I’m dispatched to a residence for a theft call and when I arrive I’m greeted by my complainant whose movement is limited by the oxygen hose to which she is tethered. She is wearing a sundress, the kind you can see through, but in this case, wish you couldn’t. She shuffles over to her couch and sinks down into it with a posture which says she expects this particular vignette in her unremarkable life to be just another exercise in futility. I have been to this residence many times before for calls ranging from domestic disputes to problems with her kids.
She is out of breath from having to walk the ten feet from the couch to the front door, so she puts the oxygen mask to her face and breathes from it until she can catch her breath. After she achieves this small victory she rewards herself by retrieving a lit cigarette from the ashtray on the coffee table and taking a long drag. She then puts the mask back over her face and breathes from it again; she holds the mask in her left hand and the cigarette in her right, alternating between breaths of life and death.

The suspect in the theft, her 18 year old son, sits on the easy chair opposite his mother, sullenly looking at her with the outraged indignation of the guilty, trying to somehow magically hasten his mother’s date with destiny before she can draw official notice to his alleged misdeeds. I query her as to the amount of money she alleges was taken and she says “$80” and goes on to tell me that she had a hundred dollar bill when she went to the grocery store, where she spent twenty dollars, putting the change in her purse. Complainant says that she went home where she lay down, putting her purse, containing the eighty dollars, under her pillow. She is adamant about the bills she was given as change, so I ask her, wanting to be accurate, “what denomination.” She stares at me for a moment, as if I have grown horns, before she answers “Well, when I go to church, it’s the Assembly of God,” an answer which so startles her son and I that we both laugh in unison and stop just as suddenly as both of us remember our roles in this melodrama.

Apparently, however, her son recognizes that he is taking candy from a baby and cleanses his soul through confession, an act which so captivates the fancy of my complainant, she agrees not to pursue charges and signs a Decline of Prosecution affidavit. As I pull out of the driveway I see my complainant and her son sharing a tender moment and there is a ray of hope in my heart, the hope that their goodwill towards each other lasts at least until my shift is over.

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