So, now I have to do the whole epilogue thing. But doesn’t epilogue mean “after the story?” And the story’s not really over yet. Is it? I mean, I hope not. After all, in one sense, it’s just beginning right? I’m still young. I hope that this isn’t it; that this isn’t the end. That would be awfully sad. Wouldn’t it? I mean, if this one event, which took place less than ten years after I started to shave, would end up being the defining moment of my life, then what’s the point? Right? But, then again, the idea that I would have to top this, that I have to have another life shaping event to define my life, is even scarier, to tell you the truth. Let’s face it. I’ve had days where simply getting out of bed has been daunting, if you know what I mean. And, I was having a pretty strong feeling that the morrow would be one of those days. So, why try, right?
Anyway, let’s take it for granted that the story’s not yet really over, but, we’ll follow convention and do the whole epilogue thing. Ok? After all, I’m sure you’re all curious as to what happened to me after the big burly cop hauled me away. I know I sure was.
I was pretty scared. Let me tell you. The cop stuffed me in the back of a patrol car and sped away. I noticed he had a plastic pine tree hanging from his rearview mirror. It looked just like mine. I wondered if it was made in China, too. I decided it would probably not be the greatest idea in the world to ask him about it just then. Though, I’m pretty sure it was exactly like mine. I couldn’t smell anything from the back seat. Well, that’s not entirely true. I smelled a lot in that back seat, none of it was the smell of pine. It was kind of hard actually to identify the smell that came off that back seat, to tell you the truth. It was worse than the smell from my car, even with the heater working full blast, if you know what I mean. 00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000If there is a universal opposite to “new car smell,” it was the smell coming off the back seat of that patrol car. Really, it was that bad. I have no idea what had been in the patrol car before me, and, to tell you the truth, I pretty sure I didn’t want to know. It didn’t help my fear one bit, if you know what I mean.
Does fear have a smell? I guess it must. They say that dogs can smell fear. I wondered if cops could smell it also. Not that I was comparing cops to dogs or anything. We already went down that “which animal best represents that profession” once already today, and I’m pretty sure it got me in enough trouble as it is. Anyway, it goes without saying that if cops could smell fear, then I was in deep trouble, if you know what I mean.
The truth was that if I hadn’t been so scared, the ride to the police station might have been kind of fun, actually. He ran the siren and flashed the lights. I think we ran every red light in the city, even though the police station was only three blocks from the hotel. I think he took the long way there, and slowed up before each intersection, just so he could run the red lights. Okay, maybe not. But, if I were a cop, I can’t say that I wouldn’t take advantage of my position, and run red lights and maybe even sniff the pine tree cut-out air freshener when I wanted too. I mean, what is power except a license to corrupt, right?
Well, we eventually made it to the police station. Like I said, despite the fact that the cop had been running the siren and speeding through intersections, it sure took us a long time to get there, longer than it should have. Mustafa, Steve and Asher Arikman were already inside by the time I got there.
You might be wondering why Arikman was there. It confused me, too, if you know what I mean. I mean, aside from a certain amount of poetic justice, there was no reason at all for them to arrest him. He had been a hostage, so to speak, after all. Granted, he seemed to be a lot more fired up about all those Palestinian injustices than the rest of us, but still. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long to find out.
As soon as I entered, he started foaming at the mouth. He pointed at me and started yelling, “It’s him. He’s the one, not me. I didn’t do anything.” Of course, this only confused me more. Obviously, he had been telling the cops about all the crimes of the evil Zionists, and they thought he was part of the set up. Or maybe they were so frustrated with not having any real quality crime to deal with they had opted for volume instead. I don’t know, maybe not.
Moretti was already there too. He had been in an office talking to my uncle. You remember my uncle, the rabbi, right? I did remember to mention that I had just discovered that my mother had a brother and that he was a rabbi, didn’t I? It sure made me feel good to discover family. Anyway, as soon as Asherman started yelling they both came out of the office and Moretti started yelling at anyone who would listen. Pointing towards Asherman, he shouted, “Get him out of here. Bring him to interview, and forget about him for a few hours.” Get those other guys into interview too.” Then he turned his attention to me. He looked at my uncle and scowled, but his voice was calmer. “Get that kid in my office.”
The cop that brought me in pulled me towards Moretti and my uncle. He looked at Moretti who nodded. The cop spun me around and took off the handcuffs. I felt compelled to rub my wrists. After all, that’s what everyone does on television, if you know what I mean. Moretti pushed me into his office. The rabbi followed close behind.
Moretti sat on the edge of his desk and looked down at me. “You scared, Kid?′
For some strange reason, I wanted to say no. Now, we all know that that was ridiculous. I don’t think I had ever been so scared in my life. I knew it, Moretti knew it. I knew that Moretti knew it. Let’s face it. It was no great secret that I was scared, if you know what I mean. Even the whole airport incident was nothing compared to this scenario. But I still wanted to say no when he asked. I don’t know why, but when people ask if you’re scared, you just have a compulsion to say no. It’s kind of like when the waiter asks if everything was all right with your meal, you automatically say yes, no matter how lousy the service was. Or like how we automatically say, “Fine,” when people ask how you are doing. Even if someone had just shot a guy’s dog, the bank foreclosed on his mortgage, and he lost his job, he’s still going to answer, “Fine,” when someone asks him how he’s doing. Okay, maybe it’s not exactly the same thing, but you get my point, right. Okay, maybe not. I don’t know.
Anyway, Moretti didn’t really wait for me to answer. As you know, I can sometimes get a little distracted and it takes a while before I actually respond. I did mention the A.D.D. thing, right?
Well, Moretti had obviously picked up on it, my A.D.D. that is. I mean, he also seemed pretty clued into the fact that I was scared out of my wits. He answered his own question for me. The truth is I was kind of superfluous to the conversation. “Of course you are, Kid.” He said. Then he looked at the rabbi. “But, don’t worry, Kid. Your uncle and I have worked it all out, so just answer a few questions, and everything will be just fine, ok?”
Now, if you watch as much television as I do, you know that the moment a cop says that everything will be just fine, it’s the beginning of the end for the perp. I mean, I suppose things will be just fine and dandy for someone, but it’s usually not the guy sitting in the chair facing the cop. He ends up doing ten to fifteen in Sing Sing.
You know, I don’t even know where Sing Sing is. It sounds like it should be in China, if you know what I mean. But, considering it’s always mentioned in American movies, it has to be somewhere in the United States right? Maybe it’s like one of those “Traditional American Hot Dogs?” Okay, maybe not. I wondered if they serve Chinese food at Sing Sing.
So, according to Moretti, all I had to do was answer a few questions, and everything would be just fine. Except that questions usually get me into trouble, because every time someone asks me a question, I have three zillion questions about the question. Not only that, I’m not so sure I’m comfortable with this whole “fine,” thing. Isn’t fine just an antonym for coarse? I tend to break things that are intricately delicate or consist of small parts. I’d be much better off if things were blunt, kind of rough and casual, if you know what I mean. But then again, if you remember, Alisa Cooper was attractive in a rough and casual kind of way, and that got me into all this trouble. I don’t know. Maybe I should aspire to fine.
I looked over my shoulder at my uncle. He had this serious expression on his face. He looked kind of annoyed, actually. But, he’s like that. Did I mention that ever since I’ve known my uncle he had that same expression? Granted, I’ve only known him for a little less than a day, but still, he was a hard man to read. He just nodded, as if I should do what Moretti wanted. Suddenly, I wondered what kind of a lawyer he was. I mean don’t lawyers specialize or something? What if he was just a tax attorney, and could barely remember anything about criminal law from his studies in law school? Do tax attorneys learn about criminal law at all? I mean most people think taxes are criminal, and a lot of people cheat on taxes and stuff, but it’s not the same as a full scale hostage takeover of a hotel, right?
On the one hand, I felt I should trust him. I mean he was a rabbi and he was my uncle after all. But then again, he was a rabbi and a Zionist and well, I had just taken over a hotel in the name of the sworn enemy of all that he saw as holy. I wondered if maybe he would double cross me, in the name of the Zionist cause or whatever?
But then again, if he double crossed me, my mother probably would never speak to him again. Then again, it didn’t seem to bother anyone that they hadn’t talked for over twenty five years anyway. Maybe the rabbi was actually getting his revenge for his sister running off with my father. He obviously wasn’t all that ecstatic about my parent’s lifestyle. I thought about asking Moretti if I could go back to the hotel. I don’t think he would have agreed though. At the hotel, I was actually someone important, at least in Alisa Cooper’s eyes. I had a feeling I would never see Alisa Cooper ever again. I should have probably been more broken up about it than I was, but on the one hand, I could still delude myself into thinking that she was organizing a protest outside the precinct at this very moment to demand my release. And then again, on the other hand, if I wanted to be honest about all this, I was sitting in a police detective’s office because of her. But, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be that honest, to tell you the truth.
The police detective Moretti looked tired. Actually, I’ve met a lot of authority figures that have that look. It must be because the burden of authority is so heavy and taxing, right? Okay maybe not. Maybe it’s because they have to deal with people like me. My mom has that same look when she has to deal with me. I don’t know much about it.
Moretti must have asked a question, but as you can guess, I never even heard it. “Are you going to make this hard, Kid?”
“Look, Kid,” Moretti started. “Just, tell me it was a publicity stunt, okay.”
I looked at him. Then I looked at my uncle, who was also my lawyer, who, I guess, was also my rabbi, not that I know what that means, or anything.
Just admit to the event, call it a publicity stunt, not a hostage takeover, and if your lucky, the judge will go easy on you. You don’t have any priors.”
I was really glad that motorcycle cop wasn’t there to tell him about the whole car pine air freshener caper. “What does that mean,” I asked, “go easy?”
“With any luck,” Moretti said, “You’ll just have to pay a fine and pick up the garbage.”
“Pick up the garbage?”
“Yeah, they call it community service,” Moretti said. “Come on, do this and I can go home. We can all go home.”
“Me too?” I asked. Frankly, I wasn’t really worried about Moretti going home, to tell you the truth. After all, he was collecting overtime for all this. I wasn’t. I was only looking at doing time. And I have to tell you I wasn’t looking forward to it. I wondered if maybe Moretti meant that I would be able to go home, to my new home, a four by four cell that I would have to share with a guy named Bubba. I wouldn’t put it past him. Cops know how to say one thing and mean another. They go to special schools for that. Really, they do.
“Well, yeah, after your processed,” Moretti confessed. “You have to see the case worker, and appear before a judge, but I’ll recommend you get released into your uncle’s custody.”
I looked at my uncle again. I was going to be in his custody? He still looked annoyed. I wondered if he ever smiled. “Case worker?” I asked.
Moretti rubbed his eyes. He was looking really tired. The social worker. She’s going to interview and determine if you’re a threat to society.” He took a hard look at me. “Or, yourself. She’ll make the final recommendation to the court.”
Why would it make a difference if I were a “danger to myself?” I mean, did the state really need to hold my hand when I crossed the street. Did it think I might get distracted, and not notice the oncoming truck? Ok, maybe with me it had a point. But most people aren’t accidently falling off the side of the cliff like lemmings these days. Actually, there are a lot of things I don’t really understand about all this. Like, I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s might be stupid to drive around without a seatbelt, but since when is being stupid against the law. Isn’t it a little much for the state to force me to take care of myself? I mean, is it going to make sure I clean my plate and eat my vegetables too? Even Leon learned to relax a little bit after I turned eighteen. Okay, maybe not, but at least he stopped trying to take my hand when we crossed a busy intersection. Well, most of the time.
I mean, hasn’t the concept of the Nanny State become a little passé anyway? Maybe Szasz was right. The Nanny State was dead. But now we were living in the “Therapeutic State.” You know what I mean, where the punitive, austere and authoritarian state was replaced by that touchy-feely, supportive, and yet surprisingly even more authoritarian system in which disapproved actions, thoughts, and emotions are “cured” through psycho-medical interventions.
You see, the hostage takeover of the hotel of course was only a symptom of some great malaise that needed to be cured. I knew all about this from Mustafa. He talked about it all the time. He was studying for his Masters in Social Work, actually. It kind of colored how I felt about the whole profession.
Anyway, once upon a time, cops and judges just told people what to do, but now they assign people counselors to teach them how to get rid of all their prejudices, misconceptions and wrong headedness. They’re supposed to help us learn how to think and feel the right way, if you know what I mean. If you think about it, people wouldn’t commit crimes if they were healthy and well-balanced, right? Obviously, if someone had a beef with society, he’s suffering from an illness. It’s kind of like a modern social disease, if you know what I mean.
But maybe, the illness that is in need of a cure is the need to label everything as some kind of disorder, condition or syndrome. Maybe, health is an illusion. Maybe, disease is too. I don’t know, but it seems that at some point, the idea of right and wrong became uncomfortable for us. Of course, it’s not like we started accepting everything as okay and normal, but if it was abnormal, then we could attach a label to it and treat it. It kind of helped us avoid the whole messy subject of morality, if you know what I mean.
Actually, I think most humans suffer from a disease called humanity, but I don’t know much about it, to tell you the truth.
Of course, you know I didn’t have any choice but to tell Moretti what he wanted to hear. What else could I do? My lawyer, my uncle and my rabbi all told me to. Moretti made me sign a paper and then escorted me out his office.
He handed me off to another cop, and then sent us down the hallway. He had lost interest in me. Obviously, he didn’t think I was that big of a threat to society. John Stuart Mill would argue that society has no right to use coercion to subdue an individual as long as he isn’t doing any harm to others. But, he was an atheist, who died from a disease called St. Anthony’s Fire. I have no idea what that means, but it seemed pretty ironic if you ask me. Anyway, he wasn’t in charge there; I’m not sure who was. I only knew it wasn’t me. So I went down the hall to find the social worker.
I found the office pretty easily – even for me. There was a brass plate on it. It said, “Mrs. Pennywise, Case Officer.” The door was slightly open. I knocked and slowly walked into the room. There was a tall square woman sitting behind a desk. She had big bright red hair and way too much makeup. She had a great big smile painted on her face, but the smile didn’t reach her eyes. Not that I know too much about it or anything, but she didn’t look all that happy, if you ask me. She wasn’t exactly my type, not that it mattered in this situation. But for some reason my brain still focused on it, if you know what I mean. But, my thoughts turned to Alisa Cooper again, and I wondered if I would ever find another woman like her again. Well, actually, I’m sure I could find one. They’re all around. I see them all the time. The world was full of women, as I’m sure you’re aware. The real question of course was whether I could find a woman like her that would actually talk to me. I had my doubts, if you know what I mean.
The social worker stood up and offered me her hand, and then she asked me to take a seat.
She pulled out a brand new yellow legal pad and started writing. I have no idea what she was writing, because she hadn’t even asked me my name yet. It seemed she was writing a novel, or at least a novella. I don’t really know the difference, to tell you the truth. Anyway, eventually she looked up and said her name was Mrs. Pennywise, which I kind of guessed at, considering her name was on the door. I just looked at her. I had no idea what she wanted from me. I figured she already knew my name as it was written on the form I handed her. She smiled wider, which I would have thought quite impossible a moment ago. It still didn’t reach her eyes though, if you know what I mean. I shuffled my feet, and shifted in my chair. She just kept looking at me for the longest time.
Finally, I guess she recognized that I was a little nervous, so, she decided to start things off. Her smile widened even more, if you can believe it, and then she asked me if I knew any good jokes. Actually, she looked like she could really use one. Boy, was she in for a treat, right? So, I started this joke. You know the one, about the transvestite, the bull dyke and the rabbi, who are all trapped in a hotel room. I hoped it wouldn’t make her cry. Maybe, if things worked out, she could help me come up with a good punch line.
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