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Station 8. Wade consoles the women of Jerusalem
Wood carving by Susan Hagen, story by Mike Walsh
Wade went to a keg party held by a guy named Bill Leonard. Wade didn't know Leonard very well, but he hardly ever turned down free beer. Wade also knew it would be one of the last keggers he would attend in his hometown for some time. He was scheduled to join the Marines in one month, and he wouldn't be back in the area for at least six months.
Wade got somewhat drunk at the party, and he was one of the last to leave. He got a ride home in the back of a pickup truck at about 3 a.m. An hour later he heard some noise in his house. He got up to investigate and found several guys from the party, including Bill Leonard, rooting through his belongings in his living room.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he asked.
Leonard started screaming at Wade about his stereo. Apparently, Leonard's stereo had been stolen after the party, and he was convinced that Wade was the thief.
"You're talking shit, man," said Wade. "I didn't touch your damn stereo. Look around. It's not here."
Leonard and his friends told Wade to come outside. Wade knew what that meant. Leonard wanted to fight. Wade had never backed down from a challenge in his life.
"If you want me, all I can say is, let's get it on, bro," he said.
Wade quickly got dressed and went outside. Before he stepped off the front porch, he was hit in the face with a shovel. Then Leonard and his friends jumped on him, and he was beaten unconscious within a few minutes.
Wade was rushed to the hospital. He had a broken jaw, torn tendons in his elbow, a concussion, and an assortment of cuts that required over fifty stitches.
The next day Wade left the hospital against his doctor's orders. His arm was in a sling and his head and jaw were wrapped tightly with bandages. He went directly to police headquarters to file a complaint against Leonard.
The local cops knew Wade well. He had been arrested on numerous minor offenses over the past few years, including public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, and discharging a firearm within city limits.
"I can't help thinking you deserved whatever you got," one cop said to him.
Wade stomped out of the station. He knew the cops wouldn't lift a finger to help him. They were worthless. He went home, loaded his shotgun, and drove directly to Bill Leonard's house. He found Leonard asleep on his couch. He pointed the gun at Leonard's head and nudged him with his foot. Leonard woke and gasped.
"Don't move, you lame-ass prick," said Wade.
Leonard shoved the barrel of the gun away and rolled onto the floor. Wade knew he couldn't handle Leonard in his condition, so he swung the barrel of the gun as hard as he could. The gun walloped Leonard in the ribs, who screamed and grabbed his side.
Wade stuffed the barrel of the shotgun into Leonard's mouth and cocked the hammer. Tears squeezed from the corners of Leonard's eyes. "I don't know who stole your damn stereo, and I don't care," said Wade. "If you ever come after me again, I swear I'll blow your head off. Got it, fuckwad?"
Leonard nodded frantically.
An hour later four cops busted into Wade's house with their guns drawn. They cuffed him, even with his bad arm, and hauled him in. He was charged with home invasion, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and illegal use of a firearm. Leonard had two broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a chipped tooth.
Wade's bail was set at one hundred thousand dollars. His parents couldn't come up with ten percent, so he stayed cooped up. He was worried most about his enlistment. If the Marines found out he was incarcerated, it could screw up everything. He contacted his recruiter, who told Wade that he would keep everything quiet for as long as he could.
While he was in jail, an acquaintance visited Wade and admitted that he had stolen the stereo. Wade urged him to turn it over to the police. "Look, man, I'd hate to rat you out, but I'll do what I got to do. Let's not forget that I'm in some deep shit here."
His acquaintance went to the police the next day with the stereo. He was charged with a misdemeanor and paid a two hundred dollar fine. Wade couldn't believe that he was being held in jail while the dude who had caused the whole mess got off with a slap on the wrist.
"It just goes to show that the criminal justice system in this country is gone to hell," Wade told several inmates, who all agreed.
After twenty-three days in lock-up, Wade was brought to the county courthouse. He was escorted through a side door into the courtroom. He immediately heard the wails of his mother, sister, and grandmother. They rushed to the front of the spectators' section as Wade was lead to the defense table. The three sobbing women leaned over the railing and hugged him.
Wade was deeply moved. He felt more concern for them than for himself. As the guards separated him from the women, he said, "C'mon, don't cry. Geez, I'll be all right."
Wade realized that even if he wasn't guilty of the charges he was facing, he was guilty of many other wrongdoings. He had always been a screw up and hadn't worried about the consequences. He hadn't worked hard at any time in his life. He had always goofed off. He never studied in school and barely passed his high school courses. He went out drinking, smoking reefer, chasing girls, and drag racing almost every weekend night. He had always done the exact opposite of what his teachers, parents, and friends had advised him to do. He felt especially bad for his mother. He had put her through hell. She had probably wished that she had been given a different child, one who was responsible, obedient, and successful.
Wade felt as if he were on trial, not for stealing a stereo and threatening another man's life, but for his entire life. Whatever sentence was given to him, he knew he was guilty.
Wade's lawyer argued, in point of fact, that the defendant had not stolen the stereo, that Leonard and his friends had attacked Wade first, that Wade had gone to Leonard's house with the loaded shotgun merely to scare him, and that the defendant, while not admitting guilt, was deeply sorry for any harm his actions had caused. He also pointed out and that Wade was scheduled to go into the Marines in a matter of days. The judge ruled that all of the charges would be dismissed if Wade enlisted in the Marines immediately upon his release.
"Just get him out of town," said the judge. "I don't want to see his face around here."
Wade and his lawyer accepted the deal. The next day Wade's lawyer picked him up at the county jail and took him directly to the bus station, where Wade boarded a bus for San Diego and the Marine recruitment depot there. He never went to another keg party in his hometown.
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