Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fully Functional


Lieutenant Howard never ran with the lightening. He was more controlled, as befitting his rank of police shift commander. He moved with a glow across the spectrum of his small town fiefdom. Twenty-five thousand citizens under his care, all asleep as he only ran the midnight to eight shift. He took his first dose of the stuff in his cruiser down at the beach. Storm waves blasting in from some Alaskan nightmare up north. The cold winter wind through open windows made him shiver, even as the stuff began to build a small nuclear fire deep inside him. He smiled into the face of blown spindrift.
“Forty-six, six seventy three,” scratched forth from his Motorola speaker.
“Shit,” he murmured, his smile beginning to fade.
“On two,” he said, pushing a small button to talk, then hitting a switch to go to the personal frequency.
“You there Lou?” Bobby, shift dispatcher asked.
“Yeah,” he answered, knowing his voice would transmit his unhappiness at being disturbed but not letting on as to why. The glow helped calm him. While he waited for Bobby to come back he replaced his rig inside a special handcuff case he’d reworked for it.
“Some cycles at north end limit. The gas station on PCH. No one can break away. Would you mind drifting by and making sure their okay?” Bobby framed the question using his most wheedling tone.
“Ten-four,” the lieutenant answered. Normally he liked hands on fieldwork, but on this stormy night he just wanted to enjoy the junk, the waves and his glow.
Nobody was out so he didn’t have to use Code Two, which was flashing lights only. They didn’t use Code Three, with sirens, unless they had to. They protected the sleep of their citizens.
Howard took three corners gently, and then pushed his accelerator to the floor as he hit PCH. It was a two-mile straight shot to the closed gas station. Breaking down hard from a hundred and thirty-five his Ford moved in toward the pumps like the black land shark it was. Four Harleys filled with chrome sparkled brightly back form his headlights.
Automatically Howard hit the radio transmit button.
“Ten seven,” he told Bobby, letting the man know he was at the scene.
He turned the small key that locked the Remington Twelve Gauge pump
to the dash. He’d never used it off the range but it was always nice to have as a back up.
Four ragged but rugged bikers were gathered around one of the bikes. Howard walked over, setting his nightstick through the ring on his Sam Brown belt.
“You boys have a problem?” he inquired when he was a few yards away.
“We ain’t boys, asshole,” the largest of the men whispered as he turned. The man was huge, Howard realized surprised by his size and nasty attitude. Not many people, except druggies and drunks confronted a uniformed police lieutenant which such disrespect and ferocity.
“I asked what the problem was?” he tried again.
“Not your problem,” the big man stated, this time quite loudly, before smiling broadly.
“This is private property and you’ll have to move on,” Howard replied to the affronting comment, keeping his own cool, his calm, his glow still going for him.
“This fucker’s high as a kite,” the huge man laughed openly, pointing at the lieutenant’s chest. The other three bikers stood from their couches and stared at him.
“Fuck, not every day you get to see a police lieutenant totally fucked up on the job,” the big man went on.
Howard was shocked beyond his ability to truly comprehend. The man had not only recognized the fact that he had fixed, but he was taunting him with the information. His face went totally red. His glow vanished. A stillness came over him.
He realized in that moment he was in the shit. He hadn’t been in the shit since the Nam. He smiled back at the huge man. A sense of relief flowed through his body, replacing the glow with a white noise softness of titanium steel. Molten density
poured through his entire body.
“Get the fuck away from us. We want nothing from your shitty little town,” the big man yelled as Howard back to the passenger door of his cruiser.
“Chicken shit country bumpkin,” the huge man yelled, cupping his hands because Howard’s upper body had disappeared inside the car.
“Shit,” he breathed quietly when Howard reappeared. The sound of the first round of double ought buck being cranked into the chamber of the Remington froze all four of the bikers. Howard stood near the right front fender, just outside the
glare of headlights to enjoy near invisibility as well as superior firepower.
“We’re fucking going,” the big man said, all four bikers moving to the their rides. “We’re outta here. Keep you faggot town, you fuck.” The huge man started his Harley, his friends following suit. Four cycles rumbled loudly but not nearly as loudly as the sound of the twelve gauge going off.
Howard fired five feet over the gang’s head.
The huge man screamed, grabbing his ears.
Howard waited, cranking another round into the chamber.
“Don’t shoot man, we didn’t do anything,” the big man cried out, grabbing the handles of his Harley and pulling away. He was followed by the other three bikes.
Howard waited until they hit PCH headed north. He gauged the opening distance very carefully, stepping to the back of his cruiser and then fired six more rounds at the fleeing backs of the men. He gauged the distance at about two hundred and twenty meters, perfect for the right effect.
The cycles swerved crazily but none of them went down.
“You’ll be picking out some choice bits and pieces from your backs over the next few months boys. You all come back and visit any time you want now.”
The Remington went back into its locking holder after Howard carefully reloaded it. He’d have to clean the gun after the shift, but it had been worth it.
“Fucking “A” functional. I can do the job. But how did that fucking asshole know I was taking my stuff?” Howard said the words into the darkness, surf booming far in the distance, calling him back. Adrenalin destroyed the effect of the junk, but he’d brought two hits, just in case.
“Forty-Six Six Seventy Three, did you hear shots fired near your location?” Bobby asked over the radio.
“Just the surf here. Ten-eight from this location,” Howard replied, letting him know that he was done with the assignment and there was no further activity needed.
Sitting back at his special location, windows once more down, he again faced into the moist cold wind.
“Can’t do my job and feel good while I’m doing it? Who says? Perfect judgment. I could never have measured the distance to those Harleys so carefully if I wasn’t adjusting with the glow.” He pushed the stuff into him and waited.
“One fully functioning patrol lieutenant protecting you this night” he said out the window, to the sleeping citizens of his small town. Before the magic carpet swept him above the wind and waves he wondered about how the huge cycle rider had been able to see the junk inside him, and if maybe others might be able to see it to.
Those thoughts faded as he went up up and away.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Biting The Clouds

Biting The Clouds
James Strauss

The door slammed. Mighty steel edifice, but like the others in the African prison, set into rickety wooden walls that you could run through given a proper set back and some sort of cover for your head. There’s not much rationality in Africa. And none whatever inside it’s prisons. Sierra Leone’s a pretty bad place, but only bad because it’s dirt poor. Prisoners are at the very bottom of that meager food chain.

Needles were shoved under the door with surgical tubing attached. No drugs. No nothing else. The H was everywhere, already there. The tough part was getting it into you. Needles rolled nicely under the door crack. A member of the African tribe (Loko) rolled the needles from his side. A member of the Kissis tribe
received each. The Kissis ran Stack’s cube. A white guy in an African prison. Called doctor because Stack told them he was an anthropologist. He heard them whisper many times about the ‘Mgeni’s’ (foreigner) education of ‘apology’ and what it must mean.

Stack was the only ‘doctor’ ever to enter the prison, they said. And so a weird respect was assigned, especially between the many warring tribes trapped inside the huge prison complex.

Stack took the needles, about ten of ‘em, and tossed them inside a little heater he was allowed. Allowed because he had a commissary account, which was funded from home. Inside, a U.S. dollar was worth over 400 Leones. A small fortune.

He boiled the needles for five minutes, rubber attachments and all. The ‘rigs’ or ‘paras,’ as they were called locally, would be sterilized, as was now the custom from dorm to dorm, since Doctor Stack had advised. Needles went under doors throughout the prison after night meals and final count. The needles meant sleep. Escape. “Biting the clouds’ as they said in Swahili. The surgical tubing was filled with liquefied heroin of unknown origin (smuggled into the facility inside female visitor vaginas).

Tubing was knotted, needle set into a vein, tube squeezed and the night could be endured into next day.

Stack grinned as he handed the sterilized rigs to the Kissis commander.

“You laugh, Stack, as you always do. Why do you laugh?” the huge black man asked, laughing himself.

Stack left the smile on his face, but responded with an answer he knew would satisfy the powerful man. A man who allowed Stack’s life to be lived with bare comfort and acceptability.

“The sterilizing of the needles will assure that the women you are with in the future will not become with child.”
Stack had learned, through hard won experience inside, the natives not only had areas where they were extremely limited in knowledge, but also had areas where they refused understanding whatsoever. Sterile needles was one of those problematic areas. AIDS was another. They didn’t accept the disease, instead choosing to believe that dying form AIDS was simply God removing himself slowly from your body.

AIDS was disappearing from the prison. Stack knew that from simple observation while serving his two year sentence. The Warden took note of it as well, but only recognized it by finally calling Stack doctor when addressing him. It was enough.