The cop was a giant. At least six foot six inches tall, he completely filled up our doorway. Even our normally loud territorial dog, silenced by the sight, slunk off to hide. The Officer of the Law wore all the tools of his trade, a non-cartoon array of weapons including mace, an enormous firearm and nightstick. The mirrored sunglasses and polished knee-high boots finished off his intimidating Terminator persona with strategic forethought.
“Someone here call 911?”
I already knew the answer. Her brother ran to me not five minutes prior breathlessly reporting that T. had just spoken with 911. Our garage sale wireless phone had speed dial programmed to 911 and she punched it. It was an accident.
But she copped to it.
“I did. On accident.”
“M’am, is there somewhere the young lady and I can talk?” His face was fixed in the stony rictus of pure authority.
I expected to hear a panicked yip of fear and the sound of her little bare feet rapidly slapping away to burrow into a closet hidey hole.
Nope. She stepped up.
“Want to see my room?”
She motioned the fearsomely expressionless cop in, waving the way to her room like Vanna turning letters on Wheel of Fortune. At six years of age, she was disturbingly mature.
He folded himself in half to sit on her teddy bear and unicorn festooned rocking chair, a big imposing Grendel throwing off all sense of proportion in her diminutive pink and purple fairy bower.
I lingered in the doorway nowhere near as composed as she was. Breathless with worry over what her moment of accidental curiosity would yield, I read of families being separated for days until a proper investigation was conducted.
I knew they take it very seriously when a kid calls 911. Even “on accident.”
“So you are T. according to what 911 dispatch told me?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Do you know what 911 is T.?”
“Mama taught me to call 911 if I needed help or something happened to her or dad…”
“T., do you need help?”
“No. I‘m fine.”
“How about mom and dad? Do they need help?”
“No, they’re fine.”
“T., why did you call 911?”
“It was on accident. I was playing with the phone and it just did it.”
“Ok, I believe you.”
The officer took off his sunglasses and smiled.
I could breath again as they finished talking, mostly one-sided in favor of the officer. He told her she should not play with telephones but that she should call 911 if she needs to, and how he’ll be glad to come and save her if she ever has a real emergency.
Then, we collectively confirmed that the “phone did it” via speed dial and all was resolved.
She shook his hand on the way out. Disturbingly mature.
Apart from “The Sacred No Tattoos Pact” when she double pierced her ears, we made another solemn deal when she curled her jade green polished toes over the threshold of adolescence: I will pick her up anytime, no matter what, no questions. Anywhere. If she senses that her safety is compromised in any way. Even if she makes a mistake that got her there.
No parental psycho eye-bulging freak outs, no wild shouting knee-jerk judgments, no I-am-the-boss-of-you conditions. I’ll just be there.
Midnight. Friday. She made that call.
“Come get me now. No questions.”
She was keeping her end and I kept mine. In pajamas, hair haphazard, barefoot, I went. Turning down the street where she was, six police cruisers were lined up in twos in front of the residence where I knew she was a guest at a “sleepover.” I called her cell and a boy answered.“It’s T.’s mom. Where is she?”
“Mrs. T. just come around back to the pool house please.”
My stomach flipped.
A fairly accurate depiction.
I grabbed my ID and walked, crunching barefoot on the gravel drive, to the pool house gate. Could've been hot coals and I would not have noticed.
It looked like an unsupervised house party gone nuclear, which is exactly what happens when truckloads full of teenagers drop in uninvited en masse. A small planned gathering of four girls had mushroomed into uncontrollable booze-infused debacle thanks to their incessant delivery of tempting cell phone text updates.
There were other silent hollow-eyed pissed off parents streaming in to pick up their own, their shadows preceding them like some hilariously terrifying zombie movie.
One of three cops asked me who I was there for. And I heard her name echo down through the pool area.
“Do you know how drunk these kids are? How old’s your daughter?”
“The median age here is about that. Lots of alcohol. Weed too…Found a couple pipes.”
"My daughter does neither. She hates how people act with it.”
“That’s what they ALL say…!”
“Mom! Take me home. Please, let’s go.”
There she stood barefoot, totally sober, trembling and on the verge of tears.
“See? She’s fine.”
“Well this is a first for me…but Officer J. has something else you need to hear.”
Officer J. was the first cop to the pool house gate where he found T. chatting with a guy. The Officer’s flashlight in her eyes, she fumbled getting the push button gate lock open to admit him. Just then, with impeccably half-witted timing, the moronic kid she was with went all Law & Order and demanded a warrant. Naturally T. and Law & Order kid received “extra attention” when the squad of officers shut down the festivities and sat them all down to wait for parents to arrive.
Offering to clean up and put up the unleashed household dogs won her some points. And maybe a gold star for telling the drunken dolts around her to shut it when they shot off their unconstrained knuckleheaded disrespectful mouths.
Officer J. delivered a stern admonishment. The “company you keep” lecture fell on her like an anvil. She said “Yessir, yessir, yessir” in a hushed mantra.
Then he told T. something she already knew. Something a big scary law enforcement officer told her a decade earlier. Like her family, he would be there, no matter what, to save her should something bad go down. He was on her side, so don’t mess up.
"When we make a deal, we stand by it." He was looking directly at me.
She said again, “Yes. Sir.”And we went home.
Photos from Creative Commons.