Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Welfare Check

John's grandmother listened to the police scanner when she knew he was on duty. At the end of each night shift, he'd stop in for breakfast with her and Gramps. When she heard John call dispatch to mark "out of service," she knew to raise the garage door and put on the bacon and eggs.

She teased him with questions he knew she knew better. "I heard the dispatcher send you on a welfare check. Do they really make you deliver welfare checks?"

John had been on duty through the night and Grams had been up since 3:00. Gramps, on the other hand, she had to shake to get him out of the rack. Gramps sipped at the coffee Grams set down in front of him and rubbed a knuckle in his eyes. "When do you move to day shift, boy? I love ya, but I'd rather be having supper with you."

John unbuckled his gun belt and hung it on the back of the chair. He settled in and Grams poured him a cup. He took it with a nod and a thank you, ma'am. "You're not going to be able to sleep, you drink that," she said. Rashers of bacon spit and sizzled in her cast-iron skillet.

"I'm not sleeping anyway, Grams, so I don't expect it matters much," he said.

Gramps looked up from his coffee. "You're gonna have to get past it, boy, you want to keep wearing that blue."

"He was my partner, Gramps," John said. "I wasn't where I was supposed to be."

Gramps kept his eyes on John as he undid the buttons on his nightshirt, leaned back and tapped the puckered scar tissue in a line just under his rib cage.

"We all got partners," he said. "Carter and I went in on that warrant in '62 and we knew what we was taking on. I got stitched," he tapped his belly, "and Carter got a flag and bagpiper."

"It's what we sign up for, boy. Your MacMahon knew it. Carter knew it. I knew it. And you best remember you know it, too. You can't carry it, son. You do and it'll eat you up. It'll eat you til you eat that Smith hanging there."

Grams set plates down in front of the old cop and the young one. Eggs over easy and crisp bacon, just this side of burnt. She pulled up her chair between them and freshened all three coffees. "What you men need to eat up," she said, "is these eggs."

Photo: Flickr/Phil Lee

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