Suspicious Activity Near Schools

1a.  Suspicious Activity Near Schools
       Fri., May  6, 2016 9:03 a.m. Posted by: cindymom44

A 9-year-old girl who lives in the community reported to the police that a man got out of a red pick-up truck and asked her to get into his truck with him.  She said no, ran into the woods, and then ran home.  

“If I do my chores, will you take me out to lunch?” said Max.

“Maybe,” I said, weighing the magnitude of our debt against my need to get out of the house on the 11th rainy day in a row.

“Please, Mommy!  I promise I won’t crawl around on the restaurant floor this time.”

California Tortilla was playing an all-Prince playlist.  “Raspberry Beret” reminded  me of a time when I could order food without thinking about the protein-to-carb ratio.

“I’ll get us a table,” said Max.  Reluctantly, I loosened his invisible tether while I waited by the register for our food.

I was thinking about how “scrolling” was the new word for “waiting” when a twenty-something said “You said dressing on the side, right, ma’am?”

Fucking millennials.

As I was walking back toward the four-top my son chose for the two of us, a man in his mid-twenties entered the restaurant.  “Thieves in the Temple” wasn’t a big hit, but it was always one of my favorites.

“Did you get my brownie, Mommy?” said Max from under the table.

I gave the man a nod as if to say children, am I right?  He didn’t respond but kept walking toward the register.

“Yes, but you have to eat your entire quesadilla first.”

“That sucks, mommy.”

“I told you not to say sucks, Max.”  Thank God no one heard him.

I gathered two napkins, two straws, and one fork to the rhythm of “Little Red Corvette” and sat down to enjoy some “fast casual” Tex-Mex.

“Mommy!  Stop humming!” Max hates it when I hum or dance or anything he considers embarrassing.

“Look kiddo, I will hum if I–”

“Hablas Español?” said the man I’d exchanged glances with while waiting for my food.  He looked overworked at only half past noon.  

“No.  No Español.  Sorry.”

He searched the ground for some way to explain.  From the shards of broken English, all I understood was “hospital,” “son,” and “please.”

 1b. Re:  Suspicious Activity Near Schools
       Fri., May  6, 2016 11:10 a.m. Posted by: jasonwhitesmom23

Today, I saw a hispanic man in a red Ford pickup truck stop several times along Monticello and case/stare at children walking. I saw him stop and watch the children on the playground.  He was traveling slowly, stopping intermittently, and then driving very quickly away when another driver followed him. 

“I’m sorry.  I can’t help you.”  I said.  I could feel Max’s eyes watching for my next move.

The man nodded and sat down at a two-top only a few feet away.  I had not noticed his dark circles and cracked lips before then.

“What would you like to do after this, Max?  I asked.

“Bouncy castle!”

“How about a nice hike?”

“Bouncy castle!”

“We don’t have enough money for that today.  I’m sorry Max.”

“You are the worst mom ever.”  He said, crawling back onto the grimy floor.

“Max get back up here and finish your food or we’re not going anywhere else today.”

He crawled back into his chair and grimaced at the bean and cheese “Kids-adilla” that he begged me to buy him.

“What if I eat most of my lunch? Then can I have the brownie?”

Why God, why didn’t anyone warn me that parenting was going to be this fucking boring?

After another song or two, it became clear that the man wasn’t waiting on an order.  I took a deep breath and handed him my oversized chocolate chip cookie, the metal chair scraping the tile floor as I got up.

“No, no.  You no have to do.” He said, trying to give back the cookie.  It was then I noticed the cross on his sweatshirt.  It was a part of a logo written in Spanish.

“It’s okay.  Please, take it.”  I said.

Seconds later, the man’s eyes pinched tight and he folded his clasped hands toward his chin.  Who says grace for a cookie? I thought.

I continued eating my oversized burrito bowl, hold the tortilla (because carbs) and dressing on the side (because thighs).

“Mommy, is he crying?” Max whispered.

The cookie was lying there half unwrapped as his tears fell onto the bright orange table top.  He wiped at his face with the neck of his sweatshirt, but the tears kept coming.

Ripples of despair bent the air between us.  I stared at our table swallowing fork after fork of food in an attempt to mute the voice that was telling me I needed to do something, anything.

“Max stop staring right now.  Eat your food.” I said through gritted teeth.

I knew the nine quarters and two one-dollar bills I had in my wallet wouldn’t be enough, but I needed to believe something was better than nothing.  The sound of the quarters hitting his table was the kind of trite percussion no one ever needed to hear.

I gathered the leftovers and my antsy child and went back into the grey afternoon just as the guitar solo in “Purple Rain” was starting.

 1c. Re:  Suspicious Activity Near Schools
       Fri., May  6, 2016 3:00 p.m. Posted by: listservmommy

… He is a primarily Spanish speaker, and was looking for his immigration lawyer who works in the neighborhood.  The lawyer corroborated this.  He said his speeding away was due to his fear of the person he noticed following him.

22 thoughts on “Suspicious Activity Near Schools

  1. Wow. This is a really powerful story, and beautifully-written. I love how you integrated the fragments of the activity report.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. It’s so hard to tell if I’ve conveyed the story well enough when I look at it. I think I’m still too close to it as it happened the other day.


      1. That makes sense! Sometimes you need a little emotional distance from an event. But from where I’m sitting I definitely think you did!


      2. you did very well. I saw everything through your eyes, and felt every emotion through your words. and then the message POW- ER- FUL. You did great wonderful read.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha I sure do! I try really hard to wait a day before posting to make sure I’m happy with the story, but sometimes the first version is the best one. Until you submit. Lol


  2. No words. Okay that’s not me, but wow, just wow. “Ripples of despair bent the air between us,” “trite percussion no one ever needed to hear,” and “fucking millennials”???? And then the way the story unfolded and your use of those reports…. Unbelievably beautifully written. Entranced.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m still new here but you clearly set the bar- the snippets of reports are amazing. The end result of this story is powerful. The description is so vivid and original. I feel like I learn so much about this craft from your pieces. Love it!


    1. It’s been quite a “learn as I go” journey for me. For a long time I had it in my head that telling stories had to be very straight forward, no dialogue, just you know, tell an interesting story, but then being at YW for a while I started to notice the really good writers mixed it up. Still I was scared to try it because (frankly) I was CLUELESS about the mechanics of writing dialogue. So, I just gave myself permission to fail (and still do) and eventually I (mostly) figured it out. I REALLY appreciate your positive encouragement!


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