I am close to retirement. But not close enough.
I am tired, tired of seeing the filth of humanity, tired of finding bodies of children.
We pulled another one out of an alley this morning behind a bus stop in the city. The rats and birds found it first. The plastic bag it was wrapped in was stretched and pulled and full of jagged little mouths where the animals had tried to get inside but you could clearly see the little sneakers inside, the little backpack, no matter how much red covered it all.
There isn’t a lot to be said for what I do. Sometimes I feel more like a janitor to maniacs and not someone who makes any difference in the world. The futility of tracking down a single person at a time, when there are so many out there, so many people doing so many horrible things.
But there are so many little sneakers, and so many little backpacks. There are children. Other people who can’t defend themselves. Even though it hurts me, even though I just want to close my eyes and never open them again sometimes. In the most permanent sense, of course, because when I close my eyes I see them all. Everyone I should have been able to help, everyone who died without someone there with them, except for the sociopaths. So every morning, I roll out of bed, get dressed, put on my janitors badge, and head to the precinct to find out what horrible thing has happened next. To do my best to make sure that one more maniac is off the streets.
This child is the tenth.
How do you justify what I do, when it has taken ten children?
No fingerprints, but their parents. No clues, except the homework in their bag, scrawled in childlike innocent print. Nothing but the future they will never see.
No stray hairs, no skin under the fingernails, no clues. They might have died at home, with their families.
And in this crazy time? Can I even rule that out?
There’s nothing special about the plastic bags that we find the children in. Heavy duty, impact resistant, tear resistant, thick plastic. You can get it from hardware store.
I guess it’s time to check receipts.
Time to check on the parents. What else can I do?
Do I want to catch this killer, if it means finding out it’s not one villain, but an epidemic of families that have gone over the edge?
It’s my job to find out. Even if it means another night’s sleep, with those kinds of thoughts tucked behind my eyes. Even if it means I put off retirement, keep at this forever.
Or at least as long as there are little sneakers, and little backpacks.
Author’s Note: These snippets are unedited free-writing exercises that I use as a way to shift my brain into a creative state. I usually use Lynda Barry’s What It Is YouTube timed exercises (usually 9 minutes worth of writing) for these, but today’s was written in the spirit of that while dictating on a walk in my neighborhood. It was then transcribed with Dragon Naturally Speaking. I made minor grammar and spelling corrections, but the overall “clarity” (if you can call it that) of the exercise was left as-is.