August Poem 13: Death Image

But he would experience death. Image

Through the mass of humanity and stop.

Billy was a small kid. Dead. For he was.

He wasn’t willing to wait in all this

Work. It had begun luggage in language.

Today, Jenkins would take full advantage

Acid tearing away your breath. Feeling

Of the badges perks. He walked past the line

Carver of art. The other. The outside.

The gate shook but didn’t budge. Jenkins turned

Converting to Islam. And were he to

This time, he pointed to his badge and said,

A breath mint. A compilation of short

Hey, let me through. The man in the booth scoffed.

August Poem 12: Blue Brotherhood

Next to the turnstile, he flashed his badge

To the booth and pushed the handicapped gate.

The booth man leaned into the microphone.

“You ain’t one of ours. You pay like the rest.”

Badge in hand, Jenkins eyed a uniformed

Officer standing passed the gate keeping

The crowd back from the yellow safety zone.

Jenkins said, “Hey! Tell him to let me pas.”

The officer walked over. He looked at Jenkins

And his badge. Slightly shook his head. Looked to

The booth, and said, “Go on. Let the man through.”

The clerk rolled his eyes and buzzed Jenkins through.

The officer said, “The guy is an ass.

Jump the turnstile. The fuck’s he gonna do?”

August Poem 11: The Subway Station

In the subway terminal, Jenkins pulled

His shirt away from his chest and pumped it

Back and forth to circulate the cool air.

The air conditioner took the edge off

The triple digit temperatures of late

October. This Indian summer brought

A shroud of strangling humidity

Not unlike the lingering barnyard smell

Of body odor and urine of the

Typical subway stop. Not only was

There a long line to get through the turnstiles,

But the place was jammed with people standing

Around dripping sweat. Likely, most of them

Had stopped in to take a break from the heat.

Murder City Stories: NaNoWriMo Day 2

Steam raising off a fresh cup of coffee, Jenkins walked back out to his post. People had already begun to filter into the roped off area of the streets where the crowd could stand leaving an open sidewalk for the people who were not lucky enough to get the morning off.

A homeless had already sat on the wrong side of the rope cordon. He smoked a cigarette with a long ash that threatened to drop at any second. This man holding a sign on his lap that simply said, “God Bless” had on a military surplus jacket hanging open with a loose sweater under it and at least one T-shirt neck visible. The bulk of his clothing contrasted with the ropey sinews of his neck and the shallow depressions that were his cheeks. Jenkins had vaguely remembered seeing him around here before. That was a good sign. It meant he wasn’t a trouble maker.

The homeless man was sitting out of the way of the main walkway in the pocket that formed the display window of Stripling’s Pharmacy. He was off to the side of the door, so Jenkins felt he would leave him alone, at least for now.

            The crowd continued to deepen as the beginning of the parade drew nearer. Out of the crowd a young man in a suit and tie. He had two coffees and a bag from the breakfast joint a block over. He sat down next to the homeless ma, handed him one of the coffees and opened the bag.

            The homeless man said, “Oh, thanks.” He seemed honestly surprised.

            The young man said, “I forgot sugar and cream.” He pulled an egg sandwich out of the bag.

            The homeless man said, “Oh, no. Black coffee. Great, man. Thanks.”

            A woman from the back of the cordoned off crowd had turned at the two speaking. She said, “Leave that man alone. You boy. Get away from him.” The young man stared up at the woman, and the homeless man got to his feet spilling his coffee in the process.

            The woman said, “Just give him a dollar and walk away.” She reached into her purse. “We don’t need the likes of you encouraging them.”

Jenkins put his hand on his gun. He had seen people get shot for stupider reasons in this city. He tried to get between the woman and the young man, but it was difficult to move between the people who stopped in the walkway to watch.

The woman pulled a hand full of coins out of the bottom of her purse and threw them to clink and roll at the feet of the two men. “You don’t want to give up the cash, sharp dresser. You don’t have too. Now leave that man alone. Maybe he will get enough money so he will leave.

The young man muttered a few things about God and his salvation and backed away from the woman until he was far enough to turn around and push his way through the oncoming crowd. But the homeless man was agitated moving his hands in and out of his pockets and muttering to himself. Jenkins was afraid that he might become a problem to deal with. He was happy he hadn’t decided to send the man away earlier.

But as he approached the homeless man stopped fidgeting and began to shake. Wide eyed he stared at Jenkins. He pointed and said, “I know you. I know you.”

Jenkins said, “If I see you around here again today, I gonna have to haul you in.” The homeless man backed away not taking his eyes away from Jenkins and not stopping to pick up his food, his cup of money, or his sign.

The rest of the parade seemed to go on without any other problems. Jenkins liked the extra pay, but he wasn’t sure he liked the city’s choice of honoring a vigilante as its mascot. This was the murder day parade a mashup of Mardi Gras, and Halloween. The grisly black and white floats depicting amputations and decapitations rode through the parade route and the people on the floats dressed as ghosts or zombies of all the criminals that had been killed on the city streets.

At least, that part was fitting. The Murder Day Parade is set on the 22 of October to commemorate the day 10 years ago when the city first won the dubious honor of being the murder capital of the world. Probably because most of the murders that occur are of the criminal class, the city decided to embrace the title. In fact the people of this city built up a mythology around being the murder capital, and they invented The Murder Man, a stealthy avenger who dressed in all black except for a red “M” on his chest who went around at night with knives slicing criminals to pieces in the darkest parts of the city. And just like Santa Clause at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade an actor dressed as The Murder Man himself throws candy to the children.

That night Jenkins got home to a dark apartment. He turned on the TV and waited. He looked up at the clock on the kitchen wall. It was a black oval with gold filigree and the face had roman numerals in a fancy script with serifs that curled and looped. Just like everything else in life it was fake. A cheap plastic piece of junk from the discount market. But it told the time. The same time that his stomach was telling him. He pulled an Old Mexico frozen chicken chimichanga from the freezer and tossed it in the microwave. It wasn’t a home cooked meal but he wasn’t going to wait any longer. He walked over to the phone on the counter nearest the kitchen table. Like he imagined there were no messages. He didn’t think that she would still be at the clinic. They close their doors two hours ago. But he called anyway.

The phone rang and rang. When the answering machine picked up he listened to the message wondering where she might be and if she was safe. When the machine beeped he kept his ear to the phone and did not say a word. He only hung up the receiver after the answering machine hung up on him and he heard the busy tone.

He took his chimichanga, a plate, a fork, and a can of light beer to the easy chair. He turned on the cooking channel so at least he could imagine he was eating something nice. Then he ripped open the chimichanga with his fork and watched the steam escape.

Jenkins startled awake to the sound of keys and someone pulling on the door. Instinctively his hand went to his hip. He felt a sinking feeling when he didn’t find his gun, and he jumped to his feet trying to stumble off the sleep.

The door opened. It was Elly. She dropped her keys and stumbled when she stooped to pick them up.

Jenkins said, “You’re drunk.”

Elly said, “Did I forget to tell you? It was Samantha’s party. Today was her birthday.”

“What if you were dead?”

“I’m tired. Why don’t we just forget about it and go to bed?”

He laid in bed until Elly started to snore softly. Then he got up and paced the apartment in the dark.

 

A couple weeks later, Jenkins and Elly went upstate to visit his sister’s family. Ever since their parents passed away they met at her house for an early Thanksgiving dinner. They pulled up to the house in the cheapest rental they could find. This year Christine had outdone herself. There was a real scarecrow a pair of old pants and an old flannel shirt stuffed with the orange leaves fallen from their sweetgum tree. It was held up by two planks nailed together like a cross. It was lashed at the shoulders, wrists, and ankles and slumped like a crucified Jesus. On the door hung a rustic wooden sign that said “Happy Harvest” and there was a pumpkin and a couple of gourds on either side of the brick steps.

Christine and her husband, Stan were waiting for them at the door. The smell of turkey and dressing roasting in the oven wafted out the door. Jenkins said, “Smells delicious like always.”

Christine said, “You can never really appreciate the smell until you leave the house and come back in.”

Jenkins hugged his sister first. Then, he shook Stan’s hand. It was one of those vice grip handshakes. One of the ones that says, “I don’t care if you have a gun in the glovebox of the car. I think I can kick your ass.” But with Stan being 10 years older and CPA he could keep his handshake and his illusions of grandeur. They are all he will ever have.

Christine led them into the living room to prod her two children away from the TV and get them to say high to their aunt and uncle. Jenkins walked up behind her son Freddy who was sitting on the couch. He clasped him on the back and said, “What are you doing with your hair, Stan? It’s looking fuller every time I see you.” Freddy turned around on the couch and gave his uncle a hug.

Christine said, “Get your knees off the couch, Freddy.”

Murder City Stories: Day 1 NaNoWriMo

When he had arrived back at their apartment, she already had the dryer pulled back from the wall. This independence, it must have been why he had fallen in love with her so many years ago.

 He said, “So while I was there I asked someone where the dryer hoses are. He said, Do you mean washer? I said, I need a dryer hose. The one that blows the lint from the dryer. And again he said, Do you mean a washer hose. Then the lady next to him said, I know what he wants. And she showed me where they were.”

She said, “They were just standing together?” He nodded. “Why weren’t just talking to both of them?”

“I don’t know.”

“This is what I am always talking about. You just don’t think before you do things. I’m sure you just lowered that woman’s self-esteem. You just assumed she wouldn’t know.”

“No, the man. He wanted to talk to me.”

 “He said that to you? In words? And she also said that she wanted him speaking for her?”

 “You know the world is not that simple.”

 “That is pretty simple if you ask me. By ignoring the woman you took away her agency and made her have to fight to get back from you. You made her lose face in front of her male coworker. That word. ‘Coworker.’ It means that they are supposed to be equal. I don’t know why I put up with you.”

“I walked up to ask either one of them. I looked directly at the both of them and raised my hand to see if I could cut into their conversation. They both saw me. They both cut off their conversation. The man made eye contact. The woman looked away. Unless eye contact as a way to get someone’s attention is a new tool of the patriarchy, I think I did just right.”

 

“Jenkins, you know it is. Eye contact is a challenge. It is a threat. You don’t know how intimidating you really are, do you? That cop stare of yours. The one you are using right now. You scare the shit out of me sometimes. And I am your wife.”

“It’s all your fault, you know. Elly, You wanted me to have handcuffs so bad.” She blushed. That’s all it usually took to break her out of one of those moods.

She was a substance abuse counselor with a college degree. He never knew why she had decided to marry him. He knew that she wanted more for him. For them. Not this rundown apartment on the outskirts of the city. The one where they had to do their own repairs if they ever wanted to get done. The one where the heat was out more of the winter than it wasn’t. The one where she had to keep the knob, two deadbolts, and a security chain licked when he was gone. The one where he insisted she keep pepper spray by the door. But they had to be near the city for her job. “We will be closer to the university.” Her words. But he had to take the job he knew if he wanted to keep them off the street.

 

They were out past the industrial district in a third story walk up in a sleazy part of town. But he knew the people in his building, of they knew him. He was the cop. They would respect that if only for the fact that they knew he had a gun in his apartment. Elly hated guns and wouldn’t keep the one he had bought for her. He had taken her to the gun range to teach her how to shoot. She squeezed off a few rounds before she lost interest. And our trips got fewer. Until, one Christmas, she had gifted it to her brother. She didn’t even tell him. He had to take some time off to get the transfer of ownership paperwork done. He felt responsible that she hadn’t known the law. Or worse if she knew and just disregarded it.

Since most of the industry took a dive about 15 years ago, their Westchester Heights neighborhood was one of the few still out past the old factory buildings  and his was the last subway stop on the orange line. He spent so much extra time going back and forth from the precinct that he read about one new book a week. And he always rode in full dress uniform. Although he never used his locker, he was assigned one and was required to keep a lock on it. So whenever he got to the station everyday he would through his book in the locker for safekeeping.

One day when a month or two after they moved to the city, after a long shift, he walked into the locker room. To an abnormally large crowd. Officer Chauncey McGee was there holding a pair of bolt cutters in one hand and a broken lock in the other. They must have been waiting for him because they almost let out a cheer before they quieted so Chauncey could speak.

“So many of you have been wondering about all those books you been reading Officer Browning. Some people are saying that you are just hiding in the closet. They say that you are hiding your books under that science fiction dustcover. I defended you. I told them that you ain’t no fag. But they were saying that you was always reading a sissy book. I don’t think that. But that is what they were saying. Let’s put that rumor to rest.” Chauncey opened Jenkins’s locker it was packed full of books. He pulled the book off the top and feigned a look at it. “I was wrong about you, Jenkins. Romance novels.” He pulled out some more. “Another. Another. Still another. How many of these damn things do you read?” From there he just tumbled the rest of them out onto the concrete floor. “And what do we have here?” He reached into Jenkins’ locker and pulled out a Play Girl magazine. He opened it up to the centerfold and held it up for everyone to see. He said, “Look at the dong on that one. I may just keep this one for myself.” Everybody laughed.

From that day, the other officers started calling him, Daniel or Officer Steel. The women officers were the worst. Once they heard about the prank they began handing him Tampons in the halls and pulling the paper off the back of pads and sticking them to the back of his uniform. It was months before he could leave the building without checking his back for something stuck to it. But he knew he was part of the team. You don’t pay this much attention to someone you hate.

But the city. There is something about this city. He’s been spending more time downtown. The funky little shops. Juong’s Grocery with that one wall with all the “Eastern Medicine.” One of these days they’ll get sloppy. Get caught selling something they’re not supposed to. Jenkins, he wants to be there when they do.

Jimmy’s Pawn where the junkies sell off the nice stuff. Jenkins loves to pop out from around the corner and watch the how the people inside eyeing him out of the corner of their eyes trying to play nonchalant trying not to get caught looking. And all those other shops.

But what he likes the most is all the people. The crowds on a normal day. The people on their way to work, the sightseers in from out of town. The streetwise and the dupes. The marks. They are the best. He can always count on one of them to get into some sort of mess. Give him the work that he craves. Being out among the people is nice. But there is no thrill like footing it after some idiotic criminal that doesn’t realize that there is a cop right around the corner or watching from across the street.

He’s been switching assignments with anyone willing just to be downtown. And he has been coming in on his days off. He says that they need the extra cash, and they do. But that is not that is not the whole reason. Most of the time he is able to coordinate his extra days with Elly’s “duty days at the clinic,” as she calls them. They needed someone there on the weekends and all of the staff were required to work them on a rotating basis. Just so happened that today was her Saturday, and he was lucky enough to pull parade duty. Since he was mandated to work on his day off he was getting extra pay without having to show up to some boring old court case.

He was set to monitor the section of crowd outside of Steve Dupree’s Private Detective office. They always had a box of donuts and a pot of coffee ready for any officer who was who was willing to put up with a sales pitch. And on this chilly October morning Jenkins hadn’t had time to get breakfast.

Jenkins walked up to the detective’s office to see Steve himself standing outside looking up at a large banner suspended from ropes tied to the two trees that flank his storefront. Steve raised his voice seeing Jenkins walking his way.

“You know. They do this shit every year. Block my damn store. I paid a lot of money for the large lettering on my windows, and they put this damn banner up blocking my store. City Hall says that this parade is supposed to bring in business, but how the hell am I supposed to get more business if the crowd cannot see past the damn banner.”

Jenkins engaged in just enough small talk to not seem rude. Then he said, “You mind if I get one of your donuts?”

“No, no, go right ahead.”

Jenkins pulled on the glass door and a large jingle bell hanging from a leather strap on the top of the door clinked. The smell of brewing coffee hit him as he went in. Steve followed him in.

Steve said, “Have you thought about working for me on your days off. A bounty here and there really helps pay the bills. I mean I know. There is not as much call for a private detective as you might think.” Jenkins had politely ignored this same spiel every time he had gone in here.

“So how far out do you usually go for these bounties?” Damn it. Jenkins didn’t know why he asked. Now he was going to have to act interested.