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July 5, 2012

Do you like this?

I took a little heat for last week’s bit on the southside. people said I sullied its name and espoused only the negatives, the stereotypes, and described it from the cynical perspective of a burned out asshole. Oh, and that I was somehow a racist (which usually just entails my presence).

Me? Cynical? What a load of crap. And I can prove it: Something good has come from the Southside, and it was something I actually took home with me and held close for years. No, literally.

I was a Brainerd man in those days, which meant I dealt exclusively with two types of crime: traffic violators (wrecks included) and shoplifters. It was horribly boring (less the occasional foot chase through what was, at the time, the largest mall in Tennessee), so upon finding I’d been loaned out to Charlie Team (the zone that covers the aforementioned blight of the city), I thought “Hey, this will be a different kind of horrible at least.” And hey, maybe the Shoney’s from my training days was still open.

I learned two things over the next few hours. One, the grass is never greener on the other side—it just gets fed by a different septic tank. And two, the damn Shoney’s was closed after all. No one had the decency to even put a cheap Mexican restaurant into the building, as is generally required across the nation.

I had barely gotten into the team area when the radio chirped and any remaining thoughts of an easy, unmotivated night perished. Well, most of them.

Howard High School. I was being sent on an unknown trouble call there, and let me tell you: An “unknown trouble” call at a failing inner-city high school can have a lot of possibilities in this world. I acknowledged the dispatch and headed that way.

I arrived about the same time as my backup unit and we headed to the front office. The absence of banter between us being notable since I was a tourist in his team. We knew each other by nametags but not much else, and we opened the front doors silently considering one another until we were interrupted by the sound of screams.

There were no sounds of shots or scent of gunpowder or other signs of CNN-style shit breaking loose, so we navigated a few hallways and turned to find a group of kids outside one particular classroom. We asked what the problem was. “Sn…  Sn…” one girl tried to say between heaving sobs and some kind of dancing on tiptoes. “Hey, hey now … it’s OK. Tell me what is wrong?”I asked her as soothingly as possible.

“Sn…  Sn...  SNAKE!” she cried, then pulled her own hair and ran up the hallway where the others had gone.

It was a Ball Python, to be exact, being held in the rear left corner of an English classroom with a broom held by a very surprised looking teacher. “Please take this. Please.”  

We later found that the snake in question had been a classroom pet, an environmental sciences specimen that had apparently escaped its terrarium and spent the last year living in the walls of an inner-city high school undetected … amazing.

Scarred and emaciated, its aggression and hunger were balanced by its weakened physical condition, so naturally I bonded with it. Upon learning that neither the Humane Society nor any other agency would claim this thing, I did what any other decent human being would do. I took the poor bastard home.

What good came of the “pre-revitalized” Southside? A serpent (later named “Howard” of course, it being his alma mater, after all).  

Five good years we had, Howard and I—eating mice, scaring chicks and never having to say a word to each other. A friend.

“Cynical?” I think not. Next question?

Alex Teach is a full-time police officer of nearly 20 years experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.

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