ASSEMBLY

By Bernadette Crumb

c. May 2001


The metal folding chair was hard against his back, and his knees complained from sitting for so long in one position. Standing wouldn't help, he knew; they'd ache from that too. I guess my age is catching up with me.

He glanced at the woman on his right and wondered, suddenly, what she was thinking, seated in the front row of the assembly. Her dress was sober, as befitted the occasion, and her hands clutched at a handkerchief hastily dug up from the plain black handbag. Oh, Jean, please don't cry. I never know what to do when women cry. He was relieved when her elderly mother, seated on Jean's right, reached over and patted her daughter's hand. He turned sideways in his seat, looking back over the rows behind him, and was surprised at how many guests he recognized.

Well, I'll be! Even Ed Wells is here. I thought he'd never come back after he won the lottery and moved upstate. Mac's looking his age today--I guess events like this really make him feel it.

Brinkman was whispering something to his wife, while Culver, who everyone still teased about his resemblance to Reed, slouched down in his seat, his eyes on the printed program he held. Others from the station had been filing in to take their seats as the clock on the back wall quietly ticked away the seconds.

Jean suddenly nudged him, and he turned to face the slightly raised platform. Chaplain Carpenter had moved to the lectern, and raised his hands in invitation, "Let us pray.

"Oh, Lord, Thy love is a protection unto us, salving our spirits and guarding us from evil. May it find open hearts here, among those sworn to uphold right and to protect Thy people, even unto the giving of their lives, as did Thy Sonů"

He could feel moisture welling up in his closed eyes as the priest completed his invocation. Too many have lost their lives doing this job. And the streets haven't changed much over the years. Lost faces welled up along with the tears and he forced them back into his memory, unwilling to face the emotional burden at this time.

Even as he blinked back the tears, he felt Jean's hand curl around his own, giving him her handkerchief with a squeeze. He squeezed back in thanks, and quickly wiped his face as the Chaplain stood down and the Police Commissioner took the stand. He didn't really pay a lot of attention to the speech. It was probably the same speech he'd heard dozens of times in his career about the nobility of the profession and the special type of person it took to be a good cop. Instead, he looked at the young men and women standing at attention across the back of the platform.

They look so damned young! Did I ever look that earnest and tense? I must have; I was a rookie once too. Too bad that Val Moore couldn't make it today, but the doc wouldn't let him out of the hospital. I told him he was headed for a heart attack after he pulled that 72 hours straight during the riots. He was too old ... I'm too old!

The Commissioner concluded his remarks and the Chief of Police took his place. "We police don't often have an opportunity to celebrate the good things of our careers. Generally, we pull together when one of us is in danger, or is lost. It is one of our strengths that we can do that. But today isn't a day for mourning, but for celebration as the Police Academy Class of 1990 joins the force. The Academy Commandant will present the badges." He turned toward the men and women ranked behind and to his right. "Please step forward as your name is called."

"Officer Samantha Baker. Officer Richard Blake. Officer Michael Cruz. Officer George Hinton. Officer Timothy King." The official photographer's equipment flashed along with each name, catching the moment for memory and the archives.

The recitation of names continued as he looked at the program he held. He usually just pitched them in a wastebasket on his way out, but this one he intended to keep.

"Officer Natayla Oriniski. Officer Mary Orwell. Officer Jason Rancher."

He looked up, not wanting to miss the next presentation. He felt Jean grab the handkerchief from him, heard her sniffle into it. I knew she'd cry.

"Officer James Reed, Jr."

Pete Malloy felt a lump in his throat as a tall, slender young man stepped forward. He was just as tall as the Commandant, and the older man's features were mirrored in the younger. Jim Reed's hair was sprinkled with gray now, but his eyes were the same blue as his son's. The two pairs of eyes met, and as Reed's long fingers pinned on the badge, Jim, Jr. flashed a quick smile at his dad before resuming the serious mien appropriate to the occasion.

Reed moved on down the line as the roll call of names went on, but Pete didn't really hear them. He was remembering the first time he'd seen Jim Reed, Sr., a nervous rookie.

I don't think either of us would have dreamed of this way back then. You've done good, partner. You've done good.


This came to me in a dream... literally. Thanks to Cathy for the great website which inspired it!

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