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Bill Disturbs the Peace

by Maryetta Ackenbom

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Bill gripped the bars, his knuckles white, his fingernails cutting into his palms. Tears were running down his pallid face. “Why, Sergeant, why me?”

 “Bill, or Willie—which is it? You know why. I told you. You can’t be running all over town in your nightgown.”

“Why not? I was decent. And I had to get the children to bed.”

Sergeant Bull stood and looked down at Bill through the bars. There were complaints, Bill. You were running through the town, knocking on people’s doors, shouting at them. That’s called ‘disturbing the peace.’

“No, no! I keep the peace. I make sure the children are tucked in properly by eight o’clock. Someone’s got to do it.”

“The judge will decide. You’ll be here ‘til the morning, anyway. I’m going home now. Madge will bring you something to eat in a little while.”

 Bill turned away, sobbing. Sergeant Bull left the jailhouse, locking the outside door behind him.

In the morning, Bill, still dressed in his nightgown, was brought before Judge Law. The judge leaned over his high bench to see the little man better. “William Winkle? Is that your name?”

“Yes sir. ‘Bill, Will, Willie’—it’s all the same. Some call me “Wee Willie.’”

"I can see why. Bill, do you know why you’re here?”

 “No, Judge. I was just doing my duty, running upstairs and downstairs, making sure the children were all in bed.”

“Why is that your duty?”

“Well, I’ve been doing that for hundreds of years, sir. That’s what I’m supposed to do, that’s my job.”

“But Bill, you were not dressed, and you were causing a commotion in the neighborhood. People complained.”

“I don’t know why. No one ever complained before.”

“Times are changing, my friend. Do you think you can change, too? Can’t you just sit at home watching your television and letting the children’s parents see that they get to bed?”

“Television? I don’t know what that is. I have a duty, Judge. I was created to make sure the children were in their beds. How can I change?”

“Bill,” said the judge, “just take a seat over there by the Sergeant. Give me a few minutes. I’m going to rewrite your rhyme.”

The judge spoke to the nearby clerk. “Clark, please find Mother Goose and ask her for a new quill. This man needs an up-to-date cover story.”

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