As soon as everyone was settled in AP history, Adam said, "Mrs. Powers, I know everybody's talking about what's been going on with me, so I'd like a few minutes to talk about it." Mrs. Powers nodded and quickly added. please,' invoking the what is said in this room, stays in this room” rule.
"Before I get into the details, I want to say I have a new appreciation for our system and I really admire Sheriff Anderson." Adam took a deep breath, sighed and said, "I don't guess I need to say I have really screwed up." He then talked about Florida. "I guess I'd sum it all up by saying I found out my two very best friends were gay. I know it sounds silly, but I thought they had betrayed me, had been lying to me for years, and that made me very, very angry. I know it doesn't make sense, but that was the way it was. Then they said they were lovers, having sex, and I felt cheated. Whoa! Not because I wanted to have sex with them. But I was jealous because Marc had been my best friend since we were kids and now I wasn't first with him, but Justin was and I had always been a little jealous of Justin anyway. I know this sounds really stupid, was really stupid and illogical, but I guess feelings aren't usually logical.
"At the same time, Bobbie and I started having trouble. We had never had more than a few disagreements, but now we were really having problems. I don't know what happened, but suddenly Bobbie got on this feminist kick..."
"Wasn't a feminist kick, buddy boy! Old Bobbie just woke up, that's what happened," Bobbie said. "What happened was simple enough. I took a look at Marc and Justin as they were working at creating a new relationship as lovers. Then we met Antwon and Sharky, a well-established gay couple and the realization hit me. Unlike you and me, Marc and Justin, Sharky and Antwon were equals. Lovers didn't have to be one subservient to the other. I didn't have to be 'the little woman' to your 'big, strong, beat-on-your-chest' man. Yeah, took two gay couples to show me how lovers should be and we weren't."
"Guess that's why, in my mind, Marc and Justin had double-crossed me as well as lied to me," Adam said. "It certainly added fuel to the fire. As always, rather than looking at how I might have brought the break-up with Bobbie on myself, I looked around for someone to blame and a pair of gays who -- I told myself -- had lied to me, deceived me, and betrayed me and filled Bobbie's head with shit..."
"Language, Mr. Sanford," Mrs. Powers said.
"Sorry. Anyway, I was looking for someone to blame and Marc and Justin were handy and gay and nobody gives a shit about a couple of cocksuckers."
"Mr. Sanford, watch your language!" Mrs. Powers said.
"Yeah, well, not only that, but I had always thought you had to get even if you'd been done dirt, and I thought Marc and Justin had really done me dirt. Getting even and payback was all I could think about. I knew Arnold had been involved in running that Allan kid out of school and the family out of town last year. So, before I got back, I called Arnold and talked to him about Bobbie breaking up with me and how Marc and Justin were the cause of it, and how I needed help taking care of the two fags.
"When I got back, Arnold was waiting for me and told me our fellow football team members Bear Gordon and Kev Jenkins were all for jumping Marc and Justin at school and 'kicking some pansy ass.' Arnold had more sense and reminded the two that any fight on school grounds was a lot more serious than one off school grounds. 'Besides, all we have to do is out the two and everybody else will take it from there.' That didn't sit too well with Kev and Bear who wanted action 'right now!' In the words of Bear, 'I say beat the shit out of the cocksuckers.' Kev agreed and said, 'We jump them after school, beat up the pansy ass-fuckers and mark them up.' Kev had come up with the marking people up idea, he said, from seeing animals marked at a stock sale. 'Beat up the two pansies, strip 'em and mark 'em up.' He really got into what he'd put on their naked bodies with magic marker. Arnold and I talked them out of that or at least talked them into doing it later. You don't have to tell me I was a damn fool and should have seen where this was heading. Don't think I haven't beaten myself up over that, especially lying in jail the last couple nights."
While Adam was talking, several times Mrs. Powers looked ready to object to his language, but I guess made the decision that a cleaned-up version of what had happened was a version of what hadn't happened and said nothing.
"I knew Arnold was right about the first thing to do, which was to out them. While the other two were carrying on, Arnold printed up stickers which he and I put on their lockers. When those came off easily enough, Arnold said he could get a key to the school and spray paint the lockers. When we got together, Kev said he thought we should send the queers a love letter, and drew the pictures and wrote the messages. When he finished, Arnold reminded him his fingerprints were on the notes and he did new ones after putting on some gloves he found in the cafeteria.
"When I saw the Sheriff and that forensics woman working on the lockers, I knew we had gone too far and told the others that. Arnold agreed and Kev started cussing and calling us wussies and other names, but Arnold and I said we were through.
"After that, you all know about as much about what happened as I do. Bear and Kev did show me the e-mail they sent with a drawing Sandy had done. Yeah, and the dead skunk and blood was all Kev's idea. Bear said, 'I don't want nothing to do with no skunk.'
"It didn't take a lot to know the gig was up and we were in for a hard time after the skunk episode, and Arnold and I told the other two to cool it or we'd take care of them. Of course, there was nothing we could do when Mr. Jenkins and Kev decided to beat up Sandy, but that meant the gig was really up.
"By then the sheriff had everything pretty much figured out, and when he and the deputies came to school to question us, I expected us all to be together and when we weren't, there was no doubt in my mind there would be four different stories. I decided -- no, I didn't have to decide, I knew -- the best tack was the truth. I told the truth about what I had done, but refused to say anything about the other three. I mean, I hadn't done anything really serious. Well, it was serious, but no-one had been hurt. Neither had the others except, well, trashing Marc's car was pretty serious, but even then nobody was hurt and I had nothing to do with that. I refused to say anything I knew about anything, other than what I had done.
"We had been advised of our rights and after almost all day questioning, we were hauled off to jail. We were each put in a separate cell, but not a private cell! We had as roommates, some of the county's finer citizens. There were two other men in the cell with me. One was a drunk who was in jail because he had beaten up his wife, and the other was on something or other. The drunk puked a couple times, making it to the toilet one time, not the other. The guy on dope was talking to someone or something only he saw. I wasn't looking forward to spending the night in jail.
"But it got worse. Dad showed up and I thought he had managed to get me out on a bond, but was I ever wrong. He said he wasn't interested in 'pulling my ass out of this crack.'" Adam then told about being taken to the hospital and seeing Sandy. "I had nothing direct to do with Sandy being hurt and kept telling myself that, but I had pushed the ball and started it rolling, and it ended up rolling over him.
"Sheriff Anderson told us he would be charging all four of us with intimidation, Bear and Kev with destruction of private property and Kev with aggravated assault. He also warned Bear he could charge him with assault, and would if he gave him half a reason for doing so. He also told us we didn't want a mark on our record which would haunt us the rest of our lives. 'You are all being charged with a felony. If convicted, you need to know you can't vote, you won't be able to attend a public college, you probably can't go into the military, you'll not be eligible for a lot of things. You need to do some serious thinking tonight. Because I'd like for you to find a way out of the shit you've got yourselves into, I've prevailed on Judge Maynard to give you an unofficial hearing in the morning, early. See you then.'
"You don't want to spend time in jail," Adam said. "The doper talked all night, the drunk kept puking, there is no privacy. You have a toilet and basin in your cell. If you have to go, you go right there with your cell mates and anyone else walking by. Bed is a steel shelf with a thin pad, but I couldn't have slept if it had been a down mattress. All I could do was think about what a mess I had gotten myself and three others into. We were called at 5:30, given some oatmeal and a slice of toast and taken to the courtroom. Basically the judge said there were two ways we could go about the situation. 'You can tell me what happened and what you had to do with it, and I'll decide how I'm going to deal with it, or you can be tried before a jury. You choose the first path and there is a possibility you can come out with a clear record. You take the second one and you may go scot free or you may serve hard time. What'll it be?'
"'What happens if, say, we don't like what you decide and want to go back and take a jury trial?' Kev asked. 'You'll have our confession, so to speak. You'll use that against us?'
"'I won't have to,' the judge said, 'but I will if I need to.' Sounded like a lot better deal than I expected after spending the night in jail. I guess it did to the others as well.
"I went first and told the judge same as I told you. Arnold did as well. Bear and Kev tried to worm their way out of trashing Marc's car, but the judge finally asked, 'Did you or didn't you two pour blood on and in the car and put a dead skunk in the vehicle?' and they finally admitted they did.
"In regard to Sandy, Kev said he just hit him a couple times and that was all. I thought Sheriff Anderson would strangle him. The judge just ignored that and asked, 'Mr. Jenkins, how many times have you forced your brother Edward, aka Sandy, to perform fellatio on you?' Kev, of course, had no idea what the judge was talking about and said, 'I don't know nothing about no fellatio shit.' The judge didn't bat an eye. 'How many times have you made Sandy suck your cock?' Kev said, 'I ain't no cocksucking queer.' Judge Maynard said, very calmly, 'No-one called you a cocksucker, Kevin. I asked how many times you forced Sandy to suck your cock.'
"'Little Shit is queer and I wanted him to have his fun, so I let him suck my cock.'
"Judge Maynard was very careful in his next question. 'Did you by any chance show him a picture he had drawn and suggest you might show it to his father if he didn't perform fellatio, ah, suck your cock?'
"Kev grinned and said, 'Yeah, I guess I did, but he's a cocksucker, so I guess he enjoyed it.'
"'Then he did perform fellatio on you after you threatened him.'
"'Yeah, and he's good.'
"'Mr. Jenkins, did Sandy tell you he didn't want to perform fellatio on you?'
"'Well, he said he wouldn't, but I showed him the picture and I knowed he was queer, so he did.'
"'Mr. Jenkins, I need to warn you, you have just confessed to rape.'
"'Hell no I didn't. I got my pansy ass brother to give me a blow job, that's all.'
"'You did it by using a threat. It was not consensual sex and that's rape. Ok, I've heard enough. Wait outside and give me time to think.'
"I'll tell you, that was a long, a very long, hour we sat outside the courtroom, in handcuffs, waiting for the judge. I could see us going back in that cell for a long time. After about forty-five minutes, our parents came in. Mom had been ready to blame everything on the other three when we were picked up and Dad said, 'Dam'it Josephine, it's time you stopped shielding the boy. He's not a boy, he's a man and it's about time he acted like one. Mom cried, but I said, 'Dad, you're right and I'm trying.' The Blakes were really hurting and I saw that. Bear's dad was there, but his mom said she wasn't well enough. Bear said she was always sick when anything happened she didn't want to face. The Jenkins were there, the old man in chains. The sheriff offered to take his handcuffs off yesterday when he was meeting with all of us if he promised he'd behave himself, but as soon as one was unlocked, he took a swing at the sheriff. Now he was in chains.
"The sheriff finally came and got us and ushered us into the courtroom. Judge Maynard said, 'I have heard from these four young men and I am alarmed at how easy it was for them to have ruined their lives. I hope we can repair some of the damage.'
"'Adam Sanford, you started the ball rolling out of jealousy and your need to dominate a woman. What might have been just a prank escalated into a major crime. The initial crime was intimidation. North Carolina has a good, solid hate crimes law which doubles the penalty for a crime if it is committed out of hate. Unfortunately, in my view, it does not include sexual orientation. In your situation, it is a bit of luck that it does not.
"'Arnold Blake, you allowed your friendship to lead you astray. I know you've heard the expression, "with friends like that, who needs enemies?" In your case, it's very true. School, church, parents, any or all of these and maybe other factors have given you some sense of decency, enough for you to call a halt and try to stop the ball Adam set rolling.
"'I have drawn up a contract for you two to sign or you can stand trial.' He then asked each of us which we chose and we both said the contract. I have it here and you can look at it later if you want to. It says we are on probation for a year and should we fail to meet the conditions of the contract, we will stand trial for intimidation and simple assault. The conditions?
"We have a 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m curfew. The only exceptions are if we are at work, with our parents, at school, at church, or traveling directly to and from one of those activities. For very special occasions, we can apply to the sheriff for an exception.
"We have to live with our parents. If, for some reason we can't, the sheriff has to approve where we live. We are not to leave the house without checking in with a parent, telling them where we are going and who we will be with. I kinda put up a hand and Judge Maynard glared at me and asked, 'You want to say something?' I was afraid to open my mouth, but finally got out, 'What about college next year? I don't know about Arnold, but I've been accepted at UNC-Wilmington.' I thought Judge Maynard was going to say I could go. Instead he said, 'Mr. Sanford, I think you'll find UNC-Elizabethton suits very well.'
"Oh, and we cannot have another teen in the car with us. In fact, we have a restricted license which allows us to drive to school, church, and work, period. I get to keep my car, but the exhaust system which cost 'most six month's allowance, had to go before it was started again.
"We have to get and keep a job," Adam looked at me and grinned, "Yeah, and I had a choice of working for Sanford Furniture or getting a job somewhere else. Thought I owed Dad at least working for Sanford. Mr. Porcher over there is my new boss. Out of my pay, Dad will be deducting money to pay a quarter of Sandy's hospital bill. Judge Maynard said I hadn't been directly involved in Sandy's being beaten, but I was responsible nonetheless and he's right. We have to stay in school and maintain at least a C average.
"'The sheriff will provide jobs for you to complete 140 hours of community service. Keep your nose clean and at the end of the year, all will be well and your record clean.' Both Arnold and I were eager to sign the contract and just before we touched pen to paper, Judge Maynard added, "Oh, if I hear even a suggestion of a pejorative name or denigrating word from out of you, you're in deep doo-doo. Do I make myself clear?'
"'Yes, your honor,' Arnold and I said, both convinced we had gotten a fair shake.
"'Mr. Nelson Williams Gordon, aka Bear, all the conditions I just laid on your two buddies apply to you as well, with some changes. You have 200 hours of community service. Additionally, in regard to school, I'm told you are failing in school and will not graduate unless you do summer school. You are to put your nose to the grindstone and pull your grades up to a C. Anything less than a C, you'll take over, in summer school. If you can't finish in summer school, you'll get your GED before December of this year.
"'Since you deprived someone of his automobile, you are to surrender your driver's license and not ride in an automobile except to go to work and, this summer, go to school. Until school is out, you can walk or ride a school bus. You are to get a job and be gainfully employed part-time until you graduate high school. In addition to paying a fourth of Sandy's hospital bill, you are to pay one half of the difference between what the insurance pays and what Mr. Porcher's car -- clean-up or new car, whatever -- costs. Finally, you are to have no contact with Edward -- Sandy -- or Kevin Jenkins, Marcus Porcher, John Thurmond, Arnold Blake, Adam Sanford or Justin Smith. You agree to those conditions?' Bear mumbled something and Judge Maynard thundered, 'I didn't hear a response.'
"Bear said a little louder, 'Yeah, alright, I guess so.' Judge Maynard said, 'I don't consider that a response. Let's try again. Do you accept the conditions I have laid out?'
"Bear said a little louder, 'Yes.'
"'Better. Before you sign, I want you to know that I am reserving the right to send you to boot camp without any further legal procedures if you screw up, and I will be the one to decide if you have screwed up. Ok?' Bear shrugged and signed.
"'Mr. Kevin Jenkins, I am very reluctant to let you off without serving any hard time. You are, frankly, disgusting, a disgusting bully. Against my better judgment, I am giving you another chance. You'll leave at 9:00 this morning for boot camp. You finish three months there and come out with a spotless record, I'll allow you to complete an additional year and a half probation. Complete that with a clean nose and I expunge your criminal record.
"'In that year and a half you will do several things: complete your GED, do 250 hours community service, get and keep a job. From your wages you will pay a fourth of Sandy's medical bills and one half of Mr. Porcher's car. The 7:00 to 7:00 curfew applies for the year and a half probation. You are not to be in a car except to get to work, church, or school. You are to have no contact with Edward Jenkins, Marcus Porcher, John Thurmond, Nelson Gordon, Arnold Blake, Adam Sanford or Justin Smith. Before you sign, if you are going to, you need to know that even a tiny slip and you'll stand trial for aggravated assault, destruction of private property and, most serious of all, rape of a seventeen-year-old. Is that clear?'
"Kev nodded, signed, and was immediately taken away in handcuffs by the sheriff. That's it," Adam said, and looked relieved.
Mrs. Powers hadn't yet heard about the episode this morning and when told, just shook her head. We spent time talking about the difference in the kinds of assaults, how the justice system works and, therefore, how easy the four had gotten off and, finally, we ended with a discussion of the meaning of friendship and the destructive power of jealousy.
The period wasn't over before Mr. Agnue came on the intercom and announced we would be on short schedule. "We will have late lunch for those who need to have lunch before they leave, otherwise, you may go after your last short period. Be careful prom night."
Needless to say, those who had their own transportation were out of there as soon as they finished their last class, forgetting about any school lunch. With a great roar of cars and the boom of subwoofers, prom weekend began.