Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Aftermath (of a perspective).

It's a Thursday afternoon, and I'm hungry. I drop by the town's sandwich shop and watch with a very close eye as the meth-head behind the counter makes my sandwich. Only gunfire could draw my eyes from the turkey with bacon with light mayo that I have him make for me, and in that instance, I would pay for it and throw it away. Suspicious? Yeah. I guess. But this guy really doesn't like me, and with pretty good reason.

I take my sandwich out to my car, and park under a tree next to a little country road that a lot of complaints of reckless driving have been coming from. Before I dig in, I use my tuning forks to verify the calibration on my ancient dash-mounted radar, and just turn it on, with the audible tone turned on. I'm not really interested in catching a speeder, so I don't even bother with using the instant-on feature. It would tickle me to death for people with fuzz-busters to spot me before they clear the next hill, and slow down. I'm really just here for a deterrent. I really just want to eat my damned sandwich.

Cars come and go, sending up a bloom of dust as they leave the paved portion of the road that is in our city and enter the gravel portion of the road that demarcates where the County maintenance begins. Most of them are traveling a few miles over the speed limit, but I don't really mind. I'm really digging my sandwich, and it's going to take someone tearing past me at over 15 mph over the limit to tear me away from it. Seeing as how I'm not hidden and am visible from about a half mile in either direction, this seems unlikely.

My radar gives the wailing tone of a pickup passing me just under the speed limit, with the pitch rising slightly as the cosine error begins to diminish as its apparent movement approaches a path directly away from me. The pickup hits the gravel, and is lost in the cloud of dust behind it. Suddenly the radar pitch changes from a low wail to a high-pitch scream as the simulated
Doppler effect tells me that something is moving much, much faster through that cloud of dust. Probably moving toward me, and has just passed the receding pickup. That kind of speed, on gravel, through a cloud of dust that knocks visibility down to nil, is the kind of thing that will get me to put down my lunch. I lock the speed in at just shy of double the speed limit as the oncoming car emerges from the cloud onto the asphalt. I am surprised that it picks up speed, and I reset and lock in the higher speed before putting my car into gear and turning on the red-and-blues.

I check out with the new-ish car only a few yards from where I was sitting, and make contact with the driver. A round-faced young man, he looks familiar, somehow, with his curly red hair cut short and neatly-trimmed red goatee and moustache. He's probably twenty or twenty-one years old, I reckon, and his driver license shows him to have just turned twenty recently. There's a cane in the passenger seat beside him.

I've seen this boy before. I know I have. His name is familiar, too. I HATE when I know that I should remember someone, but can't place him. "Anthony Willis." Willis... Willis... Willis... I don't know the name. But I know this kid. Who the Hell is he?

Finally I ask him: "How do I know you? I know that we've met before."

For a kid that knows he's about to get a ticket, he's pretty much at ease, and he shakes his head with a grin. "I don't know-- I don't think I remember meeting you before. I've gotten a few tickets, but I don't think you've pulled me over before this." Then he cocks his head. "Maybe you were at the accident?"

"The accident...?" I begin to ask.

Then it hits me. "Tony."

"Yeah, that's what everybody calls me. So you were there, huh?" He clearly doesn't remember me, and I don't blame him. There was a lot of dust, flashing lights, and pain and trauma passing before Tony's eyes on that night.
The last time I saw him, he was being loaded into a waiting chopper, to be transported to a trauma center.

"How're your legs?" I ask. I really should be writing this kid his ticket, but I have to know. I had gone by his house to check on him a couple of times, but he wasn't there. First time, he was in rehab, and I was told that he was using a walker to get around.

"Ah, the left one wasn't too bad, but the right one took some reconstructive surgery. They said I almost lost it with the post-op infection. But I'm gettin' around all right with this, now." He motions to the cane. "One of the main problems was that my right arm was broken at the same time as my right leg."

I know. I saw the bone. Radius? Ulna? I can't remember which, if I even knew.

"How are Arnie and Jimmy?" I ask. We both know
what happened to Bobby, and I don't mention him. He doesn't either, but it's clear that he thinks about it as the cloud passes his eyes. He focuses several miles past my shoulder.

"I don't know," he answers simply. "I haven't talked to them much in a long time. I guess they're all right. We kinda moved apart."

In spite of myself, I snort a little derisively. "Yeah, I can see why you might move apart from Jimmy." The son of a bitch tried to pin an Intoxication Manslaughter case on you, I think.

"Yeah, well, I don't have anything to do with that crowd, now," he mumbles. "I've got a good job, and I realized that I can't just waste my life like that anymore. I think maybe, I could have died. You know that? I could have died out there," he says. "The D.A. asked me if I wanted them to charge Jimmy with Intoxication Assault or something like that, for my injuries too, but I said, 'Just let it go. I don't care.' He's in enough trouble, I guess. I just needed to move on."

How could I have forgotten this face? I think. I now see this same face, pleading with me through the sobs to help his buddies. He's lost a lot of weight since then, and I mention it, by way of awkward segue.

"Yeah, giving up pot and beer and going through rehab for 5 months will do that to you," he says with a wry smile. "Uh, are you going to give me a ticket? 'Cuz I was in kind of a hurry before you stopped me," he says.

"I noticed," I say with a grin and a wink. I open my mouth to tell him that this one's on me. That he gets a warning today, but don't let it happen again.

But I think: Would I write anyone else?


Why would I then cut this kid a warning that I would write anyone else for?
Well, he's had a tough time...

And he won't have a tougher time if he wrecks out doing 60 on a residential gravel road?

Why do you write speeding tickets, anyway? Lord knows you don't write them for revenue.

Wouldn't it be a shame for this kid's life to be saved, only to have him die in your town because he drives recklessly?

Good point.

I write the citation, and he doesn't balk as he signs it. He really has no idea of what part I took in his accident, and expects nothing beyond the citation. He drives away, a little too fast.

Good luck, Tony. Have a good life.

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At Sunday, November 25, 2007 8:17:00 AM, Blogger JPG said...

Tremendous story, Matt, and quite well told. An excellent decision, too.

I've long suspected, and this further verifies it: You're a better street cop than I ever was.


At Sunday, November 25, 2007 2:24:00 PM, Blogger 5150Wife said...

You had me glued to the screen there. That was awesome. Thanks for the update.

Sure wish he'd slow down, though. You'd think he'd have learned a little lesson about safe driving. *The Wife shakes her head* What a shame.

At Monday, November 26, 2007 8:15:00 AM, Blogger William the Coroner said...

You get what you enforce, and if you keep me from getting work, that's OK. But, seriously, don't buy sandwiches from meth-heads. They can foul up something as simple as a sandwich.

At Monday, November 26, 2007 9:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It takes a certain strength of will to stick to your principles like that. For what it's worth: I commend you.

At Wednesday, November 28, 2007 1:20:00 PM, Blogger New Girl said...


At Wednesday, November 28, 2007 6:23:00 PM, Blogger J.R.Shirley said...


I don't know if I've mentioned that you're a great writer. Really.



At Thursday, November 29, 2007 3:27:00 PM, Blogger Ambulance Driver said...

I'll echo what John Shirley and your Pop said: you're a talented writer.

No get off your ass and start thinking about another Perspectives post, like maybe for Christmas.

At Saturday, January 05, 2008 11:23:00 PM, Blogger Johnny Virgil said...

On your dad's blog there's a story about a guy named Tony Willis getting stabbed in the neck with a pork chop bone?!?


At Wednesday, March 19, 2008 9:26:00 AM, Blogger EDRNKaren said...

amazing story- it is so moving to hear the story from start to finish. So often we as either first responders or hospital staff see only our own part of the story, and don't get to have any closure. Thank you for taking the time to write this. You are a good guy!


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