Monday, August 18, 2014

Flash Fiction: An Unfortunate Lunch in the Playground

Without thinking, I barked, “I already told that other cop, the big dude with the harelip, the whole thing!”

“I know this is…upsetting.  We just want to make sure we’ve gotten all the details,” the detective replied with exaggerated calm.  What was her name?  Garza.  Her voice was coarse, a little rough like Demi Moore’s.  A shame she looked like Cheech Marin’s older sister after a week-long coke binge.

I rubbed my hand over my face.  “Could I have another Coke?  I’m really thirsty.”  They’d kept me waiting in this Saltine box interrogation room for close to two hours, and a migraine was pulsing right behind my eyes.  The caffeine might help.

“In a minute.  Let’s get the broad strokes first.”

A nervous laugh escaped me.  “Broad strokes.  Sounds like the name of a porn site.  You know, stroke off to these broads.” 

She didn’t crack a smile.  She just waited.  She had acne scars, a lot of them.  Like reverse Braille on her cheekbones.

“Fine.”  I breathed in deep, closed my eyes, and tried to calm down a little.  The blood.  So much of it out of such a little…it had been everywhere.  The mom shrieking, What did you do to my baby?  Like it was my fault.  Like I did it.  “I went to Park City Park to eat my lunch.  I’d bought it at Jimmy John’s, the one at Country Club and Stuart.”

“Why did you go to that park?  It’s mostly a playground.  Do you have any children, Mr. Emerson?”  Her tone was very flat, almost disinterested.  It didn’t fool me.  She thought I might be a child molester.

“Am I in trouble for wanting to eat al dente?  Or, uh, what is it…al fresco?”

The rode-hard-and-put-away-wet-looking Detective Garza shook her head.  “You’re not in trouble at all.  What you did may have saved that little girl’s life.”

“Oh.”  I swallowed.  If I were her, I wouldn’t want to live after what that…monster had done.  How do you get past that?

“Why that park, Mr. Emerson?” she prompted.

I looked over the rim of my glasses at her.  “It’s summer.  It was a nice day out.  And the local moms like to wear spandex and tight yoga pants.  Get the picture?”

“Yes.”  She definitely did get the picture.  I’m surprised she wasn’t there getting material herself.  Aren’t most lady cops dykes? 

“So I was eating my Jimmy John’s number five with hot peppers, and I wasn’t staring or anything.  Just taking in the scenery.  I wasn’t sitting there jerking off.”  I shrugged.  “Look: if they’re gonna show it, I’m gonna look at it.  So I’m eating, right, and I heard one kid shout, ‘Give it back!’  I figured it was usual kid arguments and kept eating.  You know, one kid wanting his ball back or something.”

“Go on.”

“But, well, it wasn’t.  I heard a louder scream.  One that…it was like…I don’t know.  I’ve never heard anything like it before.  I looked up and I saw one little girl, she might have been six or seven, and she was…”  I stared straight at the detective, but I wasn’t seeing her.  As ugly as she was, she was a damn sight prettier than what was in my mind’s eye.  “She was smashing another kid’s face into the pavement.  I mean, slamming it into the concrete walkway over and over again.  And grinding it.  Like she was trying to shred the kid’s skin off her face.”

Detective Garza just kept looking at me.  Waiting.

God, my head hurt.  I cleared my dry throat and said, “I, you know, looked around for the kids’ moms, but they were on the benches by the basketball court, texting.  I mean, there was blood.  The kid’s face was being erased, and her mom was too busy checking Facebook to give a damn.”

“But you did.”

“I did what?  Give a damn?”  I uttered a high-pitched laugh that embarrasses me even now to remember.  “I guess I did.  Like I told the big cop, I got up and ran over, and the, the kid who was trying to kill the other one, she got up, spat at me, and ran into traffic.”  The furious, blood-flecked face of the murderous kid filled my vision, and I shook my head to clear it.  “Cars squealed, but she got run over, I think.  So yeah.  That happened.”

“Can you tell me what happened next?”

Yes, but I don’t want to.  I don’t want to think about it anymore.  “So I went to…I don’t know, try to help the hurt kid, but her face was hamburger—“

The door behind me opened, and another cop in a suit poked his head in and said, “Pilar.”  Detective Garza got up, went over to him, and had a whispered conversation with the guy for what felt like ten minutes.  I spent the whole time trying to seem like I wasn’t listening, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying anyway.

The other cop left, and Garza said, “We’ll have to continue this at another time, Mr. Emerson.  We’ll call you to make an appointment.”

Surprised and relieved at the same time, I got up.  “Uh.  Okay.  Why?”

Garza’s eyes flicked to the open door.  “It turns out that what you witnessed may not be an isolated incident.”

I blinked a few times in an effort to process this.  Not an isolated incident?  What, is this happening all over town?  “Okay.  Right.  You guys drove me here.  Can I get a ride back to the office?”

She blew out air from her nostrils.  “There’s a bus stop a block south.  The buses are still running.  We just don’t have the resources right now.”

“Great.  Thanks.”  Should’ve known better than to ask.

As I brushed by her, she said, “Get home as fast as you can, Mr. Emerson.  And…lock your doors.”

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