The summer night is hot and sticky
like bubbling fudge, and the station is especially busy. The long weekend has
just started, and the citizenry is out in full force, inquiring about their
rights. There must be twenty people at the front desk, arguing and complaining.
From what I can see, they’re all guilty, but I’m no desk sergeant. Fortunately,
no one notices me sidling along the back wall to the squad room, so I’m not
confronted. An eight-hour shift is enough work for me without having to deal
with people in my off-hours.
My partner Jack comes into the squad
room, his shirt torn and a mouse starting to grow under his left eye. He had
been carrying a chocolate bar when he came into work and absent-mindedly went
past the front desk. Some people never learn.
The precinct captain enters the squad
room. Usually, we have to draw to see who gets the squad cars or the van, but
Captain McMurphy gives the van to Jack and me since we’ve fallen behind in
arrests over the last week. The captain tells all of us to stick around after
our shift ends in the morning because someone from the government is coming to
talk to us. Jack asks if we’ll get overtime but the captain glares at him, and
tells him his waistline is looking mildly criminal. That gets a good laugh from
We go down to the garage. I beat Jack
to the driver’s side of the van, so I get to drive the first half of the shift.
I’d like to drive all the time because Jack is a rotten driver. Once, he ran
over one of our suspects. He said he didn’t notice him which is quite
ridiculous if you ever saw the suspect. Jack didn’t even realize we’re behind
in arrests this week, so I inform him we have to make sixteen just to reach the
minimum quota. I don’t like the quota system, but those are the rules in the
Social Improvement Act, and you don’t argue with the rules in this business.
Jack once asked me why a warning wouldn’t work just as well. I told him that he
couldn’t have his cake and eat it too.
We start our patrol on Clark St., the
city’s famous restaurant row, where there is always a lot of crime. I park the
van and we start walking. The first restaurant we go into, Dave’s Pizza, checks
out. Dave had been busted before so he’s been keeping his nose clean. He gives
us each a slice of pizza before we leave.
We go into The Beef and Reef, a
surf’n’turf place, and hit a gold mine. Several people try to make a break for
the rear exit, but I pull out my gun and yell, “Freeze!” They do. I walk over
to one table where two men and two women sit. They are well over 200 pounds
each. One of the women tries to cram a piece of steak into her mouth, but I
shoot the fork out of her hand and say to her, “Ma’am, I think you’ve had
enough.” She raises her hands over her head and comes along without any fuss. We
round up the other offenders and lock them in the back of the van. It’s a good
haul, seven obies in one restaurant.
We get one more in a donut shop. He is
in the middle of an éclair when Jack and I burst in. “Drop it,” says Jack. I
wonder aloud why someone would sit by the window in a restaurant. Perhaps he
had a sub-conscious desire to get caught. I don’t know. I’m no psychologist.
I stay in the van while Jack checks
out The Sunflower Seed, a health food joint. He comes out empty-handed. I’m not
surprised. There aren’t many calories in celery.
On a hunch, I drive to the outskirts
of the city, and, with sirens blaring, pull into A.J.’s Burgers. We catch one
man just as he’s starting on his hot dog. We also arrest one of the employees.
You might be saying that A.J.’s was out of our jurisdiction. Perhaps that’s so,
but I, for one, firmly believe that the execution of the law has no borders.
We drop off the criminals at
headquarters, and wait around to watch the transport truck take them away. It’s
apparently a slow night as only about three dozen people board the truck for
the weight-loss camp north of the city. I’ve never seen a camp, but am told
that anyone who comes out of one never wants to go back. The inmates are given
rigorous exercise schedules and strict diets. It doesn’t sound like anything I
would ever want to experience.
Practically all of the restaurants are
closed, so we know it won’t be easy filling our quota. We comb the streets,
residential, commercial, industrial, looking for offenders. We search the
waterfront, the railroad tracks, the parks, under bridges, in storm sewers, but
we come up empty. Jack suggests we start breaking into houses, but I insist on doing
that only as a last resort.
We get a break. One of our stoolies, a
clerk in a 24-hour convenience store, phoned the precinct station, and got us
an obie. They’re talking in the store when Jack and I get there. The mark has
no idea he’s been set up. A stoolie’s life is a funny one. They’re always
living on the edge, one step ahead of the people they have to betray. We had
this particular clerk dead to rights a couple of months ago at 310 pounds, so
he made a deal with us. So far, he’s kept up his end of the bargain and
delivered some real heavyweights to us. Not only that, but he’s lost about
eighty pounds. It’s a hard life being a police informer, and quite dangerous,
but no one ever said life was a bowl of cherries.
We find an old bum rummaging through
some garbage behind a supermarket, so we stop him from doing that. He’s not fat
or anything. In fact, he’s almost emaciated, but the idea of people looking
through garbage for food makes my skin crawl.
Jack and I head back to the station
for lunch. The cooks have fixed up a terrific meal of roast beef, mashed
potatoes, turnips, squash, peas, dumplings, and Yorkshire pudding. For dessert,
I have cherry pie, and Jack has chocolate cake. We also have some very nice
wine, the name of which escapes me. After some coffee and a cigar, we pronounce
the meal a complete success.
We get an urgent call for help from
one of the squad cars. We rush to the scene immediately.
There’s quite a disturbance going on.
Two officers try to drag a woman away, while two other men try to prevent this
from happening. There is much arguing and yelling, and it would have erupted
into violence had not Jack and I arrived. I calm everyone down and patiently
listen to the points of view of everyone concerned.
Jack and I drive the pregnant woman
and her friends home.
We see some fat people jogging in a
park. Jack wants to bust them, but I feel that some discretion is part of our
job. They are making an effort, and that’s the important thing. Jack reminds me
about our quota. I remember, but decide to let it pass. For some reason, I feel
it won’t make any difference.
Jack spots a fat beagle, and asks me
if animals are part of our jurisdiction. I really don’t know, so we chase after
the little fellow. We never catch him.
The only people on the streets are
slim, well-conditioned ones. We double back to the park in the hope of finding
the joggers, but we can’t see them. Perhaps they sensed something, and went
I see the ugliest person I have ever
seen in my entire life. I can’t tell whether it’s a man or a woman. He/she
isn’t fat, though. I make a note to myself to suggest to the captain that we
expand our patrol to include ugly people. In many ways, they’re more dangerous
than fat people. However, it may be a case of comparing apples and oranges.
We arrest five people. They’re not
exactly what you’d call fat. They’re not even what you’d call pudgy, but they
are definitely not skinny. No, definitely not skinny. One of them has quite fat
fingers, although the rest of him is quite normal, but we must check these
things out thoroughly. Another has a stomach you wouldn’t believe. He’s quite
skinny, but has an appalling beer belly. It’s not very nice at all. Jack says
he looks like me, but... Well, hell, I earned mine. I work for a living.
We find out that we’re not getting
overtime for this meeting. We also find out that the government man is going to
The representative from the government
drops a bomb on us. After commending us for doing a fine job, he tells us that
all of the fat units have been cut. It had nothing to do with the opposition to
our methods on the part of some of the public. That opposition was discounted
by the fact that the obies are returning to society healthier and happier
people. The reason the units are being disbanded is the most fundamental of all
human reasons - economics. And it’s not even the economics of maintaining a fat
unit. Those costs are negligible compared to the results according to the
government man. No, the economic problem came about because the units were
putting certain businesses in dire financial straits, and thus, they’re not
able to pay as much tax to the government. These businesses included
weight-loss clinics, junk food companies, exercise and health spas,
restaurants, farms, medical practices (physiology and psychiatry), and clothing
manufacturers. Jack asks the man how the government could compromise its ideals
for the sake of economics, but withdraws the question as soon as he realizes
what he has said.
At home, I try to make myself breakfast,
but it’s a disaster. The sausages are burnt, the scrambled eggs have bits of
shell in them, the orange juice is pulpy, the coffee is too strong. Ah well,
I’m no cook. I’m a fat policeman... I used to be a fat policeman...
still out of work. I can’t find
anything that suits my particular talents. They’ve turned the station house
into a restaurant. It serves excellent Lobster Newburg.
stories, plays, and comedy sketches have been published and/or produced in
Canada, Holland, Ireland, India, the UK, and the U.S.
It's well known that an artist becomes more popular by dying, so our
pal Steve Cartwright is typing his bio with one
hand while pummeling his head with a frozen mackerel with the other. Stop, Steve! Death
by mackerel is no way to go! He (Steve, not the mackerel) has a collection of spooky toons,
Suddenly Halloween!, available at Amazon.com. He's done art for several magazines, newspapers,
websites, commercial and governmental clients, books, and scribbling - but mostly drooling
- on tavern napkins. He also creates art pro bono for several animal rescue groups. He
was awarded the 2004 James Award for his cover art for Champagne Shivers. He
recently illustrated the Cimarron Review, Stories for Children, and Still Crazy
magazine covers. Take a gander ( or a goose ) at his online gallery: www.angelfire.com/sc2/cartoonsbycartwright. And please hurry with your response - that mackerel's
killin' your pal, Steve Cartwright.