Hard Times

In the third or fourth grade, I won third prize in a safety poster contest. Two Japanese sisters won first and second prize. I thought their posters were sensational. They were beautifully done. As soonas I saw their work, I figured they deserved to win. And they did.

***

When the law came knocking on our door, I was home alone with my grandmother. It was late afternoon. She was in her bedroom, not feeling well.

I could hear them lumbering up the stairs. They knocked sharply on our door. I opened it. And there stood two large men. I remember they wore lumpy blue serge suits and green fedoras. One was silent. The other spoke in a flat voice.

“Is Jim Dewey here?”

“No, six.”

“Who’s in here with you, son?”

I hesitated. The spokesman flashed an open wallet at me. I saw a police badge.

“We’re from police headquarters.”

I squeaked out my reply. “My grandmother’s here with me and she’s sick in bed.” My throat was dry. And I was scared.

“So you’re takin’ care of her, huh?”

“Yes, sir,” I squeaked again.

“Is it alright if we come in and look around?”

“I guess it’s okay,” I replied doubtfully. I really didn’t know what else to say. Asking for a search warrant or anything like that was far beyond my state of mind.

For the next hour or so, these two plain clothes cops minutely ransacked our apartment from one end to the other. They asked me a lot of questions while they went about their search. For some reason, they were especially interested in our wood-burning stove. They peeked and poked all around inside and on the back and underneath.

Twice, they asked me when we had used the stove last. I told them early that morning.

Ironically, it wasn’t -until the very end of their search that they discovered my grandfather’s home brewing equipment, stacked neatly in a closet next to the front door where they first entered.

My grandfather had already made his deliveries that week from our most recent batch. All that remained was about a half a case of beer which he was saving for himself. The two cops examined the bottles of beer and our pitiful little stack of home brew equipment and looked at each other in disgust. One muttered something like, “For Chrissakes, Hal, this is nuthin’. Let’s get the hell out of here. We’re wasting our time.”

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