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
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
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 into hiding.
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
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
We find out that we’re not getting overtime for this meeting. We also find
out that the government man is going to be late.
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...
I’m 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.
Bill’s stories, plays, and comedy sketches have been published
and/or produced in Canada, Holland, Ireland, India, the UK, and the U.S.