Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” – Part Three
Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”
Television news is little more than the worst of 19th century “Yellow Journalism” without the ink stains. The Head Honchos of the network News Departments aren’t the slightest bit ashamed to say, “If it bleeds – it leads” when it comes to their merchandising of the News. This day with the three coordinated shootings was Christmas Morning for them.
The local TV stations had cameras and perfectly coiffed “Reporters” dispatched to the three scenes within eight minutes. They were sticking microphones in the faces of the bleeding and traumatized victims, some in their final moments of life.
“How do you feel about today’s slaughter?”
“Was it political?
“Did the shooter say anything?”
The young blonde from “Channel Five action News” was on the air live trying to interrogate a man who was already dead. When her cameraman turned off his light she turned and asked him if he thought she might get a Pulitzer Prize for that “interview.”
The only important words were between terrified bleeding people and the ER doctors and nurses.
“We’re taking you up to surgery. Stay with us for just another minute.” – Not “What did it feel like being shot?”
“Do we call a time on this one?” – Not “Are there any children I can get with? You know, real heart tugging crap?”
I turned off my TV. The Six O’clock News was a Carnival. Phony smiles. Phony concern, but authentic blood, enough to fill up the space between the mattress ads.
I’d seen too much of that when I was part of the “Thin Blue Line.” Most of the all too real horror never gets more than a passing mention on page seven of the newspaper. It won’t get a Channel Whatever spot unless the shooter or the victims are well known or well dressed. Thrift-shoppers with 10 year old cars aren’t worth the sponsor’s ad money.
That was why I left my shield on the Captains desk. I couldn’t deal with the sadness any more. For every crime there is someone who ends up looking at the cop who is taking notes and asking him or her, “Why?” I ran out of answers.
Going through the Police Academy taught me all the correct procedures; how to legally arrest someone, how to ask the tight questions, but never how to answer when a Mother is looking at her son dead on the sidewalk.
“Why? Why is my son dead?”
Fifteen years. No pension. I couldn’t do another five years to get a few hundred a month. I couldn’t look at the people who were hurting and there was nothing I could do.
Contrary to the TV “Cop” shows the majority of crimes, big and small, are never solved. There are no Line-ups where the victim points at weasel #2 and says, “That’s the guy who robbed me.” There are no witness stand confessions. Someone dies and the killer goes home for dinner.
Those fifteen years…Those fifteen years were lost to me. I could never get them back and they continued to throw stumbling blocks in front of me. My exit interviewer urged me to “get help.” I told him that that was what I thought I was doing. To my face he told me that he thought I was at risk for committing suicide. I didn’t think so. I still don’t. I thought I was more of a risk to try to even the score for that Mother on the sidewalk.
I turned in my weapon, walked out of the door and bought a better one that day – before that shrink could get my name tacked onto the list of “risky” people who can’t make a legal buy. As if that ever stopped anybody. I could have gotten any weapon I wanted out of the car trunks of half a dozen dealers I could call. I know, but I still believed in The Law. Today, after my visit to the Mall and watching the rape of the dying and dead on the TV News, I’m not so sure anymore.
Little by little the world takes another bite out of my confidence in the inherent morality of people and replaces it with doubts about their mortality. Things like watching people gunned down at the Mall, and me, the last man who wanted to be there, being the “Off Switch.” Now it was me asking the questions.
“Why? Why me? Why was it up to me to stop that man with the shotgun?”
I was through with it. I’d been interviewed by the young officer at the Mall, seen the distorted version on the TV, and after a silent prayer for all of those violated people, and another one for myself, I went to bed. I knew that at some point down the road I’d have to answer the same questions over again, but not tonight. Hopefully not in my dreams. I don’t need another nightmare.
That dance card is full.
The next ten hours went by in an empty blackness. If I’d had any dreams they were gone the moment I opened my eyes. So many people remember their dreams and then sit around trying to analyze them – looking for the real meaning. By not remembering my dreams I don’t have to think about any “real meanings.’ They are what they are. I don’t want them analyzed by me or by some guy in a tweed jacket and elbow pads.
I had plans for this day. No more TV news about yesterday. I was going to read the Sports section of the newspaper and then go hit the Kroger store. There is nothing in the fridge but room. I get lazy about that and end up eating too much fast food or skipping the food altogether and end up buying a six-pack at the mini-mart.
The one thing I don’t do is hanging out at “Cop Bars – those joints where working cops head to after their shifts, before or instead of going home to the wife and kids. Retired alcoholic cops go there to relive their youth and pretend to themselves that “Once a cop, always a cop.” I want no part of that fantasy.
It was after checking the ball scores and my third mug of coffee when the phone rang. My phone, my land line, never rang and certainly not at this time of day. I barely got my “Hello” out of my mouth when the voice at the other end started in.
“Yeah, what are you selling?”