Officer Friendly by Lewis Robinson, 2003
The magic trick:
Showing a 16-year-old at war with himself, determining what’s right and wrong, and not proclaiming any definitive answers or judgements about the character one way or the other
We go to Point Allison, Maine today for a quick frolic in the world of teenaged white privilege. These two kids are just toying with a local police officer in a way that is charming if you can somehow block out the feeling that they would’ve been shot two paragraphs in had they been African-American.
Not at all the point of the story, but a couple decades after the story was published, that reaction is, sadly, one of its defining legacies.
We’re dealing with the question of still-forming ethical codes in the story. The narrator and his friend aren’t necessarily hard criminals. But they’re not necessarily good people either. At 16, these identities are still warring parties within us. The story, to its credit, doesn’t come down on one side or the other, but, rather, let’s the reader ponder the case.
And that’s quite a trick on Robinson’s part.
“You know what running does?” he asked.
I chose not to answer. It was obviously a trap. I almost said, Well, running got my buddy up and over the snowbank so he didn’t have to get pinned by you in the snow, but I resisted.
“What running does, my friend, is that it makes you look like a real criminal,” he said. “My guess is that you’re not a real criminal. Why would you want me to think you’re a real criminal?”
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