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July 21, 2005

The "Mark"

Damn all paedophiles and child abusers to a special level of hell. But more about that later.

I was late to work yesterday. More on that later, too.

The Castle, as long time readers will know, is overrun with critters. The Interior Guard, the kitties. The Exterior Guard, the puppies. Chipmunks, squirrels, birds of all types. Frogs of several varieties. Toads. Visiting rabbits. A resident opossum.

All of the Herd found us. We didn't seek them out. We're happy to have them. Even the Skunk Who Lived Under The Porch for two years (thankfully since moved on elsewhere... mebbe because I *sealed* the cave...).

Clearly, there is a mark on the Castle that says, "Safe Haven." Somewhere, somehow. They just *know*.

I've long maintained this, the presence of "The Mark."

Apparently, it works with humans, too. At least children.

Did I mention I was late for work? There I was, gathering up the last bits of stuff that I brought home last night from the Big Project - and the doorbell rings.

That's odd, this time of morning. Cursing to myself, thinking "Damn it's early for the Jehovah's Witnesses/Mormon Missionaries/School Fundraisers to be out!" I head for the door, and open it.

It's a young man. 10, mebbe 11. Slighty flushed and sweaty.

Okay, school fundraiser. Starting early. Warm, muggy day here in Kansas.

I wish.

I ask, "What can I do for you, sir?" (Yes, I do call children "sir" and "ma'am")

"I need to use your phone, may I?"

"What for?" I queried.

"I need to call someone to pick me up," he responds.

Okay, I can deal with that. Off to the living room to pick up a wireless handset. Hand it out to Young Boy on Porch.

He takes the phone, finger poised over the number, but not punching any of them.

"Forget your number?" I enquired, "We can look it up."

Young Boy on Porch looks up at me and says, "I'm running away from home." Heh. That explains flushed and sweaty. He's literally running away from home.

Urk. I do not know Young Boy on Porch. He is *not* a neighborhood kid. Stalling for time, and to 'develop the situation' as we military guys like to say, I conducted some reconnaissance. "And why are you running away?"

"My parents are abusing me."

Urk again. Big Urk. The "Magic Word" that causes credentialed professionals to Have To Call Law Enforcement/Social Services. I'm not a credentialed professional in that regard, but I also don't want to be the Guy Interviewed on TV who says, "But I didn't know!"

Did I mention I really, really, really detest paedophiles and abusers? I do so even more, now. Why? Because of what happened next.

Middle-aged Man Living Alone (for the moment because SWWBO is traveling) said, "Hmmm, I see, why don't you come inside?"

Then, Middle-Aged Man with Masters Degree in Criminal Justice who is Living Alone kicked Middle-Aged Man Living Alone in the metaphysical family jewels and said, "No, you idiot - you can't do that. You don't know enough about this boy and what the situation is. You've got to keep him in the open, in plain sight of everyone, on the porch, where there is no question of *anything*. Or at least lesser chance of being a question. Especially since he used the "A" word and you pretty much have to call the Police or you are putting your ass in a crack, dolt. Yes, it's first and foremost about the kid - but let's not give *anyone* an opportunity to make it about you. Good thing the weather doesn't suck, huh?"

So, I had to tell Young Boy on Porch, "On second thought, let's sit out here, and talk about this." So, we did. As we go through a brief chat, it begins to sound a lot like this is more about Young Boy thinks his parents ask too much of him around the house, and some Youthful Rebellion and perhaps Very Stern Father... but not abuse.

But, Young Boy on Porch used the "A" word. And was at my house. I briefly considered calling the Parents... but, dammit, I didn't know enough about the true situation. So, reluctantly, I called the Police, and relayed the story. Officer Roach (his real name, not a snark) arrived shortly thereafter. Officer Roach is a father of two children about the same age. This is a Good Thing. After Officer Roach shows he's going to be Officer Friendly and Young Boy on Porch is comfortable - I head inside to grab Orange Juice All 'Round.

Officer Roach does an *excellent* job of leading Young Boy on Porch to tell his story over orange juice - without putting words or concepts into Young Boy on Porch's answers or mind. It's clear from shared looks Office Roach and I have that he has reached a similar conclusion to what I have - that this is Not Exactly What It Seems. Which is a good thing. And Officer Roach explains to Young Boy on Porch that he and Young Boy had best get home - because if Young Boy's parents call him in as missing or a runaway - Officer Roach, being advised of that status, is required by law to take Young Boy on Porch to Juvenile Detention, and that would be Bad For All Concerned. Young Boy agrees, and off they go to his home.

I put away the glasses (but I forgot to put away the OJ, dammit!) and headed for work. Where, it turns out, co-workers live in the same neighborhood as Young Boy and pretty much confirm that it's a case of Stern Parent and Young Boy, not abuse. Which I find comforting, as I feel that all around we dodged a bullet today.

But I hate Hate HATE that the paedophiles and abusers, and society's response to them, put me through the little mental dance I did. I didn't mind protecting the kid - I swore an oath to do things like that, and am still bound by it - most especially emotionally, my sense of duty, and honor. But I hate that I had to add the caveat, to protect myself. It eats at me that I had to treat Young Boy on Porch that way, even though I don't think he really noticed. He was too busy realizing that he'd run two or so miles from home... but that going home was going to, well, be a longer journey if too short in time in Officer Roach's car.

I hate you bastards for doing that to me - and that you made me think of me, vice Young Boy - except the whole thing this morning had your pathetic shadows all over it, and hov'ring nearby.

Today, it's hard to just hate the sin, and not also hate the sinner.

One of my friends and co-workers saw the Hand of Providence in it. That Young Boy on Porch had chosen a home where he wouldn't be sucked into some horror - whether abduction or worse, or someone who would over-react and make the problem more complex than it needed to be. And that the Dispatcher sent Officer Roach, a father of two young children and not some Caped Crusader who might have immediately gone the Must Deliver to Juvie route.

I dunno. I'm not sure that Providence works to quite that level of detail - there are an awful lot of children like Shasta Groene, and I had no idea if I was getting into Something Horrendous. Thankfully, for all concerned, I wasn't.

But, I guess I'm glad The Mark is on the house. Or my forehead. Or SWWBO's, or where-ever. And that Young Boy on Porch did choose the Castle.

But dammit, I *still* feel soiled, ever so slightly, because of the perfectly rational ass-covering I did. *DAMN THEM* for the damage they do to the fabric of society.

Dean Esmay touches on this topic, tangentially.