Submitted Date 10/06/2023



Thank you kindly fer agreein' to see me today. I know yer a busy man with lots to do, so I 'preciate it. And I know that I ain't necessarily even got the right ta be here, seein's how I ain't Caleb's parent. But his daddy's been up north roofin' for a couple months now, and I'm 'bout as much as a mother figure as he's had in his life ever since Shelia decided to run off with that dude out in Utah she met online. She just ain't 'round much.

I know this don't look too good. I ain't gonna try to tell ya that holdin' a pocket knife to another kid's throat is somethin' Caleb shoulda done. But in my book there's two sides to every story and I'm pretty sure you ain't heard but one up to now.

And I'm glad I'm talkin' ta somebody who I knowed didn't grow up with a silver spoon stuck in his mouth. Ya don't really think I went and forgot all them capers you and my Bobby got inta back in the day do ya? I didn't think so! Hell, manys the time most of the folks down there in Dusterville locked they's doors and pulled they daughters into the house when they seen you two comin.' They didn't call y'all the "Dynamic Duo" fer nothin.'

And I'd bet my next check I'd have a lot less of this grey shootin' through my hair if you and Bobby woulda stayed away from each other. But that's o.k. 'cause it helps me to know what I'm dealin' with when it comes to Caleb.

He ain't a whole lot different from his daddy. The boy ain't never been able to sit still. Even when he was a little guy I couldn't just flop him in front of the electronic babysitter and expect him ta be entertained if I wanted to nap. My late ex usta say "that kid's got ants in his pants!", and he was right. Doc Finnegan called it some long string of letters, ADDH, ADHD, ABCD…I don't remember, but that just meant he couldn't concentrate like the rest of the world did. Doc tried to dope him up with some kinda horse pill that turned him into a zombie, but I wasn't havin' none of that. That ain't livin,' so I told him we'd just deal with it best we could.

And deal with it we did! When he was four the daycare called one day and said come get him, he's tryin' to ride the dog like a pony, and it bit 'em. Then his kindergarten teacher said he won't stay out of the girl's john, scared all them little pigtails nearly to death! And I know you knows all about his feud with the Sileham boys, Ernest and Darryl. Lord, I don't remember a week goin' by his 5th grade year we didn't get a call from Miss Vickie inviting us down to your office to talk 'bout their latest grudge match. I 'preciate how you'd listen to both sides about them grievances, and wouldn't just automatic believe the Silehams 'cause they was two of them and only one of Caleb. I'm so thankful the Silehams moved outta district or we'da been in here a lot more than we have.

I knowed just sayin' "boys will be boys" don't cut it no more. When you and my Bobby got into it with the Pardo brothers back in the day, if they wasn't no broken bones or stitches then Old Man Haynes would just make you shake hands and tell each other you was sorry and that would be the end of it. But the world has changed. I get that. Nowadays if ya did that, they'd likely go home and start bad mouthin' each other on Snapchat or somethin'. Then they friends would hafta get into it and purdy soon you'd have a big rumble to deal with the next day at school.

So I get why you think you gotta have that cop patrollin' the hallways now, but good Lord Lonnie, er, s'cuse me, … I meant Mr. Braxton,... not every set-to between a couple a thirteen year olds is the next Columbine, ya know what I mean?

Back in the day when you, my Bobby and the Pardos got into it, they had Old Man Haynes to deal with, but then, what they feared more, when they got home, Bobby had my late ex-Husband to face and you had your daddy. And you know as well as I do, what happened at home was gonna be a lot worse than what happened in the principal's office!

Mr. Helton was not acquainted with them new ideas about the use of a good swat on the rear, and he didn't care if you was 8 or 18, if you deserved it, you were gonna get it.

So anyways, this latest mess that Caleb's got himself inta all started, he tells me, over a girl. Seems he and the young Mr. Tate both had they's eye on that Preston girl. You knows yourself that when they git ta be teenagers, if they ain't fightin' over who's the toughest, then its 'bout a girl.

Caleb tells me Albert had been datin' the Preston girl for awhile but he didn't know it. And you know as well as I when they's this age, how's a fella suppoda know who's with who? They ain't got no money to take 'em anywhere and they ain't got no wheels. So how does Caleb know that Tate and that Preston girl is a thing? They ain't holdin' hands or kissin' in the hallway he says. You knows yerself y'all don't allow that kinda stuff at school. And after school Albert's got b-ball practice and the Preston girl is a cheerleader I believe. So how's my Caleb suppoda know what their doin' when he's got no reason to stick around school after the last bell?

Anyhow, y'all had that dance planned the day before the first football game and Caleb decides he's gonna ask that Preston girl to go with him, so he texts her friend in Science class and tells her to ask if she likes him. Next thing he knows, Albert and two of his b-ball buddies is got 'em trapped against his locker, shovin' his head into it and tellin' him he best leave her alone, or theys gonna kick the livin' shit outta him

So Caleb, not wantin' to look like he's 'fraid of 'em, tells 'em he'll ask who he wants to the dance, and if they's comin' for him, they's likely to get shanked.

You knows yerself a boy his age ain't gonna back down 'less he's a wimp and at that age, they ain't much worst in them boys eyes.

Well I guess the next day Caleb tells that Preston girl's friend he still wantin' to take her to the dance. He's gettin' ready to walk home when up comes the Tate boy with the same two buddies he had with him the day before. Tate comes straight at Caleb and tackles him, gets on top and starts poundin' him in the face. Caleb's buddy Simon seen it and ran up and kicks Tate in the chest.

That knock's Tate offa Caleb. Then Caleb pulls out that pocket knife and grabs Tate from behind, puttin' the knife to his throat. That's when Miss Vickie seen it comin' out the back door of the school and called the resource officer.

So the cop goes all SWAT team on Caleb, draws down on 'em and tells him to drop the knife, which after Simon and the rest of the 7th grade class that was out there yells at him ta do, he does. Ain't nobody hurt in the whole mess 'cept Caleb. He's got this bruise across his cheekbone that was gone in a week's time. The Tate boy ain't no worse for the wear, not even a scratch. Now Caleb's been outta school fer a week, been to the juvie up in Bloomington and before the juvie judge down here. He can't go nowheres less'n his Daddy or me is taggin' along and he gotta go see the school board ta see if theys gonna let him finish up the school year. Now I know'd you cain't tell me what's goin' on with young Mr. Tate or his two buddies, but all'a Caleb's friends are sayin' theys back at school after a couple days off.

I gotta be honest Mr. Braxton, I don't get that! How's what they did to Caleb any better than what he done? Them boys started the whole mess, and Caleb was just defendin' hisself. I thought we all had a right ta do that, especially when its three against one!

And another thing, I don't have no idea where that pocket knife come from. Mr. Helton kept a knife or two out in the garage, but I got ridda all of what he didn't take after he left, precisely 'cause I didn't want Caleb gettin' into it. So I asked the boy where the thing come from and he says he found it down in the basement of our house when he was messin' around in some old boxes I had stored.

Then last week we got the police report from that lawyer the court appointed for Caleb and I was lookin' through it. There's this picture of that pocket knife and I need to show you somethin' I think my surprise ya. Look at the bottom of that handle, the silver part's got somethin' scrawled inta the finish. Ya see that? 'Less my eyes is deceivin' me, I believe what's carved inta that finish is the initials "LB." Don't it look like that?

Then I got that thinkin' back in the day when you and my Bobby was the Dynamic Duo you spent a lotta time down in that basement, playin' games on that old TV we hooked up the Atari too. And I don't recall anybody else ever been in my house that had the initials "LB" other than one Lonnie Braxton. So, Mr. Braxton, you tell me, you know yerself, who's that knife belong to? And what's more, how you gonna keep my grandson outta school, if what I'm thinkin' is the right answer to that?


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