The Guardian

orange vest

© A Mixed Bag – 2013

Glenn Carroll had to do something, so he arranged to work nights and spend school hours as a cross walk guard. He was surprised to find he really enjoyed talking to the elementary age kids (and he had three of his own), and between getting children across the street mornings and afternoons, he acted as hall monitor. The chances of anything really happening here were pretty small, but he felt better being there, just in case.

He was walking down the main hall when he heard a familiar voice. “Mr. Carroll, I’ve just called the police. A couple of the students said they saw a man with a gun near the playground.” Principal Ava Martinez was waving him over to the office. “We’re going on lock down until the officers arrive and clear the situation.”

“Thanks. I’ll look into it.”

“But Mr. Carroll…”

Glenn looked outside in the direction Martinez pointed and chuckled. Then he went out to tell the gardener that in a few seconds, a SWAT team was going to ask him to put down his rake. After that, he’d go speak with the SWAT Commander, identify himself as an off-duty officer, and straighten this mess out.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of March 25th 2018. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 199.

Social and news media is currently replete with stories and commentaries about the protests prompted by the Parkland School shooting and things are getting pretty heated. I recall a story I read some months back about how the police were called to a local Middle School because there had been a report of a man on campus with a rifle. It turns out the rifle was some sort of gardening tool (I don’t remember the specific type), and after a brief flurry of activity, the situation was defused.

I’m not making light of the rights of citizens, whether adults or children, to protest, and regardless of where you stand on the issue of Second Amendment rights to bear arms, these students have a right to express themselves and to have a safe school environment.

But since the fellow in the image reminded me of a school crossing guard (most of the ones I’ve seen are retired men and women), I decided to add a concerned father and police officer (yes, even off duty, he was armed) to the situation. There are those few times when dangerous people walk on campus, but it is also important to have someone around who can evaluate a perceived threat. No one wants innocent children to be shot, but then again, you don’t want to shoot someone who superficially looks to be a threat but turns out to be a guy with a rake.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to

14 thoughts on “The Guardian

  1. Obviously looking on from a very different culture, I would be horrified and would immediately remove my children from any school where armed guards or worse, armed teachers, were the norm. I’m aware this would probably mean home schooling if we ever moved to America!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Home schooling is certainly an option for a lot of parents and there’s nothing wrong with it. There are a lot of schools, elementary through high school who had armed resource (police) officers on campus. I used to do social work back in the day and spent a lot of time at various schools. Never had a problem with the police.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate your point of view. There are many who have become inured to gun violence, but I suspect, and desperately hope, that changes are on the horizon. However, a resource officer in a school, such as the one in Southern Maryland who saved countless lives last week as a crime of passion erupted, is a good thing in a gun culture. I’m not a fan of home schooling as I’ve seen it done with many shall we say robust families in which insular ideas are propagated and the children are ill-suited to live well in society.
      But do come to America. You will be welcomed and we’ll watch out for your twins! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll have to echo what Sascha said, Iain. My sons went to high school with a home schooled student. That boy only came to high school to be part of jazz band and he was an amazing guitar player. He was also very intelligent and not insular at all; an all around great kid.

        America probably looks like a terrible place to live if all you know about us is from the news and social media. The best of who we are and what we have to offer probably never is advertised, but we’ve got amazing national parks and sometimes even within small areas (cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco), a wide diversity of cultures. I used to live in San Francisco which is only 36 square miles, and I joked that you could eat your way from one end of the City to the other all on foot.


  2. While I can only encourage most heartily your support for the home schooling option, for all its benefits, I fail to understand your horror that a school’s personnel, whom you may be assured have been vetted and who hold your children’s welfare in the highest regard, might be empowered and equipped to defend them should a need arise. It is, of course, disconcerting to imagine the cultural environment in which such a need could indeed arise; but it appears that such an environment has developed around certain urban-area high schools within the USA. But even where such weaponry is outlawed, alternative weaponry or illegal weaponry may be employed (indeed, the illegal sort has been obtained) by troubled individuals to create comparably threatening environments. One well may ask how such cultural shifts could have occurred, and may yet occur elsewhere, with a view toward preventing them; but one must be prepared nonetheless to respond if the cat has set upon the pigeons.


    • Not sure if you are commenting to me or Iain. If a parent is uncomfortable with their child attending a public school for whatever reason, they certainly can choose the home schooling option. Frankly, I’d feel better about a resource officer being at my children’s school, but as Iain pointed out, we have different cultural perspectives.


    • Exactly. Especially with these protests heightening everyone’s fears about firearms attacks at schools and such, it’s likely to result in people seeing malicious shooters around every corner, even when most of the time, it’s just a guy with a rake. Still, if it had been a shooter, Glenn would have provided the first line of defense for the students and school staff until reinforcements arrived.


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