Some of you don’t know that I was a cop for twenty-two years and then I got out. I didn’t love the job, but there’s a couple or three things I miss. I’d be on a call, for example, and there’d be too many of us officers hanging about to really do much good for anyone, and then I’d see this one old cop called Mitch, who kind of resembled a potbelly stove in his uniform—all black—bodied and round, hanging back and just taking the whole scene in. Then he’d get this wry expression around his eyes and mouth, and he’d just shuffle back away from the crowd, get in his car, and beat it the nearest way out of there.
I saw this when I was a rookie a few times and I didn’t think it was exactly right with me that Mitch would always be the first one to cut out, so I asked one of the cops who had a few years on me what was happening with that old boy. He said that fat Mitch carried three long sticks and a big iron stewing kettle in the trunk of his car. On cold rainy days, he’d go out to that stand of trees on the outskirts of town, set up a little fire, and prepare a nice stew with ingredients that he collected throughout the day on his calls.
Part of me was pissed that we were carrying Mitch’s water, but nothing sounded a whole lot better to me than piping hot bowl of stew, and I wasn’t going to argue with my stomach, so I waited a bit of time and when I got a break in my calls, I went to the aforementioned spot with a plastic spoon that I got from a place where I bought coffee. When I found the clearing in the trees, there was old Mitch, standing there with a ladle and wearing an apron. “Come ‘n get it, rook!” Mitch roared with his belly jiggling. He was standing under this sort of half-ass shack that was constructed of his own design. When I got up over to him, he drove the business end of that ladle into the pot and scooped up a healthy taste of steaming hot stew and shoved it in my face. Looking back, it probably wasn’t the most sanitary thing and it burnt the roof of my mouth, but damn if it wasn’t better than what I thought it was going to be. Then he got me my own wooden bowl, and I went to business on that stew.
Mitch would serve up that hardy stew with a hunk of cornbread that he brought from home. I’d get in a bowl and a half, maybe two, before I’d get called back to work. If I didn’t get at least that much, well, the goddamn calls could hold. Mitch didn’t believe in takeaway food. Said you lose the whole experience if you do it that way.
You ask me what I miss about the job. It wasn’t nothing more than a hot bowl of stew under a proper lean-to on a cold, rainy day. And yeah, every once in a while, I dream I’m in that clearing with Mitch and the boys, faking like none of us are feeling the cold, cupping bowls in our hands, and swapping war stories.
Then I wake up on a cold, hard floor, covered in sweat and dust and mortification.