Around 2 PM today, the neighbor from across the street (Bob) knocked on the door. He asked if I had seen any kids running through our backyard. I was, at the time, upstairs in the house in front of the computer, and because of that, pretty oblivious to everything else in my immediate world.
No, I hadn’t seen any kids in the backyard, or running through it. “Why?” I asked him. He replied by telling me that four kids had attempted to enter the house next door to us. The house in question is up for sale, and empty at the present time, though the former occupant, a friendly guy named Stan, has been making daily visits to the house to empty out the entire contents.
Stan inadvertently left his front door open today. The four kids in question rode their bikes past the house, saw the ‘For Sale’ sign and the rest was history. They entered through the front door with Stan’s garden hose, turned the hose on and were attempting to flood the place.
Around the same time was also when Bob from across the street noticed the garden hose running up inside the front door and four strange kids in the driveway. He walked over the asked what they were doing. They responded by running. Bob quickly turned the garden hose off and came to see if we had heard or seen anything.
No, we didn’t see anything, but we found some cold, hard evidence from the dumb asses in question pretty soon after. In their haste to run from Bob, they neglected to escape along with the bikes they had arrived on. And scattered throughout the backyard were three bikes: two semi-new 20″ Mongoose BMX bikes from Wal-Mart, and one 26″ obviously stolen and painted over hybrid street/mountain bike. Yeah, they had gotten away, but before us, laid in the grass, were three reminders that these kids weren’t the sharpest criminals to pass through the borders of our small town.
I quickly gathered the bikes, stacked them atop each other and locked them together with my Kryptonite lock. I also placed a note on the bikes that read: ‘Hey dudes, If you want your bikes back, I have the key. Fess up to what you did and we can talk about it. We’re at #497 if you want to talk….’
The small flood was quickly mopped up, no real damage was done, and our initial plan wasn’t really marked out, but I figured it involved waiting for these kids to come back so we could talk some sense into them. Then we realized that these young teenagers in the neighborhood were also now aware that there was an empty house on the block, and that word might spread about it, possibly resulting in further vandalism. So we called the police to file a report.
The officer arrived about 10 minutes later. His name was D.J. Piro, and the only reason I remember it was because I read his badge and then thought to myself, “Yo, what up niggas! It’s DJ Piro in da hizouse!!!!” I know, that’s a really silly thought to have after reading a cop’s name badge, but at least I’m looking to the light amid a rather tenuous situation…..
Officer Piro was caught at a crossroads, and this was his reasoning. Technically, he should be confiscating the bikes as they were found property. BUT, he also thought that if he took the bikes, then the kids in question would exact retribution onto the house, possibly causing further damage. To be honest, he really didn’t seem to be in control of the situation and probably just wanted to get out of there as soon as he could. His reasoning made sense, but inevitably, it would also demonstrate to the kids (if they were in fact watching from afar) that they could do as they pleased, be dumb asses about their getaway, and still get off scot-free.
Then the kids in question poked their heads around the corner from the end of the street, and the Officer gave chase. He arrived back at the house with three of the four kids in the back of the car. Another officer also arrived on the scene, and his car boasted a bike rack. The kids in the back of the squad car pleaded that they didn’t know the fourth kid’s name, that they had just met him, and that they didn’t put the hose inside the house. The second officer to arrive on the scene didn’t seem to care about their story and started loading their bikes into his car. The kids were eventually let go, but their names and information were taken down, and their bikes were confiscated. If they wanted them back, they had to go to the police station with their parents to claim them.
They walked down the street, heads hung low, and disappeared around the corner shortly thereafter. I really wanted to follow them and ask them why they did what they did and how they could be so fucking dumb about it, but I already knew. I was that dumb kid once, unsuccessfully pulling off pointless acts of destruction, and not knowing what to do once I was caught. I never had a reason for myself aside from the fact that it was fun to do bad stuff, but now I know why I was an idiot that loved to commit random acts of criminal mischief from the ages of 14 through 19. There was risk involved, it was exhilarating, and being notorious made you cool.
When all was said and done, turning a garden hose on inside an empty house for sale didn’t seem all that strange to me. Yeah, when you step back, it does make absolutely no sense, but it is an integral part of adhering to the social parameters of teenage-hood in the suburbs, and one that I don’t see changing anytime soon.
The odd assembly of neighbors lining the street went back about their lives inside their houses. The police drove off, and all the inter-generational battles on Whittier Avenue were put to rest for the time being.
There would be most likely be some form of retribution; my only hope is that I’m around to experience it….

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