We’ve all had some sort of interaction with the police. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting pulled over and getting a ticket or, especially with the news as of late, seeing police misconduct on television. When our writers were asked to use the word police as their inspiration for this month’s Story Shots post, a vast array of interaction came forth ranging from childhood memories to America’s interaction with ISIS.
Our relationship started out with a lie. He taught me some truths, too. He knew the most effective way to tell a lie was to paint it with little flecks of truth.
“Marijuana is a dangerous drug, children. It’ll get you addicted. It’s a gateway drug that leads to harder drugs. If you think pot is okay now, later you’ll be doing cocaine. It’s a fact.” He’d tell us in D.A.R.E. class in sixth grade.
I learned to lie back. He caught me on the streets after curfew when I was 13.
“Where are you going?” he asked as he flashed a light over my face.
“Home.” Here came that lie. It rolled off of my tongue so easily. I wasn’t intimidated by him, nor by his flashlight.
“Where do you live?”
I looked up at the street sign. “Right here. On Homer Street. I got into a fight with my friend at a sleepover.” I looked sad. Sad was easy to fake.
“Alright, do you need a ride to your door?” He followed up.
“No, I’m less than a block that way.” I smiled.
He let me go.
I ran into him a year later when I was ditching class. I was never a good kid in grade school or in junior high, and I continued my bad habits into high school. I was a freshman ditching class. He caught my friends and I on some railroad tracks that ran under a freeway by the Westminster mall, back behind what used to be a Super Best Buy. He chased us. We ran.
I fell into some bushes. I cut up my leg pretty badly but I sat there, silently, hoping to not be caught. He passed right by me.
The next time I saw him, he fucked me. I ran into him at a bar when I was 22. He had a clean-shaven head and piercing blue eyes. He was tall and muscular. I’m sure he was the spitting image of a thousand romance novel fantasies, and he was mine that night.
We went back to his place. There was no pretense of coffee. There was no awkward moment at the door. We went straight into his bedroom and he pinned me against his door the moment it clicked shut. His lips pressed against mine. They were hungry.
We stripped each other and got into bed. He pulled a condom from his nightstand.
His whole body was hard. His chest was rippling. His abs were well defined and glistening with the sweat from the labors of our passion. He ass was perfectly sculpted with little dimples above where his cheeks met his thighs.
The sex was violent and angry. He wielded a weapon at work with an air of authority and he did the same in bed. I was thrown around. I was held down. I was going to be sore for days. It was fantastic.
He has a violent streak. We all have it, but he has the chance to wield it, and wield it often. He makes the news for it. He terrorizes low-income communities with it. He protects the wealthy and affluent with it. He keeps the status quo in order and doles out a corrupt justice that sometimes goes mad.
He pulled a gun on me once. I was driving and he thought I was someone else. I’d never had a gun drawn on me before. I’d been stabbed on accident, by a classmate with a pen. I’d been cut with glass. I’d been punched. I’d been kicked in the chest in a mosh pit. But a gun was a new thing to me. It was scary. He wanted me to pay attention and I did. I was. He let me go. He never apologized.
He’s never been there for me, except for that one night he fucked me. When I called him to find the drunk driver who hit me at the age of 28, he did nothing. He filed some paperwork. He never followed up. When my car was sideswiped by a semi-truck at the age of 29, it took him 45 minutes to help me get off the side of the road. He never bothered to look for that semi.
Our relationship is strained. What else can a relationship be when it’s started on lies? The man and I, we’ve known each other for a long time. And I don’t trust him.
– Amanda Riggle
Great, it’s that time again. Look, I’m not ignorant to police brutality. How can I with the footage I have been presented with? Beatings by baton, pepper spraying peaceful protests, murdering the mentality disabled… I am not ignorant. But I wish the same could be said for the opposing side. My dad is a retired deputy sheriff. In order to spend more time with his only step-daughter, me, he decided to take night shifts and work in the jails. Every night he went to work, I knew that could he could be injured… or worse. And every day he came home, the bags under his eyes were heavier and he was exhausted. I have always been proud of my dad, and always appreciative of the work he does. But not every is. I have been told that my dad was a pig, that I should go fuck myself, that they intended to harm him. I often lost friends and became a target of ridicule, but I never stopped being proud of my dad. My dad did not beat inmates, he did his best to treat them like the people they are. My dad never pepper-sprayed anyone, he always tried to talk things out calmly. And my dad has never killed anyone because he has never had to draw his firearm. I wish more policemen were like him, that more people would realize the good policemen try to enforce, that people would stop being derogative towards all cops. And I in no way feel that we should stop having discussions about police brutality because it does exist. But maybe the news could strike a balance between the injustices committed and the righteousness upheld? Maybe the media could accept responsibility for the general hatred they have cultivated in the masses? Maybe we can stop saying “Fuck the police. Fuck them ALL!” Maybe. But probably not.
– Nicole Neitzke
Three weeks before my birthday, an Islamic terrorist group with a flare for the macabre released a video. An ISIS member, who spoke like John Lennon, sawed off American journalist James Foley’s head with a short knife, starting from his throat. I had wondered why Foley had knelt without struggle—and why he’d read the script if he’d known his last words would be “I wish I wasn’t American.”
My opinion about foreign policy has always been pretty simple, i.e. Mind Your Own Business, America. Our military expenditures are higher than the next fifteen countries combined, and our armed forces are stationed all over the globe. America isn’t just the land of the free—it’s the watchdog of the world. We joined the Korean, Vietnam, and Persian Gulf wars, and now I wanted to get out of Iraq, quit prodding the chests of other countries, and fish the speck from our own damn eye. After all, it’s futile if our national policy is to single-handedly solve international conflicts, not to mention the slippery slope of judging cultural morals. Sure, denounce harmful activities and assist refugees, but why not protect the mainland, eat crow, and avoid telling other countries they have it wrong?
The day I watched the video, however, I hiked Multnomah Falls in the sun. I considered my thoughts about foreign policy, no longer black and white, and enjoyed my packed cucumber sandwich, close enough to the falls to feel its wind. Safe. Later, I studied pictures of Foley. He was tall and svelte. A lovely, tanned neck and a fine Adam’s apple. I read two of his articles, not paying attention to the content but the way he wrote. He used m dashes and short sentences. He had a good vocabulary and preferred parallel structure.
To this date, two more ISIS videos of hostage beheadings have been released, and ISIS has issued direct threats to America and other nations. The group continues to seize and terrorize swaths of land as it tries to establish a caliphate.
America. Imperialist, watchdog, world police.
“i’ve reported from iraq, afghan, libya, syria,” Foley’s Twitter bio reads. “a lot of questions, no answers.”
– Missy Lacock
The garage door is open. I remember this as I sit on the edge of the bath tub. Brie’s still huddled over a small mountain of white dust. It covers a few inches of the bathroom counter. Her thick arms tighten as she presses into the ceramic tile with an old library card, the small granules of the pills crumbling underneath her weight. Her blonde hair falling into her face. I watch and am reminded of my mother’s baking—of the thin layer of flour she throws on the cutting board before setting a wad of dough on its surface and kneading. The smell of homemade doughnuts cooling on the counter—sprinkled with a coat of cinnamon. Except that the flour my mother bakes with is light. It crumbles when I pinch it and dissipates on my tongue—tasteless and dry. It doesn’t drip down my throat, a bitterness I chase after.
The dogs begin to bark, their deep growls ringing down the hall and up the stairway. I hear footsteps beneath me, and the squeaking hinges of the garage door opening and shutting.
“We’ll shoot your dogs if they don’t get back,” I hear a man shout. The growling gets louder, but Brie doesn’t seem to hear. She reaches for the small piece of plastic she cut from a fast-food straw and sniffs one of the white lines she’s carefully shaped. I can hear footsteps above me now, boxes being shoved and adjusted in the small pocket of an attic. I smile, a half-smile. Matt must have made it. I can almost hear his panic-stricken voice, once deep and low but now frail and airy. “I don’t want to go back to jail,” he’d repeat under his breath.
Down the hall, I hear another door open. Footsteps descending the stairs. I grab the straw from Brie and take a turn. I’m pretty sure there are laws against forcing your way into someone’s home. Even if that someone is seventeen years old. Even if the garage door is up—an open invitation. Even if the surly neighbors complained again—about the thin walls in the complex of cardboard houses, about the brittle vibrations of guitar strings, the constant barking, the droning television, or the strangers making their way to and from the small house at all hours of the day. I sit back on the tub, this time letting my body fall into it. I stare at the knobs above my feet, playing with the idea of turning them, letting the hot water fill up the porcelain basin. It always feels safer there, underneath the water, looking out. I’d feel the curls on my head extend, drifting, flicking lightly against my cheek, the tendrils wrapping around my neck, and wait until the air in my lungs slowly brought me back to the surface, where i’d float like a buoy. Warning sailors of the dangers that lied beneath the surface.
“Touch my dogs, and you’ll never hear the end of it,” I hear a familiar voice say. “I might be young, but I know my rights. You can’t just barge into someone’s house.”
“The garage was open,” Badge #1 says.
“I don’t care if the front door was open.” The voices fade into the background, and I only catch snippets of the conversation. Phrases like “We got a call” and questions like “Why were you hiding?” The quieting and ushering of dogs up the stairs, their long nails clicking against the wood floor, their large bodies pressing against the bathroom door, deep puffs of breath, like a bull, bursting from the animals’ snouts. I tap a finger against Brie’s thigh and motion to the closed door, which she slowly opens. A lanky pit bull mix—stripes like a tiger—squeezes its way in through the small opening. He walks over to me, pressing his wet nose into my hair, licking the sweat from my arm. I pat his head, grip his soft ears between my fingers, and press my face into his neck. I can’t imagine being scared of this gentle creature. Or what my father would say if he could see me sitting in this tub, the trash can overflowing, sending balls of tissue tumbling to the floor, the black of my eyes a tiny speck in a sea of grey. Like I’ve been staring up at a soap-scum sun too long.
The skin on my cheek begins to crawl, and I can’t decide if it’s from the pills working their way into my blood or the dog’s fur. I decide I don’t care, and try to ignore the red heat making its way down my neck. I feel grounded. The dog sits back on its hind legs, and my head rolls forward. He doesn’t seem to mind. My heart keeps pumping, blood going round and round. I can feel it pressing against my rib cage, against my ear drums. I wait for the sound of the garage door to close again before I take another breath. Would the officers believe me if I said I didn’t belong here? Would I?
– Melanie Figueroa
Head of mine, collector of thoughts. Forger of memories. Morphing spots of life into antiquities like some house shacked up with knit-knacks piled to the ceiling, high. This house needs spring-cleaning.
Off, far away, strikes a memory obscured by alternating lights. Red, blue. Red, blue. Rubbing my eyes to uncover the image of my mother standing, hunched over the kitchen sink. She tells the officer, “he was there, in front of my window, while I was washing dishes.”
I tug on her blouse, “Who, mama, who?” She ignores my inquiry.
Soft, overworked hands reach toward me. Hands that have known motherhood longer than she ever conceived. She is great. She is grand. My Granny. Scooping me into her arms, she drifts me away, into a marble carpeted room, “it’s time for you to go to sleep little bird.” Her voice sings to me. Half awake, fighting the heaviness of my lids and moving my hands through the air, I attempt to sort out the realm between dreams and reality. There is no use. I am a child. I am only a child.
At last, resigning to my fatigue, I give up and ask to sleep in my ship.
Erecting sheets from the base of the tub and lining it with pillows, my grandmother calls to me as I stand in the doorway, “Are you ready to set sail?”
As I ship into the night, I fall asleep to murmurs of the darkness, accompanied by rhythms of alternating lights.
– Lauren Sumabat
Like these stories? Want to submit your own? These pieces are short, creative nonfiction which center on a monthly theme. Next months theme is: Silence. The only rules are the theme must be involved in the story in some way, the story should be no more than 750 words, and the story must be true(ish). You can submit your story to us to possibly be included next month through our contact page. Our deadline for submissions is October 26th.
You can follow Amanda on Twitter @ThePandaBard, on Pinterest @ThePandaBard, or on Medium @ThePandaBard. You can also find her research on Academia.Edu at Cpp.Academia.Edu/MandaRiggle.