1 The Priest
The priest swept across the dais with grace, although his heart held malice.
A boy watched from a pew near the front of the otherwise empty church. He pretended to flip through a hymnal, and contemplated whether his parents would believe him if he decided to run. He imagined his mother at home preparing dinner, proud that the priest had picked him out of all the other altar boys to perform these extra duties after school. Peering over the book, he wondered how the man could move so silently, almost appearing to float. Are there even legs under those long robes? He edged closer to the aisle.
“Going somewhere, my son?”
It sounded like the true voice of God. Its deep timbre echoed from the high ceiling and marble walls, surrounding him.
“No, Father.” He thought his voice sounded meek by comparison—squeaky and scared. He was scared. He tried again, this time in a stronger voice, the more confident one dad had been coaching him to use. “No.” This time, it sounded better, at least to him. Where are you, Dad?
He looked at the stained-glass figures in the windows above. Their eyes seemed cast down at him in pity. Jesus. Mary. Joseph. He asked for their help. Didn't they stand for goodness? He thought about the superheroes in his comic books, and imagined one sailing through the glass to save him. He wondered about God, and whether he was watching. Why doesn’t he do anything?
He watched the priest clean up around the altar. His tall, thin build and long limbs made him look like a praying mantis. The boy’s gaze moved upward, to the massive crucifix on the wall above the priest—Jesus pinned to it with his crown of thorns, eyes closed, blood dripping from wounds on his hands, feet, and abdomen. Fall. Fall on him. Fall on him, Jesus. You’re supposed to be the Savior.
A booming sound startled him as the side door slammed behind Charles, the old black maintenance man. The kids all talked about how Charles had done time in prison. Who knew if it was true? That was the least of his worries right now, anyway.
“What else can I do tonight, Father?” Charles asked. He looked over toward the boy.
The boy read a look of concern on his face and tried to respond in kind, staring back hopefully. He trusted Charles, who had only been nice to him in the time they had spent together, and he’d always felt sorry for the priest’s harsh treatment of the man.
“Nothing more, Charles,” said the God-voice. “That will be all for today.”
Charles began to leave, but hesitated. “You sure you don’t want me to sweep up in here?”
“That will be all, Charles.” The priest was polishing a silver chalice, with his back to them both.
Charles looked over at the boy again. “Can I walk the kid home, then? He done here too?”
The priest turned to face them. His ruddy face and red hair seemed to glow under the lights. This time he spoke softly, but his voice commanded an end to the discussion. “That will be all, Charles.”
“All right then. See you tomorrow, Father.” He walked up the aisle, patting the boy’s shoulder on the way past, his footsteps echoing. The thick front door creaked as he opened it.
The boy turned to see Charles pause in the doorway, as if pondering some course of action. Their eyes engaged once more, and hope again filled his heart. Charles held the door wide open for a moment, then lowered his head and left. The boy wondered again if he could make it before the door locked behind the janitor. He imagined the priest gliding down the aisle at warp speed on those long legs and grabbing him by the collar, just as he reached it. It gasped slowly to closure and shut with a final soft click. The boy turned to face the dais again, but found the priest’s robes in his face. There was a swish of satin as a long arm swept up and took hold of his shoulder.
“Come along, son. We have work to do in the rectory before you leave.”
The boy rose obediently, and as was his custom, the priest placed his hand on the nape of his neck to guide him, thumb dug into the gap between vertebrae. His hands are always so cold. He walked past the dais, and on the way by he gazed at the rows of flickering candles in small red jars, lit in the hopes of others.
I’m dying. Tommy leaned back in the padded recliner, and the paper on the headrest crinkled. He worried for a moment that the nurses hadn’t changed it after the last patient, and then thought about the absurdity of his concern. Anyways, I’m almost bald now.
The glass faceplate of the infusion console reflected his grizzled face. His Marine flat-top, composed of rigid silver spikes, stood in defiance of the chemo. He looked down at his muscled forearms and strong hands. The clear, thin tubes attached to his right arm contrasted with his aged tan skin and faded Eagle, Globe and Anchor tattoo. He looked down with pride at the lines of his fit torso through the bright white t-shirt. Not bad for a guy in his sixties.
He considered the irony of a disease that was eating him from the inside. He had worked his way out of every problem life had presented so far, and for the first time, he wasn’t in control of his fate. Closing his eyes, he tried to silence the noise around him. He was able to drown it all out except for the endless ticking of the console. Ademo-carcaroma, whatever they called it. Lung cancer. Fuck. Me.
He thought about his years as a cop and the constant exposure to the filth and infected scumbags the city had offered up. I was young and indestructible. He thought about the horror of the day the towers fell, and the dense wave of toxins he had consumed. It had seemed to saturate his every pore. He thought about the people he’d saved, and those he couldn't.
I always believed I’d die heroic. Now, it’ll be pathetic. He thought about the persistent nagging of his wife and son to give up the smokes. I gave up the booze, but needed my smokes. Gave them up too late. He thought about how bored he had become in retirement, and how he had wished for some kind of adventure. Be careful what you wish for. He thought about his past selfishness and mistakes, until his thoughts morphed into dreams.
A shrill beeping jolted him awake, and he bolted from the recliner with a shout. His vision sharpened; he was unsure where he was. He put his right hand where his sidearm should be and quickly scanned the room. Who are these people? He felt a sharp pain as the tube that led to the needle in his arm stretched taut. The people in the room were frozen, mouths slightly agape, staring at him. Like mannequins in a department store window.
He looked at the console and the flashing red words ‘air-in-line.’ He calmed himself and sat back down with the others in his pod—his companions in chemotherapy. He looked at the old black across the way, the biddy to his right, and the mousy Jewish guy to his left. They were all sitting in identical recliners, wired to their individual stations in the circular area. Like hostages in an alien abduction movie.
Nurse Carmen hustled over to fix the problem and silence the alarm in her efficient, reassuring manner. “It’s alright, Chief,” she said. “Stand down. I’ve got this under control. Lean back and relax—another half hour and you’re out of here and on your way home.”
He eased back into his chair. “I was dreaming, Carmen. Dreaming of better times.”
The Jew looked over. “This is the better times. You’re just starting treatment. You’ll be good today, but oh boy, wait until tomorrow and the next few days!”
Tommy leaned toward the man with menace. “Who’s talking to you? Shut the hell up, Herbie.”
The Jew pushed backed into his chair. “Eddie. Eddie Silver. Don’t be mad. There’s no sugar-coating it. We’re all in this together. We have to own it, my therapist says.”
The biddy had put her celebrity gossip magazine down, now more interested in the drama a few feet away.
Tommy tried hard to suppress the prejudice that had been burned into him all his life. He saw himself as a better man now. Except sometimes, when I’m angry.
“Silver, huh? You mean Silverstein? Who do you people think you’re fooling with the name changes? What’s next, putting hair on that yama-cap of yours so nobody can see it? Don’t talk about owning anything if you’re faking it. Be who you are. Own that.”
The biddy put her finger up, as if about to dispense a pearl of wisdom, until a look from Tommy silenced her.
“Yarmulke. It’s a yarmulke,” Eddie said quietly in response.
The tall black man looked at Tommy with a casual gaze, and then said in a rumbling, authoritative tone, “That’s enough of that. It’s bad enough in here. We’re all getting through it, and we don’t need any bullies. And none of that ‘you people’ stuff.”
To hell with them. Tommy turned back to his personal TV. To discourage any further discourse, he unfurled his ear buds and plugged them into the recliner’s audio port. As soon as he did, he saw the biddy and the Jew start yammering at each other and occasionally looking his way. The black gazed at him without yielding.
He focused on the news; a story about a cop who was in trouble for shooting an unarmed young black kid who wouldn’t follow instructions. The usual civil-rights leaders were getting their fifteen minutes of air time.
Prejudice, huh? They don’t understand. It’s not prejudice, it’s a survival instinct. When you’re out there surrounded by black kids with guns under their shirts, dying to pop a cap in a cop, it’s survival. They don’t understand—it’s not racism. Experience tells you what to be afraid of, and when to be careful. Prejudice means ‘pre-judge,’ what’s wrong with that? Isn’t it how we’re wired, to survive? They’re not out there on the line every day, in a hostile environment, like I was.
He thought about his partner, his best friend, shot dead in a bodega while getting them both lunch. Sat on my ass in the car, while Paulie’s getting us sandwiches and getting killed by some lousy son-of-a-bitch.
The next news story rotated through, and the camera zoomed in on the talking head, whose expression was unusually grim.
“We’ve received an insider tip that an unnamed area priest has been accused of molesting several youths. We’ve reached out to the archbishop, who has declined to name the priest, citing church policy, to protect his reputation.”
Angered by the story, Tommy said to himself, unaware of his volume because of the headphones, “Reputation? A child molester needs to protect his reputation? The dirty rotten bastard.”
He noticed the others staring at him and waved them off. The news had moved on to a story about a financial adviser who had bilked elderly people out of their life savings. Filthy scum. We’re a plague on this planet, our species. We’re a walking, talking, greedy and corrupt disease to ourselves and nature. And then one about a politician caught philandering. Maybe they weren’t in love any more.
The last story brought him back to Margie, the good wife. Or she used to be, before she turned stone cold from everything that happened, like I did. Who could blame her? In the beginning, they were all young cops and wives, full of life. Everyone was with their first spouses, having their first kids. They were happy and naive, and there were fun parties and card games on the weekends. No one was sick, several generations of their families were intact. No one was dead yet.
It was before the inevitable wreckage of all their lives. Their social drinking turned to self-medicating drinking. It became a problem. He gave it up; she pretended to. His thoughts turned to the boy, their son. Maybe I was too hard on him. He wasn’t cut out to be a cop, but I pretty much mandated it. He wanted to be a writer. The kid tried to please, but couldn’t hack the streets and ended up as a desk jockey. ‘Secretary,’ I called him. Who could blame him for hating me? He made a note to spend more time with Bobby, to try to repair the damage in their relationship.
He realized he was feeling bad about the earlier exchange with his fellow patients. He looked them over again. They were lost in their thoughts. Probably wondering how much time they have left in this shitty world and what they’re going to do with it. The black stared straight ahead at nothing, as if in proud acceptance of his situation. Poor bastards. He didn’t want them to be afraid of him; he was trying to change. I’m a lion without teeth now.
The biddy’s husband had joined her, and he looked even frailer than she was. He’d brought her tea from the cafeteria, which sat steaming on a tray. They sat there looking at each other wistfully, slight smiles on their lips. Their hands intertwined, and the translucent, wrinkled, liver-spot speckled skin and bulging purple veins made it difficult to determine where one of them ended and the other began.
The Jew—Eddie—now had his small son next to him, coloring a picture as the father looked on adoringly. Tommy wondered if the boy had been nearby during his attack on the father, and the thought horrified him.
Nurse Carmen, the beautiful Nurse Carmen, was moving among them. She checked each of their infusion units and IVs to ensure all was in order. Nurse Beulah was at another pod, entertaining the patients while dancing from one to another. How do these nurses do it every day?
He pulled his ear buds out and stood, holding onto the infusion unit with one hand. The group looked up to see what he would do next, and there was a bit of fear in all of their faces, except the black’s. The boy stopped coloring. The steam seemed to stop rising from the tea. The infusion machines kept clicking. He moved over to the Jew.
“Hello, Eddie. My name is Tommy. I’m sorry if I offended you. I’m a bit shook up about all this.”
Eddie Silver smiled, and it was a nice smile—warm and friendly.
“I think I upset you by being blunt,” Eddie said. “I’m like that, to a fault. It’s a Jew thing.”
The group laughed at the remark.
“This is my boy Saul.”
The boy looked up, shook Tommy’s offered hand, and went back to his coloring. Next, Tommy moved across to the biddy and her husband.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. My name is Tommy. I didn’t mean to be rude earlier.”
She released her husband’s hand, and a wrinkled index finger came up to make her point. “I’m Helen. Helen Rosencranz. And that’s all right, young man. Back in our day, people were a little more polite, but we forgive you. Herb and I know things are different now, unfortunately. Why…”
Oh Jesus, a chatterbox. He put his hand out for the husband. “Tommy.” The husband took it, and Tommy was cautious not to use his normal iron grip.
“My name is Herb. It’s nice to meet you, sir.” He looked over at his wife, who now glared at him in disapproval for talking over her.
Tommy pulled his gear over to the black and put out his hand. He was still relaxed from his handshake with the elderly Herb, and the black squeezed firmly and bundled Tommy’s fingers together. Tommy pulled his hand away.
“Let’s try again. I’m Tommy.” This time their two hands came to equal terms.
They looked into each other’s eyes, and the man spoke his name: “Moses.”
Eddie perked up. “Moses! What a great name! Yeah! Old Testament all the way, my brother!” The others looked at him with amusement.
“Moses was white,” Tommy said.
“And how the hell do you know that, because all the white man books show it that way?” Moses asked, glaring at Tommy.
“Could’ve been black, we don’t know…” Eddie interjected, trying to calm things down.
“What’s the matter, Tommy—never been this close to a black man that isn’t cuffed?”
Tommy cracked a hardened smile. “What’s the matter with you, never been this close to a cop when you weren’t?”
Moses scoffed. “Nurse Beulah, get me a copy of Jet or Ebony. Not for me, for the racist cop here. He needs to brush up on his black culture.”
“And I need some Purell,” Tommy called out with a smile.
With that, they all finally laughed. Moses looked at Tommy again and asked, “You saved the best for last, going to the others before coming here to me?”
“Hell, you’re way over here in the back of the bus.”
“Not funny,” Moses said solemnly, and then smiled broadly. “You’re some piece of work, Tommy. I like to think the ones who come in here angry are the ones who’re most afraid.”
“You got me there, brother Moses.” Tommy moved back to his seat.
The boy put his crayon down and shouted, “Mister! Hey mister!”
Tommy looked over at him. He held the picture up. It was a drawing of a cop with a gun drawn, and a robber on the ground with Xs in his eyes.
“When you were sleeping, Nurse Carmen told us you used to be a policeman, and you got shot. I drawed this picture of you.” Scrawled across the top it said ‘Tommy’ and at the bottom, in small, crooked print, ‘By Saul Silver.’ He got up and handed the picture to Tommy. “It’s for you,” he said.
Tommy took the picture and roughed up the boy’s hair. “Yeah, kid. Used to be is right. I have a son, too. Now he’s a big, strong policeman, just like I used to be.” He sat back down and placed the drawing on his tray, then picked it up and looked at it again. He looked over to the boy and said, “Thank you, Saul. It’s great. I’m gonna put it in my office at home.”
The boy smiled. Tommy saw Moses craning to see the picture and was thankful the boy hadn’t portrayed the robber as a black man.
“It wasn’t me,” Moses said, and they all laughed.
Tommy addressed the group. “I’ve been on the street long enough to know that scum comes in all colors and creeds. I was an equal-opportunity cop: I hated everyone the same.”
The group were paying rapt attention, and laughed nervously. “Humans are worse than most other species. Even animals don’t kill their own like we do. Color don’t matter. Black on black, white on white, all too common.”
Moses took his turn. “I’ve been on the other side of that. I’ve made mistakes and done my time, and I’ll die with a guilty conscience because of my actions and decisions. I work with street kids now, trying to make a difference. But it doesn’t help things when the white cops come in with their minds already made up. Those kids don’t think they have a chance, and don’t get the second chances white kids do when they make the same mistakes. That cop in the news shot the black kid, killed him. The kid didn’t even have a weapon on him. Cop didn’t even get disciplined.”
“That kid robbed a liquor store and beat the clerk almost to death with his own bat,” Tommy said.
“Doesn’t mean the police have a right to shoot him dead,” Eddie interjected. The biddy and her husband nodded in agreement. Saul continued to color, oblivious.
“You boys play nice now, or it’s time-out for the both of you,” Nurse Carmen interjected.
Tommy and Moses both turned toward their own TV monitors. “World’s going to shit anyway, there’s no morality anymore, black or white,” Tommy said to himself.
“That much I’ll give you,” Moses replied.
Nurse Carmen came over to disconnect Tommy. “Okay tough guy, you’re about done here for this round.”
He gazed at her face and took note of every beautiful detail. Her eye-liner was perfect and straight. Not excessive, like some of those sluttier looking women today. The whites of her eyes were pure, the browns and green flecks in her irises reflective and sparkling. The highlights in her deep brown hair shone in the sunlight coming through the window, like strands of gold in her neat pony-tail.
She went about her business, cleaning the wound with a cold alcohol swab and expertly installing a small bandage. He enjoyed her every grazing touch on his skin.
When she was through, he looked around at the others and said, “Well, I guess I’ll see you folks same time, same channel in a few weeks. The missus is waiting in the chow hall downstairs.”
They all said variations of goodbye as he rose up out of his chair and gathered his things. He was surprised to find his spirits and mood changed much for the better since he had first arrived, and felt a sense of camaraderie with his fellow patients. He was feeling a little bit at home.
That wasn’t so bad. Maybe I can beat this damn thing.
Tommy attempted to enter the hospital cafeteria against a wave of hurried employees clad in pastel scrubs depositing trays on a conveyor belt.
“This is the exit. Entrance is over there,” one said, gesturing with her chin.
He weaved upstream in the direction indicated, until he could finally enter the cavernous dining room. Conducting an orderly visual search, he finally spotted Margie, sitting alone. She was picking at her plate while reading a celebrity gossip magazine. He hoped she was somehow in good spirits as he took the seat facing her.
“Hi, honey, how’s the salad?”
“Fine,” she replied, without looking up at him. “How was your treatment?”
“It was okay. I saw the doc, too. He said that after this round, he has a clinical trial that I can try. It’s worked well against this type of cancer.”
She didn’t answer, and he wondered if she cared. “Anyway, that’s some crew of screw-ups up there, and it’s depressing. Good thing you stayed down here to pass the time. Let’s go.”
She pulled a cherry tomato from her fork with her lips and said, between squishy bites, “Can I finish my meal, please? You should eat. You’ll wake up sick tomorrow and won’t want anything all day.”
He hated when she talked with her mouth full, or when anyone did, for that matter. He thought about how their relationship had settled into a well-worn rut. We’re just…maintaining.
He stewed over her disinterest as he waited. “Let me ask you something, Margie. Do you give a shit, at all?”
She finally looked up at him. “About what?”
He felt that was answer enough, but exploded at her anyway. “About me. About me being sick. About us. About any damn thing.”
“Of course I do,” she said levelly, before returning to her salad. “I married you, didn’t I?”
He sensed that he had gained the attention of others, and brought his voice down. “What happened to us? We used to have fun. You enjoyed life, Margie. Now you’re like some goddamn robo-wife.”
She picked at the plate, and he wondered if she was eating so slowly to antagonize him. Or maybe she’d just rather be anywhere than home.
She turned a page in her tabloid and responded, in a barely audible voice, “You used to be fun too, Tommy. That was then. This is now. Everything changes.”
He decided to let it go, and passed the time by watching a nearby family gorge themselves on junk food. Between mouthfuls, they sucked on straws that barely poked from the tops of their massive soda cups.
“Get a load of this crew. All overweight, the whole gang of them, kids and all. Probably regular Pepsi, too, not even bothering with diet. No discipline.”
Margie ignored him, stabbing at her salad.
The family pushed their chairs back with loud scrapes and grabbed their drinks, leaving behind a table strewn with trash.
Tommy leaned toward the father as he walked past. “Excuse me, do you think you could clean up after yourselves?”
The man paused, and his tribe came to a halt behind him. They reminded Tommy of those wobbly Russian dolls that fit inside one another.
The man swiveled his head toward Tommy and sucked the last of his drink. He prolonged the abrasive sound, while his eyes bulged from the effort. He squinted and planted his cup on Tommy’s table with a rattle of ice. “How about you get that for us, pal?”
Enraged, Tommy began to rise. Margie grabbed his sleeve without looking up from her magazine. “No, sit down or you’ll end up getting arrested.”
He dropped back into his seat, and the family moved on. “This is why every citizen should have to spend a few years in the Corps after high school, like I did. People would learn some discipline, respect, and integrity. Damn, what a fine country we’d have.”
Margie finished and they got up to leave, dutifully clearing off their table. They walked in silence, and as they reached the parking lot he noticed the obese family struggling into their decrepit car. The vehicle was parked sloppily in its space, too close to the one parked next to it. The wife and daughter were attempting to wedge themselves into the front and back seats, pushing their doors against the neighboring car. The vehicle, Tommy realized, was his own prized Buick.
He sprinted up as they closed the doors. He examined the side of his vehicle and saw it was scuffed, but not dented. He peered into the family’s car as the father cranked the ignition and the vehicle started in ragged spurts. They seemed amused, and he lost it, rapping the top of the vehicle.
“What the fuck is wrong with you bastards? Get out, I want your insurance information!” he shouted, as the car backed up with a knock and a rattle.
The wife rolled down her window and said, “It’ll buff out.” They all laughed as they pulled away.
Tommy kicked the rear panel as it passed him and pulled out a pad and pen from his jacket pocket to jot down the license plate.
Margie stood on the passenger side of their car, waiting for him to unlock the doors, and shook her head. “Nothing is going to happen, you know that. Don’t waste your breath and your energy.”
He hit the unlock button on the key fob and opened the door for her. As he backed from his space, he spotted two extra-large soda cups next to their car, along with fragments of glass from a run-over bottle and the contents of an emptied ash tray. “Lazy sons-a-bitches,” he said under his breath, as he placed his vehicle back into park.
After he’d disposed of the trash, they continued their journey home. On the highway, a vehicle approached from behind and slotted in just off his rear bumper. “Now what the hell is this, some bum is right on my ass! I’m in the right lane doing the limit plus five, what’s his problem?” he asked.
Margie continued to read, oblivious.
He tapped the brakes a few times, causing Margie’s head to bob forward in response, and she glared at him.
“Stop it, Tommy! What if he’s some nut with a gun? Stop acting like a crazy person and let him pass when he gets a chance.”
“I have a gun too—right in there,” he said, gesturing toward the glove box. “Boom. Problem solved.”
“Well, you aren’t a cop any more. You can’t go getting into shoot-outs on the highway. Besides, what about me? What about the safety of your wife?”
Her voice had taken on the shrill tone it always had when she got worked up. Now I’m in for it. She won’t shut up the rest of the way home.
The passing lane beside them opened up. The other vehicle swerved into it and flew by, the driver gesturing to Tommy with his middle finger. Tommy waved in response, and said, “Have a nice day, citizen.” How I loved to say that, back in my cop days.
A few minutes later, he noticed a car on the side of the road, its front tire flattened. Four people stood staring at it as if waiting for it to inflate on its own. Tommy honked his horn, then slowed down and waved as he passed the family, pressing the button to lower Marge’s window. “Ha ha! There you go! Get some exercise fixing your tire! Karma’s a bitch!” he shouted, although they were long past by the time he got it all out.
“They can’t hear you, you lunatic,” Margie said, as he rolled up her window and her voice came into focus once again. “What’s wrong with you lately? You’re losing control of yourself. I’m going to mention this to your doctor. You need something to keep you calmer or you’re going to have a stroke, never mind this cancer.”
Her beehive hairdo was now in frayed disarray from the rush of wind. He tried not to laugh at the sight as he considered her question for a few minutes.
“I guess I’m afraid I’m going to leave this shitty world without having made much of a difference, when assholes like them are still here to make everybody else’s day worse. I tried to do that by becoming a cop, and I’m the one that’s sick. Not those bastards—or these corrupt priests, lawyers, politicians, financial advisers. Me, good old Tommy, I got the cancer. Let’s get home, I’m starting to feel it hitting me.”
He dreamed he was back on the boat. It was the summer when Paulie had talked him into going out to night-fish for blues. They had done more drinking than fishing, and he spent the trip nauseated and retching into the sea.
As he woke, he realized he was on the living room couch, just as sick as he was that summer night. He rolled off and onto his knees, scrambling like a crab to the bathroom.
He gripped the toilet seat and emptied himself into the bowl. He had a moment to gasp and suck in air, and then it came again, and again. His convulsions were so violent that he imagined the tumors within him dislodging and flowing out with the vomit. No such luck.
He flushed the toilet, then crawled back to the couch and pulled the blanket over himself. How did the blanket get here? Must have been Marge. He became aware of a sickening smell. Bacon.
“I’m making you a nice breakfast. You need to keep your strength up,” she yelled to him over the sounds of sizzling food and the scraping of a spatula on a frying pan.
“Please, for the love of God, no bacon. No food. Sick. Sick, sick, sick. Make it go away. Now, please.” He rolled over on his stomach and buried his face in a pillow, breathing through its lavender fabric-softener fragrance. He wondered whether she had cooked the food out of love or vindictiveness.
He woke again. It was lighter in the room and quiet, but the scent of bacon still hung in the air. She was gone. He struggled to his feet, was immediately overcome with nausea, and repeated the earlier routine.
When he was through, he went to the kitchen and took one each of the battery of pills arranged in small orange plastic bottles. There was a note from her. “Food in fridge. Please eat.” Fuck that. He grabbed the remote before collapsing back on the couch, and pointed it at the TV. He put on the news channel and then dozed off again.
“You okay, Dad?”
Opening one eye, he saw his son’s bulky frame in the overstuffed recliner. “Been better, Bobby. You get the plate on the truck that hit me?”
Bobby flipped through channels with the remote control. His legs extended well beyond the footrest, and his body filled the width of the chair. So much size, to no advantage. He looked at the badge affixed slightly off-kilter on the rumpled uniform. Why is he so sloppy? I was always ship-shape and crisp as a new dollar. He noted the cowlick standing out from the back of his hair, something they’d both been unable to tame. It was one of the few recognizable remnants of the little boy he’d raised and mentored from birth.
“How’s things back at the station?” Tommy asked. “You considering getting out from behind that desk and doing some real police work? You’ll get some exercise on the beat, and maybe lose a few pounds. Win-win.”
“It’s not my deal, Pop. That was your deal. I make a difference behind the desk. I’m doing Internet-based investigation. Times have changed.”
“Yeah they have, but we still need cops on the street—boots on the ground. There’s too much garbage out there, getting away with way too much. You aren’t fixing that on the Internet. Don’t you get pissed about the bullshit going on in this world? Don’t you want to get out on the beat and make more of a difference, like me and your granddad?”