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Archive for October, 2015

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Too Soon?.”

In retrospect, I would have been satisfied with the white belt and slightly earlier dismissal from class.  But my first day in 1964 as a patrol boy in fifth grade quickly took a more weighty turn.  I reported 15 minutes before class let out to the semi-busy intersection of Passaic Avenue and Brookfield.  Officer Ted nodded, asked my name, and we got down to business.

“This is a Smith and Wesson thirty eight caliber snub nose revolver,” he explained patiently.  “I’ve got it loaded with 357 magnum rounds, so make damn sure you intend to kill if you use it.”

I was in shock, as he slapped the dense, cold metal weapon into the palm of my small right hand.  Officer Ted had actually used a curse word, just as if he had been talking to another adult!  My head was swimming with pride as he explained that one of the chambers was empty, a sort of de-facto safety, and other important details of the job.

“So if you need to use it, simply cock and advance the cylinder, like this…”

The kids were starting to arrive, so he affixed the holster to my little white patrol boy belt.  My friends were duly impressed by the belt’s crisp canvas lines, shiny Nutley Police Auxiliary badge, and the scruffy generic holster pulling on my right hip.  They all waited without incident as I held out my arms until Officer Ted stopped the sporadic traffic once in a while.  When I finally transferred my sidearm back to him at the end of our thirty minute shift and gave a heartfelt salute before skipping home, I felt like a man.

As the weeks passed to months, we became a little lax in our duties.  Sometimes Officer Ted would work the intersection by himself, if I was busy playing tag or touch football with my friends before they finally decided to cross the street.  Sometimes I would work the intersection alone, waiting for all traffic to be gone, while Officer Ted went to his Ford Fairlane squad car for more special, secret medicine from the Jack Daniels pharmacy.

It was during one of the latter scenarios that things took a turn for the worse one day.  Tommy Mancini apparently took exception to my authority, thinking both that I was taking myself too seriously, and also not trying to stop traffic by simply waiting until they all could have crossed the street without my presence.

“You’re a fathead,” he explained.

“No–YOU’RE the fathead, AND a liar,” I countered.

We debated in this fashion for a while, until he decided to escalate things to a dangerous level.

“I think that your mother…” he began.

“Don’t say it, Tommy!” I warned, my right hand inching towards the holster.

“…smells like…”

I let my hand slip under the flap to the revolver’s knurled grip.  Just then, Officer Ted fell out of the patrol car’s open passenger side door.  His medicine crashed to the ground in a splash of glass shards.  Officer Down!

I told the little kids–all of them including Tommy–to ‘get their asses across the street by themselves’ as I ran to my partner’s aid.  He struggled, but finally collected all of his things and my weapon for the evening.

By the time the sixth grade semester started, a new officer had now replaced Officer Ted.  Along with the departmental reorganization, there had apparently been some budgetary cutbacks as well; because my service revolver was no longer being issued.  Even more surprisingly, Officer Nancy was not armed, either.

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