September 23rd, 2021
Through gin-blurred eyes he could just barely see the blue uniform, the dark glasses held against the right pants leg, and the hard look in the man’s eyes as the officer was crouched over speaking to him. The distance between them was just out of arm’s reach, but stretching his arm out to touch the man to make sure he was real didn’t seem like a good idea.
“Sir, can you please put the bottle down?”
The officer had to raise his voice to be heard over the constant din of the traffic cruising by below, each and every car oblivious to the mild drama playing out under the overpass. It was only by craning his head a bit to the left that he could see the cop car parked near the barrier that had been erected just a few years ago, just barely out of traffic as the oncoming cars wisely pulled around the cruiser, slowing just enough to avoid catching the eyes of the officer. He could have told them that when a cop was out of their car they weren’t generally thinking about running back to chase down a speeder. Plus, the mic that most cops wore could be used to summon another dozen or so of them in short order to pick up and offender only a mile or two down the road.
He knew how it worked. After all he’d been one of them until a couple of years ago.
Setting the bottle down, it was almost empty anyway, he held up his hands to show the officer that he wasn’t holding anything else. He also didn’t make any sudden movements, though thanks to his blurred vision he couldn’t tell if this cop was a rookie or not.
“So what are you doing here?” the cop asked, “Are you aware that’s illegal to bunk up under an overpass?”
“No it’s not,” he said, slurring his words slightly. He was drunk, but he knew the vagrancy laws that made it almost impossible to deal with the homelessness problem in this city and many others.
“I’m afraid it is buddy,” said the cop, his voice telling him that this was in fact someone that was younger. Perhaps he wasn’t a rookie, but he was still fairly wet behind the ears if he was operating under the assumption that being homeless and finding a place to sleep was illegal. Of course the cop could have him on another charge if he’d dig a little deeper.
“No it’s not officer,” he winced as one of the reasons for his current lot in life sparked deep inside his head, “but this is.” He frowned as he pointed at the nearly empty bottle of gin. “Public intoxication is a misdemeanor that could land me in jail for 30 days with up to a thousand-dollar fine. It’d help you by showing that you give a damn and that you show real follow-thru with your job.”
Dammit, he’d wanted to stop after the misdemeanor talk, but something wouldn’t let him just end it neat and clipped as he wanted any longer. He almost had to spill the entire truth and nothing less if he was to avoid the discomfort that would come otherwise. Sighing inwardly he could only wait as the suddenly very silent cop seemed to contemplate his words.
(to be continued)