I remember thinking “Is this going to be on TV?”
I really didn’t understand why the news station would come to our house just because my brother locked us out. And the cops were there too. Why?
I mean, the cops usually came when he was yelling and throwing stuff, like the phone after we called them, but man, we had been locked out for hours anyway. Since before Mom got home from work. We didn’t call her when he locked us out though. Our neighbor Mrs. Anderson said we could use her phone to call Mom, but we knew we would get it trouble if we did. Mom had a strict rule about calling her at work. We could only call if “we were bleeding from both ears” and well, no one was.
After he locked us out I just went to my friend’s house and played there. When her Mom got home, I had to go back home. On the way I remembered that my brother had locked us out. I was sure that was all over by now though. Man, was I surprised to find we were still locked out. Mom was home and trying to yell up to him to let us in, but he wouldn’t.
The neighbors were all watching now. I don’t know who called the police but they came to watch too. They really didn’t do anything. Not until my brother remembered that there was a rifle in the house and yelled he was going to get it. Then he did. Stupid.
He was always that way. He didn’t know when to stop. Always crossed the line, went too far and got in trouble. By the time he was 18 he got picked up by the cops and sent to Juvenile Hall more than anyone else in Denver. Ever. But Mom was smart. When he got picked up, she left him there overnight. He learned that Mom wouldn’t save him if he got in trouble and after he turned 18 and could go to jail, he never got arrested again.
So there he was pointing the rifle barrel out the bathroom window and the cops rushing to get us all out of the way. Which was stupid too. The bathroom window faced the windowless wall of the house next door and that wall was so close you had to be almost sideways to go between those houses.
I know, I did it once. Only once. On a dare.
It was smelly like cat pee or something. And it had spider webs that you could all of a sudden feel. You know the kind you can’t see and can’t get off you and freak you out. There was nothing on the ground but dirt, weeds and some trash that blew in, and I knew a mouse was going to be under one of those pieces of trash. But I was determined that I would not scream. After all the whole reason I went through there was to prove I wasn’t afraid. And then I was out, no mice, no screams. Just brave me.
So come on, if an 8 year old could barely fit through there how was my brother going to get the rifle out to shoot us on the street? Anyway he was yelling that he was going to shoot himself if they broke down the door. He wasn’t threatening us. He was just showing them he had the gun. Duh.
But the TV news? Really? Why did they care? Then the cops fired tear gas into our house. Into the bedroom I shared with my Mom to be specific. It was the closest room to the bathroom. The smell stung my nose and did its job and teared my eyes. It was one of those sharp smells I loved and hated. Like skunk.
It reminded me of being at protests with my Mom where they used tear gas to break it up. My Mom tried to make sure I wasn’t at any protest that might get out of hand, but sometimes it happened. Usually my sister got me out at the first sign of trouble when my Mom would say “Get the baby out of here.” We would pass our signs over to someone else, skim through the crowd to the side of the group and walk right past the cops. They never stopped us, my teenage sister and me looking too young to be involved with such things. Later we would laugh about how we walked right past them without getting caught.
So now I know why the TV cameras are here. To record my brother being led out of the house through a haze of tear gas, handcuffed and coughing. Shirtless in the summer heat, with a big afro that every brotha’ in the neighborhood was jealous of. I remember my friends asking how come my brother was white but had such a big afro. That was how everyone knew it was my brother on the news. The white skin and the afro. I didn’t know that years later people would say “Oh, were you that white family where that guy got arrested on the news?” “Yup. That was us.” I would answer. “Yea, I saw that on TV.” Yea.
My Mom & I never did sleep in that bedroom again. Could never get the smell out. We had to stuff rolled up towels under the door to keep the smell out of the rest of the house from then on. The summer was the worst, phew, the heat made that smell rise. The hide-away sofa in the living room became our bed. It was Ok though. We ended up moving from that house later that next fall. After getting evicted.