Far From The Tree
by DJ Hazard
Cops. I play cops. I get cast to play cops all the time. I’ve been a hardboiled cop, a crooked cop, a vigilante ex-cop…
I’m slowly filling out the Whitman’s Sampler of possible cops.
Maybe I get this from my biological father. I don’t know much about the guy, he left when I was two. But, from what I’ve heard , he pretty much had a cop/military/government fetish. He had a penchant for any kind of job that had a badge and a uniform. Dog catcher. Restaurant inspector. Postal worker.
Then he would go out on a limb and try to be something he wasn’t. He would prowl the city with his dog catcher badge and try to shake down petty hoods. He’s go into bars and push his weight around, saying he was some kind of G-Man. As a result, he was the one that got into trouble with the law and his employees. He lost his job as a toll booth attendant for bringing a gun to work.
I guess I have this genetic legacy, this instinctual drive to see how good I can be at something that I’m not. Unlike him, I’ve been fortunate to find a legal release valve for this secret agent impersonator disorder.
This is even weirder because, unlike him, I’ve always been uncomfortable around cops. I always think they’re checking me out, thinking I’m up to something. I keep ATM receipts in my pocket for alibis. I try to go out of my way to be friendly.
‘Hey, hi cops. How’s it going? Have a nice day. Take care. Be careful out there.’
Then I think I must really be on their radar.
‘Why’s this guy trying so hard to be at ease around us? What’s he up to?’
Now, many years ago, I don’t know what I was thinking but I almost became a cop. My logic was that if you’re afraid of cops you should be a cop. They’ll never find you.
Somehow, I got accepted onto a list of eligible candidates for the academy. Every Saturday morning, for about six months, was spent taking exams. I found some of these tests fascinating but I also found some of them hysterical. One Saturday, we seemed to be taking a series of tests that were blatantly designed to weed out the gun crazy people.
A husband and wife have been quarreling. You
- Shoot the husband
- Shoot the wife
- Shoot them both
- Wave your gun around and tell them to keep it down or else you’ll come back and shoot them
A van full of hippies drive past and shout ‘PIG’ at you. You
- Follow them around until they do something wrong
- Pull them over and wave your gun around to scare them
- Shoot them
There were a lot of movies to watch. I remember being told that one was a short term memory quiz and we weren’t allowed to take notes. Two officers respond to a lady who reported a burglary. They kept asking her tons her questions such as her phone number, her work number, her work address, what hours she worked, the distance from her front door to the curb.
We were all going frantic trying to remember all those figures. Then the lights came back on and the instructor asked us what color shoes she was wearing. Looking back, I should have been more interested in finding out how to play a cop in all these training films.
Saturdays came and went and I thought I was well on my way to becoming a Super Cop. Then they asked me to come in on a weekday afternoon. They had some questions.
When you are accepted for further testing they do a lot of research behind your back. They asked my neighbors what I was like when I was at work. When I was home, They asked my employees what I was like. It seemed that somewhere during my original application process my half Castilian heritage and my mother’s maiden name deemed me a minority but they didn’t believe it because of my appearance. I didn’t know which way to be pissed off about this but I was. However, I offered to take a Spanish test. They said no. They wanted birth certificates, entry port papers and a paper trail that lead to me.
A month later I brought in a pile of documents gleaned from Halls of Records and microfilms during several trips back to NYC.
They looked at the pile and said they changed their mind and they wanted me to take a Spanish test.
Something snapped inside me. I really don’t remember everything that I said, but I remember it was in my grandfather’s low, measured and indignant tone. I closed with something like, “and despite my respect for law and order, I do not beg, I do not roll over and I do not sit up and speak.”
I don’t think I topped it off with a ‘good day gentlemen, I say good day’ but it was implied when turned on my heel and walked out.
Many years later, I Googled my father. I just wanted to see whatever happened to the man who, instead of naming me Sue, left me with this bizarre cop drama chromosome. All I knew was that he moved to Florida when he left us. I got three hits.
One said that, for a short time, he worked as a security guard at Cape Canaveral.
Another was from that Cuban refugee fiasco, the one that inspired the Tony Montana/Scarface movie. My father was arrested for impersonating a CIA agent.
The final hit was a cemetery. I guess he died somewhere in the late 80’s. But that wasn’t all that caught my eye.
It was a Naval Cemetery. He was buried with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
Son of a bitch.
He pulled it off one more time and, this time, for all eternity.