Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reversal

This is a short story.  It is fiction.  I am dedicating it to Officer Hebert who was laid to rest today in Beaumont, TX.

It was time to get ready for work. Time to put on the uniform. Time to pin on the badge. Time to strap on the gun holster. It was the time of day James hated the most. He sat by the front door dreading the long hours ahead. There was a time when he was the one putting on the uniform, badge, and
gun. Now he sat in his wheelchair and waited for Christina to come home. He prayed for her safety. Mostly he resented her for being able to do what he wanted to do.

Christina and James had joined the force about the same time. Both were young, single,Christian, and determined to right wrongs, fight for justice, and protect the innocent. They both earned a reputation as compassionate, honest, dependable cops. True, Christina was better at completing paperwork.
But James was fearless. More than once he volunteered to be the first officer entering a dangerous situation. The more seasoned cops cautioned him about his eagerness to lead the team into a difficult situation. They said that one day it would cost him. James thought their warnings were over protection mixed with a little jealousy.

Christina wasn’t hard to notice in the precinct. Not only was she one of less than 2% of female officers; she was drop dead gorgeous. She was even beautiful in a uniform that was intentionally designed as a display of strength and power. Those are not attributes one usually associates with females. It was difficult to look feminine in that black, ominous outfit, but Christina pulled it off without a hitch.

They started dating after just a few weeks. It didn’t take long for James to completely lose his heart to her. It took a little longer for him to convince her that they were actually soul mates who found each other at the right moment in time. Christina knew from listening to mates of other officers that good cops didn’t always make good mates. Most officers gave all they had to the force. Some had little to give when they got home—little physical, mental, and emotional support.

James had worked tirelessly to woo Christina. He spent every off-duty moment thinking of ways to convince her that they belonged together.  After a year of wooing, Christina agreed to become his wife. A year later, they started a family. Christina took some time off from work to stay home with the children. When all the kids were in school, she went back on the force part-time.

Then came the night neither would ever forget. Both were on the shift—something that rarely happened—when the call came in about a gang fight in the cemetery just outside of town. “Good,no innocent bystanders to get hurt.” James thought when the dispatcher announced the location. He and his partner, Robert, were the first to arrive on the scene. They set up the perimeter and notified dispatch where to send the other
units.

James and Robert were on the south side of the cemetery. Christina and her partner, Milton, came in on the north. Two other units covered the east and west sides. They had the cemetery surrounded. It seemed that there was at least one gang member behind every tombstone. It was like watching an old western. One side would stand up and shoot, and then the other side would retaliate.

Milton used the megaphone, “Get down on the ground. Get down on the ground. Get down on the ground.”

Nothing changed. It was as if the officers weren’t even there. Milton radioed every officer to hold their position. “No one needs to be a hero tonight.” He was hoping that the gang would run out of ammunition or just stop shooting.

The shooting went on for what seemed like forever. The gangs didn’t seem to notice that they were surrounded. James was getting tired of waiting. “I’m going in.” He radioed. “We can do this.”

Milton returned the radio call, “Anyone who goes in before the command is given will face disciplinary procedures. Understood?”

“Understood.” The call came from several radios.

James held his position—for a while. Then he saw a terrified kid trying to run out of the cemetery. The kid looked no more than 11 years old. A member of the opposing gang stood up and took aim on the kid. James saw it. There was no way he could stay where he was and watch a kid shot. He ran toward the boy, scooped him up in his arms and ran back to the patrol car. As he was running, the shot rang out and he felt a burn in his spine. He made it back to the car before collapsing. Robert called an ambulance.

Christina saw the whole episode from her patrol car. There was nothing she could do but watch her husband run while blood was seeping through his shirt. She had never felt so hopeless and helpless. Immediately, she began to pray. “Lord, please watch over my husband and bring him home to me and our children.”

As the siren of the ambulance was heard in the background, Milton turned to Christina, “You can’t get to the ambulance safely. Take the car, go out the back way and meet him at the hospital. I’ll get a ride back to the station with one of the other guys.”

Christina thought, Yeah,like I would stay here when my husband was going to the hospital.

It was hard to tell whether Christina or the ambulance got the hospital first. Both vehicles turned into the emergency room’s parking lot on It sure feels a lot more frightening from this side. She thought.

Christina called her mother-in-law, who was caring for the children and informed her of what was going on. She explained the situation in a calm, professional manner. Then she called her parents intending to repeat the explanation. But when her dad answered the phone, Christina’s emotional facade crumbled to the ground. All she could say was, “Daddy. Oh Daddy, I need you.”

A nurse noticed her inability to communicate and took the receiver from her. “Hello, this is Nurse Johnson at Central Hospital. Officer Cobb was brought to the emergency room as the result of a gunshot. I think his wife needs some support.”

“I’m on my way.” After he hung up the receiver, Christina’s dad informed her mother of the situation.

“You go to the hospital with Christina and I’ll start calling friends to pray.” She answered when he was finished.

Christina’s dad drove as if she were the one who had been shot. He could never stand to hear her cry and when she said she needed him, he felt physically ill because he wasn’t there. He ran into the emergency room, wrapped his strong arms around Christina and said, “Your mom has the entire church praying for him. Let me pray with you now.” They knelt beside one of the chairs, oblivious to anyone else in the waiting room.

It was a long night wrapped in many prayers by Christina and her dad. The doctor exited the operating room a few minutes after 4 a.m.  “We were able to remove all the fragments. He will live, but probably will not regain the use of his legs. He will require physical therapy. Just be grateful he is alive, because the chances were minimal when he arrived.”

That night changed their entire lives forever. After James regained his strength, he took care of the children and the house while Christina worked full-time. At first James was grateful for the gift the Lord had given him. He found that he enjoyed staying with the children. He hadn’t realized how much of their growing up he missed by working so much. When Christina came home, she would tell him details of her day. It made him feel like he was
there.

Lately, James had begun to resent Christina. He had loved being a peace officer and resented that she was living the life he wanted. James no longer wanted to hear about her day. He had a difficult time celebrating her successes or mourning her failures. The desire to have his own successes and failures were eating him alive. He tried to celebrate his successes at home, but comparing a well-made meatloaf to saving someone’s life hardly seemed reasonable.

This morning, waiting for her to leave, James was filled with anger, resentment, envy, and pride. He watched Christina walk down the hallway. She looked as professional and capable as she always had, but he didn’t see beauty. He just saw someone who had the life he wanted.

“Well, have a good day, Sweetie.” Christina said in a sweet voice.

“Oh, yes. I’ll have a wonderfully exciting day. I might even get to fold socks. Not every man gets to say that you know. I’m sure you wish that you had my day.” He said in such a sarcastic tone that Christina’s heart felt like she had been stabbed.

“You have done nothing but sulk for days, James. What is the matter? Sometimes I think you wish I had gotten shot instead of you.”  Christina left before the tears started, but James heard them in her voice.

Immediately, James wheeled himself into the bedroom and looked at himself in the mirror. In the mirror was a shell of a man. He was sad and pitiful. He despised pity and it sickened him to think that people felt sorry for him.

James grabbed his Bible and read several verses. Then he crawled onto the floor, laid face down, and poured out his heart to God.  “Lord, I am so sorry. I have hurt my wife and You. You gave me life a second time and I have spent the last few days angry
because it wasn’t the life I wanted. You gave me a chance to see my children grow up and a long life with my wife. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect wife and I have resented her for taking my place on the force. Please, Lord, forgive me. Help me to be a better husband and a
help mate to my wife who puts her life on the line every day for me.”


James folded socks and cooked dinner. He made beds and cleaned bathrooms. He fixed the leaky faucet.  James spent most of the day working on his attitude.

Christina came home that night to a much happier husband. They spent the evening talking, laughing, and celebrating their new found relationship.
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