Wednesday, April 16, 2008

PFC #3

A little bit longer this time around. PFC is brought to you by the madman! If you haven't tried it you should. Makes your brain hurt. In a good way. Hope you enjoy my interpretation of the pictures.
Taking her home
You try to be hard, distant, you can’t start to care. You do that and before you know it you find yourself looking down the barrel of your own gun. It’s one of the first things they teach you. But every once in a while one of them gets in. She did.

It was Billy, her drummer, that called me. Rule 1 of being an inner city cop; make some connections, give the good ones a break and they’ll trust you. They will tell it to ya straight. SO when Billy called me I listened. He said she missed the gig; she’s never missed one before.

I knew where she lived. I’d helped Billy get her home before. These kids were small time, a little dope, a lot of booze, and late nights screaming out their music to other wasted kids. My interest was in their dealers, not in them. I did what I could to keep them safe, helped them out once in a while with a burger, or pizza. In her case I called in a favor and took her to a good rehab clinic just a little north of the city. But three weeks into treatment she checked herself out. Some things not even god can fix.

My hand hesitated at the door and that’s when I knew I had broken the golden rule. I actually cared about this kid. And I hated like hell the idea of finding her in there. A deep breath, a half hearted prayer and then I knocked.

The lock was a simple one. I had it open in seconds. No chain on the door. Damn her, I always told her to use that chain. A sweet kid like her in this neighborhood, a run down part of town that contained too many guys that thought they had a right to get in her pants. A chain wouldn’t stop the really determined, but it would deter a few at least.

The place smelled of sweat, grease, and cigarettes. But it was tidy. Looking around I could almost see the little girl she once was. Smatterings of flowers, the color pink, and a few stuffed animals told me that once she was someone’s daughter.

The bedroom door was ajar. I nudged it with my foot. And there she was. The needle still in her arm. Damn her. God Damn Her.

I blinked, once, twice, and took deep breaths. I called it in. I took the needle out of her arm. Brushed her hair back and said a silent farewell.

John Morley, the coroner asked me about next of kin. I didn’t know what to say. I checked her purse but it gave me no clues. I dug through the desk, nothing. As I scanned the room for any sort of clue I noticed a picture on her dresser. The photo was of a much happier, healthier girl smiling and holding up a fish. A man, with similar features, was hugging her. The pride so evident in his face. I opened up the drawers and there they were, tied with ribbon, letters from home.

I don’t know what made me say it, but I told John I would take her home. It was out of my mouth before I had time to think. He shook his head as he zipped the bag. I asked him to clean her up a bit. He patted me on the back as he followed the stretcher out of the apartment.

Before I left I took the picture and a funny little sock puppet she had sitting right next to the frame. I don’t know why I grabbed them both. But something told me they both meant something to her. That they should go home as well.

Two days later I was on the road and heading north. I was out of the city and into unfamiliar territory. Peace, green hills, and kindly neighbors. I was out of my element and my comfort zone. These were folks with families, history, who gathered for celebrations, for births, and deaths. These were people that brought sick neighbors dinner. This wasn’t my world. My world was dark, ugly, violent. Where neighbors would rob you rather than look at you. Where no one seemed to celebrate life and everyone seemed to glory in death.

The road was long. But the hills were pretty. I’ll never forget the silence of that trip. Just me and her and miles of road. What I wouldn’t have given for her to be carrying on some sort of conversation. Even if she was arguing and fighting the return home, at least she would be doing something.

I pulled into the town her folks lived in. I spoke with the Sheriff and he directed me to the funeral home. He said he would go with me out to the farm. That the news shouldn’t come from a stranger but from a friend.

Her dad was leaning against the fence watching the horses run. He waved at us as we pulled in. The sheriff took off his hat and told him we had some news.

“She’s gone ain’t she”

“’Fraid so Harvey”

The father stared off toward the pasture. He seemed to follow the flight of a little yellow warbler across the field.

“She was my little song bird that one”

I handed him the photograph and the sock puppet. He nodded and a smiled touched his face.

“Funny you should bring this son. I guess that means she got the last laugh.”

I guess I must have looked a little funny because he chuckled again and continued,

“See, I got this silly thing at a craft fair, you know the kind that have nothing but old lady stuff. Anyway, I got it for her and she said it was really ugly and that I must not love her very much if that was the best thing I could think to give her. Well, father’s day rolled around and she gave me that same little sock puppet and a pack of lures. And from then on, everything we ever gave each other always included this silly thing. But I never expected to be the one stuck with it in the end. Man’s not supposed to outlive his baby girl. Nope, that’s not how it’s supposed to happen.”

We stood there in silence for a while and then he said his thanks and headed back inside. The sheriff told me he would do what he could to help the family and that they appreciated what I had done.

As I headed back to my car the sheriff called out to me, “Ya know, if you ever want a change of scenery I could use a good man like yourself.”

I nodded to him, got in my car, and headed home. The city is where I belong. I understand the city. I understand the people that move within it and they understand me. And besides, what would I do with all that quiet, that peace, the greenery, and the stars in the sky?

Maybe some day I’ll remove one too many needles and I’ll take that sheriff up on his offer. But for now, the city is my home and there will be other kids that will get under my skin. And maybe someday I’ll even be able to save one of them.


Betty said...

Great story, Newt. I couldn't even begin to try one of these challenges.

Jay said...

Newt, you're not gonna believe it when you read mine. Lets just say we saw the same thing in that hard-rocking character. LOL

Great story. I could feel the cop's sadness and feeling of helplessness there.

Newt said...

Betty - you're a great writer, give it a shot. I bet you'll knock us all on our petooties

Jay - dang dude, it's like we share the same brain. No wonder I am tortured with images of scantily clad women all the time. LOL

Farmer*swife said...

This was really good. And, maybe like jay's in a way, but then totally different.

The decipher from the city to the country. I liked your take on the country (I'm lucky to live like that -- although, the city is just a half hour away on one side).

The cop, the sherriff, the Dad. I liked them all.

Cool Beans!

Jo said...

Newt, I loved it. The cop's voice, the simplicity of it & yet the huge spaces of feeling that exist behind the words--I wanted this to be a whole book just to hear him think. This was a powerful story, really got under my skin :)

Anonymous said...

It is a great story.. And when you said "she's gone ain't she? I teared up! LOL!! I love it!

Jeff B said...

Bravo! I really enjoyed your take on the photos and your naritive style was done very well.

Nice job working in the puppet thing as well.

Raven said...

This was beautifully done. I loved the way you worked the puppet thing in. Such a lovely idea. Mine's up too, for what it's worth.

gr said...

you just wrote this down? are you kidding?

Kell said...

That was excellent. Really excellent.

R.E.H. said...

Wow! That was a great story. This month is just pouring out some amazing stories! Those pictures must've been pretty darn inspiring after all!

Absolutely love how you incorporated the stuffed animal - that was simply brilliant!

I could really feel it as I read it, and as Single mentioned - that part where the father just knew what he was about to learn was very touching.

Stellar story!

Dianne said...

Great job newt

I think my favorite part was learning that the Dad and his little girl passed the sock puppet back and forth year to year. Such a beautiful way of noting their connection.

I like the cop and hope he moves to the country.