Too close to home

This is part of an ongoing series called Graveyard Shift. It can be read alone or you can roll back in my archives and start from the beginning.

“You can’t smoke in here, Mike”, Jimmy said. He watched as his partner of 5 years ignored him. Mike was staring ahead, studying the smoke of his cigarette wafting listlessly into the air. A woman nursing a coffee alternately stared at her cup and glared at Mike. Mike casually opened his jacket enough to reveal his badge. The woman returned her gaze to her coffee. “Bully”.
“Fucking Smoke Nazi.” Mike offered.
“Yea, those studies on the harms of second hand smoke, the no smoking signs on the walls, common courtesy. Goebbels is behind all of it.” Jimmy smirked. He knew that egging Mike on right now may go either way but he was just trying to get Mike to talk. He wanted to hear what was going on behind that furrowed brow. And he hated uncomfortable silences.
Mike dropped his cigarette into his coffee and lit another. He could feel the heat of the glare of the woman next to him as she grabbed her pocketbook and stormed angrily out of the cafeteria.
“You know, I don’t think she is the one who drugged your girl. Why are you fucking with strangers?”
“I’m not fucking with strangers, I can fuck with you if you want?”
“Just talk to me, Mike.”
Mike continued to stare straight ahead. Jimmy knew not to push anymore. The girl reminded Mike of Sarah. Mike suddenly spoke.
“If she was raped…so help me God.”
Yup, Jimmy thought. That’s it.

Last call

This is part of an ongoing series called Graveyard Shift. It can be read alone or you can roll back in my archives and start from the beginning.

Jimmy McInerney stood on the curb outside of O’malley’s impatiently waiting for his ride. He had interviewed all 3 bouncers, 2 patrons and Mike was still not back.
Where the hell is he? How long does it take to give a drunk chick a ride home? Jesus.
As if on cue his radio crackled.
“Unit 7 en route to Mercy Hospital.”
“10-4 Unit 7”, dispatch responded.
Jimmy reached for the radio mike on his left shoulder and squeezed the lever.
“Unit 7. ETA ?”
“Be there in 5.”
Jimmy looked around the Main st. Last call was in effect and all of the bars were emptying out, including O’Malley’s. Between Mike clearing the crowd outside and Jimmy shaking the place inside out everyone had left . He marveled at how the patrons had cautiously steered way clear of him as they exited the bar. They’re not supposed to be scared of me, they’re supposed to trust and feel comfortable around me.
That’s the way it was these days and Jimmy hated it. He had always, despite the road blocks in his career, tried to be the cop that people waved to when he drove by. A police officer that was a resource to the community and not something to be feared. Andy Griffith always came to mind when he was on this topic. Maybe it was only a TV show but he wished that the people in town felt towards him and his fellow officers as the people of Mayberry did. They trusted Andy, they gladly sat next to him at the coffee shop and welcomed him into their homes as a friend. But that was not to be, forever relegated to the status of TV Land reruns, police were regarded on a whole different level in recent years. It wasn’t entirely unearned, Jimmy knew some bad cops. But he also knew some good ones, Mike and himself included, that took this job upon themselves for the right reason. Community, helping people, keeping them safe. Yet people, even in this town…HIS town, bought into the narrative that cops were racist and corrupt and not to be trusted. Maybe banging my nightstick on the bar a while ago wasn’t the best way to reverse that dumbass, he scolded himself. Maybe, but the damage has been done. He exhaled and reveled in the cool early morning air.
Mike pulled in moments later and Jimmy jumped in. Before Jimmy could fasten his belt Mike noisily sped off.
“What’s going on?” Jimmy asked him.
“We’re going to Mercy. That wasn’t a routine drunk chick. I ordered a Tox. Med 2 is on the way with her and I want to be there when they get the results”. He stuck a Marlboro Red in his lips, lit up and slowly exhaled. “Something stinks in Mayberry.”

Flashbacks

This is part of an ongoing series called Graveyard Shift. It can be read alone or you can roll back in my archives and start from the beginning.

“I swear, she came in like that.” The heavy set bartender said. “I never served her a drink. She never ordered one.”
“I’m not sure I believe you,” Officer Jimmy McInerney said.
“I don’t care if you believe me, I’m telling you the truth.”
“Watch your attitude”, Jimmy shot him a look. He wasn’t the biggest guy on the force but his mannerisms and demeanor commanded respect.
“Look”, the bartender said. “She came in, she went right to the dance floor, was hanging all over some guys. Made a real spectacle of herself so I had the bouncers toss her out.”
“Will your bouncers corroborate that story?”
“Absolutely.”
“Do a better job on the sidewalk also. You dumped her out there and a bunch of assholes did nothing but stand there and look at her. That shit reflects on you as a business. Got it?”
“You got it, Jimmy”, the bartender replied.
“Officer McInerney.”
“Got it, Officer McInerney.”
Jimmy gave him a long look as if to say “I mean it” and walked out. For emphasis he banged his nightstick on the edge of the mahogany bar. The crowd cleared the way for him as he stepped outside. The band of idiots that felt it was ok to watch a drunk girl helpless on the sidewalk without helping was gone. With a smirk, Jimmy mused to himself, Valentine would be proud.

Officer James “Jimmy” McInerney wasn’t a hardass by any means, despite the side of him that he had just displayed. In fact, he was known as a fair, honest and reasonable man around town. He had grown up here, was a very popular guy in High School and after graduating college in New York moved back and joined the Police force. Being a familiar figure around town, Jimmy let a lot of people off with warnings. It was his nature. His style of policing worked in a small college town. But in recent years the town had changed.

Jimmy had watched his quiet college town of 35,000 during the school year and 25,000 in the summer grow into a bustling community. A new teaching Hospital, followed by a Software Company had drawn young professionals and downsized workers from all over. Urban sprawl and a boom in population followed. The sharp increase in population forced the town’s Police Department to modify its procedures and adapt to a city mentality. Jimmy reluctantly joined in lockstep. He had to. He knew that he was lucky to still have a job after the events of August 2005.

On the night of August 28, 2005 a young and idealistic “Officer Jimmy”, as he was then known had been stationed at his favorite speed trap, the intersection of 2nd and main. It was at the bottom of a hill and cars came down it way too fast. This particular intersection was home to a very busy crosswalk and Jimmy, as was every other cop in town was concerned about someone getting hit by a speeder. A lot of stops were made there out of a regard for safety and of course revenue generation and many tickets were issued. Officer Jimmy wasn’t big on tickets, he was more about keeping people safe. He believed that “Protect and Serve” was a lost notion, that cops now were all about busting heads and acting tough. Not him. He would never be like that. He always tried to live by his father’s famous mantra, “Always be nice. Until it’s time not to.” He had heard it so many times he might as well have had it tattooed on his forehead. It was his go-to first reaction in almost all situations and it had served him well.

Until that night.

to be continued…

Reminders

This is part of an ongoing series called Graveyard Shift. It can be read alone or you can roll back in my archives and start from the beginning.

Sergeant Michael Valentine was stuck in traffic. He was supposed to meet his partner at 11. He didn’t have to punch in, he just hated to be late. Now, road construction, his tax dollars at work, was holding him up. He was getting antsy when it occurred to him that he was a cop, why didn’t he throw on the reds? Then he realized that the reds won’t help him through the oncoming traffic, it was one lane. He punched the steering wheel. Take a deep breath, he scolded himself.

He called his partner and told him he would be late and to meet at the coffee shop. It was a short walk for him and Mike could pick up both him and a decent cup of coffee. That being handled he focused again on the traffic, his Agita, and his anxiety. Cheryl loved to fuck with me when this happened. This was one of those moments that reminded him of his ex. When he had one of his “moments” of anxiety, impatience or intolerance it would always end up in a fight. Despite the conventional wisdom of leaving him alone and letting him work through it Cheryl always picked and prodded at him and made an otherwise small thing into a blowout. One that regrettable things were said, things you don’t forget. It’s bad enough that I’m wrapped tighter than an airport sandwich, do I have to think of her every time I get worked up? The traffic started to move. He could feel the tension in his chest ease a bit. He lit another cigarette and waved to the flagman as he drove by.

“Hop in” he said as he flung the passenger side door open. In came 2 paper cups of hot coffee immediately followed by his partner James “Jimmy” McInerney. Mike put the coffees in the cup holders and opened the tab on his.
“Extra cream extra sugar?” , he asked.
“It’s your friggin’ heart attack”, Jimmy replied.
“Spare me the commentary, dickhead. Jus’ asking. Coffee is all I have until I can have a drink.” He took a sip. Jimmy laughed.
“You don’t need either. The shape you’re in, you could donate your body to Science Fiction.”
“You’re right. And Fuck you”, Mike said as he tossed his spent cigarette out the cracked window.
They drove in silence, the hum of the tires as they drove down Main St. provided the filler for their silence. They focused on police work, scanning the crowded sidewalks for signs of trouble.

This was their routine every night, to cruise the main street containing the college bars looking for trouble makers. The establishments generally let out just as their shift started and if there was going to be a fight or some sort of mischief this was the time. Jimmy pointed across Mike’s chest.
“There.” He was pointing to a circle of young people. They were gathered around something hidden from their sight. Mike swung the Crown Vic into the opposite side of the street, threw on the lights and blew the siren. Several onlookers turned in response.
“Everything ok over here?” He called out through his open window.
“Yes, officer. Just a drunk girl.” As the circle opened up they saw a very intoxicated young woman sitting on the ground with a befuddled look on her face. Nobody was really helping her, they were treating her as a curiosity. She was clearly disoriented and in need of help.
“You go in and talk to the bartender. That young lady has clearly been overserved. Tell him I’ll shut them the fuck down if they’re not careful. I’ll take her home and swing back for you” Mike said.
“K”, Jimmy replied in his usual perfunctory manner and jumped out of the car.
Mike stepped out and the crowd scattered. A physically imposing guy of 6’2 and a reasonably muscular 250 pounds with a strong chin and a buzzcut, Sergeant Valentine didn’t need a badge and a gun to clear a crowd. He leaned in, spoke briefly to the young woman and helped her to her feet. As he helped her into the back seat of the car he turned to the crowd.
“Maybe next time someone can help out instead of standing around. What the hell is wrong with all of you?” he scolded the crowd. Not one of the bystanders dared to be indignant enough to defend themselves.
He leaned in to get the address of the young woman. Once done, he strapped her in and drove off in search of her dorm or housing. He considered, for a brief moment arresting her for Public Intoxication but he had a soft spot for the kids, especially the girls. They were, after all the same age as his daughter.

the day after Christmas

It was the day after Christmas and my youngest daughter and I were nursing our morning coffee after a late night of junk food and binging Netflix. My phone rang its distinctive Duck call ring tone and I walked over to the counter to see who it was. It was my ex. It was a dick move but I chose to let it go to voice mail. I do that a lot. I’m not proud of it. I don’t hate her but I have been conditioned to feel a sense of foreboding when she calls.

Too many years. Too many bad phone calls. Too many uncomfortable associations.

2 minutes later she texted me. Please call me it’s an emergency!

I called her right away. Her boyfriend Glenn was missing. He had been since Christmas Eve.

Do you remember Glenn? I wrote a blog about him a while back. He is the boyfriend that moved in with my ex and caused a family brouhaha. With a history of drug problems, still married with a shit ton of baggage some of us were less than thrilled that they were shacking up. It blew over, like most things do. I met him on Thanksgiving. He was a nice enough guy and I accepted him, if not the situation. My only problem was that I knew, as did my ex, that it would end badly.

It ended worse than anyone could imagine.

He’s dead.

My ex saw his car at a rest stop several hours later. She found his lifeless body in the back seat curled under a blanket. We’re waiting for the autopsy results but we know it was an overdose. The only unknown was how much of what he took.

She is a hot mess right now and I feel terrible. The memory of finding his lifeless body will be burned in her brain forever. Despite all of my animosity towards her I find myself perplexed and frustrated because I want to help. There’s nothing that I, or anyone can do.

She had told him, and herself as if in an effort to convince herself, that if he used drugs while with her that she would throw him out. Several months later, when he was still there, I assumed that he was clean. I now know that he wasn’t. He relapsed several times, disappeared for a few days at a time on benders and then showed up begging for forgiveness. She caved each time. I guess that’s what you do when you love someone.

I drove two hours yesterday to see her. To comfort her. I put everything aside to give her a hug. It was the first time we had hugged, even touched each other since my father’s funeral in 2013. I told her that I would never in a million years want such a thing to befall her. Then I left and drove another 2 hours.

I checked my FB at a gas station on the way up. She had posted a meme about how her life would never be the same and added her own commentary about how no one had ever made her feel as he did and that her life was changed forever by his love and that she will never feel again about another man. As concerned as I was about her I was stung a bit by her post. I spent half of my life with this woman, nearly killed myself trying to support and love her and this is what I see? Part of me wondered if she ever loved me that much.

I quickly reminded myself that it wasn’t about me.

Still, it stings. I guess I will just pile that onto an already heaping shit pile of things that I will never understand. Again, it’s not about me.

Addiction is a powerful thing. More powerful than many, including my ex, will ever understand. Like suicide, it’s the ones around and left behind that get hurt. I take no satisfaction in the fact that I told her she would end up being hurt. Being right doesn’t matter. The damage is done. The pain is palpable. The struggle continues.

All that is left is the cleanup.

What is a man? cont’d

Welcome to the next installment of my impromptu series on what constitutes a “real” or “good” man.

Several weeks ago my son called me to talk about his girlfriend. He was upset and needed an ear and possible some advice. He has been involved in a long-distance relationship for 18 months (she lives 60 miles from him and goes to school 100 miles from him). He loves her and for the longest time felt that the feeling was mutual. Lately, he feels that she isn’t investing as much in their relationship as he is. It is not lost on him that he is doing a lot of driving for very little actual time with her. He described her behavior to me as cold, distant, unaffectionate. His “I love you’s” were met with a nod or a “um hmmm.”
“Dad,” he said, “I need more than that. I’m an affectionate guy. I need to know she’s as invested as I am.”
“So what do you want to do?” I asked him.
“I’m going to break up with her. But I have to wait 6 long days to see her again.”
Fishing for the right answer I asked,
“You can do it over the phone.” (To be clear I wasn’t advocating this, I was testing him).
“No.” He paused. I need to do this face to face.”
The kid has it. The third, not necessarily third in importance but in my blog, trait of a good man. Integrity. He made his ol’ Dad pretty proud right then.

Integrity.
Integrity is a word thrown around a lot, mostly by people who don’t have it. In short layman’s terms, Integrity is doing the right thing. The right thing is often the hardest thing to do. In the case of my son, he knew that a text or a phone call would do the job but it wouldn’t be the right way to do it. Even though he was hurt, upset and annoyed at his girlfriend, consideration for her feelings was paramount. Doing what is right, not expedient or easy is the very definition of integrity.

As a society we have come to rely on what is quick. On what is easy. And sadly, what we can get away with. Only when it is convenient do some ask what the right course of action is. I suspect that deep down inside we all know what the right thing to do is in any situation. It may not be the easiest, cheapest or most convenient but it is right there in the forefront of the mind of any morally virtuous person. A good man always strives to do the right thing…even when no one is looking. A man of integrity makes sure that what he says and does are in alignment. I’m proud to say that my son is a man of integrity.

In order to reconcile the man with the image, one must be able to take a hard and unflinching look at himself and make changes if needed. Therefore the next, and I think related virtue of a good man is that of humility.

Humility.
Humility is the antithesis of hubris and arrogance. A humble man does not take himself too seriously because to be full of oneself you are not allowing room for others. A humble man knows the world around him and exactly where he fits into it. When charitable, he is not concerned about accolades and recognition. He values accomplishment and achievement and satisfying a need, all the while motivated by integrity, his inner desire to do the right thing for the right reasons.

I have known many great and humble men and I strive to be like them. Men who are genuinely more concerned with you then they are with themselves. Men who accept criticism as a means to self improvement yet are slow to criticize others. Men who are involved but want to blend into a crowd, not stand on a mount waving a flag that says “look at me!”

A real, humble man wants everyone to achieve and be happy, not seek an advantage of perceived superiority over others. We need more men of integrity and humility in this age of relative morality and rampant egoism.

to be continued…

Fairness

At what point do you go from being fair to being a sucker?

I have always considered myself a fair man. Actually, let me back up a bit. Not always. I can not claim that I have always been the way I am today. In fact, until too late in life I was a very flawed man. But I did change for the better around the time that I took a real hard look at my life and realized that I was trying to be something I was not and it was then that I made some adjustments. As I told my 25 year HS reunion coordinator looking for a quote in the absence of my attendance,
“I spent so much time and effort in the attempt to find myself only to one day realize that I was me all along.”
As I took stock of my life, one thing I vowed to do was always take a moment to consider the perspective of others before making snap judgments and to always be a fair man. It’s worked for me professionally and in my personal life, in particular in my marriage. Lately, I have begun to think that in my marriage, I have evolved from fair to being a sucker.

Two years ago, when my wife and I finally decided to divorce we sat down and discussed the terms. We were already maintaining separate residences, not even close to being a couple, and I was sick and unemployed. She told me that she wasn’t going to pursue support but asked that in the event that my SSDI application was approved would I give her some of it? I agreed, even though my SSDI application was never guaranteed. I am not the type to leave her hanging because she wasn’t doing much better financially than I.

Fast forward 20 months. I was living with mom and also living off of her. I had no income. My health had further deteriorated and I had been denied SSDI and I was pending a hearing. Additionally, I had just come out of a extended hospital stay that almost ended with my leaving in a bag.

When I came home from the hospital the first thing I did was open my mail. There was good news and bad. The bad news was that my health insurance had been cancelled. Enter the other piece of mail. I had been approved for Disability, to the tune of a 32k back settlement, which was the reason for them cancelling my insurance (apparently I was a rich man at 2100/mo).

Unbeknownst to me, my ex had also received a copy of my approval letter.

She called me the next morning looking for a check. I had already decided that I would honor my word and give her half. But before I could be nice, dare I say magnanimous, she demanded her half and proceeded to tell me how she would not even settle for less than a stipend of 800/mo. I was floored. All of the wind was drained from my sails. I told her so and hung up. A matter of hours passed and I wrote a check for 15,700 and mailed it. I then paid my mother back everything I had borrowed in the past 18 months. I then paid off my credit cards and I had 3k left and I needed tires for my truck. That was 800.

On the next conversation I had with ex-wifey I cautiously told her that there would be a time, in the near future, where we would need to discuss the arrangement. I was paying support for 2 minors despite one of them being almost 20 and the other turning 18 in 3 months. I called it child support and if you’re paying attention that means that I don’t have to do one and I am close to not being required to the other. I’m fair and I have honor. But the time to revisit the arrangement is right now. I have given her over 24k in the last 12 months as I suffer financially.

The catalyst for this conversation occurred last week she called and told me that her boyfriend was going to move in with her. It was part of a giant brouhaha. My youngest daughter, who lives with her completely objected and was beside herself upset. My oldest daughter was in her corner and fighting with her mother. Ex wifey didn’t care that my daughter was upset, she did her usual “I’ll ask for approval and then do whatever the fuck I want to anyway” move. She wanted my approval. I didn’t give it to her. I was never a fan of her new guy, a convicted felon and a very recent user of drugs after failing rehab. Him living with 2 of my kids infuriated me. At am impasse, the conversation ended quickly.

Then it hit me. A guy with no job, no money, a drug problem and a record was going to live with her partially on my dime? No, I say no fucking way. I briefly thought about cutting her off but I do have an obligation to pay her for my youngest for a while. I needed to do something, but what is fair?

I decided that I would cut it in half. The oldest boy is working and makes decent money. He buys his own food so she can’t claim she’s supporting him. The other half is going to be deposited in my youngest daughter’s bank account, which I just set up, where ex-wifey can’t touch it. I then called my ex and told her what I was doing and that her able bodied boyfriend will have to pick up the slack. I told her that any self-respecting person, whether they rent a room or stay at a house, pays rent. Jesus H Tap-dancing Christ, her mother is paying her rent in full!

The best part, my kids suggested that I do this.

Boy, was she pissed! How could I, after all?

My response? For once, I am doing what is fair to me.