Alex Teach Image
Fall in East Chattanooga. A cool, but not cold, breeze blew through my fingers as I extended my arm ever-so-slightly out the driver’s side window, the light and shadows repetitively curling around them as I passed under the streetlights of North Chamberlin Avenue, one after another like giant illuminated pickets in an impossibly tall fence…the windshield casting the occasional flare from the same into the corner of my eye.
The sky was about to have a serious discussion with the color of the area foliage, but not yet. The sky slept in its darkness, and the wind allowed my fingers to dance in the air to the tune of Van Morrison’s “T.B. Sheets” as it poured out of the patrol car’s stereo and into very grateful ears. My left-hand fingers randomly poked out as if there were a keyboard there, while the right-hand fingers barely gripped the wheel as I slouched down and to the left of the normally uncomfortable Crown Vic seat, my head bobbing with the rhythm of what I considered to be possibly the greatest blues song on Earth. God help me, I was smiling.
The radio had been unusually quiet or I could never have reached this level of Zen, but I’d been grateful for the break and so was not upset when the call came in to see a woman on Bradt Street about a delayed assault.
I eased onto the street and found the duplex and its correct side and let the music play out as I secured my car. My apparent customer was already approaching and began to talk with one hand firmly planted on her hip.
“I wanna press charges on my brother’s girlfriend,” she said. I raised my eyebrows and frowned at the same time to communicate sadness and seriousness simultaneously, and asked for what charge.
“Well, my brother done raped me, but that’s not the problem. He’s takin’ care of the baby, but now his gurl-fren done put that on Facebook, so I wanna’ press charges. I’m embur-ress,” she said. My face still locked as described, I was only able to further express myself by lowering my right eyebrow, leaving the left one raised.
During this exchange, a male had walked up and remained at a respectful distance, and upon hearing this he raised his hand and said, “And I want to press charges too. Since that’s my girlfriend, that makes this domestic that she’s tellin’ on me,” he said as he pointed at his sister. “So I wanna press charges, too,” he repeated.
I now raised my lower left lip, giving me the likely appearance of a stroke victim (or a fat, small, unattractive Sylvester Stallone) and was pondering my next response when I noticed a small child awkwardly stepping off the curb across the way and into the street.
The baby was about two years old, but moving slowly for one that age. The eyes were a bit close together, the nose just a bit too small…and the forehead a bit pronounced…and just as my brain connected the dots, both of my new customers yelled in unison, “MOMMA! GET THE BABY OUT OF THE STREET!”
My eyebrow remained raised, but I will admit it: My jaw now hung slack as my brain temporarily momentarily seized.
Realizing this was in fact the Down Syndrome child of the two siblings in question before me making absurd legal propositions wasn’t the worst I’ve handled, but doing so while simultaneously discovering their own mother was apparently caring for the child of both of her children, and doing so poorly at that, all at the same time? Show me how to deal with that particular brand of shit at your Miller-Motte criminal justice classes, boys and girls.
At this level of bizarre, I can only assume my brain hit a reset button because my face simply relaxed, focused on the cool night breeze, and told my mouth to hang back a second while I pulled out my notepad and pen.
“Either of you like Van Morrison?” I asked.
Now they looked at me like I was the crazy one, hair blowing again in the resurgent night breeze, and all was again right with the world.
I truly love my job.