After-school football went along swell, like every practice Jimmy was out giving his best. After two-hours of blocking, tackling and running plays, he was looking forward to a shower, getting dressed and the long bus ride home, where he could either sleep or finish what homework he’d been assigned.
Jimmy cut up with his teammates as he slipped his feet into his worn out boots and headed for the exit. As he did so, he pulled on a vest, something he was known for around the high school – a signature of sorts for the Sophomore athlete and student.
As he stood by the row of buses, waiting to get on board, he saw an uniformed officer walking up the sidewalk towards him. He was accompanied by a man in a three-piece suit and they looked very serious.
Before either reached Jimmy, they stopped and the man in the suit pointed in Jimmy’s direction. For his part Jimmy looked to his right thinking that the man was pointing out something beyond him.
Since he was the only person in the direction pointed, he realized the pair was looking at him. He waited as they quickly strode up to him.
“Yup,” the suited man said, “that’s my vest!”
“Turn around, son,” the officer commanded, “You’re under arrest for theft.”
Before he knew it he was in handcuffs and being escorted passed all of his friends to an awaiting cruiser. Less than ten-minutes later he was in a holding cell by himself and wondering what he’d really done.
A detective came up to the bars and asked, “So Jimmy, where did you get that vest?”
“I found it,” he answered.
“Where?” the man queried.
“It was draped over a bush outside the front doors of the school,” the teen responded.
“You didn’t pick it up in the locker room last week?” came another question.
“No, sir,” Jimmy replied.
“Did you think to turn it in?” the detective wanted to know.
Jimmy looked down and his feet and ashamedly answered, “No.”
The detective then walked away, leaving the young man alone to think about the conversation. He had an awful feeling in the pit of his stomach and he wanted to throw up.
An hour later, he was on his way to the juvenile detention center on the outskirts of town. It was there that he learned that he’d be spending the weekend and would see the county judge on Monday morning.
“But the football game, tomorrow…” he pleaded.
“Yeah, what of it?” the guard shot back.
“I’m supposed to play!” Jimmy returned.
“You ain’t going anywhere,” the man stated.
The weekend was a long drawn out affair. Jimmy was held in a room that had only a mattress and a blanket.
He had long given up his street clothing for a white jump suit that was two-sizes too big for his frame. And he had no privacy as he was checked on every 15 to 20 minutes or so, even when he tried to sleep.
Come Monday, he was he was awakened earlier than the rest of the boys being held at the center, he was fed and allowed to quickly shower. Then he was handed some clean clothing, his own clothing, meaning his parents had been to the facility and he never knew it.
The thought left him sad and he cried as he dressed himself for court.
Within the hour he found himself seated outside the court room in a plain room waiting for his case to be called. The wait left his gut churning as his nerves built up in him.
Finally, it was his turn and he was escorted into court. It was the first time he had seen his parents; the old man looked angry and his mama, grief-stricken.
It was almost more than he could take as he stood before the Judge. His mind raced with ways to explain to his dad about how this had happened, and the mistake he’d made by not turning the stupid vest in the first place and how he had learned a lesson from everything that had gone on since Friday.
Jimmy was so busy thinking that he didn’t hear what the District Attorney had said. The next think he recalled was the bang of the Judges gavel on the podium.
“What’s happening?” he whispered to the Public Defender.
“You’re free to go,” she answered, “The DA doesn’t have enough to hold you on the charges.”
That Tuesday, Jimmy learned that because he had been arrested and accused of theft, he was no longer on the football team. It was at that moment that he also realized that from then on, no matter whether he did it or not, he would be questioned or simply blamed for anything that turned up missing.
“And all because I didn’t turn that damned vest into ‘lost and found,’ when I took it off that bush,” he could often be heard muttering to himself, every time he found himself under suspicion.