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“If I don’t pay your brother, he’ll never get his money. It isn’t right that you take advantage of him.”

“I’ll fucking pay him!” he yelled.

“I’ll do it for you,” I insisted as his transformation began. I’d seen it happen so many times before: the cursing, the name-calling, the punching of the dashboard, and the kicking of everything within range. It was out of all proportion to the situation at hand. The Monster was back.

I pulled into the nearest parking lot and got out of the car. I tried to walk away, but he was on me, assaulting me with a barrage of insults and threats and, yes, a few blows. I continued to walk away.

After 15 minutes, when he saw me take out my cell phone, he yelled, “Did you call the cops?”

“No, I didn’t,” I answered. I didn’t have to; the drive-by witnesses had taken care of that.

Five minutes later, two officers arrived. Within 10 minutes, nine of them had surrounded us. The first to approach was a stocky young man with a shaved head and dark, narrow sunglasses. He looked like a polar bear with a buzz cut, and I’m sure that responding to a fight between a 16-year-old boy and his father was hardly his dream case for a Friday afternoon. This was no gang of criminals doing really bad stuff—just a nightmare situation for me.

“What’s going on?” asked the officer.

“My dad is being an asshole,” said my son.

“Whoa! Shut up and sit over there,” the officer said, pointing to the curb. “And if I hear another word out of you, you won’t have to worry about your father anymore.”

“He wants money,” I said, “but he owes his brother 20 bucks, and I’m not giving it to him. He started losing it in the parking lot at Dunkin’ Donuts. He punched my car. It’s new and I didn’t want it damaged, so I just walked away. And then he started threatening me.”

“Did he hit you?” asked the officer.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe.”

“Did he hit you!?” he asked again.

“What’s the difference?” I asked.

“Look,” said the officer. “We’re not going to do anything you don’t want us to. We got a call. We have a witness who said he hit you. I just need to know for my report. Did he hit you?”

“Yes, he hit me,” I admitted, embarrassed that I’d raised a son who had no compunction about striking his father. “Can I just take him home? Usually you guys showing up is enough to calm him down.”

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