Blauer - Tactical Clothing & Equipment

"The Cop: Coming Home" - By Lt. Tim Cotton

He came into the house and immediately he could smell the stale odor of cigarettes. No one smoked in this house, the odor was stowed away invisibly on his dark blue uniform. He went directly to the basement, scuffed across the cold floor, and pulled the chrome beaded chain to turn on the incandescent bulb dangling over the Kenmore.

He could always catch the chain on the first grab in the darkness. It had become a mental challenge but he kept it to himself. No one would understand, so why inform anyone that he made small wagers with himself before he reached for it. “If I get it on the first grab, I will treat myself to a coffee tomorrow morning after I go collect the mail.”

Reaching for a thin chain in the pitch black of a windowless cellar had become his way of making the determination that his hand was still steady. A way to gauge if his coordination and ability to make accurate mental estimates were still up to par. He caught it perfectly. Pulling lightly, the fixture snicked. He thought, “Let there be light, and there was light.” He had to look away for a moment as his eyes squinted to adjust the dial on the washer. More snicking. He loved the feel of mechanical controls. Positive; nothing like the day he had just said goodbye to.  

He missed the beaded chain on the first grab two years and three months ago. She had pulled it too quickly before leaving the dank laundry room with a load of clean sheets. The recoil of the snap had launched the small glass ball at the end of the chain up and over the brass pull on the cupboard door which held the Tide and the dryer sheets.

That night he felt panicked when he missed. Had he finally lost it? He grabbed repeatedly into the dark humid air; no chain! Was it broken? Had he miscounted the 17 steps across the basement floor? He grabbed repeatedly and comically.  He reached higher still and finally found the drooping loop of beaded chain. He pulled so hard that the glass ball struck him square in the eye. The light came on.

He still skipped the coffee the next morning. A bet is a bet and he lost.

It had been a long shift, 14 hours, throwing the uniform into the washer immediately minimized the odors he carried into his safe place. The cop’s house was a refuge from the stinky places he had recently visited, sometimes uninvited, on his patrol shift.

He threw the indigo uniform filled with the odors of other people’s bad habits and poor decisions into the 36-year-old washer. It made some noises it shouldn’t but it worked just fine. She would ask for a new one again soon. The scratched and dented white washer was his first. It had become a challenge to keep it running. When she came along she had changed all the furniture, the curtains, and the flooring, even the menu; he kept his washer.

He kicked the wedge of an old cedar shingle deeper under the front right corner. “That will steady you from keeping me awake,” he mumbled to himself and, of course,to his Kenmore.

A quick shower and a cursory search of the fridge revealed nothing unusual or suspicious. He looked at the clock as he finished her guacamole; 0327hrs. He could sleep for four hours if he went to bed right now. He brushed his teeth again. There was no reason to breathe fire into her face when he climbed into bed. He was positive the garlic was better than the old cigarette smoke he could now hear being mechanically and chemically scrubbed out of his Blauer uniform. The wedge must have moved again.

He slipped into the bed like a well-starched, yet bumbling, apparition. He groped for the remote and recovered it near the middle of the bed. He held it with intent to find an infomercial about baking pans which were easy to clean no matter how much burned cheese you left in the bottom. He thought about cheese for a few minutes. He had no control over his own pre-dream thought process. He knew it made no sense but it felt like the right thing to ponder. He could hear Dobie Gray’s smooth tones as Drift Away took over for the thoughts of crispy cheese on the bottom of a new and improved copper pan.

Sleep would be coming soon.

He took a deep breath and then he felt it. It happened every time, usually within three to five minutes of entering the western king. It was the touch. Not often spoken about within police circles, but he knew it was common. It had to be, it was one of the most important reassurances within a family unit.

The “touch” comes when a sleeping spouse reaches delicately across to make sure that their slumber has been disturbed only because their partner has made it home again. Calm overtook his thought process. The dark became darker but more friendly.

The touch has never been taught, nor was it ever talked about. It needs no instruction, no written directions. The touch happens and it happens for very good reasons.

Dark days followed by short nights have made the touch important. Symbolic yet gratifying, different for each one of us, yet done for exactly the same reason.

Her voice broke the silence of the dark room, “Did you eat the guacamole?”

He stroked her hand and turned his head toward the wall. That was way too much garlic. He closed his eyes and focused more on Dobie Gray and less on the cheese. The song always started on the second verse when he was tired …“Beginning to think that I'm wastin' time I don't understand the things I do. The world outside looks so unkind and I'm countin' on you to carry me through.”

Another day, another bet, another successful grab at the beaded chrome chain. He would have his coffee.

Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people’s things alone, and be kind to one another.

TC (email: cottonblend at blauer dot com)

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