Chapter 32 1969 – Spike

When school resumed in the New Year, I noticed something missing: Spike. Although he no longer had the once-close relationship with his old friend, he still would occasionally see him at school, and had him in one of his classes. At first he thought maybe he was just out sick, but when it was a full week back, there was still no Spike in sight.

I remarked about it to Juliette. She responded evasively, “He’s still at his grandparent’s house.”

“But what about school? He missed a whole week!”

“There are schools where they live. He’s probably going there instead. Don’t worry about it.”

Juliette’s inability to shed any light on Spike’s situation was curious, but it seemed useless to pursue it. She just didn’t seem to want to reveal any more information. I let it drop.

Spike was not at his grandparent’s house, as Juliette had claimed. What I didn’t know was that Spike had taken up residence at the Preston School of Industry, the “juvie.”

During the week leading up to the Christmas vacation, Spike had apparently fallen in with a bit of the wrong crowd. The group of four thought it would be cool to take a joy ride, and hot-wired a ’66 Mustang. During their escapade, with Spike behind the wheel, they managed to crash it into a fence. While no one was seriously injured, they quickly left the scene, leaving the still running car across the sidewalk.

The homeowner wasn’t able to identify any of the “punks” as he called them, but there was one telling piece of evidence left behind: a leather jacket. Across the back of the jacket, in metal studs it spelled out SPIKE.

It didn’t take investigators long to make the connection and pay a visit to the Jones’ home. Buddy and Annette had noticed Spike’s seeming reserve the past couple of days, but couldn’t quite place a finger on it. The accusations made it clear: Spike had stolen a car, taken a ride, crashed into private property and fled the scene. To top it off, he was an unlicensed driver and a bag of marijuana was found in the car.

At his hearing, Buddy and Annette pleaded for leniency, but the multiple crimes were serious. Authorities were unable to gather information regarding the remaining culprits, and Spike was unwilling to implicate his “friends.” Spike’s sentencing was swift: he would spend the years until he was eighteen in juvenile hall. His education was to continue on the inside.

Despite his lack of freedom and the enforced discipline, Spike adjusted to the regularity of his new existence. Most of the other wards didn’t give him too many problems, as he was larger than many of them, but he gained a reputation of someone to avoid, even if he rarely interacted with any of the others.

Despite his earlier “crimes” Spike tried to be a model student. But even concentrating on this wasn’t enough to keep him out of the occasional fistfight with the same wards that wanted to challenge the assumption of him being a tough guy. The fights would generally end up in a black eye or a bloody nose for someone, and usually a period of enforced isolation on the part of everyone.

Spike’s counselor called him in to discuss it. “Mr. Jones.” Everyone was “Mr.” here. “This constant fighting is getting out of hand.”

Spike protested, “I’m not responsible. I’m just trying to defend myself.”

The counselor was bemused, “A big guy like you being picked on? I hardly think so!”

Spike continued to raise his objections, “It’s true. I try to keep to myself, but they come on like they’ve got something to prove. I don’t want any of it! I get pissed off, though, and can’t help but take a shot back.”

“Therein lies the problem,” the counselor pronounced. “It’s your latent anger. You need to find an outlet for it. Let it go, and the fighting will stop.”

“Do you like music?” the counselor continued. “Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast,” the counselor misquoted.

“My dad is a musician,” Spike revealed. “I’ve been around it all my life.”

“Then maybe we should see about getting you into the music program here at the school. That may be just the incentive you need to curb your anger.”

Spike discovered that he did have an interest, and that that interest led to playing the drums. With music his constant companion during his early years, he had developed a keen ear for rhythm. Before long, the teachers began to take notice of his innate skill. And, best of all, banging on the drums all day gave him an outlet to work on his anger issues.

One side effect was that when it came time for the compulsory chores, Spike wasn’t interested. Between studies and playing drums, he tried to get out of them at every opportunity. “I don’t wanna work,” he told his counselor. “I’d rather just play the drums. All day if possible.” His obsession was a little problematic.

“Mr. Jones,” his counselor told him. “Everyone has to carry his weight around here. You’ve been a good student, and you’ve developed some good skills as a musician. I don’t think you want to endanger your situation by refusing to cooperate.”

The warning was clear, but the counselor sweetened the deal. “With your good cooperation, I can see that some time can be shaved off your sentence. When you finish your high school studies here, you’ll be allowed to go home.”

Spike began tending to his proper chores.