguez sits the file down and continues. “You are on probation. In order to remain on the outside you must comply with the program I am about to outline. You are on house arrest. You may not leave your house, not with your momma, your sister or your boys. If your neighbor is cookin’ out and you want a plate, you better have someone bring it to you. And they better not be a felon. You may not associate with felons or known gang members. If you have a doctor’s appointment your mom will call and get it approved. You will attend intensive outpatient drug treatment five days a week. You will have family counseling twice a week. You will drop clean urine three times a week. You will also perform 85 community service hours. You will call, not your mom, this list of approved facilities, set up your service hours, have this sheet signed when you go and return it to me. I will be dropping in to see you. Sometimes at home, during counseling or when you are performing service work. Any questions?”
“If you have any questions, Ms. Sierra, call me at this number,” he says as he hands me his card. We head out of his office and he walks us to the sidewalk in front of the building. As soon as we get outside Trey asks me for a cigarette. I unzip my purse to fish one out.
“What are you doing?” the Preacher asks me.
“I’m getting him a cigarette?” I say, suddenly unsure of what I am doing.
“You are going to stand in front of a court house, next to your probation officer and ask your mom to break the law?” he asks Trey.
“What? She knows I smoke. She doesn’t care,” Trey responds.
“It’s a law. You are a minor. No cigarettes. You got that, Ms. Sierra?”
I say yes, even though I know I am going to hand him one as soon as we get in the car. He’s been smoking since he was ten years old. I’m not gonna fight him on this when I have bigger battles to wage.
“Be back here next week, same day, same time. You might see me before then, you never know,” he says walking back into the courthouse. Trey watches him and says, “You ain’t afraid of me, huh?”
“You better not mess with that man,” I say, knowing damn well that’s exactly what he’s going to do.
“Come on, mom. I need a cigarette.”
Yeah, this is gonna go great.