When my brother was eighteen, he became the first member of my father’s family in eight generations to get in trouble with the law. To hear my mother tell it, he was “press-ganged into fraternizing with those bad seeds,” the ones she’d always warned him about, and from there he “just couldn’t help joining in their sordid misdeeds.” Late one summer night, at about the same time my mother discovered that David had snuck out, a deputy got a tip that several furtive, hooded figures had been seen heading up Burgess Street, half a mile from our house. My father, on patrol in Belton, was called; ten minutes later, he arrived to find David and two of his friends being taken into custody, sitting on the curb in front of a water tank on which they had spray-painted an obscene word.
David’s friends figured that even if they got caught, all three of them would get off easy, being so close to the Sheriff. The amazing thing is that they managed to convince David with this logic, he who had lived under our father’s roof all his life.
In fact, the other two did get off easy: being seventeen, they were given a stern talking-to from the deputy and entasked with cleaning up their mess. David, though, being an adult, was fully eligible to spend two weeks in the county jail. That was the lighter part of his overall punishment: the rest consisted of still living at home with our father, feeling at every moment the weight of his presence, all the weeks and days leading up to his court date, until jail became something he looked forward to.