Again, I was working a second job for cash. During the fall I worked for a family business that operated a haunted barn and offered hayrides. Most often there were no problems and my job was to keep the cash box from being robbed. I was their hired gun.
It was a cold and foggy evening so I went into the small ticket booth to warm myself in front of the propane heater. The customers had slowed to a trickle. In the ticket booth was a young woman I had known for years. She was barely out of her teens and was considering her college choices. Everyone who worked there knew me as Deputy Mike and that I was a Cop.
The woman began to ask questions about being a Police Officer. She went on to explain that she was considering a career in law enforcement and wanted my input.
My first reaction was to think she was a bad fit for Law Enforcement. Too tender, too much white meat. I felt she would be crushed by the requirements of the job. I wanted to find an easy way to dissuade her from this idea.
She then asked, “Deputy Mike what’s the worst thing that ever happened to you”?
Perfect, she gave me this opportunity to tell the story of the death of the marionette puppet on the side of the road. During my career I was with more than a dozen people who were suddenly and unexpectedly ripped from life. One minute to be alive and the next fighting for their last breath. Some went easy and others fought all the way. Often I could do nothing more than say, “There, there it will be alright”. I was honored to be with them as their lives ended.
Some left a deeper scar than others. This was one of my worst.
Again I drifted into the fog of telling but this time I told only of the emotion of the moment. The pain, the blame, the memories. I told her how Police work is a 100% win proposition and when we fail we blame ourselves. “If I had only driven faster to get there, If I hadn’t been fucking off in first aide class, If I had just pressed harder on her chest, breathed more into her lungs…”
I told her after the child died in my hands I went home and pulled my sleeping daughter from her bed – made popcorn – put My Little Pony in the VCR – held her and quietly wept.
I didn’t know what else to do…
I told it as softly as I could but I wanted her to know the emotional consequences of her potential choice.
When I returned to the present she was sobbing. She looked at me and said…
“You don’t know do you? I was the screaming woman in the car”.
I didn’t know. When the Trooper released me from the scene (which was just around the corner from the haunted barn) the woman in the car was still screaming. I supplemented his report but never asked any questions about the case. It turns out the family crossed the street right in front of the screaming woman and she was not at fault.
By the strangest of coincidences I had told the story of my nightmare to the screaming woman.
She didn’t become a Cop.
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