32) COURT AND SPARKY
On the next Wednesday morning, Raul, Sylvia, and Raphael arrived in city court. Since this charge dealt with a misdemeanor and Raul worked as a lawyer, they felt no need to be represented by counsel. As soon as the bailiff called his name, Raphael stood in front of Judge Damien Williams.
Raphael was in a foul mood this morning anyway. His reasons were:
A) He got caught stealing,
B) He was wasting time here instead of being with his friends,
C) Raul and Sylvia forced him to wear a suit instead of his nice leather jacket and
D) His instructions were, in no uncertain terms, to plead GUILTY as charged.
The Prosecutor , looked like a homely mutt. Cindy Downes prided herself on being a tough litigator. Raphael could tell he faced a mean bitch because of her hatchet-shaped face, dark beady eyes and hair looking like she lived in a tornado zone. The word ‘attractive’ would not apply to Ms. Downes.
“Case Number 703, Your Honor - Raphael Franklin Hernandez - Charged with knowingly obtaining goods from an establishment in which they are displayed for sale without paying for them ... Shoplifting.”
“How do you plead Mr. Hernandez,” the Judge asked, “guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty,” Raphael replied.
“The state requests Your Honor to send a message to this boy,” Cindy Downes remarked, “to insure this action serves as a deterrent, to any future attempts on his part.”
“I agree,” the Judge nodded, “and I sentence you to 40 hours of community service, plus a fine of $ 130 dollars in court costs.”
He smacked his gavel and the Prosecutor led Raphael back to the table next to his parents. Raul broke out his checkbook and offered to pay the fine right, but the Prosecutor said he would need to handle payment through the accounting office.
“As far as community service,” she informed, “I want you to report to the Department of Public Works office on Monday morning, where they will assign you the 40-hour work assignment. Let this be a lesson to you young man; crime never pays.”
As she spoke to the parents, an old graying man of about 70 approached her and said ‘That’s the Boy’. Raul, Sylvia, Raphael and the Prosecutor all glared at him like they were encountering an alien.
“That’s the boy who stole my coat,” he shouted, “from the store. I filed a complaint and the police did nothing. They ignored me, but I recognize him.”
“We are here on a different case sir,” she explained, “but I will check into the matter. Let me jot down your name as a reminder to myself.”
The man gave his name as Otto Dryanoff, owner of Otto’s Custom Tailoring. He gave his address and phone number and left. Raphael wasn’t the least bit happy with this situation. He should be enjoying his summer vacation from school, but he got caught up doing a work detail. Now some other asshole accused him of stealing his coat. He took the innocent approach.
“What nwas he ntalking about Mommy?” he questioned.
The Prosecutor interrupted and assured his rambling would be nothing. She would do an investigation, but she didn’t think she would find anything.
The Hernandez family left court together as a family. Raul went to his office and Sylvia and Raphael went home. Once they got inside the house, Sylvia puttied the third degree to her son.
“I thought you said someone gave you this jacket,” Sylvia chirped. “You deliberately lied to us.”
“I didn’t lie, Mommy,” Raphael protested, “a boy at school told me the coat didn’t fit him.”
“Who is this boy at school?” She pressed. “I want to you to tell me his name and I’m going to contact him.”
Raphael figured if he admitted stealing the jacket, he would be in the soup, so to say. He gave her the first name popping in his head.
“His name is Sammy Lovelace,” he admitted “but he’s moved. He ndoesn’t live here anymore. He moved to Michigan.”
“Well,” Sylvia shot back, “I’m going to investigate this matter. Don’t get too attached to the coat because it’s gone.”
Raphael stormed off to his room. How can I get around this? He thought. Perhaps I can find a hiding place and not wear it around the house. He needed to put more thought into his idea.
Sylvia meanwhile, said nothing to Raul about Mark Lawrence’s report. She decided a better path would be to take a ‘wait and see’ attitude before putting any plan into action. Hell, she hadn’t even thought of a plan. She only knew she wouldn’t put up any more of Raul’s disregard for her trust and love.
These Monday, she escorted Raphael down to the local DPW office to find out what kind of work he needed to do to complete his sentence. The office manager, a guy named Phil Jordan, wrote down Raphael’s name on a log sheet.
“We are probably going to assign him to painting curbs,” he confided. “I don’t believe in making him do slave labor for a stupid beef by that bitch Prosecutor. My theory is children shouldn’t even encounter these people.”
Sylvia liked this man’s honesty and agreed she didn’t want Raphael being used in any dangerous or grueling work. Phil sent Raphael off with one of the other workers and invited Sylvia into his office for a cup of coffee.
“How old is your son, Mrs. Hernandez?” he inquired.
“He’s 10 right now,” she clarified, “but he turns 11 in January.”
“Is this the first time he’s been in trouble?” Phil continued.
“He’s always been a good little boy,” Sylvia answered, “but lately he’s been acting up. I don’t understand what the problem is.”
“Is Mr. Hernandez around?”
“Yes,” she commented, “I’m married. The situation, however, is in question at the moment.”
Sylvia couldn’t believe how she opened up to this total stranger like she did. Perhaps she spoke up because of her inherent trust or she simply needed a shoulder to cry on. Her experience with Mark Lawrence last week told her she needed to be careful in allowing men to come into her life. She now understood how vulnerable she had become.
But this guy seemed different, having more of a fatherly image; a father Raul never had been. Even though an obvious difference in their ages existed, she seemed drawn to Phil in a way she couldn’t explain.
Maybe I’m just horny, she thought.
Phil told Sylvia he would only work Raphael for four hours per day. His community service of 40 hours worked out to five days a week for the next two weeks. Sylvia liked the fact her son still could play after his work assignment. On weekends, she would take him shopping with her. They finished their coffee and she thanked Phil for his kind consideration.
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Hernandez,” Phil assured, “I’ll keep an eye on him. And possibly he will like working here with us. We’re a pretty good crew of guys.”
Raphael/Ratso didn’t like working at the DPW garage. For him, freedom to do what he wanted, when he wanted became paramount. He thanked the stars he only needed to put in four hours in a day. This gave him time to go uptown and meet with his friends on Wednesday’s and Friday’s. He didn’t dare push staying out late or shoplifting because of the trouble in his life already. But he still wanted to leave his mark.
He ripped off two cans of paint from the town garage and everywhere the gang would go, he would tag a building with his new ‘personal mark’. He put the letters R-F in a circle with a zig-zag line underneath. R-F now stood for Ratso-Fatso. He still liked fire too. He didn’t dare to throw any Molotov Cocktails during the daylight hours, but he would constantly spray lighter fluid into a trash can and set small blazes.
“We should find some of those plastic trash cans,” Sammy lectured, “instead of the metal ones. The plastic ones will melt if you get them hot enough.”
“That nwould nmake a nice nmess,” Ratso agreed, “and I’d leave nmy nmark on the wall for everyone to see.”
“You like setting fires, don’t you?” Zipper laughed. “We should change your name to ‘Sparky’.
“No,” Ratso shot back, “I’m Ratso and this is nmy nmark.” He pointed to the graffiti he left on the wall.
The rest of the summer stayed the same. Raphael completed his community service with no incident. Raul continued to go to work every day and came home late only sometimes. Sylvia went to work also but spent a lot of time talking on the phone to divorce lawyers. She wanted every single detail of the process, every possible outcome of an action and anything possibly coming back to bite her in the ass.
At night, Sylvia finally allowed Raul to come back into the bedroom and occasionally she would give him a little sex. She kept a mental picture of Mark Lawrence in her head, which helped her though the ordeal of sex. She got little pleasure out of the act, but at least she wasn’t raising any unwanted suspicions with him.
One day, the school called and informed her Raphael scored 100% in all of his 5th Grade finals. The boards determined he should be allowed to skip 6th Grade and instead, go directly into 7th. She couldn’t wait to break the news to her son.
“You did it Honey,” she boasted. “You got 100′s on all your finals. The school board called today and said they will put you in 7th Grade next week when you go back to school.”
Raphael got pumped about this news. Classes for 7th graders included students in the 8th and 9th grades; all in the Junior High Building. He might even have a class with Eve. If not for skipping a grade, he would have been stuck in the Middle School building.
“Wow Mommy,” Raphael cheered, “I get to go to nschool in new building.”
“I’ve got other good news for you too,” Sylvia added. “We set an appointment for you to go visit a doctor in November about your cleft palate. If all goes right, we can schedule surgery over Christmas vacation and by the time your birthday comes around, you will be fixed up good as new.”
Raphael ran across the kitchen and hugged his mother. He looked up and saw tears streaming from her eyes. He didn’t know if she showed happiness for him or sad about something else in her life. All he understood was this year promised to be the greatest of his life.
At the moment, Raphael seemed happy.