I can tell you this much. If that dust-devil hadn't clouded my windows, I'd have been out of that field and far, far from any cops. But sometimes Fate likes to cudgel you. And in such cases, one must cudgel her back, right in the fucking head. But that won't come till later. At the moment, I was spinning round the field, blind as a brick, scorching up plumes of dust. The police cars surrounded me. I could hear their doors opening, policemen coming out, then the screech and blare of a megaphone.
"This is the police! Come to a stop immediately and get out of the car!" Did I listen? Would you have listened? No. They opened fire, popping the Stingray's wheels. After a few more turns on shredded rubber, I finally did come to a stop. "Out! Out with your hands in the air!" This time, I obliged. It wasn't my car, after all. As I stepped onto the field, the officers gasped.
"A kid?" one of them howled. "A fucking kid?"
"Alright Junior, the joyride's over." The officers lowered their guns one by one, each man completely beside himself. The highest-ranking among them, a portly sheriff crowned in a cowboy hat, sauntered toward me with an expression of pure awe and disgust. "Are you some kinda psycho?" he asked me.
"Are you some kind of fatso?" I replied. He didn't like this much, and pinned me to the ground, rough as he could without crushing me. These days, I'd have punched his guts through his asshole, but an eight-year-old can only do so much. He cuffed me and dragged me back to the police cars.
"That's Bernstein's Stingray, ain't it?" asked an officer.
"Yep," said the fat man who'd cuffed me.
"I say we burn it and blame it on the kid. Bernstein's an evil fuck."
"Plus it'd get this kid some hard juvie," said another sheriff. "He'll learn the law real quick."
"Much as I'd like to," said the fat one, "we gotta take him to Fistwood. Bill, Joe, get this car to Bernstein. The rest of you, back to your beats. 'Cept you, Mike. You come with me."
They stowed me in the back of a police car, and soon enough, I was being driven back through Fistwood. Turns out the fat one had a name: Bentley. From what I gathered hearing Bentley jaw, people outside Fistwood knew about the Incident last summer.
"Hey Mike," he said, as we shuttled down Main Street. "That kid. He look familiar?"
Mike glanced in the rear-view mirror. "Yup," he said. "Can't say why."
"I think that's the Bear Kid." Mike lowered his shades to get a better look in the mirror, then turned around bodily to see me. He slumped back in his seat.
"I'll be damned," he said. "Looks just like him." He looked at me again. "Kid, you got a lotta problems, and you make a lotta problems. That ain't no way to live."
Course he was right. At the moment, my problems were hauling me to Fistwood Station. When we got there, I had to wait in a room with a pregnant teenage girl. Her eyeshadow had run down her face, so she looked like Pagliacci. Rape case, I figured.
A little later, my parents came in, Calhoun with his cigar, Delilah red from over-tanning. Bentley approached them. "You Mr. and Mrs. Jackson?" They nodded. "Your son's here. We caught him off-road in Mort Bernstein's Stingray Coupe, chasing a dirt-devil. The side of the car is severely scratched and the tires are out. Not to mention, the whole thing needs a wash. Oh, and this is a no-smoking area, Mr. Jackson. Put that thing out."
Calhoun summoned up the most disgusted grimace he could muster, a sneer that said everything a thousand manifestos could not. Then he rubbed out the cigar in the soil of a potted plant, sized up the fat one, and said, "Any proof?"
"Eight police witnesses and several drivers and pedestrians. Bernstein himself. The fucked-up coupe. Yeah, we got proof."
"This don't seem fair," said Delilah. "We didn't raise our son this way. There must be a mistake."
"I'm afraid not," said Bentley. A secretary came up to him and gave him a dossier.
"You got fucking docs on our son?" spat Calhoun. He looked ready to hit someone.
"That's correct," said Bentley. He finished flipping through the dossier and gave it to the secretary. "Jesus. This kid's barely on record. He ain't even enrolled in the school here. Care to tell me why, Samantha?"
She shrugged. "Must have slipped through the system."
Bentley didn't buy it. We Jacksons were just too much trouble for the state to deal with, and he realized this. Oh, they knew about me, but no one wanted the Bear Kid in math class. Too many liabilities."
"Let me explain this to you," said Bentley. "I'd really, really like to see this brat in juvie. We can do that, and we will, unless you enroll him in the school here. If he ends up a productive member of society, I won't feel so bad letting him free."
Suddenly I was on Golgotha and this bastard was driving in nails. No, no, no. Not school. Not that. Anything, anything but that.
My father looked at me glumly, as if to say, I'm sorry, Son. Knowing he didn't have a choice, he nodded. "Alright."
So began my Tribulation.