My son came down the stairs, way past his bedtime, and told my wife and me he couldn’t sleep because he was worried about his friend Rich. I asked him what was the matter with Rich, and he told me, “Richard can’t go to the store any kind of way he wants to anymore, and he’s not sure he wants to go to summer school ’cause he has to take all kinds of different routes to get around ’cause, you know, the gangs are after him.”
My wife stood up from her seat on the piano bench. You could see she’d flared up like a freshly lit match, and she said, “Well, it’s too bad, but this time we should do something about it. Yeah. It’s about time we did something. I think we should start our own gang, a gang of parents. We’ll wear our hats cocked to the side too, and wear earrings anyplace we want to, and then go to where these gangbangers think they own the block and we’ll come up on them and show them what they had for breakfast.”
It took me the better part of five minutes to calm her down–she kept getting angrier and angrier–but I finally did, and then I asked my son why the gangs were after Rich. He told me, “It’s like this: we were playing a game of pickup baseball at Pottawattomie Park–” I raised my hand to interrupt him, because that park has a very large staff, there’s never any litter anywhere, there aren’t any gang signs painted on the walls, and the four baseball diamonds are in great shape. Even the swings are all right, not twisted every which way.
“Yeah,” he answered me, “but they hang out at Pottawattomie too. And anyway, we were playing this pickup game of baseball and Rich accidentally bumped into one of them. And Rich said, ‘Excuse me,’ but the gangbanger copped an attitude, and Rich said, ‘Hey, it’s only a game of baseball and I said excuse me anyhow,’ but the boy wanted to fight anyway–Folks always want to fight and this boy was Folks–so he swung at Rich and Rich blocked it.
“Then another boy–he was Folks, too–hit Rich on the back, so I jumped in and told them, ‘Fair is fair. Let them fight one-on-one.’ But they didn’t listen to me. Another Folks picked up a bottle and I had to wrestle it away from him before he hit Rich with it, and then I helped Rich break loose, but one of the boys hit him on the head with something he was carrying and it knocked Rich down. Then they all ran off.”
I began to ask my son why these Folks weren’t after him too, for helping his friend out, but my wife’s anger was growing too quick again and I let her talk. “Where do these so-called Folks hang out?” she asked. He told her on Farwell between Ashland and Clark, and my wife reached for her red cap and told me to get one too because we were going to take care of this business right now. She told both of us there was no way we were going to have to be careful about which way we walked to school or to the store or anywhere.
“I’m not going to live somewhere,” she said, “where when you say, ‘Hey, my folks are coming over,’ these gangbangers think some of their fellow gangsters are coming over for a visit.”
It was late, but we walked over to Farwell anyway and walked from Clark to Ashland and back again. No one was there, and we went home.