Tuesday, December 14, 2010

34. Imposters

C.W. has discovered that he can use the wireless internet service at the public library and he is showering me with e-mail messages. This morning he sent a particularly anxious one and asked me to meet him at the intersection of Ninth Street and Interstate 30. It’s only around the corner from where I live so, more than a little apprehensively, I agreed.

When I arrived, I had the shock of my life. There, on the corner by a deserted convenience store stood … well, stood me, at age 23. He had obviously “enphased” back to the 1960s and found me in military fatigues. He was holding a terrified man in dirty clothes and wearing a sign around his neck stating “Vietnam Veteran needs your help. God bless you.”

“What the …,” I began.

“I want you to make a citizen’s arrest and have this man incarcerated,” I, or rather C.W., said.

I was confused. “What are you doing?”

“It’s simple,” C.W. said. “This man is breaking the law, and I want him arrested.”

“What law?”

“Ask him to show you his DD-214,” the young Jimmie said.

“What’s a DD- 2, uh, whatever?” the terrified man said.

“Oh, shit,” I said as a police cruiser pulled along side us and stopped. A side window rolled down.

“What’s the problem?” A young officer said.

Before I could answer, C.W.—or the young me, if you prefer—piped up. “We want this man arrested for lying about military service.”

“Oh, jeez,” the “homeless” one said. “I didn’t mean no harm.”

The officer studied him. “Well,” he said after a long pause, “Do you have a proof of service—a DD-214?”

“Aw, man,” the hapless fellow said. “I’m just trying to make an honest living.”

“Take his ass to jail,” C.W. said. “I’m tired of folks pretending to be veterans and grabbing publicity.”

“What about you?” the officer asked C.W. “You have on the attire, but do you have any proof?”

C.W. looked a little startled. “Ask him,” he said, pointing at me.

Up until this point, I had tried to stay out of it. “Officer,” I said. “Maybe we ought to forget about this whole thing.”

“Maybe,” he said. “I have better things to do.”

“You aren’t going to arrest him?” C.W. was regaining his confidence.

“If I arrested him, I might have to arrest you as well,” The officer said. “And if I arrested every homeless person that claimed to be a veteran and wasn’t, we’d have no room in the jails for rapists and murderers.”

“Well, I never,” said an indignant C.W. “It’s certainly different where I come from.”

The officer ignored him and continued with an air of finality. “Besides, I’m two tours in Iraq myself and, believe me, I understand.” He looked at the homeless man. “I’m going to count to three and maybe I won’t see you here.”

The man had disappeared by “two.”

The officer then looked us over. “You guys favor one another. Father and son?”

We didn’t say anything.

“Why don’t you go home and have a nice day?” he said. He didn’t have to say it twice.

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