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Chapter 3: Scene 10: John Tries to Give His Side


       I thought Mr. Jackson would defend me or object like they do on TV, but he just listened, too. Looked like it was up to me. " Judge , I can explain. It wasn't like they said."

       "John, what about this don't you understand? Don't you know you're charged with a serious offense ?"

       Dumb question. Of course, I knew it was serious. A drop of sweat ran down my face and onto my neck. I rubbed it away. Judge Shields held up some papers. "These reports confirm what I've been hearing this morning. You may not have been in any serious trouble with the law before, but you're headstrong . Down right pig-headed from the sound of it."

ThinkLink: Have you ever tried to tell your side of a story but nobody would listen?

       I tried to tell him my side again, but he waved the folder at me and I slid back down on my tailbone.

       He thumbed through the pile some more. "Our county juvenile officer , Mr. Bradley, reports you have a record as a runaway ." Where'd they'd dig that old stuff up?

        "Close to two years ago, the Oregon State Police picked you up near the California border," the judge said, sounding like it was for a shooting or something. "According to this report you were on your way to Texas, and you were only thirteen." He glared down at me. "Running away is an offense for children, not a criminal charge , but it does tell me you need some sort of close security."

       "All I was doing was going to find my dad and get him to come back to Oregon with me."

ThinkLink: Did you ever say something that came out different from from what you meant?

       "I understand you said that was your reason, but it's another example..." He held up another paper. "Your uncles, Pete and Red Steele, say you give them too much lip ." Must've been Pete said that. He's the one who gives me grief . Red and me get along OK. He wouldn't bad-mouth me that way. At least I don't think he would.

       "Back talk's not a crime , is it?"

        Judge Shields got all red in the face, like he was having a fit. "That's enough."

       Last thing I wanted to do was make him mad. "Please, your honor ," I said, trying to sound respectful like they do on lawyer shows on TV.

       "You heard me. Maybe we don't have many people living in Carroll County , but we know the sorts of things going on in the world. And we'll have none of that here."

       "I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."

       He ignored that. "I figure you're too much for your mother to handle."

       I turned around and looked at Mom; Did she tell them that? She keeps saying I'm the man of the family since Dad left us. I do more than most guys. I watch Nick and Lori for her and most of the time I do what she tells me. Not as quick as she wants, sometimes. But I do it.

       The judge made a noise, and I looked back quick, to let him know I was paying attention. "Now for the charge you assaulted your employer , Mr. Fletcher, who was good enough to give you a job at his service station. When he caught you stealing from his cash register, you knocked him out. Young man, if an adult had done this it would be a felony , aggravated assault during a robbery. You being just short of fifteen I've chosen to try you as a juvenile offender . But juvenile or not, people around here are getting plenty fed up with crime . Why three times in the last month..." He rambled on in a speech like the one he made at the Grange Hall right before the election . "John, are you getting all this?"

       "Yes, sir, but it wasn't like he told it," I said, careful not to make it sound like I was arguing.

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