By John Thomas Tuft

The officer pulls the cruiser over to the curb. He’s parked in front of a modest brick home, in a modest subdivision, of a modest suburb, of a modest city, in a most immodest country. He hates this part of the job. A car pulls in behind him. A small woman, perhaps 80 years of age, struggles out of the car, knocks on his window. “Well, c’mon and git, if you’re comin’.” He reluctantly climbs out, adjusts his Sam Browne, and escorts her up the sidewalk to the modest porch. He reaches for the doorbell. “Wait a secon’!” She carefully removes the snuff from behind her lower lip, unceremoniously dumps it in the flower bed beside her. “It’ll be good for ‘em.” The officer watches, bemused. “You ready?” She nods and he rings the bell.

The door is opened by a woman in her 40s, who looks so tired it makes the officer gulp. She takes in his oh so neatly pressed uniform, with all the accoutrements of force hanging on the wide black belt. Fear widens her pupils. “Ma’am, can we come in?” She pushes on the door. “Did you find him?” “Is your husband home, as well?” The older woman elbows him aside, “Let us in, Honey. It ain’t good news.” The officer knows it’s pointless to resist.  “No, my husband’s out preaching a revival. Did you find my boy?” The officer takes a deep breath as the older woman perches on the modest couch, feet dangling. “Yer man ain’t here?” she demands to know, making a tsk-ing sound.

The officer breaks the news as gently as he can. “Your boy’s at the Medical Center. The nurse called about a 16 year old male, severely beaten, they’re not sure…,” he hesitates. “We’re looking for who might have done it. But we need more information.” The mother twists at a tissue in her hands, says softly, “Maybe he’d be better off dead.” The older woman clucks, “You don’t mean that now.” The mother’s anguish is all too real. “You don’t know what it’s like. We had a perfect little boy, all happy and wild…,” her voice catches. “And then one day. One day he tells you…” The officer swallows hard. “Ma’am, he needs you now. Can his father come home?” She shakes her head. “When he ran away from that place that’s supposed to fix him, well, his father washed his hands of him.” The older woman pipes up. “He ain’t got rabies! He needs his momma and his daddy. Lord Almighty!”

“But it’s not right. It’s not natural, him being that way.” The mother is defiant, or maybe defeated. The woman on the couch rubs at her lower lip. “What’s unnatral’ about wantin’ love, Honey?” The officer tries another tack. “Is there someone we could call for you?” “Oh heavens, no,” she worries. “We don’t want people to know. They’ve been praying for him all these years. Fat lot that’s done.” The older woman hops down off the couch. “I need my snuff.” The officer steps in. “Destiny, settle down.” The mother worries aloud. “Maybe I should call his father…just in case.”

“You know, don’t ya?” Destiny steps toward her. “If that boy of yours dies, what’s goin’ ta happen? I’ll tell ya what’s goin’ to happen!” She draws herself up to all 4’10” of herself. “Jesus himself is goin’ to meet him at them Pearly Gates. That’s right, I tell ya.” She’s spittin’ fire now. “This is pitiful, as my Momma used to say. Damn pitiful. Jesus is goin’ to say, ‘Boy, cum here.’ And Jesus’ goin’ to spread his arms wide and say, ‘Boy, let me hang on yer neck!’ And he ain’t talkin’ about no fool gold cross. Hell no. Where I come from, hangin’ on your neck means let me give you a forever hug. A forever hug, I tell ya’!”

The officer realizes he’s done all he can do and shows himself out. He pauses on the porch as the voices still reach him. “You don’t know,” protests the mother. “You don’t know what it’s like. You want the best for your child. But then he turns out to be…one of those!” The officer recognizes the deadly quiet that follows. A storm is abrewin’. “Child, let me tell you sumthin’.” He goes down the first step. “Why in God’s name do you think I’m here?” He takes the second step. “I don’t know you from a turkey squat.” He reaches the sidewalk. “Fer crackin’ ice on a tin fiddle, that fine policeman is my boy. MY BOY. He’s ‘one of those’ thank ya very much!”

The officer climbs into his cruiser. Glances in his rearview mirror. Spots the colorful yarn of the Eye of God, dangling from his mother’s mirror.  Keys open the radio mike. Clears the static. “Destiny’s Child. Destiny’s child here. Back in service. Over.” And drives away along the very modest street.

Words are magic, and writers are wizards.