Although in the end the police weren’t involved, Alma still felt no relief. It was the principal who called, informing her that Curtis had been implicated in the mess at the junior high school. A kind of man who’d supported her own teaching application at Carver five years earlier, he sounded apologetic about the news: someone had broken in through a classroom window at Audubon, and had gone around spray-painting graffiti on the lockers and doors. It wasn’t gang-related; it was more childish fare:
“Mr. Adams is a stupid fuckhead” and “Mr. Doolan likes to touch girls booties.” But the school had called the police in , and between the school officials and two officers from Southwest, they had questioned a hundred students. Finally, someone said they’d heard a couple of boys bragging, and three eighth-graders–Tyrone Cooper, Jason Buford, and Curtis Martindale–were fingered for the crime.
It was clear right off that Curtis wasn’t one of the main perpetrators. he’d just tagged along, both the other boys said; he hadn’t broken any glass and had only used the spray can once. But that was far too much for Alma. As she and Curtis drove out of the school parking lot the day they met with the principal, she saw the two cops watching from their squad car. Although they’d been called in to help with the questioning, they were not asked to make the arrests, because the school had declined to press charges and had opted to punish the boys itself. Now, the cops stared at Curtis from the window of their car, angry at being denied the quarry they’d been summoned to flush.
And Alma was nervous–because of her son’s flirtation with the law, but also because of the start of the larger romance it might imply.