Sunday, March 14, 2010

The History of Falling

This winter, I fell down at the end of our driveway. I'd staggered out to get the newspaper, dressed as usual in my ratty housecoat and not much else. I was wearing a pair of Bill's slippers, probably because mine were under the bed or muddy and in the garage or somewhere else. Rowdi, the Jack Russell Terrorist, led the way on her leash. Why she didn't tell me there was a patch of ice lurking there under the snow at the end of the driveway right in front of the newspaper tube is beyond me. But she didn't. 

I am not a small woman, nor am I a young woman. Truth be told, I'm not a medium woman, or even a middle-aged woman. Stature-wise, I fall into the 'whatever that is, it's huge' category. So, when I fell, and my shadow engulfed Rowdi, she looked back and made that face those kids in the Blair Witch Project made, directly into the camera, while everyone hoped the witch would kill them soon so the movie would end. Then she hit the end of her leash and went airborne. My feet came out from under me, I flew up in the air (the very contemplation of which defies all the laws of nature), my robe flew up and out, and then I came back down again, landing solidly on my impressively large and dimpled derriere. Foremost on my list of things to be thankful for is the fact that none of the neighbors were taking a walk right then.

Rowdi escaped being ruptured like a water balloon, but just barely. I sprawled on my back in the snow, blinking up at the underside of the newspaper tube, four feet above my head. The dog came over and sniffed me as she might have sniffed a rotting possum or something else she was thinking about rolling in. I figured I was killed. With no small sense of dread, I moved my limbs, only then realizing that my robe was up around my waist, and the resultant contact of my flesh with the ice, snow, rocks, and gravel of the driveway was distinctly uncomfortable, not to mention unbecoming. So I hoisted myself around, still hanging onto Rowdi's leash, and dragged myself upright using the newspaper tube post for a prop. One of Bill's slippers was a few feet away, upside down and still vibrating. I retrieved it, teetered on one leg as I wiped off my naked foot, and put it back on. With great dignity, I shook the snow and driveway cooties off my bathrobe and turned to look at the place I'd fallen. I'd made a snow angel! Actually, it was more like a snow Godzilla, but it did reveal the patch of ice on which I'd slipped.

Rowdi took my stillness as an opportunity to rush around the post and me a couple of times, and was now gagging on the end of the leash, looking at me like it was all my fault. So I untangled us, avoided the ice, and stumbled back toward the house, astonished I didn't need a cast or a splint or some morphine.

Don't misunderstand. I'm not new to falling down. It comes with the territory when you're a cop, and I did that for a long time. Oh, I know in the movies you always see the stalwart boys and girls in blue racing up staircases, jumping fences, and sprinting across slippery linoleum floors like Olympic-class athletes. That's because the movie-going public doesn't want to see what really happens. This is how it often goes . . .

It's 2 AM. You came on duty at 11. You spent most of the day in court, which means you've had exactly 27 minutes of sleep, which was interrupted twice by your neighbor's barking dog. You tried to sleep through dinner, but could not. It's summer in the desert. Your uniform is polyester and navy blue, and it soaks up heat faster than a banker takes bailout money--even at night. Underneath it, you wear body armor, which means you feel a lot like a canned ham.

You pull onto the main drag in your little piece of paradise and immediately home in on a carload of  teenage boys. You know the car and because you've been a cop here for years, you know the kids inside. Trouble on four wheels. The driver hasn't done anything wrong, yet, but one of the boys in the backseat  swivels, sees you, and immediately initiates the 'kittens in a sack' response. Heads bob, shoulders hunch, bodies slither, and you know in your cop's heart that whatever mischief this bunch is up to involves what they are stuffing under the seats. A million 'could be's' run through your head.

You follow the car. The driver meanders away from the center of town into a residential neighborhood and fails to signal as he changes lanes. His passengers twist and goggle as they all try to casually glance in your direction--their casual more obvious than you, in uniform, at a Woodstock reunion. You pick the spot for your traffic stop and light them up. The driver lags in the slow lane for half a minute or so, then noses toward the curb. You pop your seat belt and pull to a stop the prescribed distance from his back bumper.

Before you can get your boots on the pavement, all four doors of the violator's car fly open and the occupants run in every direction. You go after the driver, who clears a neighborhood hedge like an antelope. You fumble with your radio, gasping out you're in foot pursuit and crash through the bushes instead of over them. The stiff foliage rakes your face and arms. You spit out a leaf and hope you can find your pen when you come back. The kid has vanished in the darkness, but you keep running. A dog barks up ahead and you follow the sound, catching sight of your quarry several houses down. "Stop," you yell. "Get down, now!"  He looks back and picks up speed. His grin flashes white in the gloom. He's wearing a t-shirt and jeans and he's fifteen years younger than you are. You decide to save your breath.

He cuts between two houses, headed for the alley in back. You do the same, except you fall over a garbage can and go down like Mike Tyson did in the Buster Douglas fight. Engulfed in the odor of someone else's refuse, you jump back up and limp onward, hearing, over the roaring of your respirations,  the distinctive sound of vehicles with bad suspension and questionable brakes converging on the area. Help has arrived.

On the radio, someone asks you where you are. Still on the planet, you think. Other than that, it's anybody's guess. The kid is still ahead of you, trotting along like he's on a nature walk. He hasn't fallen over anything, either, the little chump. Focused on him, you trip on a section of broken pavement and fall down again, banging your elbow on a parked car. The car alarm goes off, the headlights flashing in tandem with the sound of the beeping horn. You leap up, staggering guiltily away as the kid scampers off in the moonlight. You're not sure, but you think he's laughing. Your chest is heaving, each breath searing your parched throat. You have a stitch in your side. A patrol car pulls up and the cop inside asks where the kid went.

"Hagnagamuga," you tell him, gesturing weakly toward the now-invisible driver. He guns his car and races away. You hope he catches the kid and runs over him. Moments later, someone announces on the air that they have made an apprehension and asks you to meet them back at the car. You retrace your path, picking up your keys, your flashlight, and your hat along the way, sort of like following crumbs through the forest. The owner of the vehicle whose alarm you activated is standing in the alley in his jockey shorts and wants to know "just what the HELL is going on?"

"Nak," you say, still wheezing but making an effort to appear nonchalant. "Nakug to wurryagabnt." You shine your flashlight on the dent your elbow made in his fender and pretend you're looking for the malignant spawn who did it. You make it back out to the street,  avoiding the now-strewn garbage as you cut though the houses. Three other officers are busy searching the car you stopped. So far, they've come up with half a can of warm Miller High Life and some rolling papers.

Your knee hurts and you feel like you're going to vomit. Your pants are ruined; your face is scratched; you're sweating like a pig and you still have four hours left of your shift. The little shit is handcuffed in the backseat of your car. Aside from a slight dampness on his forehead, he looks as fresh as the morning. You pull your clipboard out of the front seat, jerk the backdoor open and ask him his name. He tells you, but you don't have a pen . . ..

I stamped the snow off Bill's slippers and went inside, unhooking Rowdi's leash at the door. She ran into the kitchen where Bill was pouring coffee for us. "Snowing, huh?" he said, looking at my hair as I joined him. "Anything interesting in the paper?"

For now I'm just Linda~~older,wiser, but just as clumsy.


Anonymous said...

This was good to ingest with coffee first thing this morning... put a better spin on my day (I'm SO not in the mood for Monday). Thanks for posting.

LGVernon said...

Thanks, Summie!~ I hope you didn't spew Folgers all over your pet squirrel. Thanks for reading me. I appreciate it so much~~LG

Pam Garlick said...

I loved this. I may only have been a fire police, but I truly understand what you were saying. Thanks.