The cop’s knee is in his back. All three-hundred plus pounds of his weight is applied precisely to the man’s spine. The man swallows air like ocean water. The man feels, distinctly, the pain of a rib against his expanding lung. There’s never enough air when you’re afraid you might die. Language tends to fall apart, too. The man cries for mercy. He pleads apologies but his words, slurred by the gauze of Schizophrenia and the copper taste of blood, are taken by the cops as provocation. The younger cop’s face glistens with sweat as he holds the man’s ankles. His partner’s broad back seems to swallow light in the dim parking lot. The younger cop thinks of catfish. More officers will arrive soon. The man can smell his blood in the wet cement that kisses his forehead. His arms are pulled far beyond any natural position. Wailing, he squirms, the cop’s knee pivoting his movement. Another car screeches to a halt just out of eyeshot. Soon another. The arriving cops’ steps are a faint rapping enveloped by shouting. The thwacking sound of a car door slamming or something worse. The arriving cops know only what they’ve been told; Some vagrant, possible burglary, resisting arrest. What is the legal definition of resisting arrest? Some officers use a sliding scale. Everything seems to add up, here. There’s no real time to assess. They’ve been trained to assist. Most importantly, they’ve been trained to assist their fellow officers. They shout at the man, telling him to calm down. The man is far far away. He is locked in a small closet in the basement of his childhood neighbor, amid half-empty paint cans and exposed fiberglass which he knows is not cotton candy. Just outside the door, the sinister giggling of children can be heard. His father, a police officer, is upstairs playing poker. The man can hear the screeching of the chair, sudden and sharp above his head, as he cries for help. He can hear the rapid thuds on the staircase and the children go silent as his father enters the room. He remembers how his father pulled him from the closet with just one arm and gathered his small body up under it, all the while, threatening to arrest whatever kid did this to him. No specific road led to this moment. Schizophrenics often begin to show symptoms around age 19. What is the legal definition of murder? The man cries for his father. Coming from the mouth of a 38 year old man, the cries sound a touch more helpless. The first cop, still on one knee in the man’s back, pushes the man’s face against the ground. The cop thinks of his younger brother. Children who are much smaller than him. He is annoyed and out of breath. He reaches for his taser. As he does so, an arriving cop fires his own taser. The sweet chatter like a tiny machine gun. There are many ways to skin a catfish. The man writhes uncontrollably. Now, involuntarily. The man has seen a gun before but never felt one against his skull, and certainly not at this velocity. He isn’t even sure it’s a gun. To be honest, he isn’t thinking about what just hit him. He is focusing on the gasps of air he can barely manage. The last thing he sees is a shoe, not unlike his father’s, kick him in the side. A wheel on a parked car. Orange light. For the rest of his life, the man’s father will wince each time he hears the word routine. His relationship with his old uniform will become troubled and somewhat problematic. He will remember his son, not as the swollen face in the news photos, but as he was before the illness took hold, a smart-mouthed boy, tiny and always afraid of being cornered.
Fiction – Published in MakeBlank, 2013