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Another Happy Holiday Ride-Along with Officer Alex
“Ah, happiness courts the light so we deem the world is gay. But misery hides aloof so we deem that misery there is none.”
— Herman Melville,
Bartleby, the Scrivener
That's what had been used to render the young girl unconscious. Age 15 and beautiful, her whole life ahead of her, and she had been found piece by piece in submerged chunks of concrete in a creek on Christmas Day. Giftwrapped, now that I thought about it.
"Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad," I thought to myself. "Here's a gift that keeps on giving: Emotional scarring that will fester for the rest of your lives due to the end of your daughter’s." And here was my present, a room-temperature glass of peppermint schnapps, picked intentionally for both its horsepower and my inability to drink much of the horrible stuff. What was I going to do on a night like this, though? NOT drink? Please.
The few people around me at the bar who may have recognized me assumed I’d stopped in here for the same reason everyone else did: The bartender was hotter than the cherry on a cigarette, but only she and I knew the real reason. I only showed up here on the nights I was looking for an abrasive sponge for the temporal lobe of my brain, and she provided such without a word. It was the silence I sought, not the stimulation. I could only assume she appreciated my own silence for different reasons, but really, what did I care? I didn't even have to order the drinks, they just appeared like magic. It was that or employee assistance, and only one of those made me drunk. Tough choice for the cynic.
The story of the Halothane Girl was actually from a year ago, another chapter in the story I was being forced to read in my head hour after hour, year after year.
I still saw the crude pieces of concrete just below the surface of the frigid water, made visible in an otherwise visually impenetrable lake when TVA placed it at "low bowl" during the winter months. Things once submerged seven and eight feet deep were now nearly exposed to open air even in the creek beds of our fair city. Someone foolish enough to fish in this creek used the apparent random chunks of concrete as steppingstones—until one cracked beneath his rubber-booted foot, and its hidden treasure was released: In this case, a young girl's partially decomposed upper thorax. In my case, another brick in the wall of unsolicited nightmares.
"I know you," said a voice to my left. Some kid must've pulled up the stool next to me while I was journeying down memory lane. I said nothing.
"Yeah. You're the cop from TV." I smiled slightly and shook my head in an attempt to politely wave him off. Nothing doing.
"From that thing, that shooting at the storage unit place. Right?" he continued, unable to take a hint.
He was right, of course. How does this happen? "It happens," I muttered to myself, "because I don't drink enough." The confusing response worked: He paused.
"Hey, man. What are you even doing here? That was just last night, wasn't it?" Such a stupid question. Of course it was. "Aren't you guys supposed to get counseling or something?"
What the shit do you think I'm doing now? I said to myself. "Yes," I responded to him. “I did. I'm cool, just on the way home." My new fan paused, allowing my guardian angel bartendress to intervene. "Can I get you something else, hon?" she said to him with a tone that can only be conveyed by someone who deals with drunks for a living even more frequently than I.