“Aye Barry, how many’d you get today,” Jim questioned as he hung up his coat.
“I only got one. Coulda got two of ‘em if people wasn’t surrounding me with those menacing looks and phone cameras,” Barry whimpered. Jim scoffed. Barry was the new guy at the police station. He hadn’t been
corrupted toughened up yet.
“Listen Barry. You can’t let them outsiders distract you from your focus. You gotta keep your mind on the prize right under ya. Once he’s in your hands, he’s all yours.” They both shuffled around as they finished taking off their uniform and prepped to part ways for home. Jim grunted as he bent over to untie his dented, black boots.
“Hey Jim,” Barry asked, d-do you ever feel like you’re doin’ ‘em any wrong? Like is it always easy for you?” Jim clicked his tongue, raised his head and cackled, “Naw man. We are protecting our neighborhoods from these thugs. You hear me! Now understand me. They don’t belong here, right?”
“Right,” Barry responded unconvincingly. “We gotta protect our people from these th-thugs.”
“Now THAT’S the spirit boy,” Jim croaked as he smacked Barry right in the middle of his back. Barry jerked forward to regain his balance. The second round of protesters of the day began to loop around the building. “And THAT sounds like my call to leave” Jim called out, rolling his eyes.
“Alrighty then. I’ll see ya tomorrah,” responded Barry.
“Maybe tomorrah you‘ll get bout four of ‘em like I did. Just keep ya eyes on that prize,” Jim uttered. Barry nodded.
Deon slugged his way up the front porch. He’d just gotten off of work and the nightlife was already at it, before the sun was even fully down. The crickets sang a pitchy song and the fireflies twinkled at his doorstep. Deon twisted his key in the doorknob and heaved at the rusty door. He placed his bags down in the dent that they left on the carpeted floor, took off his shoes and hung up his sweater.
“Hey baby, I’m home! Sorry it took a little while longer than normal. There were some protesters blocking the road on my way home. They were outside of that police office and it had me wondern’ what coulda happened.” He didn’t hear a response from his wife so he walked to the kitchen to see if she had already started dinner. He whipped around the corner in an effort to surprise her, but she was in a different mood. She had on the apron that was a little too big for her petite body. She liked that apron because it brought her comfort after a long day on her feet.
“Tammy, baby what’s wrong,” Deon questioned as he stroked her arm. Tammy was in a chair and curled over the edge of the kitchen table. She couldn’t speak immediately as she was too overcome with emotions. She cried louder. “Oh baby, please tell me. Did I do something? What’s wrong? You can tell me,” Deon spoke softly as he rubbed circles on her back. Tammy struggled to lift her head. Her eyes were bloodshot and her tears had soaked her black bangs and long-sleeved shirt.
“Baby they got him–they got him baby”, Tammy screamed shakily. “They got him when he–when he was coming home. And I had-,” she took a moment to wipe the snot and tears dripping down her nose. “Baby, I had just got off the phone with him. He was on his way HOME!”
“Oh goodness,” Deon choked. The room felt like it was suddenly spinning around him. He pulled out a chair and sat next to Tammy. “Oh my lord, oh God almighty,” Deon repeated over and over again, shaking his head. He couldn’t feel his heart beating. His eyes began to sting as tears pooled just below his eyelids. They streamed down his face in a constant flow.
“Baby, he did nothing wrong,” Tammy shouted in anger.
“I-I know”, Deon spoke as he struggled to find words. They laid there, crouched over the table, deflated and defeated. They questioned themselves in pregnant silence, was he really gone?
Suddenly, there was a sound at the door. The knob twisted and the door swung open.
“Aye pops, you forgot to lock the door,” Jackson laughed as he stepped inside.
“Oh my, oh my. Jackson is that you sweetie?!” Tammy shouted as she raced to the front door.
“Yeah mama it’s m-,” he responded. She crashed into him, squeezing him. Her tears soon darkened the light blue bookbag strap on his left shoulder. Deon turned the corner to the living room, where Tammy and Jackson stood embracing. Jackson gave his dad a look that asked what was wrong with his mom.
“Son. We were very worried…we thought they got you,” Deon mumbled.
“Yeah, sorry mama. My phone died in the middle of your call,” Jackson whispered in Tammy’s ear. Jackson’s knees buckled under him from the weight of his mom’s limp body, and they collapsed to the floor. A massive wave of fear and uncertainty came over him. A single tear rolled down his cheek as he recalled seeing the protestors on his way home. Deon walked over to them, sat down, and wrapped his long arms around the both of them. Jackson remained silent but shook softly. He couldn’t believe how lucky he had been that day. He had come so close to the police, yet he was kept out of harm’s way.
The room fell silent. A few minutes passed and there were no more tears, no more of anything that anyone could say. They just sat there, rocking each other, and holding tight like the delicate petals of a rose wrapped around its center. The one question on everyone’s mind was, Who did they get?