Young man, young man, your arm's too short to box with God. - "The Prodigal Son", James Weldon Johnson

He sat in the cell, glaring at the other men, glaring at the bars, glaring at anyone who moved down the hall past him. He knew the power of that look. He only hoped he could keep it up until his mama came.

That thought almost did him in. Waiting for his mama, like some little kid. But what else could he do? He had no money, least not enough to make bail. He had no car to get home with even if he did make bail. His buddies had taken off right after the fight started.

He was for sure going to have a talk with those dudes, man.

And then the guard was at the cell door, and he was led, amid catcalls, through the halls to the desk where his mama stood. She didn't say a word, a mix of shame and sorrow and anger in her eyes.

It was a three hour drive from Peoria to their apartment in Chicago. Mama didn't say a word the whole time. And not a word as they trudged up the three flights of stairs. Not until the door closed behind them, and the silence in the living room drummed in his ears.

"You can't keep doing this, Scooter. I know you're angry about that scholarship. I know you're angry about a lot of things - but I can't do this any more. I just can't..."

She said nothing more, but turned and walked slowly, sadly, down the hall to her room.

He got home just before lunch. His mama looked so scared, afraid he'd walked out for good. It hurt she didn't know he wouldn't do that to her. Then he showed her his enlistment papers, and she tried not to cry.

You don't cry when your baby grows up.