The Calling: Part 1

December 3rd, 2010 by Wordsman

My apologies to anyone who was expecting the next installment of the Jenoviad.  I was all ready to post it, but then I discovered that no one had remembered to write it.  Rather than scramble to write up a few new lines, however, I have decided to post this instead.  It is the beginning of a story whose future remains uncertain.  I make no guarantees that it will not end abruptly.  Read at your own peril.  Comments are, as always, welcome.

Day 0:

Officer Escobar hated the subway beat.

He preferred policing places that had no obvious need of policing.  His normal route took him past the Dough-Re-Mi Café, whose only use for the men and women in blue was to have them drink its coffee.  Some officers might have believed that such a quiet place was not worth stopping at and moved on to more typical trouble spots.  Officer Escobar saw to it that the Dough-Re-Mi received the full benefit of local law enforcement, stopping in two to three times a day.

Subway stations, on the other hand, were problematic.  Things happened.  In Escobar’s ideal world, the only things that ever happened were visits from Rita, his favorite waitress, coming to ask whether his mug needed to be topped off, or if he wanted to try a free sample of their new Ebony and Ivory Chocolate and Vanilla Swirl Croissant.  Subway stations had fights, muggings, drug deals, and—God forbid—someone could even fall onto the tracks.  And they never had free samples of anything.

He braced himself for the smell as he walked down the steps into Simon Park Station.  The people of Crescenton took the “public” in public transportation to heart; they took full advantage of the space, safe in the belief that cleaning up was someone else’s (often, no one’s) job.  You could eat there if you were in a hurry, sleep there if it was too cold outside, go to the bathroom if you were really drunk, and engage in intimate relations if you were willing to risk someone recording it on a cell phone and putting it online.  When you combined the full range of human activity with the ventilation problems inherent to any underground location, you got a stink that could rival some industrial farms.

Simon Park was by no means the worst.  That honor belonged to Rittner Street, famous for the “Rittner Street Dash” people made to avoid having to take a breath before they were back in the open air.  But to someone accustomed to the mixed scents of baking, glazing, and frosting, it was agony.  Officer Escobar reminded himself once again never to agree to a shift swap until he knew all the details.

The station was quiet.  It was late, so the thunderous rumble accompanying a train’s arrival and departure only occurred a couple times an hour, and if there were any citizens currently treating the place like home, they were doing a good job of keeping it secret.  Escobar enjoyed the quiet.  It allowed him to focus on his thoughts, which were of his favorite café, rather than on his surroundings.  On that particular night, he might have expected more civil unrest, but then again he never had been good at keeping up with sports.  Luckily for him, most of the disturbances were above ground, because it is much more difficult to overturn a subway car than it is to upend a compact.

Officer Escobar felt that one of the most important parts of being a cop was to be adept at both seeing and not seeing.  Of the two, his more notable talent was the latter.  Escobar believed in the spirit of the law, not the letter, and he understood which crimes were best left unprosecuted.  When operating a speed trap, he was a natural at sneezing at precisely the moment when a car doing 59 in a 55-MPH zone drove past the radar gun.  He was legendary for the faith he put in obvious graffiti artists who said, “It was like that when I got here,” so long as he thought the new paint job was an improvement.  And the homeless were all but invisible to him.

He felt particularly strongly about this last point.  Everyone deserves a place to live, he thought, and those who could not afford a traditional residence had every right to look at rent-free areas.  So, when he walked along alleyways, through parks, and even in subway stations, he took no notice of people residing in areas that certain city ordinances considered off-limits.

Perhaps these feelings can explain why he tripped over a woman sitting on the ground as he walked past a concrete pillar.  Surely that’s the reason.  The idea that the woman simply had not been there an instant before was absurd.

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2 Responses

  1. Shirley Says:

    Sounds promising, especially since I recognize the setting. The Jenoviad escaped me.

  2. A Fan Says:

    I loved it, especially the hard-boiled prose and darkly ironic wit.

    I know that WW likes to work in the fantasy/magical realism genre (so I take the last sentence to mean that the woman in fact had NOT been there an instant before).

    However, I hope the tone and texture of the prose will persist, no matter where the story takes Officer Escobar (or the woman, or whoever the main character turns out to be).

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