How not to send an officer out the door with style and grace
The realization of his mistake did not come swiftly; it rather crept up on him like water being brought up to a slow boil, and by the time he noticed the bubbles the damage had already been done.
It was a retirement party for Marty King. He’d hit his 25 years and he gave it an extra 60 seconds to make sure before he punched out at the pension office and made good with his plans to get the hell outta Dodge while the getting was good.
This was not the mistake of course; the mistake was asking his old training officer to take the mic and give a farewell speech.
Joe Johnson had always been a bit rough around the edges, but he and Marty had remained close over the years and it seemed to make sense. Sure…Joe been a great raiser of hell back in the day but he was past retirement eligibility himself and surely he’d calmed down a bit. He was a grown man, not a rookie. But something about the way he tripped a little going up the steps of the hastily thrown together platform where the mic stand waited silently made my eyes squint just a little, as they tend to involuntarily do when you know something’s not quite right.
“Hiya!” he said amicably enough to the crowd in the tiny bar that they had frequented over the last few decades (albeit under four different names during that time). I folded my arms.
“Listen, this is a real honor. Crossing the finish line is what we all dream about year after year, and I was there when Marty started the damn race.” He paused, and smiled broadly.
“I was there the first time he forgot to bring his gun to work, and I was there when he didn’t forget it and wound up drawing it on his own priest when he set his alarm off at the church he married Marty and Karen in.” (Another pause for effect with a smile.)
“I was there the first time he had to break the window out of his own squad car when he locked the keys inside it while blocking the interstate,” he said with a laugh, “and I was there to see the look on his face when he found that chicken in that same car’s back seat.” I glanced at Marty himself in the crowd, who immediately stopped smiling at that thought. (The mess the fowl made in his car was worse than most crime scenes and was still spoken of in hushed whispers 20 years later. It was deemed “too far” and never repeated again.)
Joe continued to pause for a moment now to reflect, and the once steady smile jerked a bit, then faltered. He put a knuckle to his lower lip to stifle a productive burp and held fast. My squint returned; he was more boogered up than I thought.
“...I remember when he could go to a pool and enjoy himself with his kids instead of thinking he sees anotha’ dead one at the bottom, and when he could drive past the Fillauer Plant every day and not think about when Jackson was killed there.” Now everyone’s smile was fading and his grip on the mic was causing the veins on his hand to distend.
“I remember when he could go everywhere in this town and not see a goddamn crime scene and from before nights you don’t scream yourself awake, or cry at a stop light now and then fuh’ no reason.” He paused them looked up from the floor with raised, almost childlike eyebrows. “Anyone else do that? What’s up with that?” he asked rhetorically, but with a pleading look in his increasingly bloodshot eyes.
I began to softly clap and walked forward. “Well said Joe, thank you brother. Everybody give Joe a hand here! Joe Johnson everybody!” I said as I put a hand on his shoulder, keeping the words and movements fluid to keep him from continuing. The crowd caught on but with slackened jaws and furrowed brows as they too started to slowly clap, awkwardly looking around with mild shell shock.
“OK, let’s drink!”
(It was a celebration after all. Right?)
When officer Alexander D. Teach is not patrolling our fair city on the heels of the criminal element, he spends his spare time volunteering for the Boehm Birth Defects Center.