This week’s topic was “pushing the envelope.”
Anyone who knows me, knows ‘pushing the envelope’ is as much a part of me as my writing. In fact, sometimes they blend so well, I have trouble separating the yin from the yang. If it has something to do with politics, religion, GLBT rights, ecology, taking a Native American stance, embracing indie philosophy or supporting the e-publishing world – it will be pushed somewhere, sometime in a story of mine.
In other words, I am a rebel with a cause. Several causes. And those causes weave their intricate way into my fictional genre romance stories whether I want them to or not.
But that’s not the post you will read today.
You see, this past weekend, my past caught up with me. I experienced a scary reaction to an increase in my bi-polar medication. It was complicated with symptoms of congestive heart failure.
Needless to say, over the past few days I’ve been spending most of my time between doctors, hospitals, clinics, and in bed -- with a healthy dose of reality: life is too short and though I'm not afraid of death, I'm not ready to go like the rest of my family who died young.
So, in lieu of my normal post, please accept my pre-written, never before published short, tipping my hat to those law enforcement officers I grew up to admire and annoy. It's my belief these men shaped the world around me during a time when it was more fun to cause trouble than it was to stay out of it.
Envelope pushing? Yeah. I was always pushing something with those in authority – and still am, whether it be life in general or in my writing.
I grew up in a small, northern Michigan community were everyone knew everybody by name and business. I also suspect there were a few incesterious families among the hay lofts, but who am I to judge?
Although my parents were rather prominent in the community, once I turned 16 I was notorious in my own right and intimately knew each one of our fine men in police uniform from the various run ins they had with my gang of idiots. I should stop now to note this was during the 70s/80s, so all minor infractions amounted to innocent mischief and mayhem.
Anyway, we had one Sheriff and four deputies, covering one county. We had three small towns and several townships and villiages, but that was about it.
Sheriff Bates (we called him Master-Bates) was a mean SOB. Tall, lanky with wire aviator glasses perched on his curved beak nose. If he was on your tail, you knew you were done for. If anything, he’d make up something to nail you with so it could be written up for the weekly county newspaper.
He was sheriff for a good 8 years. Then, he was accused of murdering someone in cold blood.
I remember the hoopla well, as my momma's name was pulled for jury duty. She had never had the 'privilege' before, and was looking forward to serving her country. Unfortunately, she was dismissed, as she severed on the Wednesday afternoon Mickey Mouse Bowling League along with Sheriff Bate's wife. Conflict of interest, they said. My mother was heartbroken. I was too. I wanted my mother to be able to nail the bastard. Later, the case conveniently became a 'mistrial.' Master Bates left the force and ran a gas station until he died.
Next in line was our beloved Deputy Sheriff Swartz.
Claude had been the longest on the force, yet a true sweetheart and oh how my momma crushed on him! Thick, wavy silver hair, glittering blue eyes, and a soft southern accent. He was on the beefy side, with little tuffs of silver chest hair peaking out over his uniform collar, which was always loosened around his thick neck. If you ever got the pleasure of him pulling you over or coming out to your house, he'd blow the car horn, roll down his window and wait for you to come to him. He would chop on his donuts and sip his coffee, all the while nodding his head and acting like he actually was listening. After hearing the story, he would look at you and say, "Now it's just too damn cold to get out of this car. Do you really want me to write a report? It will take me half the night and I have to do it in triplicate. Is this a problem that really needs my attention, or can I go back to reading my book?"
Well, when he put it all in perspective like that, not many wanted to disturb his reading pleasure. After all, he was right. It was too cold...
Deputy Funk was third man on the list.
The dark haired "Italian Stallion' thought he was top gun… and had a problem keeping his ‘personal gun’ in his pants. By the time I left town, rumor had it he had impregnated several women with whom he had taken turns living with or at least setting them up in a secure little trailer out west of town, in the back pines.
Of course, who could blame him when his own wife thought a clean house consisted of stacks of newspapers, mounds of dirty clothes and dishes, and garbage bags? Artfully arranged, these items made little mazes to walk through the house. (I know. I babysat ONCE for their three children in that filth pile. The kids would play hide and seek among the waste.) I couldn’t believe he could let his children live in conditions like that.
Deputy Benac was the youngest out of the four deputies. A homegrown boy, I believe he got all the crap jobs because he worked it all - day or night. It was like the guy never slept! He always seemed a bit on the grumpy side. Made us wonder if he ever got laid.
The one thing about Benac though, if he caught wind of an illegal keg party by the snake pits, he would drive that huge old police car down a winding truck trail into the woods, issuing the same warning as always. "I know you kids are gonna drink regardless - just don't drive drunk while I’m on shift. I don't want to deal with scraping your ass off the pavement and delivering it to your parents." Then he'd stay, have a brew or two, and go without further interruption.
Last officer on infamous list was my personal favorite (or nemesis – depending on my mood whenever he pulled me over), Deputy Wright.
God love him wherever he is today.
Do you remember the television shows ‘Sheriff Lobo’ or ‘BJ and the Bear?’ There was a deputy on there named Perkins. Well, Deputy Wright was a dead ringer for this guy, both in looks (short, fat, reducing hairline with a cheesy mustache), personality (just damn effin’ goofy) and brains (dumber than dirt!).
EVERYONE SWORE this guy either had a crush on me or he was out to get me. He knew my schedule and would lay in wait, watching for me to come by. He would always pull me over with the lamest of excuses, and stand there to talk with me for like 15 minutes, over trivial matters, personal matters, local gossip – it didn’t matter! He was sweet in an adorable way (all my friends thought I was nuts when I said that), but him pulling me over all the time just to talk was a hassle. When I graduated HS and left town, Wright left to go west months after.
Looking back, I wonder if I should have been brave enough to flirt back at him. Maybe I would have gotten a pair of handcuffs to remember him by.
It’s been 25 years since I lived in that town. A few years ago, I took my mate (who had only been with me a year at that time) north to see where I grew up. We stopped in to visit my best chum and his partner – and within 20 minutes, a police car pulled into his driveway.
With an unreasonable stab of guilt shooting through my gut, I looked at my mate and said, “Whatever it was, I didn’t do it! I haven’t been in town long enough!”
Well, I was right. I was not the one wanted this time. The officer was looking for Chad, the brother of my long time chum. Needed him as a material witness for an upcoming case.
While haggling over contact and other minor law farctions Bart and Scott were always known for, the law officer kept one eye on me the whole time he was conversing. Recognition dawned on his face.
“Well I’ll be damned! You’re George! Chan and Joyce’s youngest one!”
“Yeah. First time back since momma’s funeral back in '89. I live downstate now.”
“Hell, I thought you were in jail all these years.”
“Thanks for embarrassing me, Deputy Benac.”
“My pleasure. And that’s Sheriff Benac to you. Are you staying long?”
“No. Just visiting for the day.”
“Well, that’s good to know. With the Elk festival going on, I want no trouble from you today, got it?” He turned to address my mate. “I know everyone in my county. Ain't seen you before. Might want to reconsider the company you keep. These boys may be more than what you bargained for.”
With an evil eye cast back my way, Sheriff Benac eased his now heavy form back into the patrol car. Scott kept walking forward as the car crept backwards, grinning with his buck teeth and waving like he had no cares in the world, while Bart snuck off to the side of the house, and under the cover of the weeping willow tree, called his brother in warning the Benac was stalking him like prey.
We didn't have any more trouble the rest of the weekend.
I spent the rest of my vacation laying low, drinking in the next county over, chasing elk in the moonlight, reliving my glory days through smoke and song, and trying to convince my now-leery mate that he hadn’t gotten involved with an ax murderer.
Even now, when ever I hear the sound of the siren, I cringe. Somewhere, deep inside, the child in me knows I'm still guilty of misbehavior.
Till next time - George
PS - if you want to keep current on my health prognosis, please stay in tune with my Facebook page www.facebook.com/Harrison.Tate