It was a hot, humid southern night in 2003 and air conditioning felt so good during one of those long middle-of-the-night chat sessions on one of those heavy, bulky cordless phones. As the conversation got hotter, for some reason I moved closer to a dining room window. Maybe I didn’t feel the cool air inside, or I subconsciously thought about my snack food truck parked in the drive right outside that window; or maybe the introvert in me was looking for an escape from the heat on the other end of the phone.
Something made me glance out that window. Maybe it was a feeling, or divine intervention. Or maybe it would have been the movement of trees shadowing the apartment building I was in. Only there were no trees out front. I blinked as the revelation hit me and blinked again as the shadow under the street lamp over the truck in the drive moved again.
Whispering to my phone party to hold, I quickly but stealthily creeped out the front door to get a closer look at the shadow that was now inside the truck. I couldn’t turn back now, didn’t think of a duty to retreat or self-defense, following a gut reaction to do a cat-like sneak up on the hooded shadow.
I wasn’t holding the heavy weapon to my ear now. It was now an unintentional weapon of necessity. Now, I could hear the shadow moving around inside my truck. I creeped closer, until the slightly opened door of the truck was within my reach.
As I flung the door open with my left hand, I landed a hard right bang against human brains with the heavy phone that was now a weapon of mass destruction. My left hand grabbed the hood of the black hoodie, I pulled, and two legs on the steps of the truck came crashing to the ground as the WMD in my right hand exploded into pieces with every discharge to the head inside the hoodie, while my feet synchronously slammed into Hoodie Head like sledgehammers.
His screaming just as soon could have been coming from the phone, as the blood began to splash onto my hands and face, and I found myself holding only the spent shell of what had been a heavy, bulky cordless phone. His screaming and lack of more ammo made me pause. What if he had a weapon? Suddenly, Hoodie Head stopped moving.
1-1-9…1-1-9…I had destroyed my only way to dial 911, and was dialing it backwards from the shell. The irrational rage inside me continued to burn. I started dragging the limp body across the drive with my left hand, still banging Hoodie Head with my right. I already wasn’t thinking clear from the start, but wanted to finish it somehow. What better way to make the kill easier than to take it inside?
Kicking, banging, and pulling Hoodie Head over the threshold of the door, I kept repeating, “I’m gonna kill you”, imperious to his cries of “I’m sorry, mister”, and pleas of “please don’t kill me”. I deliberately slammed his hands in the door as he tried to avoid inevitable death by holding on to the doorsill.
He pleaded repeatedly, “please don’t kill me” as my awakened family ran downstairs, staring at us in shock. “If you kill him, you’re going to jail…he’s just a boy” were sobering words.
In the living room light, with any resistance now eliminated, the bloodied hoodie, sledgehammered legs, and disabled fingers revealed I had just committed a crime. I pulled the hoodie off to discover Hoodie Head was indeed young. Too young, in fact, for me to have attempted to murder. I asked him how young and he shakily replied, “I’m f-f-four-teen, m-m-mis-ter”.
Something made me open the door. Still holding on to Hoodie Head, I pulled him back outside and found several neighbors gathering across the street. One couple calmly approached me. The lady had tears in her eyes as she said, “he’s my son…what did he do?”.
Both parents listened as I explained I had caught their son inside my snack truck. The dad asked me what he had taken, and offered to pay for any losses. We walked together, mother holding her bloodied son, and examined the stash. A bulging garbage bag of potato chips & ice cream – less than $100 worth – was sitting inside the open door of the truck.
I said I’d call the cops and have him arrested. His mom asked me not to make the call, since he was suspected of burglarizing cars and homes in the area. His dad claimed this would teach Hoodie Head a lesson. They both apologized, made the tearful 14-year old apologize, and thanked me for not killing him. I’m thankful I didn’t, because as I told them, he would be lying there dead, and I would be apologizing to them for standing my ground.
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