by Ron Riekki

“In the beginner’s mind
there are many possibilities”
–Shunryu Suzuki

I was a cop for a total of three months.

You have your first real event, the one where you almost die, and some people are addicted, hooked, like junkies.

Others look into becoming yoga instructors.

Let me bring you back to Saginaw. December. The worst month to be a cop. It’s 40 degrees. Not a good start. You want it in the negatives. You want it so cold that people can’t commit crimes. But when it’s in the 40s and Christmas is coming up, people start doing anything for their children. Or their drug addiction. Or both.

And here’s us cops. Every single one of us is single. Single syllable name guys. Mark and John and Luke. The joke here, I don’t even have to tell you what it is.

I’m not good with the racist jokes, the sexist jokes, the homophobic jokes. Rather than running through a stream of those to bond at the beginning of the shift, I just head straight to my car.

Your office is your car. It’s a mobile office.

You get in and immediately it’s B&E calls, Domestic Disturbance calls. You want a job where you don’t do anything, don’t be a cop. It might look like we’re sitting around at stoplights waiting, but, at least in Saginaw, it seemed like we had ten million criminals in the city.

They give me a B&E.

Same neighborhood. Same people. Same drive. I don’t lights and siren it, even though I like to speed. I became a cop to speed. But I don’t want them to know I’m coming. I want surprise.

As I’m driving, it’s like every person in the city is looking at me. No waves. No smiles. Just that same sleepy annoyance.

WAZ UP graffiti to my left.

I know Mark isn’t single, by the way. He’s got a pregnant wife at home. He wants to pretend he’s single. He lives in Mount Pleasant, commutes. Doesn’t want people to know he lives in Mount Pleasant. He’s worried someone’s gonna get out of prison, hunt him down, go after his wife and unborn child. On Facebook, he pretends he’s single. We don’t talk about this. Mark has no family. Luke has no family. John has no family.

I have no family.

Except I really don’t.

I weighed five hundred pounds a decade ago.

Changed everything. Lost two hundred fifty pounds. Became a cop. I’m not the same person. Who we are always shifts.

You see that with people.

One day they’re a pastor. The next day they’re a child molester.

Life, you learn, can turn bad in seconds. It takes years of hard work for it to turn good. Seconds to go bad. It’s not fair, but that’s how it works.

I get to the location.

Location, location, location. They tell you that in marketing. Business.

And this apartment is located right where you go to get shot. To get mugged. To lose everything. And that’s where I am.

I’m second on the scene. After the first guy, John, lights and sirened it.

And then I hear the gunshot.

My number one goal for me every night is to go home.

My number two goal for me every night is for my co-workers to go home.

I run up to the apartment complex, gun drawn.

Typically, 90% of the time, I’m a marriage counselor. To alcoholics. The other times, it’s this.

A voice yells, “Up here!”


I go in.

Up the stairs.

I’m not Dr. Phil. I’m not good with the counseling. 100% of the time, those couples need to break up. Addicts need to get away from addicts.

I’m better at this. At gun drawn going up stairs.

“Put it away,” he says.

I do.

On the hallway floor is a kid, shot.

“He’s dead,” John says. “Look.”

He points to the eye. There’s a bullet in it.

“How does a bullet get shot and stop right in your eyeball?” I ask.

“No,” he says, “Look, he got shot in the other eye and it ricocheted back and started to come out this one.”

And it did.

We lean in.

“He’s breathing,” I say.

“No, he’s dead,” John says.

“No,” I say, “he’s breathing.”

And then the next gunshot.

And John drops.

The smell like curry in the air.

A splatter of strawberry. John, shot in the head.

The ugliest brown paint in the hallway.

I pull my gun out and fire. Down the hall. At nothing.

I run down the stairs, back to the car, for backup, for shots fired.

I fired a gun in an apartment complex. At nothing.

You can’t explain that. You don’t do that. I start thinking of stories.

Mark told me, “This isn’t LAPD. No one’s lying for everybody anymore. We’re all professional. You do something wrong, you tell the truth.”

I wait in the car, gun drawn.

I’m looking all around. Waiting.

We meet everybody on their worst day.

There is a microphone in the car. A camera. All of this is being recorded.

I get out. I rush back up the stairs.

I get to John.

He’s not breathing. He’s shot in the head. I’m trying to remember first aid. But there’s no first aid for that. The bullet’s in his brain. No exit wound. What kind of gun isn’t even powerful enough to have an exit wound? A .22? This other kid is still breathing. He gets shot in the eye and he’s still breathing.

I start to do CPR on John, but I know he’s a corpse. I switch to doing CPR on the kid, looking down the hall, waiting for a form to appear. The kid yells for me to stop beating on his chest. I stop the CPR. He’s yelling he can’t see. I go for the shooter. The kid’s yelling he can’t see as I go down the hall.

I don’t want to meet the shooter.

I go back to doing CPR on John. I don’t care if he’s dead. I want them to find me doing CPR on John.

“I don’t like criers,” I once said to a University of Michigan at Flint sophomore who I pulled over going 70; he continued to cry.

I don’t have any tears.

I go back to doing CPR on John.

The kid’s asking me what’s going on. He’s telling me someone shot him. I tell him to shut up.

I listen for sirens.

I’m supposed to be the sirens and I’m listening for sirens.

And then I see the shooter.

I shoot down the hall.

And no one is there.

I go back to the parking lot, gun in the air, waving it to show I have a gun, and all of this is on camera.

Nowadays, everything is on camera. Except what gets deleted. What gets lost. What gets made up. What we tell each other. What did happen and didn’t. To be a cop is science fiction. To be a cop is horror. To be a cop is fantasy. It’s fiction. It’s the morphing of language. The inability to know what you know. No epistemology. There is only the history we are making up now.

I will tell this story tomorrow and it will all be different.

I will deny every word.

I work at a grocery store.

I was never a cop.

I was never anything. Ever.

Ron Riekki’s books include U.P. and The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book and finalist for the 2014 Eric Hoffer Book Award, Foreword Book of the Year Award, 2014 Midwest Book Award, and 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Award).  He has books upcoming with Finishing Line Press, Arbutus Press, and Michigan State University Press.  (MSU Press will release Here in May 2015.)