Alex Teach Image
I was standing in the beverage cooler of what used to be called a Favorite Market, still as a statue, my eyes closed and chin tilted up. My right hand pulled my body armor away from my neck to facilitate a direct path for the sweet arctic air blowing from the fans above my head and I rejoiced as sweat nearly turned to ice; I could have stayed there forever, or at least until the spots I saw before my eyes faded away.
Certainly I’d toyed around with it in my youth, but I never knew what heat exhaustion truly was until I became a cop and I discovered 99 out of 1,000 ways to experience it in just the first month of the summer I was released from training. Fifty feet of pushing a one-ton vehicle may not seem like it should be so physically devastating, but Lee Highway didn’t suffer this or any fool and the day and its glaring sunlight had been as brutal as divorce court.
My wits back about me, I finally left the cooler to find another officer had come inside to talk to the clerk. The store was in the heart of my district and from there I watched most men come in to ask her about her tongue piercing, but not this guy; he was here to ask her about the fact the kitchen had just shut down and wanted to discuss the fate of the contents on display, and his avoidance of hitting on her paid off in spades: He was handed a one-pound box of deep-fried chicken livers and by the look on his face you would have thought it was pure salty gold. Without a word, I joined him.
We gorged ourselves to the point of almost certainly offending a group of tweens who had come in to raid the candy aisle only to have their sugar rush halted by the sight of two polyester-clad gunslingers shoving fried chicken guts into their mouths like it was the cure for cancer. Minutes passed and I’m not even sure our radios were on. The salty yet bland goodness was a joyous respite from our usual fare of what passes for meals on the job, and this went on interrupted only by intermissions at a soda fountain until my co-worker suddenly froze with a concerned expression. Without looking at me he asked, “Is there such a thing as iron poisoning?”
Somewhat alarmed, I stopped to give that some thought as well. The box was larger than a human head and had been filled to the top, so at the moment it seemed plausible that we had easily consumed more fried chicken livers than any two men combined in local history, and too much of such a unique element had to have consequences. I never stopped eating, but I certainly slowed my pace as my jaw muscles competed with my brain for energy, such was my preoccupation with this thought.
The evening shift Cop Diet is a brutal thing that the average person wouldn’t understand and would give dieticians the dry heaves. Cynicism and black coffee only go so far in filling the void below our ribs, and when your office is a car and lunch breaks simply do not exist, deep-fried chicken wings and potato logs are often the only thing available that were designed to be eaten with one hand while listening to Rob Zombie as you punch your way through rush hour traffic, siren wailing and blue lights flashing as you move toward a wreck or a hold-up. (So I hear, anyway).
Even worse than being all that was usually available, things like these were often free, drawing the fledgling cop like a moth to a delicious, deep-fried and deadly light bulb. And why? Because if you think standing outside a crime scene where blood and bone is sticking to a moving ceiling fan sounds bad, try doing it with an empty stomach.
I squinted my eyes as I mulled this over while I slowly chewed and my free hand reached up absently and toyed with the emergency Prilosec capsule I kept in my breast pocket (a trick born of many hard lessons), then at the same instant my partner and I snapped out of it with a shrug and barely missed each other’s hands as we reached in for another bite. No sense in getting all timid now, because like everything else in police work, why worry about tomorrow when you deal with people who often don’t see the end of today?
“Any jalapeno poppers left under that lamp, Miss?”
Alex Teach is a police officer of nearly 20 years experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.