Joe Granato Short Fiction 3/31/11 Waiting Room A cop looks a certain way sitting in a hospital waiting room. The holy glow of a single vending machine, casting that dim light across my face. This old Irish mug. Any minute some doctor is going to call out, “Officer Kish, the young man you opened fire on tonight, I’m sorry, we lost him, sir.” That’s what they’re all waiting for. Every Jewish broad, sitting up in her wheelchair. Every old guy with cancer in his gut. I know how this works. They see a cop in a hospital and assume I must have mistakenly killed some damn kid. That ain’t me. The good virgin knows, that ain’t me. That’s not something a man my age wants pinned on his soul. I rubbed my bad leg, disrupting the long pleat of navy blue. It hurts more than usual today. Our station lost a lot of good guys the past few years, a lot of good cops. No one died. They all left. Transferred. It takes a certain kind of cop to work the gang unit. Some days it makes you want to puke. Other days, you do. The new guys especially. Usually in the back parking lot of Blanton City high school. They try to hide it. Wandering off behind the old Athletics shed, or just pulling their jacket up to hide their young face as they loose their lunch on the asphalt. If you ever visit Blanton County, which you wouldn’t, they’d probably take you down Main Street, to the old train museum or maybe east, to see the strip of boiler plants. They wouldn’t take you to the West end. They wouldn’t take you to the parking lot behind Blanton City high school. Because they wouldn’t want you see half a dozen cops, watching a seventeen-year-old gang member, kick another member’s face in, under a beautiful night sky. No one else should have to see this. We’re too small and too poorly paid to control gang activity. So instead we organize chaperoned fights between gangs. Not usually the between leaders, but tonight was a special night. I sat on the hood of my squad car and watched the seventeen-year-old as he circled the tall boy who lay at his feet. The air smelled incredibly fresh tonight. And every time the toe of his boot met with the tall boy’s face, an unexplainable rush swept through my worn body. To watch something this powerful unfold in front of us, night after night, felt like we were stuck doing God’s work. Work that shouldn’t be asked of anyone. Work a man my age doesn’t want pinned on his soul. Work, that makes me look a certain way, when I’m sitting in a hospital. “Officer Kish” A stiff voice called from across the waiting room. “I’m sorry sir but…” I already knew the boy had died. I pulled myself up, shifting most of my weight off of my bum leg. I’ve lost most feeling in it now.