I was down in the Programing Office, stuffing my face with someone’s chocolate birthday cake, when the phone rang.
Joe, the head of the Program Office picked it up and said, “Pistol, you’re needed in the Dean’s office immediately.”
This can’t be good.
When I walked into the office, Dave greeted me with an evil smile. Then he patted me on the shoulder and chirped, “You got a report to fill out, buddy! And it’s a Super’s.” That’s short for a Superintendent’s Suspension – the most severe kind – and it requires you to represent the school at a court case, essentially, with lawyers and everything at the District Office of Student Suspensions. It sucks. And to make things worse it was a Friday and it was 20 minutes before the end of my day.
“You’re kidding right?”
He shook his head, “Your buddy Mahmoud just threatened to kill Dean Jake.” Dave tried to look sympathetic, but I could tell he was suppressing a chuckle. We’ve learned to laugh at other people’s misfortunes in the Dean’s Office because, let’s face it, that’s all we got.
“Oh Pistol! It was oohwafull!” Vicki, the secretary was holding her hands tightly to her chest. “I trawiied to coowall an agent but nobody came! Luckily Dave was heah to step in between ’em. He was standin’ theah in front of Mahmoud and he just grabs a piece of papah and starts scribblin’ notes becoowas so much was comin’ outta that kid’s mouth, he wantet to get it all down.”
Dave and Flint were both witnesses to the incident, so they each had to fill out statements. And since Jake was the victim, I was the only one left to take the case.
Flint was pressing a pen furiously against his statement form when he looked up and yelled, “Hey Dave, Let’s see whose prose is bettah!” He dictated in an exagerrated reading voice, emphasizing the words he was especially proud of, as he wrote, “Mr. Mahmoud pontificated to Dean Jake, ‘I dare ya to take this hat off my head!’ He then became incensed at Dean Jake, and uttered, ‘If I see ya outside, I’m gonna fuckin’ kill ya, you bitch-ass pussy nigga!'” Flint paused to chuckled a little. Then he continued, “He repeated this phrase several times in an aggressive mannah. Ya like that, Dave? ‘He became incensed’? Whaddya think, should I use a comma in theah?” Flint was having a grand old time as he scripted my suffering, and he wasn’t done yet. “Mahmoud then declared, referring to his suspension papers, ‘You can stick those papers up ya ass!’ He also proclaimed, ‘You’re a faggot!’ Hey Pistol, is that one T or two?”
“I don’t know Flint,” I said in a tired voice. “Maybe you should ask your boyfriend.”
“Ooooohh that’s a good one, Pistol! That’s a good one.”
Just then, a safety agent came into the office and asked to see the picture book. He wanted to see Mahmoud’s face.
When I showed it to him, he said, “It was this guy? Hey Pistol, you betta call Homeland Security! I think we got a terrorist!”
I didn’t call Homeland Security but I did call Mahmoud’s parents to fill them in on the day’s events. His mother didn’t speak English so she handed the phone to a little girl who, who was probably Mahmoud’s sister, to translate.
“Tell your mom that Mahmoud just told a teacher he was going to kill him. Okay?”
“Does she understand?”
“Yes, she understands.”
“He’s going to be suspended. I’ll call you back on Monday to let you know what you guys have to do next.”
Then it was time to start the paperwork. A super’s suspension requires an unbelievably complex series of forms and faxes and phone calls and computer clicks, boops and beeps. I should have been at the damn bar by the time it was all done and the police finally showed up.
“Ya know we already had two of ya girls beat up a kid down tha street today,” the first cop said. “They split her head open and she hadda get stitches. It nevah fockin’ ends. Oh, and just so ya know, weah not gonna arrest this guy, okay? Trust me, I wish we could. I wish we could beat tha shit outta him,” he grumbled under his breath. “But weah just gonna fill out a harassment repoaht.”
“That’s cool man,” I replied. Then I added, “It’s weird. This kid used to be a goofball, always joking around and laughing. I think something must have happened to him in his life or something.”
“Oh yeah?” The officer said without looking up from his notepad. “Hey Jake, what’s yoah full name? Goldman? What is that, Italian?”
“Yeah, that’s right officer O’Malley” said Jake. “O’Malley, what is that, Jewish?”
The corner of Officer O’Malley’s mouth curled up slightly as he continued writing his report.
“So yeah,” I continued, “One day he just came in with a scowl on his face and it never left.”
The cop finally looked up. “You said he’s Arab? Well I happen ta know tha neighbahood where he lives. and it’s ninety-nine percent black. So maybe he got tired of gettin’ his butt kicked every day, and he just turned,” he said as he tore off a copy of his report and handed it to Jake.
“Could be,” I said.
“Hey Jake!” boomed Dean Flint. “Ya need me ta walk ya to ya car? You gonna be okay? Hahaha.”
It was a little easier for them to laugh than it was for me. Jake and Flint both weigh over 250 pounds. And their cars are parked in the teacher’s lot. I’m a tall skinny motherfucker, and I walk a quarter mile to the train. I also didn’t grow up in the Far Rockaway projects when they were all Irish like Flint did. So I have to admit, when I finally left the building that day, my imagination was screwing with me a little. I couldn’t help wondering how it would go down if Mahmoud had really been serious about killing us. First I saw him hiding behind the side door that I leave from. Then I saw a car pull up next to me and Mahmoud and three of his friends jumped out and surrounded me on the sidewalk. Did he have a pipe in his hands? A blade? A gun? It wasn’t so far-fetched. It was a scene that plays out on the streets around our school on a regular basis. So what would I do? Would I fight? Would I run? As I thought about it, I put my head down, pulled my hood up, and just kept walking through the dark frigid streets. There was nothing else to do.
And then there was the hour long subway ride through every ghetto in Brooklyn before I would finally get home. Like Mahmoud, I am alone in this place. A fish out of water. And after eight years, you have to wonder. Is the scowl permanent now?