© 2011 David’s Harp and Pen
I had never been arrested before, and it was rather a surreal experience. The fingerprinting, the endless line of questioning. I think, deep down, I had always known that my life would probably end up like the series finale of “Seinfeld,” however I hadn’t imagined it would happen before I turned 40. My concern wasn’t really for myself so much as it was for Ryan and the kids. Well, mostly for Ryan. I mean, the kids had had lots of experience inside a police station with Arthur’s various paramours, but poor Ryan, being in a jail in a foreign country? Attempted kidnapping wasn’t going to look good on his worship leader résumé, that was for sure.
As I was about to space out, Bruno walked into the interrogation room with a none-too-pleased look on his face. He signaled for me to follow him out to the front desk, which I did. The only thing worse than when Bruno yells at me is when Bruno doesn’t say anything to me. It always makes me think that he is in deep thought about something, like good places to dispose of corpses.
When we got the front desk, he slowly and methodically handed me the keys to my minivan.
“Sooooooo,” I asked sheepishly. “Does this mean I’m free to go?”
“You’re free to go,” Bruno answered in a too calm, matter-of-fact manner.
“Soooooo, you’re not going to yell at me, or ask me what I was thinking, or bore holes into my skull with your eyes?”
“Why should I do any of that, Mags? Actually, I want to thank you. Usually, I get a call that I have to pick you up from the emergency room. Picking you up from jail is a nice change of pace. It was also extra considerate that you happened to come to my police precinct. Now all my co-workers can finally put a face to the name.”
I couldn’t tell if he was being facetious or not, but part of me really didn’t want to know. As I pondered Bruno’s next move, Arthur came into the police station. His face was red, and he was quite huffy-puffy. Arthur and Bruno couldn’t stand each other. I would liken their relationship to Batman and The Joker, except nowhere near as congenial.
“Margaret,” Arthur screamed, “what in God’s name is going on? What were you thinking? I send you out with the simple task of keeping my kids occupied for a few hours, and what happens? They end up inside a jail. If I wanted to have to pick them up from the police, I could’ve let them spend the day with my ex!”
“Which one?” Bruno shot back.
“Bruno, don’t start with me! Can’t you see how upset I am?”
“It wasn’t her fault! The kid at the door at Palucci’s was hiding because of the storm, and the little kid got out and snuck into Margaret’s van and under the van seat while Ryan and her were packing the hatch. It could’ve happened to anyone! Plus, the kid wouldn’t have even been roaming around unattended had his pea-brained mother not just dropped him at Palucci’s by himself while she went shopping in the mall. Don’t think for a second that Child Protective Services won’t be hearing from me about this!”
Arthur let his lower lip puff up in consternation. Since he rarely won an argument with Bruno, he turned his back to him and faced me. I rather got the feeling that Arthur wanted someone, anyone, to unleash his rage on, and I was the most convenient target at the time.
“Margaret, I trusted you with my kids, and this is how you repay that trust. Not to mention that I had to break my date in order to come here!” Arthur screamed.
“You and Suzanne had a date?” I asked.
“Not Suzanne. Heather.”
“Who’s Heather? This isn’t another girl you just met onli…”
“Do NOT lecture me, Margaret!” Arthur scowled. “You are in no position to lecture anyone about anything! You, who can’t even do something so simple as…”
Bruno interrupted by getting in between Arthur and me.
“Margaret,” Bruno said, “there are some things a man can only hear and should only hear from another man.”
I nodded in agreement as Bruno turned to face Arthur, who had an unusual mixture of anger and terror on his face.
“Arthur,” Bruno addressed in a condescendingly calm tone, “you call Margaret on a moment’s notice to watch your kids so you can be free to feel sorry for yourself while you add to your ever-growing list of future ex-wives, order her around like she’s a cocker spaniel with a lobotomy, and then you have the AUDACITY to yell at her for something that was completely out of her control?”
“This was an important date for me! You wouldn’t know anything about it because you’ve never been in love!” Arthur shot back.
“Arthur, you’re not in love. You’re in heat. There’s a big difference.”
“Yes. Being in love is cause for celebration. Being in heat means you take yourself down to the vet’s office so you can have an operation.”
“Just because you’ve never had the courage to give your heart to…”
“Yaddy, yaddy, yaddy, sis, boom, bah!” Bruno jided, cutting Arthur off in mid sob story. “Look, Art, I am trying very hard to be a good Christian here, and not use any of the words Pastor Hadley said are unbecoming to a Christian man of my stature. So, I’m going to ask you with as much Christian love as I can conjure up, to please collect your children in Room 14 at the end of the hall, or I will have to arrest you.”
“Arrest me?” Arthur asked, irritated. “On what grounds?”
Bruno got right up in Arthur’s face and screamed, “Impersonating a man!”
Arthur groaned under his breath, gave both Bruno and me the evil eye, and walked off. I saw a blood vessel pop out of Bruno’s forehead. I suddenly had visions of that blood vessel bursting and causing a deluge that would make the Great Nashville Flood look like a broken sprinkler. I did feel most grateful, though, that Bruno stuck up for me, so I decided to thank him.
“Oh, Bruno!” I began. “Thank you so much for coming to my defense with Arthur. I feel really—”
“Margaret!” Bruno interrupted. “What the @$#@^ were you thinking? You’ve done some stupid stuff in your time, but this takes the cake!”
“But, you just told Arthur—“
“Forget what I told Arthur! Do you think I was going to give that skirt-sniffing invertebrate the satisfaction of being right?”
I started to feel really bad, and embarrassed. Trying to change the subject, I said, “And remember what Pastor Hadley told you about your language.”
Bruno got right in my face and replied, “Margaret, under the circumstances, I’m sure even Jesus would be okay with me speaking the words I am thinking!”
“Bu-but you said it could’ve happened to anyone.”
“But it doesn’t happen to anyone else, Margaret. It only happens to you! And have you thought for one moment what this is going to do to Ryan?”
On the verge of tears, I asked, “What do you mean?”
“Okay, in case you haven’t noticed, he is very fond of you. You’re like his pet or something.”
“Did he tell you he was fond of me?”
“Focus, Mags! Focus! Here he is, an Irish citizen, on a visa, in a church internship, wanting to be a worship leader and a missionary. How is this going to look on his permanent record?”
“Look,” I answered, getting almost too choked up to speak. “It was a big accident, or whatever. I never meant for…”
“No, you didn’t mean for it to happen. You never do. Meanwhile, you keep going from one stupid, outrageous disaster to another, and you don’t care how your friends are hurt in the process.”
I turned my face away from him, because I was sure I was going to bawl. He got right in my ear, sounding slightly apologetic and concerned, and continued, “Look, I just wonder where your head is some times. Oh, and we got a statement from one of the women at Palucci’s sitting in a booth near you. Who the hell is Joe Pagano, and what do you have going on with him?”
I burst into tears and answered, “You mean Joe the Pagan next door!”
I ran into the ladies room, crumpled up under the sink, and cried my eyes out. I kept replaying the afternoon’s fiasco over and over again in my head. Then I recalled the quote in the bulletin about the humble not being able to be embarrassed, and what God said to me about it not being about me, and me needing to look bad in order for God to look good. I was then reminded anew of why I worried so much about how I looked and why I got embarrassed so easily. In my mind, I was a screw-up who couldn’t do anything right, someone who couldn’t accomplish the simplest of tasks without botching them up in royal fashion and dragging down those around me. I picked myself up from the floor and stared in the mirror, as if I was looking straight at God.
Okay, God, I prayed out loud. I did my best, and I guess it wasn’t good enough. The humble can’t be embarrassed, but obviously the person who coined that quote had never been the instrument by which the guy she liked more than any other got kicked out of the country. And You say it’s not about me, but considering it was my minivan Ryan was in, and my lack of observation that got us arrested, I can’t see how it wasn’t about me. How You can look good out of all this is beyond me.
I got all the smeared gunk off my face the best I could and walked out. I began to look for Bruno to see if he knew the whereabouts of my purse. As I got near the desk sergeant, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I didn’t have to turn around to know whom it was, and as terrible as I felt for what I did to him, I couldn’t bear to look him in the eyes.
After a long pause, Ryan asked me, “Are you going to look at me?”
“Not if I can avoid it,” I answered timidly.
“What did I do?”
“Nothing. Leave me alone.”
“I can’t. You’re my ride home.”
“Bruno can take you home.”
“But why would I want a lift with Bruno when I can have one with you?”
I turned to face him and answered, “Well, you’re less likely to be involved in an international incident if he takes you home.”
“Maybe,” Ryan replied, “but it won’t be as fun. Especially if he forces me to listen to the talk radio station and all those conspiracy theories.”
“I would still prefer he take you home.”
Ryan got in front of me and, as was his usual practice, began to walk me into a wall.
“Do you care to tell me what’s going on?”
I found myself alternating between being weepy and indignant.
“You know, I don’t know how it is in Ireland, but here in America, we have something called personal space, and you’re invading mine!”
“No, we don’t have personal space in Ireland. Now, you’re going to tell me what’s wrong, or I’m going to have to knock you into the corner and hold you there. I don’t care how many coppers there are here.”
I got back into his face and asked aggressively, “Wrong? You have to ask what’s wrong? I got you arrested! You’re in a police station because of me. Every time I’m around you something awful happens to one or both of us! I don’t know why you even want to be around me anymore! I mean, if I were you, I would’ve dropped me as a friend a long time ago!”
Ryan looked genuinely confused and said, “I still don’t understand.”
Getting more frustrated, I said, “Okay, well, let’s recap, shall we? Let’s start from the beginning. The day I meet you, I mangle your hand in my car door—“
“Because you were getting your coupon box so all of us could eat a really cheap meal,” he interrupted.
I stared at him for a second in disbelief. I was not used to the men in my life seeing the bright side of things.
I continued, “Okay, and then I got my foot crushed in that trap, and you were stuck riding around with Bruno and me chasing Bernie, then you were stuck in the emergency room—“
“Because you took in a dog that anyone else would’ve turned their nose up at and left to die,” he interjected again.
“And then there was the hike, when you had to carry me up the trail because I had run into a tree—“
“Because you were trying to protect me from that flying dinosaur,” he broke in.
I could see I was losing this argument, but I wasn’t going to go down without a fight.
“And, well, then there’s this whole me getting you falsely accused because of this accidental kidnapping thing!”
“Because you were trying to show love to the children of a very silly and selfish man and give them at least one example in their lives of what a real Christian looks like.”
I looked at him for a second, then bowed my head in shame.
“I don’t understand you at all, Ryan. Why do you have to make everything look better than it is? Why do you have to make me seem better than I am?” I couldn’t keep from crying at this point. Ryan put his hand under my chin and raised my head so that I would look at him.
“You want to know what your problem is, Margaret Ann Sims? I’ll tell you what your problem is. You’re generous to a fault, and you always do for others at your own expense. Oh, and by the way, I don’t believe you when you said that if you were me, you would’ve ditched you as a friend. The Power Trio talks. They’ve told me all the things you’ve done for them and stood by them through, so I think even if I was the one that had gotten you landed in the clink, you still wouldn’t be going anywhere.”
“Now you’re just being nice,” I replied. That was apparently the wrong to say, because he suddenly looked upset.
“What did I tell you, Margaret? I’m not someone to be nice just for the sake of being nice!”
“I’m sorry,” I said quickly and appeasingly. “I know you’re not. I just have a hard time seeing what—” I couldn’t finish it. I started crying again. Ryan wiped my tears away with his hands.
“Look, Margaret. Now’s probably not the time or the place to get into this, but when I feel ready to tell you the whole deal, I will. Let me just say that, well, I didn’t leave Ireland under the best of circumstances. What I mean is, I wasn’t in the greatest frame of mind. But being around you, I have laughed, and I have enjoyed myself more than you could ever know. Between the time I’ve spent with you and reading the things you write in your magazine…the girls back home were, well, let’s just say, they don’t hold a candle to you.”
“Now, when I call home, they don’t ask me how I am. They ask me how you are. My dad asks me what crazy predicament you’ve gotten yourself, or both of us into. You’ve never been to Ireland, but you’re already a national hero.”
“But you got arrested because of me, Ryan! That’s bad! Bad, bad, bad!”
“Oh, really? What’s the upside?”
“Remember Neil, the atheist kid who was supposed to guard the door at Palucci’s?”
“He came here to give a statement and felt terrible about what happened to us. I talked to him for a while, and long story short, he’s coming to church tomorrow.”
“You’re joking, right?”
“God is my witness. So don’t feel badly about yourself just because certain people have no imagination about how God works.”
Still feeling guilty, I said, “That’s wonderful, but I got you arrested! Because of me, you have a smear on your character!”
Ryan giggled. “Margaret, I’m flattered you think I’m such a good Christian and all, and I do try to be one. But keep in mind; I’m also an Irishman. This isn’t my first time being arrested.”
My eyes popped out of their sockets.
“It’s not?” I inquired.
“Noooooo!” He answered in mischievous fashion. “And I pray, the good Lord willin’, and by His grace, it won’t be the last time, either.”
He flashed his pearly whites at me as I looked on in amazement.
“What were you arrested for?” I asked, dying of curiosity. “Was it a persecution for the sake of the Gospel type thing?”
Before he could answer, Bruno walked up to us and handed me my purse and Ryan a bag with the contents he had in his pockets when we were pulled over.
“Here you are, Margaret. Here you are, O. I’ll be out of here in a few minutes,” Bruno said.
“No hurry, Bru. Margaret here is going to drive me home,” Ryan replied.
Bruno asked sarcastically, “Are you sure that’s safe?”
“Of course it is. Besides, I’m taking special measures.” Ryan then pulled a pair of handcuffs out of the bag, bound my hands in front of me, and took my keys.
“Where did you get handcuffs?” Bruno and I asked simultaneously.
“I traded my tickets in for them at Palucci’s. See? They came with a set of keys and my own junior police officer badge,” he said as he waved the keys and the badge in front of us. Then Ryan picked me up and held me close to him.
“Move along, people! Dangerous criminal coming through!” Ryan said in a manner ever so dashing as he carried me out.
Bruno yelled after us in slightly melodramatic fashion, “O, you’re living in a fool’s paradise! You really think you can curb Mags’ appetite for destruction with a mere pair of handcuffs?!”
So, it turns out God really was right. It wasn’t about me. There was no need to be ashamed. There was no need to be embarrassed. God accomplished that day, through me, exactly what He wanted. As Ryan carried me out, I didn’t feel a shred of self-consciousness, for the first time in a long time, because I knew that I was the envy of every cop, criminal, and law-abiding citizen there.