Marty was my best friend, you could say. We met in 5th grade and lived a few houses apart. Marty was a little crazy, I guess. He was always trying to prove himself, it seemed. He took more chances, dared me to go along, and got me into a few scrapes. Marty's parents fought, a lot, and eventually divorced with his father moving to Chicago when he was 15. He got worse after that. His mother took up with a guy who was a bit of a bully which didn't help things.
When Marty and I got arrested at age 12 for breaking into a school, both his parents and mine tried to keep us from hanging out together. Of course that didn't work. After awhile, they seemed to give up. The school burglary thing wasn't much, we found a way into a school store one Saturday afternoon and rifled through stuff. There wasn't much in there that we were interested in. The principal caught us and the police had been called. We were hauled off to the police station where we were eventually handed over to our parents. No juvenile court or anything.
When Marty was 15, he got drunk and stole a Corvette. He was bound to get caught. At 15, he looked even younger and he wasn't all that good a driver. He got caught in Greynolds Park after passing out. Since no damage was done to the car, no charges were filed. But he did spend a few days getting over the alcohol poisoning (yeah, he drank that much) and a week in juvie.
Marty managed to do the wrong thing naturally. We skipped school in the Fall of 1960 and hitchhiked down to Opa Locka where we rented Go-Karts and haunted the game at the G-Kart track. Around 3, as we started back home, Marty tried to call his mother to let her know he might be late getting home. He was trying to get a free phone call at a payphone by shorting a wire on the handset to ground when a car rolled by eying us suspiciously. When the car came back, Marty ran. The guy wasn't from the phone company but owned an ice vending machine nearby. He wanted to know who Marty was and why he ran. I played dumb. The guy said he called the cops (or would). I figured he was bluffing but it turned out I was wrong.
I found Marty a couple of blocks away and then a cop pulled up and we were whisked off to the Opa Locka police station. It took 4 hours to get things straightened out and Marty's father down to pick us up. There was no damage to the phone or anything else, we managed to slide on everything. But if Marty hadn't run, none of it would have happened. Marty wasn't stupid but there were times I wondered...
When he was 16, he took his mother's car out one evening for a little joyride while she wasn't home. When he got home, he went back in the house and watched TV. About an hour later, he took his dog for a walk and realized there was smoke coming from the car. He had thought he had tossed a cigarette out the window but it had blown back in. The rear seat was smoldering. He pulled out the seat and hosed it down then dried it as best he could and put it back. After taking the dog for his walk, he returned to find smoke again coming out of the car. It seems the carpeting had started smoldering and it ran back into the trunk. He got that out just as his mother and her boyfriend pulled into the driveway. Within a few days, Marty ran away.
He didn't run far, he stayed in houses that were empty. There were a few houses in the neighborhood that were only occupied during the winter months. I helped him out when I could, kept in touch. The cops naturally talked to me, trying to find him. I negotiated a surrender of sorts where he would be sent to live with his father in Chicago. Marty agreed. I wouldn't see him again for a couple of years.
When he returned, I had taken an entirely different direction in life. I had moved to Orlando and back, I had taken up surfing, I had cast off old friends for new ones. I had a more positive view of life. Marty had come back with a couple of acquaintances from Chicago, traveling on stolen gas credit cards. I helped him find a place to live and a job. I kept in touch but we had drifted apart. We no longer lived in the same world.
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago