So St. Louis: Court-Ordered Community Service, Undercover

An anonymous story about something that could only happen in the Gateway City

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click to enlarge Downtown St. Louis is so St. Louis. - Sarah Lovett
Sarah Lovett
Downtown St. Louis is so St. Louis.

In high school, I got arrested for having a fake ID. By some miracle, the police didn’t call my parents. My punishment was 25 hours of community service, which I chose to do at my St. Louis suburb’s preeminent — and only — park.

As I picked up litter that first day, I had to hide behind trees when I spotted two ladies who were friends with my mom and, later, stash my yellow trash bag under a park bench when a man who I was sure had once worked with my dad passed by.

I pleaded with the friendly park ranger who was my supervisor to let me clean something, anything, inside. He took me to a large storage room filled with a mishmash of Barbie dolls, loose CDs, deflated basketballs. It had all been used for a defunct kids program that he hoped to reactivate. He told me to salvage what I could and toss the rest.

“Don’t rush the job,” he said with a wink.

I spent that week returning Jock Jams discs to their cracked cases, collecting hundreds of loose playing cards into complete decks and putting pieces from board games I had never heard of back into their proper boxes. I reassembled a shelf and re-glued the torn-off covers of books.

Due to the building’s front door being locked one day, I was only able to work 23 hours.

On Friday, the ranger asked if I felt I’d paid my debt to society. “I guess I still owe society two hours,” I said.

Every week, the RFT runs an anonymous short story that could only take place here. Send your So St. Louis story to [email protected].

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