And that may be the essence of his story, really. Thug goes bad and OD’s. But I knew him differently. I liked him. Mostly.
And, after our set-to, he came to like me, too. We were friends in a different-side-of-some-kind-of-line way. As he became even more delinquent, he got arrested more often. When that happened, he ended up in Juvy (Juvenile Court) and they kept threatening to do something but, of course, they never did. Finally, It looked like Jerry was going to be ‘sent up’ to adult court and that would likely mean serious incarceration. He asked me to speak on his behalf.
But I didn’t sugarcoat anything. I told the judge all the bad stuff Jerry was doing and all the bad stuff he had done. I even threw in the story of the beer bottles when I was asked to explain why I was there in the first place. The judge said, “So, you beat him up and he asked you to speak for him and this is the best you can do?”
“Pretty much. Jerry is well on his way to becoming a criminal and the sad part is that he doesn’t really see it. He is not a bad kid. Just completely uncontrollable and his mom is an addict and a prostitute, he doesn’t know his father and, basically, the only life he knows is delinquent and bad…soon to get worse, probably.”
“Can you control him?”
“No. Of course not. No one can. I live in a city-park caretaker’s cottage. I go to school. All I could do is make sure he is in at night and out the door to school in the morning…if they will take him back.”
Jerry piped up and said, “I’ll live with Dave and Ted and go to school every day.”
The judge looked at me and said, “Are you willing to do that for him?”
When Ted heard that we had a new roommate, he was not happy. I was not happy. Even Jerry was not entirely happy after we told him the way things were going to be. He had to do dishes, sleep on the floor, obey some rules and be in before ten at night or else we’d turn him back in. And he knew we would.
He did OK for a year or so. We all did. No more trouble. He kept his side of the deal, that is for sure. But, when we left the park after almost two years, he had no place to go so Ted took him to the house he was living at. That lasted awhile but, by then, Jerry was a legal adult and Children’s Aid was not helping and Ted was soon to find his wife and I had met Sally and so I was gone. At 19, Jerry went out to live on his own.
I heard from him now and again and my prediction was right. He eventually became a ‘collector’ for a loan shark and drug dealer and gained a reputation for using a wrecking bar to make the client pay up. Typically, he just smashed a leg but he once hit a guy so hard on the head that he was pretty sure he killed him. And that didn’t stop him.
One day, when Sal and I were living on our boat, Jerry showed up in a yellow Corvette with a beautiful but ditzy blond. After the pleasantries, he told me he wanted to leave a package with me because he was pretty sure he was being followed.
“Why would anyone follow you, Jerry?”
“Well, I am on a weekend pass from Oakalla and I am in for dangerous driving and driving without a license. Plus I am carrying a few ounces of coke. I am pretty sure someone is watching.”
“I didn’t know they put people in jail for driving offences like that. You must have some record. And I am pretty sure you don’t have a license now. Of course you are being watched. Give me the keys and I’ll drive the car to where you want me to. You’ll have to carry your own dope.”
“Well, I ran over a guy trying to collect a debt but they couldn’t pin that on me so they threw the book at me for dangerous driving. That’s not right, is it? Anyway, I am not too concerned about the car. What are they going to do, send me to jail? I have to go back on Monday anyway. No, I need you to take the dope.”
“Jerry, I’ll take the dope and flush it down the toilet. Seriously. Like within the next minute after you give it to me. Is that what you want?”
“Whatever, man, I just need to get rid of it.”
I took it. I flushed it. And off he went. Then he really went off the rails. For over a decade. Ran with harder criminals. Moved up the list of the damned-all-to-hell and, last I heard, he had overdosed and was dead.
And, of the 20 or so kids in the gang, that plot-line played out for over a dozen of them…give or take an offense or two or jail-time duration. I know of a few who escaped the dark side but they are very much in the minority.