As the police car turns into the driveway, I notice the station looks like my elementary school without windows. The concrete has been freshly painted a two-tone brown, tan on top and chocolate on the bottom, just like Uncle Kevin’s van.

I wish someone would come and spray paint a sunset on the building and make things all better, but I know once we drive through a gate with razors along the top that I’m fucked.

I check the doors and wonder if I can roll out like Steve McQueen, but there aren’t any handles. Probably a good thing. Flying down LBJ Freeway during midday traffic, I feel pretty sure my head would get squashed like a watermelon on a hot day, my seeds sizzling on the asphalt.

It’d be cool if Sam Fuller was around. He could shoot it with his 16mm camera.

I sink into the shredded leather seat. I’ll be a watermelon anyway when my dad finds out I’ve been arrested. He’ll probably drop kick me into the creek behind the house. The kids who smoke pot down there will find my body and flick cigarettes at me while they jack off to Black Sabbath.

At least I’ll be listening to killer music.

A girl cop with enormous cock-eyed boobs waves to our car as we park in a loading dock. I wonder if she knows how retarded she looks.

She winks at me.

“Whatcha got? A couple of girrrrrrrrls?” she asks, stretching out the word the way I know she wants spread my legs.

“I’m not a lesbian hooker, that’s for sure,” I snap as I get out from the back seat, though maybe I should have rethought the fishnets that morning.

“Just a couple of juvi’s,” the cop who drove says, slamming the door.

“Look like pros to me,” Old Cock Eye says with a shrug as she presses a buzzer that opens a metal door.

The police station smells like drywall and tuna fish sandwiches, but no one’s eating lunch. The place is a classroom in summer though all the empty desks have mile high stacks of papers on them. A cop near the window opens a filing cabinet. The squeal of it opening rips a hole through the unexpected quiet.

They must all be out chasing bad guys.

No hookers or pimps, either.

I’m a little disappointed. I was secretly hoping for a carnival of sinners and lunatics.

“Is Kerry Von Erich here?” I ask, hoping that his recent coke bust brought him here.

No one answers me.

I wonder if I’m supposed to be quiet now since I’m going to prison. Paul Newman didn’t say too much in Cool Hand Luke. Of course, Paul Newman doesn’t need to say too much. Coolness doesn’t need language.

I wonder if I’ll have to work a chain gang the way he did, and I wonder if they’ll give me nail polish to fix my nails when I get a chip in them, and I wonder if I can listen to The Pretenders while I hammer.

Probably not.

Probably, I’ll have to wear stupid striped pajamas.

Probably, I’ll get fist fucked by a girl with bad acne.

The handcuffs hurt. I try to wiggle my wrists, but they slice into me like cat claws no matter what I do. I surrender to the pain and shuffle alongside my sister, Michele, who was arrested with me for stealing a felony’s worth of clothes from the Joskes Junior section.

Since we weren’t even smart enough to take the clothes off the hangers before we shoved them into giant paper sacks we snaked from an unattended register, I figure we’re looking at some hard time.

Michele’s mohawk starts to wilt. Mascara tracks splatter her face, and I can’t help but laugh, thinking she looks like a sad stegosaurus. If only she would get really pissed off the way she does on the school playground and bulldoze our way out of this place.

We might stand a chance.

One of the cops gives me the devil eye for laughing, so I shut my hole. No sense starting trouble with The Boss. I might need cigarettes later, even though I don’t smoke.

The fingerprint ink stinks like licorice. I have a marker at home that smells the same way and sometimes I sniff it for so long my head gets all spinny. Sometimes I get ink on my nose. I wonder if the ink on my fingers will be as hard to come off.


Michele starts to cry when they separate us. I guess they don’t want us planning a big escape or anything. Probably smart since Michele and I tend to bring out the crafty in each other. We both like action movies, and sometimes we practice being Bruce Lee.

(Usually though, we just throw stars against the garage door.)

We might need more practice if we’re going to prison.

“Don’t be scared,” I say to Michele as they take her into a room that looks like a normal office.

But I can tell she is:


I’m scared, too.

I don’t want to get fist fucked by a girl with bad acne or cock-eyed boobs.

“I have a Milky Way in my purse,” I say to the cop who takes me into a small room. I hold my breath, hoping she’ll take my bribe, but she opens a notepad instead, clicking her pen a hundred times.

“I don’t feel so good,” I say listening to the dizzy rhythm of her Bic.

She leaves and comes back with a Dixie cup of water. I drink it in one gulp, but the fire in my throat rages. I wonder if she’s slipped me a mickey, even though I don’t know what a mickey is, but since I heard it on TV, I wonder anyway.

I think about asking, but I catch her staring at me.

I stare back.

Staring always works in movies.

Clint Eastwood has the best stare. I channel him.

A year passes before she says anything. She gets uglier by the day. My blood starts to curdle. Fear morphs into contempt. I’m sick of grown-ups who play games.

“How old are you?” she finally asks.

“I already told you,” I snap, slipping into the role of prisoner without an understudy.

“What’s your name?”

“You already know. You have my paycheck.” One of the many things she confiscated after she took me down, including my Bonne Bell lip-gloss, which I want back. It’s hard to find in root beer.

She asks for my phone number.

I hesitate.

“Which one?” I ask.

“Whichever one you want me to call so I can explain this mess.”

“My mom,” I blurt. “Call my mom.”

I give her my mom’s phone number. She stands. I’m so relieved she’s calling my mom that I don’t realize I’m smiling.

“You’re a disgrace,” she says. “Look at you. Guess you feel pretty proud of yourself.”

I examine myself. From my patent leather go-go boots to the fishnets ripped during the big chase sequence through the mall to my snakeskin miniskirt. I felt like a rock star this morning, but now I just feel like a sad old country song.

“Am I going to prison?” I ask.

She laughs then leaves me to worry about my future.

I think about all the prison movies I’ve seen.

My hands get cold. I stick them under my arms, but I start shivering allover nonetheless. I think about all the fucked up things Billy Hayes suffered in Midnight Express. I remember how scared I was just watching the movie. Could I survive such brutality?

My feet fall asleep and my teeth start chattering. I wonder how I’ll ever be able to defend myself from a fist fucker if I can’t even feel my hands and feet.

Why am I so cold?

I keep thinking about what the cop said. Her words boom in my head like a bass drum.

Disgrace. Disgrace. Disgrace. Da-dumph.

Disgrace. Disgrace. Disgrace. Da-dumph.

I write a quick rock song in my head before my thoughts turn to my mom.

Her words will gut me.

“I’m disappointed in you,” she’ll say as she leans back in our yellow velvet couch. I’ll stare at the cranes in the Chinese screen above her head in order to avoid looking at her face.

Anything to avoid that face.

It’s a face that means what it says. A face that never lies. A face that can tell your fortune and bless you on your journey in life. A face that can cure loneliness and slow time. A face that will rain an ice age because of what I’ve done and crack every time it remembers until there’s nothing but canyons of grief and rivers of disillusion.

The Japanese believe suicide is a virtue.

I think about Seppuku, the sword plunging into my stomach with a quick jab. No hesitation. No regrets. I think about the back and forth slicing motion of the blade. I wonder if it hurts.

Of course, it hurts.

I think about downing a bottle of St. Joseph’s aspirin (they’re so good), and sitting in the garage with the car on. (I got this idea from an after school special.)

I think about putting a nail gun to my head and chewing on Oleander leaves.

Cliff diving. Bull fights. And San Antonio enchiladas.

After forty-five minutes of sweating out the shivers and daydreaming about death (and occasionally food), the cop finally returns.

“Is it too late for you to call my dad instead?” I ask as she walks through the door. I’d rather take a beating than endure my mother’s broken face.

“You’re Mom’s already here,” she replies.

My heart quickens as we walk down a long hallway drenched in sour apple light. I can see Michele standing with my Mom’s boyfriend, Larry, a fireman we really like because he convinced my mom to let us go see The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday night (probably just so he could make out with her on the yellow couch, but it was still cool of him.)

I’m guessing my Rocky Horror days are over, and as soon as I see my mom, I know I’m right. There won’t be birthdays or camping trips or sleepovers or television for fifty thousand years.

If I live that long.

She doesn’t utter a word.

Instead, she watches me approach.

Dead Man Walking.

Her face burns a hole in me,

and I am reformed.








“Run!” I scream to my sister Michele as I shove a cop with a broken arm into a display of folded t-shirts. Michele bolts, darting around the Joskes Juniors section like a squirrel on speed, scrambling for an exit route. I shuffle back and forth in front of my cop, blocking, while her partner, a barrel-bellied bully, gives chase to Michele.

“Hold it right there, little girl,” he booms, which stops my sister in her tracks. Behind a table of tank tops, she glares at the cop, narrowing her eyes and puckering her mouth the way she does when she’s really pissed. No one calls her little, even though she is, and for a moment, I think she might jump the cop just like she does the boys at school when they tease her, a battle she always wins, but the cop lunges, sending her back into a tailspin of escape.

The weekday crowd watches without interference, their drama deprived faces grateful for an injection of excitement. A woman in a pink polyester tracksuit removes a bag of cashews from her purse and begins to snack.

“How do I get out of here?” Michele hollers as she knocks over a mannequin wearing a patent leather raincoat and hot pink galoshes.

“Through cosmetics,” I shout as my broken-armed cop whacks me with her cast, which catches me off guard and makes me wobble on my stilettos. She pushes me back, spins me around, then slams my arm up to my shoulder blade, just like Chuck Norris might, which normally I would think is way cool, but since I’m the one getting slam-armed, I’m not so impressed.

My snakeskin mini-skirt rides up my ass and my spiky studded belt pinches my belly against the table of Jordache jeans. “You’re hurting me,” I whine to the cop.

“Too bad,” she quips as she cuffs me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I can see my sister skittering around a rack of sundresses, her Mohawk a fin of stalagmites, while the bully cop hikes his waistline rounding a corner. Michele races past a stroller mom then disappears into the cosmetics department.

“She won’t get away,” my broken-armed cop says as she snaps the cuffs around my wrists.

“Yes, she will. My sister’s a really fast runner,” I insist as I turn back around to face my captor. She’s much older than I expect. Too tan for a cop. And for a split second I notice that she looks like my friend’s mother, and my mouth waters anticipating the snickerdoodle cookies she always makes when I come over.

“We’ll see about that,” she says, snatching me away from my snickerdoodle dream.

Just this morning, Michele and I start out like any other day. We eat Cheerios watching Scooby Doo, we argue with our step-mother Juanita about laundry (we never do it right), we practice our cartwheels in the back yard, we wreck the moped again, we hide from dad, we practice throwing our stars and stilettos against the garage door, Bruce Lee style, and we flat-iron our hair, all before 9am when we all leave for the day.

Dad drives a red Nissan sports car – one of those turbo-injected things that makes people drive like assholes. We’re not even two blocks out from the house and he’s already cussing some old man for driving too slow. I wonder if the old guy is on his way to the hospital, dying of some incurable disease. Or maybe to visit his cancer riddled wife. Or his daughter, dying from ebola. Or his son, back from some unholy place.

Dad swerves around the old man, flipping him the bird, and despite being labeled blind by the courts, a “disability” that only seems to flair when he doesn’t want his child support upped, it doesn’t hamper his driving, his dancing, or his ability to run three businesses. He also chainsmokes Virginia Slims, and I often think that if he didn’t smoke so much, maybe he might see better.

“Can we have ten dollars?” I ask him as we pull up to the mall.

He fingers a ten from his money clip and hands it to me. Michele and I worm out of the backseat. “I’ll pick you up at 8.”

“Ok,” I say looking at my Snoopy watch, crunching the numbers. Eleven hours to kill.

“What do ya want to do?” I ask Michele as we walk up to the mall.

She takes a pack of Marlboros out of her purse and lights one. “I don’t care. Grease?” she asks, exhaling.

I shrug as we walk inside the mall and head towards the dollar theater.

Sometimes, we spend all day in the theater watching movies. No one ever checks between showings, so we only ever pay once. It’s an easy way to kill time, and since Dad regularly drops us at the mall (he figures this is better than leaving us at home to our own devices), we always have a lot of time to kill.

Grease is our favorite movie of all time. We’ve seen it a gajillion times, and we can never understand why our brother likes Star Wars better, even though Hans Solo is a badass hottie.

After two viewings of watching Sandy become Apollonia, another one of our heroes whom we both model our fashion sense after, Michele tells me she’s hungry, so we head out.

The food court provides little entertainment. Only overweight taxpayers who color inside the lines. Michele orders some French fries and I get a Dr. Pepper.

“Now what to do you wanna do?” I ask Michele.

She rolls her French fry in ketchup, considering. “I’m bored.”

“Me, too.”

Six hours left to kill.

Author Ellen Parr once said, “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

I contend that curiosity will land you in jail with a hooker from Pecos City and a donut lady who killed her good-for-nothing husband with a frying pan.

“You think anyone would notice if I take this?” I ask Michele as we peruse the clothing in Joskes. It’s a leopard print shirt that matches my favorite parachute pants.

Michele scans the perimeter. “Nah. No one’s looking.”

I snatch a large plastic shopping bag from behind an unattended register and shove the shirt, still on the hanger, into it.

Michele hands me a belt.

“Cute,” I reply, then stick it in the bag.

By the time we’re done, we have two bags full of clothes still on hangers, and we head towards the exit to conquer another store. As soon as we step foot outside the threshold, the cops jump out as us, sending us running back into the store.

My cop, the one with the broken arm, catches me immediately. Michele manages to make it all the way across the mall before the bully snags her.

“How old are you?” My cop asks as she rifles through our purses.

“Fourteen,” I sniffle. “She’s twelve.”

The bully cop laughs. “Sure you are.”

My broken cop pulls a paycheck stub from my purse. “Gotta be sixteen to work. Let’s take em in.”

“But I promise, I’m fourteen. Please, we won’t do it again. Don’t take us to jail.”

“Honey, you girls shoulda thought about that before you crammed a thousand dollars worth of stuff into those bags. Anything over a thousand is a felony.”

My face drops. A felony. I’m a felon. Will they give me the needle? The chair? Will I be forced to eat eggs like Cool Hand Luke? Or work the chain gang in these stilettos?

Cuffed and crying, the cops parade us through the store, an example for all the preteen bystanders, and escort us into a police car that smells like hamburgers.

“What will mom think,” I whimper to Michele as we head out of the parking lot, the mall becoming a shadow behind us.

Michele erupts, a volcano of sorrow and snot. “What will Jenny think?”

Jenny is our dog.

I wind my finger around hers, a gesture that provides little comfort on a day that started out like any other day.

Yesterday, early evening, I went to the Strand Bookstore on 12th Street and Broadway.  The store is just slightly overflowing with used and new books presented on tables and in aisles of shelves that almost reach the ceiling, reminding me of a school library.   “Eighteen Miles of Books” is their current motto.