Mae’s back home and our abode’s now full of teen angst, motion, and noise. My daughter’s more than a handful, but Darin and I are glad to have her back at least for the first hour or so. I’m the primary custodial parent for both of our kids. However, my wife, Beth, has divorce decree defined vacation time with our children. Mae has blown off the last three vacation visits to her mother. To satisfy Beth’s angry demands and to avoid going back to court, I convince Mae to spend three weeks with her mother.
Mother and daughter are much relieved that that experience has ended. The last part of her time in the Penalty Box, Mae’s description not mine, was spent with her brother and me when we joined her and Beth in Paris. Beth’s first book’s being filmed in the City of Light.
Back home in San Juan, Mae and I sprint the last one-hundred yards of our three-mile run. Mae, like Sox, is another exceptional athlete. My daughter has participated in organized basketball, competitive martial arts, and boxing since she was eight or nine-years-old. She excels in basketball and martial arts, but she’s a fantastic boxer.
“Are you glad to be back home, Champ?”
Mae glares at me as she wipes sweat from her eyes. “Dad, how could you ever have married her? She was a real bitch from the moment I got to her house she was—”
“If I had not married her I would not have you and Darin. I think I got the best possible deal ever.”
“Yeah, sure, I just wish…”
Mae bites her lower lip. “I wish, you know, we had a normal family life – you know?”
“What do you mean?”
She turns her long, thin, serious face to me. “A, a normal life, in a regular house not locked up behind some gates, you know?”
“Mae, I’m going to make the move this year. I’m going to quit GDW and start my own consulting firm. Our office will be in Sacramento. When we move, you’ll help select our new home.”
“Sweet, but what if nerd face wants another house like we got now?”
“Well, your brother will have a vote, but I’m inclined to go along with you and get something that’s more appropriate for our needs.”
“And no gates?”
“What do you have against gates?”
Mae grabs my arm, “Dad, I feel like we’re hiding. It’s like we’re trying to cut ourselves off from everyone else, you know?”
“I feel you. I really do.”
“Mae, do you think our family is not normal?”
“Dad, is it normal to be scared every time you see a cop? I don’t think normal people live like we do.”
Darin and Sox are in our kitchen arguing about where they’re going to ride on this lovely Saturday morning.
Sox waves hello and offers Mae and I a drink of her latest blender concoction.
Darin pinches his nostrils shut and claims that “You two stink. You spoil my appetite.”
Mae gives her brother the finger. “Snowflake boy you need to keep your mouth shut.”
Sox pipes up, “Hey, he can’t help it he’s in love with Helga, the snowflake from Denmark.”
Darin blushes, bites his lower lip, tries to strike back, “Helga’s not a snowflake. She’s—”
Mae snaps, “Sun-deprived?”
Sox adds, “She’s a damn ghost, man.”
Darin gives up. “let’s go, Sox. We need to get.”
Mae turns serious. “Hey, you guys need to chill and not ride downtown, okay?”
“Why?” The three of us are speaking at the same time.
“Because that cop has it in for you two especially you Sox. She wants your ass bad.”
I respond first. “What? Are you talking about officer Flores? How do you know this?”
Darin looks startled, “What? Why? We didn’t do anything.”
Sox’s angry. “Bullshit!”
Mae pauses to get our full attention. “When you told me, what happened with that tree climbing stuff. I started a Cop Watch website for kids when I was at moms. The kids in public school here know a lot of the cops. I mean, I got so much on Flores—”
“Wait, wait a minute. You have a website with information on local police—”
“Dad, there’re five of us running it. You know some of the kids—”
Darin interrupts, “But how do you know if it’s true?”
Sox adds his support for Mae’s allegations. “I knew it! That pig’s pure evil.”
Mae turns to me, “Dad, Flores’ son goes to San Juan High. I talked to him. He told me his mom hates gays and would have shipped Darin and Sox straight to juvenile detention except that when she found out where we lived, she changed her mind. She didn’t want to mess with rich people, you know?”
“I’m not gay! What a bitch.”
“Okay, hold on. When did you talk to—”
“Hector. Dad, I talked to him last night, and this morning another kid said the SJPD was looking out for two kids riding black BMX bikes.”
“Mae, bring me your laptop—”
Mae sprint’s to and back with her laptop. We all crowd around as she brings up the Cop Watch website.
The website’s pretty basic, but there’s an incredible amount of detail information mostly describing alleged police abuses of kids and their friends and families. We all stare at the message from PR; “The cops have a hardon for two kids riding black BMXs. Flores is pushing this shit!”
I keep the kids there. I Call Kamako, our lawyer, my ex, my city council representative, the Chief of Police, and the Mayor. It is noon before I release the kids to ride up by the lake and strictly forbid them from riding downtown.
Mae’s waiting for her friend Hannah to pick her up to go shopping.
I’m studying the San Juan Cop Watch website. If half these allegations are true, our police department is an openly racist, sexist, misogynistic, anti-gay, crime organization.
Officer Flores has eight comments. Three mention her hostility to gays and three state that she uses excessive force. One claims that she lied in her report on a traffic accident. The last comment says that Flores was especially helpful in locating a lost family member suffering from dementia.
Impatient Mae’s fast fingers are flying over her phone as she sits with me at the kitchen table.
“Dad, we need to invite Snowflake and her parents over for dinner or something, you know?”
“What’re you talking about? They’re just casual friends.”
“Dad, Dad, look at me. We need to know these people. They need to know us.”
I close my laptop. “Okay, so what do you think’s going on with Helga and your brother?”
Mae sighs and counts off her points on her fingers. “Dad, number one, Darin’s as clueless as you are, but Helga’s way into him. She’s going to pop his cherry.”
“Mae, he’s eleven—”
“And, two, she’s thirteen which means she’s about six years older than him in maturity and experience. Three, Darin will be twelve in two weeks.”
“I think you might be exaggerating—”
“And, four, Sox’s still trying to figure out her girlhood. Things could get really weird if Sox decides she wants to be Darin’s girlfriend, you know?”
I look at my daughter and see a young woman. Impossible. Yesterday I was teaching her to tie her shoes, ride a bike, build a snowman. Time’s a trickster.
“Dad, don’t look so shocked. Snowflake ain’t half bad. They’ll be okay; you just need to open your eyes, you know?”
I take a deep breath. “Speaking of maturity. I know you, and your mother has had that talk? You know that other talk about sex?”
Her phone beeps. “Gotta go, Dad.” At the door, she turns back to me. “Don’t worry, Dad; I’m on birth control. Chow.”
Time’s an assassin – killing my child and replacing her with a look alike.
I call Beth all angry and outraged. Beth’s blunt. She says some kids are sexually active earlier and it’s better to be prepared. She also reminds me that’s it’s Mae’s decision on birth control, not mine or hers.
Time’s indeed fucking with me. I feel like I have aged one-hundred years today.
The fallout from the website’s devastating. The Chief of Police ends up losing her job. Flores and seventeen other officers quit or retire.
The state steps in and runs the police department for several months.
The feds are investigating the police department and city government.
Two local judges are indicted.
A City Council member retires in midterm.
All the changes don’t make me and mine any safer. Different faces in the same old places in the same bloodthirsty machine.
Mae and her four friends are sued by the SJPD police union, by the state police association, by ten named officers and the federal government. That fight still goes on even though the website was up for only a few weeks. The contest is, in part, about the plaintiffs getting access to the sources of the site information.
The ACLU is helping with our defense.
I made the big move, and things are looking pretty good for our new firm.
We have a beautiful old home in Oak Park in a “transition” neighborhood on the gentrification border.
Sox and Darin have drifted apart.
The puppy love thing has legs even when the “lovers” are forty miles apart. They see each other almost weekly.
Mae’s putting together a new Cop Watch website for Sacramento. She’s semi-famous – law enforcement’s well informed about her.
Helga and Darin are at the River Mall in downtown San Juan.
Mae’s in Sacramento working on her Cop Watch website.
Asako now prefers her given name. She’s racing this weekend.
I’m having lunch in downtown San Juan with Amanda Cardoza.
Amanda has a fifteen-year-old mixed-race, black/white, son.
We try to relax and enjoy each other’s company, but we’re dreading the call. The call informing us that the government terrorist has harassed, abused, arrested, beaten or slain one of our loved ones. Someone’s getting that call right now. Their turn now. Our turn later on.
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