As fire when thrown into water is cooled down and put out, so also a false accusation when brought against a man of the purest and holiest character, boils over and is at once dissipated, and vanishes.
- Cicero, Great Roman Orator, Politician, and Philosopher (B.C. 106-43)
I’ve had more than my share of encounters with the police, most of them under pretty mundane circumstances and definitely none of them ever came close to the seriousness of what I was accused of last night.
The day before, we headed out to go camping for the Fourth of July weekend at Lake Elsinore with my buddy Jesse and his daughter, his friend Edgar and Edgar’s girlfriend. At 104 degrees, it was hot enough to make your brain feel mushy as you walked around the camp site and it was all I could do to drink enough beer to stay ahead of the heat. In heat like that, you don’t even get buzzed, you drink your beers down and then just sweat them all right back out.
As the night drew upon us, we settled in for the fireworks show. After a life spent of watching city-approved fireworks shows, this time we happened to set up camp on the opposite side of the lake from the official show and instead we were treated to a show that California fireworks law could only classify as neither safe or sane. A lot of people must have sunk a lot of money into fireworks and it was fun because you never knew where the next volley of fireworks was going to come from.
So yesterday, it was Sunday, the fifth of July, my friends left for home along with the vast majority of the couple hundred other campers and by 5pm when the guy on the golf cart began making the rounds to check to see who had paid through Sunday night and who needed to get on their way, we had gone from half a football field of tents and vehicles to only our family and maybe half-a-dozen scattered other groups of campers.
The night before, the air mattress had lost its air and we were flat on the ground by the morning, so this night we left the tent to sleep in the SUV. We were fast asleep when a knock came on the window around midnight. It was the Sheriff. That will jolt you awake in an instant. I put the window down. “Yes, officer?”
“We had a report of a dead body being dumped in your car.”
“A dead body?”
“Yes.” The sheriff has his flashlight on me, his partner had his flashlight scanning up and down through the vehicle.
“A dead body?”
I was flabbergasted, but after the initial shock wore off, I was able to piece it together. “Someone must have seen me placing my paraplegic daughter in the car. As you can see, she’s alive and doing just fine.” And right on queue, little Megan chimes in with a big happy, “Ahhhh!”
The cop began apologizing, I said no worries and I told him he was just doing his job, but even after I said that, he still apologized two more times. It’s a rare thing indeed to see a police officer that apologetic, but Megan has a way of making even the toughest guys tender like that.
After the sheriff left, my wife and I just looked at each other bewildered and shaking our heads and then we began laughing. We wondered how on Earth anyone misinterpret the scene like that, but then I thought about how it was dusk when I put Megan in the car and how the half-light might give a sinister look to things, and then we both laughed as we imagined the absolute horror those other campers must have been experiencing if they really believed what they thought they were witnessing to the point of calling in the cops! “OH MY GOD, THEY’RE PUTTING A DEAD BODY IN THE CAR!”
Wow, my life has had some pretty crazy twists and turns, but never in my life would I have imagined getting fingered for a murder.