Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Shell Game

I knew I should have said something.

My Dad-Spidey-Sense went off in the morning, as we bustled and hustled the kids towards their buses. The weekend's activities had been fun, in the "I'm going to share with my friends" sort of way.  Telling stories about the creepy evening in an old creaky house hunting ghosts was one thing.

But the weekend also involved target shooting at a range, which resulted in a whole bunch of shell casings being brought home.  The little guy, being a twelve year old boy and all, brought home a batch of them.  Trophies!  Souvenirs!

If I'd been twelve and had evidence I could show my friends of an afternoon firing an actual .357 Magnum revolver?  Of course I'd have been eager to have proof.  Proof I could show off.

So as they were fed and watered and prepped for school, a little subroutine piped up in my mind.  "Remind him not to take the casings to school to show to friends."  I know from public schools, and, well, I could visualize what might happen if he did what most boys his age would do.

That little voice got drowned out, though, in the chaos of a rainy morning.

And so, as I was picking up the big guy to take him to an orthodontist appointment, I got a call from my wife.

Who'd gotten a call from the principal's office, where my son was, having been found showing off the shell casings.  Teachers and counselors and assistant principals had been involved.  For casings, mind you.  Not live ammunition.  A spent shell casing is inert metal, and weighs nothing.  It's less dangerous than a rock.  Or a fist.  Or a tooth.

But our schools...being responsive to the anxiety of parents...are in that strange place where even a finger or a pointed cruller can get a child in trouble.

"Very serious."  "Potentially threatening."

But because he had a clean record, and is a born schmoozer, he was allowed to return to class, his trophies confiscated.  No suspension.  No expulsion.

No harm, no foul, I figured, winding down the parental defensiveness.  After dropping off my older son, I rolled by the middle school, and picked up the casings from the front desk.

Huh, thought I.  There were only four.  His collection of trophies had been many, some fired, some gathered off the ground.  .22, .38, .308, .45, and 7.62 millimeter.

But there were four.  One tiny .22 rimfire, three Thirty Eight Special.  I figured there were three options.  One, the school had lost some.  This seemed unlikely, given the public school persnicketiness factor.  Two, he'd left some at home.  This seemed unlikely, given my son.  Or Three, the .45 and the 7.62 mm casings were sitting in his pocket the whole time in the office.

When he got home, we had a conversation, after I'd talked him down a bit from his righteous dudgeon.  "A pencil is more dangerous than a casing," he said, speaking truth.  "It's tyranny," he said, getting a little hyperbolic.  We talked a little bit about needing to think about context and the craziness of schools.

As I handed over the casings, he said, "And I wasn't even showing them off.  I was just using them to play some Monte."

Good thing he didn't mention that in the office.