Don’t Look at Cops

The whole thing started with a look–an inquisitive gawk from a sixteen-year-old kid in a beat up VW Bug. Yeah, there was eye-contact, and maybe this is what lit the fuse. I couldn’t help glancing at them, though. Everyone stares at cops and narcs, especially in my neighborhood. The older kids told stories about narcs and their white, unmarked cars, and every older kid knew someone who’d had an encounter with a narc. They were lies, of course, but you’d be surprised at how much you can learn from a neatly fabricated lie.

I saw them as I was driving to Pete’s house. Pete was an older kid. We had just gotten out of school, and I was driving him home. Mike was in the back seat. He was older, too. He had a tattoo on his forearm. Pete gave it to him. Mike’s house was in the opposite direction and we had just passed it, but he wanted to get dropped off last because he hated being home. I didn’t mind. I liked driving.

When we first saw them, the narcs were at a red light at the intersection of Graves and Del Mar Ave. We were cruising south on Del Mar Ave., crossing Graves and about to turn left onto Potrero Grande. Dead Man’s Curve was about a quarter mile from there. Pete lived on Dead Man’s Curve. They were to our left as we crossed the intersection, their white, unmarked car trembling in idle. They were easy to spot. For one thing, normal people don’t drive four-door Chevy Caprices, especially ones with flood lights mounted on the doors. And everything on the car, save for the bumpers, was painted in police white.The narcs, themselves, were White, too. For a department that’s supposed to be undercover, they were as subtle as a fart in church. All they needed was ice-cream music blaring from speakers mounted on the roof of their car.

Pete jumped out near his driveway, and Mike took shotgun. We told Pete we’d see him later and took off. As Mike and I turned off Deadman’s Curve and onto Potrero Grande, we saw the narcs again. We were heading towards each other and about to rub elbows in front of Gooney Bird’s house. They slowed, but I kept at 15 MPH. I stared at them as we passed each other. Mike looked, too. Again, it was done simply out of curiosity. That’s it. They were staring at us, too. The narcs were wearing cop glasses. The one driving had a mustache with twisted ends, and his partner was biting on a toothpick. I guess our passing was a little strange, but at the time, I didn’t think much of it. I wasn’t holding anything. I wasn’t high. As we approached Del Mar, I saw them in my rear view, way down by my grandma’s house. “Fuckin’ pigs,” Mike said. “Yeah,” I said. “They smelled like bacon.” I said it to just to be cool. I got it from an older kid–probably from Mike.

I pulled into Mike’s driveway and dropped him off. I was hungry. I reversed out of his driveway, and again head south on Del Mar toward Grandma’s. I was near Garvey Park when I saw the narcs for a third time in the span of ten-minutes. This wasn’t a coincidence. They were on Del Mar, too, again coming in the opposite direction. I was going south–they were going north. Again, I looked at them again. This time it was more a stare, though. I swear I couldn’t help it! They were scowling, glasses off. I passed them at speed limit and saw them fade in my mirror. You know those stories I told you about? The ones the older kids told about narcs?. Well, I was about to have my own. This one is true, though.

Just as I was about to make a left on Potrero Grande, the narcs’ white, four-door Caprice stormed up to my driver’s side window, the narcs in a complete panic. “Pull the fuck over!” It was the toothpick guy. His neck veins were going crazy as he yelled at me. I pulled over real quick, right in front the “Chinito’s Store” on Del Mar and Graves. Dan T. Williams Elementary was across the street, and I used to stop there to buy one-cent PAL Bubble Gum from the two Chinese brothers that owned it. They were family friends. One of them was named George.

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I parked, and the narcs pushed their car up against the rear bumper of my Bug. It was a ‘62, and the bumper was a rusty excuse for a bumper. It could’ve fallen, but I don’t think they would’ve cared. I was plastered in my seat waiting for them to tell me what to do. It was the first time I had been pulled over, and I wasn’t familiar with the protocol. They didn’t teach this in Driver’s Ed.

The narc driving the car rushed up to my window with a gun in his hand, and simultaneously, the other narc appeared on the passenger side, also with a gun. “Why the fuck you eye-fucking me?” The mustached narc was yelling in my face, spit flying out of is mouth. He was furious, and I didn’t know why.  “I wasn’t eye-fucking you. I just looked at you. That’s it.” It was the only thing I could think of saying, but it was true. “Why the fuck were you eye-fucking me! Get the fuck out of the car!” I didn’t have to get out. He yanked me out.

As he began slamming me against the side of my car, the other narc was tossing my car, and all my belongings were flying out the door and onto the street and sidewalk. By the time he was done, the rear seat was in front of George’s store. “Why the fuck were you eye-fucking us?” he kept asking and asking me, and every time he asked, he would slam me against the side of my car. It began to hurt, but my response was always the same. “I wasn’t eye-fucking you. I just looked at you. That’s it.” I thought telling the truth was the right thing to do. Mark Twain had taught me this.

“What the fuck is this? What’s this for?” Toothpick guy had emerged out of the passenger side of the car dangling my butterfly knife in his right hand. I had found it one day at Eaton’s Canyon. It was the day Pete, Mike, and I ditched school. It was old and squeaky, but I kept it. I forgot it was in the glove. “I just have it there. I found it,” I said. “You know this is illegal? We could take your ass in for this!” the driver said. “Well, I just have it there. I’ll throw it away. I don’t need it,” I said. I’m not sure if I was crying. I don’t think I was, but you never know.

The chief narc asked me one more time, and one more time he slammed me against the car. “You have a knife! What else? Why the fuck were eye-fucking us? Why?” I could’ve only taken a few more slams. My back was hurting. “I swear, man! I just looked at you guys. I don’t have anything.” They didn’t ask me for my license or my registration. They just wanted to know why I was “eye-fucking” them. “Go the fuck home, and I don’t want to see you one these streets again!” he said before he walked back to his obvious car. Toothpick guy was mad-dogging me the whole time. I said, “Ok,” and just stood there until they drove off. Before I could leave, I had to gather my things. My backpack and pencils and paper and all my other shit was strewn all over the sidewalk and street, and I had to re-install the back seat and clean up all the horsehair. My collared shirt tweaked, my heart was racing, and I was sweating. I gathered everything as fast as I could and headed home. I now had my own narc story.

Staying off the streets was impossible. I had to drive to school, and I ran errands for my Grandma. It was a pretty stupid thing to say. He probably stole the line from Pancherlo on CHiPs. For the record, I still look at cops. I can’t help it.



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