SUBMISSION FROM M. BLAKE - July 21st 2005
driver, H, did most of the talking on the ride, which
seemed longer than it actually was because of some heavy
rush hour traffic along this stretch of highway. He was
Saudi Arabian, a good-looking, thin man in his early thirties,
and had been in the country four years. He had worked
at the blood bank for over a year, and he had a few beefs
with the law, who had stopped him several times during
his employment. H claimed he was stopped because of his
Arabian looks, and that even when he presented his papers
– all in legal order – he had been detained.
Simmer thought that there might have been something to
the claims, particularly after the events of 9-11. There
had been plenty of stories of Arab-Americans being harassed
all over the country.
Simmer, with a beer buzz on, looked as sympathetic as
he could. The man would probably have similar problems
for a few years to come, as long as the U.S. had troops
over in the Middle East.
H stressed the fact, again and again, that his people
were good people; they were people who helped others because
that is what their religion dictated to them. By helping
others, they helped themselves in the eyes of their God.
It was a way of life for his people.
H took Simmer into Paterson, New Jersey, and Simmer immediately
thought of William Carlos Williams, the doctor and poet
who wrote a long poem with the city’s name as the
title. Of course, things had changed since the poet had
written about the place; yet Simmer wondered what, if
anything, had remained essentially the same. He had read
some of the Paterson poem years before but couldn’t
recall any of it, remembering some of Williams’
shorter poems instead.
H took Simmer to his home neighborhood and pointed out
two street corner places – a café and restaurant
– where Simmer could talk to truck drivers who might
give him a long ride.
in and tell them that I dropped you off,” H said,
though Simmer wished that H would step through the door
with him. “These are good people. They will help
you. Trust me.”
Simmer very much wanted to trust the man with the warm
brown eyes and the flashing smile. In fact, he knew H
wasn’t trying to steer him wrong. The man, like
the city bus driver before him, had good intentions.
Yet, upon entering the café, Simmer knew things
weren’t going to work out for him here. The people
looked curious as to why he even stepped into the place,
in this neighborhood. They didn’t see too many white
men around here, and not one with a knapsack and wearing
casual summer wear, as if he had just stepped out of a
sporting goods ad.
Simmer was immediately aware of a pungent aroma of food
and he heard Eastern music. He saw some dark skinned men
sitting at tables, talking, and he noticed some of them
looking him over. Simmer smiled at a woman behind the
counter and almost bowed his way out the door.
He didn’t even bother with the other place, but
instead set out to find a market, for a beer, and then
an on ramp. He found the market, but not the ramp.
Dee took him to sit under some trees near to the highway,
and Simmer could hear the traffic, but he never did see
the ramp. By then it was too late to thumb anyway. They
sat on some litter-covered ground and shared the pint
of vodka. Both were already quite drunk, for Simmer had
bought a bottle earlier. That one Dee and a friend of
hers had helped kill. All Simmer was sure of was that
he was in some part of Paterson.
Dee was a skinny black woman with red dye in her hair
and make-up on her face to make her look younger, but
up close one could tell she’d been around the block
a few times. This very one, and a few others around it,
no doubt. She had the sadness of hard experience in her
brown eyes, but life on the street hadn’t killed
all the warmth in her. She, like Simmer, was a drunk,
but she didn’t mind being friendly when she was.
She was curious as to what brought this “white boy”
to a Black-Hispanic neighborhood in Paterson, New Jersey,
and Simmer was happy to tell her a story – one of
which he was almost convinced of himself.
He was on his way to Houston to visit his friend, Karen,
who had cancer and was undergoing treatment and needed
company. She had little family in the area and had been
feeling depressed of late. Simmer, the true friend, was
on his way out to cheer her up over the winter months.
It was a story that touched just about everyone Simmer
had told it to – particularly women when he mentioned
the breast cancer.
Dee was no exception. She leaned on him and told him everything
would be all right.
doing the right thing,” she said. “She needs
somebody. And don’t say she’s dying.”
This when Simmer mentioned that Karen might be, and that
she might not have that much time ahead of her. “Don’t
say that word. Don’t think like that.”
I try not to, he thought. He tried not to think about
anybody he knew dying. Yet just recently an old school
friend of his had past on, and thoughts of death had been
with him for a few days, with Karen and her cancer coming
to the fore. It seemed that the doctors may have gotten
it all by taking the one breast, but you never knew when
it came to that and all of the chemo treatment that went
going to give you this for good luck,” Dee said,
putting a small silver necklace around his neck. It had
some kind of charm on it that she said would give Simmer
good luck on his trip.
you,” he said, touched. “I won’t take
it off until I get there. And then I’ll give it
to her as a present from my friend, Dee, in Paterson,
New Jersey.” She liked that.
Dee was thinking about one more drink, but Simmer was
almost tapped. He gave her his last dollar and a half.
Dee thanked him for the good time and told him she was
going to help him. She took him down a nearby side street
and knocked on a door. It was opened by a serious looking
black man, whom she stepped close to and said something
that Simmer didn’t hear. The man looked at Simmer
and then back at her.
where’s he gonna go around here?” she said.
“I’ll make it up to you.” A smile and
touch of his arm.
the man said, and he opened the door further.
with him, baby,” Dee said. “He’ll take
care of you.”
Simmer thanked her, trusting her in his alcoholic haze.
The man led him, by flashlight, through what was clearly
an abandoned building at one time, through dark and ruined
looking rooms with objects that Simmer couldn’t
make out. They went through a couple of large rooms, walking
on concrete, before starting up some stairs. The guide
led the way expertly through this surrealistic setting;
their steps echoed. It reminded Simmer, drunk, of some
of the amusement park horror houses he went into as a
kid, and he half expected someone in costume to jump out
But he had another surprise waiting for him on the third
floor. After going through another door, Simmer saw a
candlelit room with mattresses on the floor, a table and
chairs, and empty bottles and cans scattered about. The
living quarters: a squat.
The man, fairly tall and muscular, pointed to one of the
want a blanket?”
don’t think I’ll need one,” Simmer said,
sitting on the mattress, with his pack next to him.
his host said, tossing a blanket from another mattress.
“You might need it later.”
Simmer thanked him and lay back exhausted. He had done
quite a bit of walking that day and it hadn’t done
anything for the blisters on his feet. He thought about
removing his sneakers to let his feet air out, but he
passed out before getting around to it.
When he came to, the candles were out and he was confused
as to where he was. It came back to him when he felt his
pack. He thought he heard the breathing of someone nearby
– presumably the man who had walked him up here.
He felt in his pocket for the usual bottle but it wasn’t
there. Shit, had he spent everything he had? He at least
had his wallet on him. Without question, he was still
drunk and he decided that he wanted to move – somewhere.
He stood up with his pack, but the other man was awake.
you going, man?” he asked.
somewhere,” Simmer said.
not a good idea,” the man said. “No man, why
don’t you go back to bed? There’s nothing
out there now.” The man got up and guided Simmer
back to his mattress.
you’re right,” Simmer said, suddenly seeing
the man was right. He was in no condition to go anywhere.
He and the other man chuckled as he lay down again.
When he woke up and saw daylight coming through a window
– a pale grayish light – Simmer had the feeling
that this day was going to be the biggest test of his
trip so far. After a quick check of his wallet, he saw
that he was broke. The money that was supposed to have
gotten him at least halfway to Texas was gone, in Jersey.
Paterson, NJ to be specific, but he didn’t know
exactly where that was on the map. He realized he didn’t
have a map.
The other guy was up early too. He had to find work, he
said. And he led Simmer down through the old, mostly empty
ruin of a place that was as gray and dismal looking as
the morning they stepped out into. A brisk breeze hit
them as they stood on the walk in front of the dirty brick
building (something left over from a prosperous era).
Simmer thanked the man; they grinned at each other and
shook their heads, and they were on their respective ways.
On rounding a corner of the small street, Simmer immediately
recognized the yellow sign of the liquor store he’d
been in the previous night. He saw the small, tightly
packed streets running off from the busy main street that
already had traffic, both people and cars, on it. He now
could see the highway in the daylight, and the place that
had been privately dark for Dee and him the night before
(now only ugly and littered). He still, blessedly, felt
the alcohol, for his head didn’t hurt – yet.
It was then he noticed – thinking it was a bug on
his neck – the necklace charm Dee had given him.
What the hell, he’d keep it on, though he didn’t
care for jewelry.
Getting out of Paterson wasn’t easy. Just about
all the traffic taking the nearest ramp was headed for
New York, or in that direction. He had to walk the small
old streets looking for another ramp, asking directions
from several people. He noticed how the prosperity of
another time had now fallen into urban decay, an overcrowded,
dirty looking place with a history. He even noticed a
stone castle on a hill, mostly hidden by trees, and that
could have been a symbol for that past, almost completely
Finally, he caught a ride, and Simmer was thrilled for
a short time, only to be suddenly disappointed at where
he was left off, on the side of I-80, with branches of
highway going off in all directions. All he could see
were curving overpasses around him, as the air from the
passing traffic almost blew him over. His hat blew off
and he had to run thirty yards to get it, his bag swinging
wildly over his back.
Simmer knew he wasn’t supposed to be here; it was
strictly illegal for anyone to be walking along the interstate.
Yet he wasn’t sure where to go. The highway forked,
and the driver had gone north, letting him off here, with
no off ramp in sight.
A truck with lights on it pulled up, and Simmer wondered
if this was some kind of new cop vehicle, but it was an
emergency truck of some kind. The driver had a surprised
smile on his face and he shook his head.
you doin out here?” he asked, as Simmer held on
to his hat.
just got let off about two minutes ago,” Simmer
said. “Do you know where the nearest ramp is?”
nearest ramp?” The man still had a little smile
on his face. “The nearest ramp’s about ten
miles up that way.” He pointed down I-80.
quite a ways up there.”
man. I was thinking maybe a mile.” Simmer looked
back down the highway, east, expecting to see the law
appear any time. He looked back at the driver with a hopeful
expression. The man still had that stupid little smile
on his face.
better not let the state troopers catch you out here,”
know,” Simmer said, with a grin of his own. He waited
for the offer of a ride, but it never came.
put you in jail for that.”
The truck started moving.
good luck, man,” the driver said, still shaking
his head. The truck moved along in the breakdown lane.
That fucker, Simmer thought. Granted it wasn’t an
emergency, but the man clearly wasn’t busy at the
Simmer looked off to the side (he had no choice) and he
did see a ramp in the distance, on the highway going north.
He could see an overpass. If he could get over there without
the cops seeing him, at least he could get off the highway
and think what to do next.
He did it and ended up in an industrial park full of buildings
with mirror-like windows you couldn’t see through
and company names he’d never heard of. He went into
one building and asked for directions to the closest route
west. After some thought, two office workers gave him
directions that put him on a road that was quite pleasant
indeed, and not that far away. Simmer went by a scenic
park with a brook running through it and then on along
a wooded road toward 46 West. He passed a large group
of ducks in someone’s yard, and eventually he found
himself walking parallel to the Passaic River. He felt
lighthearted in getting away from the highway and one
of its busiest stretches. This is what he’d been
after, the country away from the interstates.
He fingered Dee’s charm with a smile. He had no
money and no “prospects”, and he liked it
that way. He didn’t know what he was out here for
but he was healthy and he could move well and he was quick
to laugh. He had the thick green of trees around him and
the river nearby if he wanted a bath. When he got to 46,
he’d stick out his thumb.
Simmer decided he’d knock on a few restaurant doors
too if he had the chance; he might get a night’s
work. As he moved along, he somehow knew he had it made.
He felt truly good about himself and his life, and he
knew that feeling only came along once in a while. He
thrived on it now and it put some bounce in his step.
He reflected on how unpredictable life was. In this one
day he had woken up in an abandoned building squat, walked
through quite a few city streets, been let out of a car
on a major interstate, and was now walking along a picturesque,
tree shaded road. And the day wasn’t anywhere near
He had a long way to go to Houston, but that city was
useful as a projected destination. It wasn’t that
he didn’t want to see Karen, but he wasn’t
sure he wanted to settle down just yet. It was just fall
season. There was no rush in getting to Texas. Once there,
the trip was over. He wasn’t in any great hurry
to settle into another routine.
saw one of the big, nationally known retail stores and
thought he could find a bench to sit on in front of that
and stay dry. He could sit and nurse a spiked coffee,
read poetry and watch the people going in and out of the
store. There was even a nationally known fast food restaurant
inside the store where he could get his coffee.
It was going to be an uncomfortable night for him. Not
only was it going to rain through the night, but a damp
chill had set in. Simmer was a little wet now as he stepped
into the crowded store. It took him a few moments to adjust
to the bright lights and the bodies everywhere.
Simmer went to the restaurant and got his coffee. In the
restroom, he added vodka. Then he sat at a table (one
of two available) and took out his book. Yet he knew he
wouldn’t get much reading done in this place. Next
to the restaurant was an arcade area, and the sound of
games (the explosions, gun fire, barking voices, music
and other sound effects) couldn’t be ignored. Simmer
heard a Beatles’ song playing over the sound system.
And then there was just the general noise made by hundreds
of people making their way here and there in a very large
building. This store was busier than any other he had
ever seen; he had a good slice of working to middle class
America in front of him, from the old and crippled to
crying infants, families, couples, groups of teenagers,
people at the tables around him just shooting the shit
over coffee. Simmer could see that it was a gathering
place to socialize for many; the store was their destination
for that night, as it was for him. Of course, in this
part of the country it was a predominantly white throng.
Simmer had his coffee, read a little poetry, and then
decided that the lights and the noise weren’t what
he wanted. He decided to go back outside to see if he
could find a quiet place to sit and wait for the store
to close. He had the idea that he would go behind the
building then and look for a place to sleep. He had done
it behind other large stores such as this many times.
Often, there were parked truck trailers next to the loading
docks and he could crawl under one of those to get out
of the rain.
At the side of the building, Simmer saw a roofed structure
with picnic tables under it, a break place for the employees.
It didn’t have much light around it, or not enough
to read by anyway, but it would do.
He sat at the end of one table and listened to a small
group of employees talk about the job as employees everywhere
talk about their workplace. Most of it was complaining
of course, with some gossip thrown in, and it made Simmer
smile to hear it. He remembered being part of group sessions
like this on the many jobs he’d had over the years,
the gathering of disgruntled employees. Feeling overworked
and underpaid, but not knowing how to get away from it.
The big topic this night was the loss of power at the
store earlier that day, apparently the effects of the
storm. Apparently there had been difficulty with the computerized
cash registers. Simmer was a little surprised that a big
store like this had been affected at all. Usually, there
were emergency generators to fall back on.
Anyway, the few, powerless hours that afternoon provided
the excitement for the day and the talk reflected it.
Simmer had his shoes off, airing his feet out. He had
done more walking than he wanted to that day, and it might
have been a frustrating day overall if he hadn’t
gotten that last ride with the trucker. That ride had
topped the day off nicely, talking to a friendly guy like
that and making good distance at the same time.
The driver had asked him one question before he got out
and Simmer still thought about it now. The man wanted
to know if Simmer was a religious man or not. Earlier
in the ride, the driver had mentioned that he considered
himself to be a good Christian man, and those words came
back to Simmer. Though the man hadn’t come across
as the preaching type; he hadn’t mentioned it again,
and there was only that question at the end of the ride.
Simmer told the driver that he had never been a church
going man; he wasn’t raised in that kind of family.
He had been to church shelters around the country and
attended services there, and had even looked into the
Bible now and then. But none of that really affected him.
He believed in being the best man he could be in his dealings
with others, and that any goodness he had would rub off
on the next person. He tried to keep some kind of faith
in that way. A way of making a better world.
As far as God went, well, Simmer believed that was a private
affair between an individual and whatever deity he or
she believed in, and the same with atheists and their
non-belief on the other side of the coin. He thought that
strong beliefs like that were the right of every individual,
but he distrusted soapbox orators, politicians and preachers.
He didn’t like things thrust on him, and when they
were he was immediately on his guard.
The driver nodded his head to that answer and smiled.
people I know are in church all the time,” he said.
“And still they know nothing about being a Christian.
And then I meet someone like you who never goes to church
and I’d bet you’re closer to it than most
of them. I sense that.” And he wished Simmer well.
Simmer thought about that now as he sat by the big store,
listening to the chatter from the group of employees gathered
next to him. The truck driver may have been right. Simmer
did like to think that he had a spiritual side, something
to help guide him along in being the best man he could
be, or to get him to try anyway. He knew he had always
had a conscience, and that would be with him for the rest
of his days. There was no shrugging that off like a piece
The group of employees went back inside. The steady rain
continued. Simmer had his only sweatshirt on and he decided
to put his one pair of long pants on – his sleep
outfit. He pulled the pants on over his shorts and was
just buttoning them up when some other employees came
out. One older woman had seen him buttoning the pants,
but she didn’t say anything.
Simmer sat back and listened to this new group talk. He
even took a surreptitious hit off his bottle. It wouldn’t
be long now; the employees were already discussing the
store’s closing procedures. If there were no place
to sleep behind this store he would find another near
here. It shouldn’t be too hard on a night like this
in a small town. A darkened doorway behind one of the
businesses, some cardboard or newspaper for cushion.
He had put his sneakers back on and was thinking about
another drink when a man suddenly stood in front of him,
a heavyset man with a big nose and big lips, pointing
a finger at Simmer.
you the one with your pants down, playing with yourself
in front of my little girls?” he demanded.
It took Simmer a few seconds to realize the man was serious,
and then a few more seconds to see that he was angry on
top of that. Angry enough to stand right in front of him
and appear ready to swing on him.
Simmer said, his mind working furiously now as adrenalin
shot through his body.
had your pants down over here.”
It suddenly occurred to Simmer that someone had seen him
pulling his pants on a short time before (What had it
been, twenty minutes or so?).
I never had my pants down. What are you talking about?”
The big-shouldered man stared at Simmer as if undecided
about whether to hit him or not.
just been sitting here, minding my own business,”
said a nervous Simmer, glancing at the employees sitting
at the other end of his table.
stay right there,” the man said, still pointing
his finger. “I know who you are. Don’t think
about going anywhere.”
He walked off toward the store entrance.
got no reason to go anywhere,” Simmer said, to no
one in particular. Yet this sudden turn in his night had
shaken him. Sure, he remembered pulling his pants on over
his shorts, but he hadn’t been undressed, or playing
with himself, as the man said. And who had complained
He looked out at the parking lot and the many wet shiny
vehicles parked in the rows. He saw nothing but dark windows.
Faster than he expected, the big angry man (he looked
like a construction worker) returned with a Hispanic man
with a walkie-talkie. Behind that man came another with
his caller in his hand. Store security. One of the walkie-talkies
crackled from someone talking.
The big man stood in front of Simmer again, as if to prevent
him from dashing off into the night. Another security
person arrived at the scene. There was no doubt that this
was the big excitement for the night.
little girl saw him with his pants down out here. She
said he was doing something at her.”
Simmer looked at the Hispanic man, who appeared to be
never did anything like that,” he said, but then
turned his eyes back to the man in front of him.
here playing with himself,” the man said. “Scared
the hell out of my girl.”
It looked like he would swing now, and the Hispanic man
sensed it also. He stepped forward and put his hand on
the man’s arm, which the angry man quickly shrugged
off. He stepped closer to Simmer, who didn’t know
what to do as he was pinned against the table essentially.
He was ready to throw his arms up in front of his face
The Hispanic man tried to pull the other back and Simmer’s
accuser pushed him away.
the fuck away from me, man!” The big man balled
his fists at the security man.
okay,” the security man said, holding his hands
up. “Just don’t hit him on the property. Okay?
We’ll call the cops. John, call the state police.”
This to one of his assistants, who moved off quickly.
Now, a couple more guys from security appeared. It must
have been the whole squad, Simmer thought. They stood
in a half circle around him to discourage any thoughts
of escape, apparently. Simmer’s accuser, after a
last angry look at him, moved off down the sidewalk to
where a woman and two girls stood against the building.
One of the girls, the oldest, looked to be twelve or thirteen,
the other a couple years younger. The mother, a blond
woman in her thirties, had an arm around each of them.
Simmer felt a little sick now. His night had all too suddenly
turned into a serious nightmare. So much for a few quiet
hours to himself behind a building. The thought of the
state police becoming involved really made him nervous.
A felony charge? Jail time?
Looking around, Simmer realized that a small crowd had
gathered, and that every eye was on him. He didn’t
look at any one face for long, for he sensed that none
of them would be friendly. When he looked at the Hispanic
security man, the guy looked away from him, staying professionally
distant. Simmer heard one of the store employees mutter
something about him being drunk.
That’s all, he thought. I’ve got a buzz on,
sure. But I didn’t have my wanker out in front of
some little girl. I didn’t have my pants down in
any way. There was obviously a misunderstanding.
At that moment, Simmer knew things looked bad for him.
He was a stranger on foot, or a tramp with a backpack,
and he wasn’t exactly sober. Yet though he was nervous
and a little worried now waiting for the law, what held
Simmer up in those long minutes was the fact that he knew
he was innocent of the charges. He didn’t have any
guilt working through him. He had to believe that things
would work out.
The two cops showed up – detectives in suits –
and asked where the guy was. Simmer was pointed out and
the detectives hustled him up against the building.
on the building!” one of them barked. “Spread
your legs.” The other one patted him down.
This was the show the crowd waited for, like an episode
from one of the TV cop shows so popular these days. Criminal
apprehended. Hancuffed and stuffed into the backseat of
the cruiser. Get the pervert out of here.
Simmer saw the big angry father talking with one of the
detectives, who nodded his short, styled haircut to everything
the man said. Yes, things didn’t look good for him:
a local yokel “justifiably upset” and protective
of his young daughter’s innocence. Which girl was
it? Simmer wondered.
The state police barracks was a few miles away, outside
of town, it seemed. They took Simmer in through the back
door, and into what looked to be a small office room with
florescent lighting, one desk and two chairs. They stood
him in one corner of the room, where a shackle was attached
to the floor, and they cuffed him at the ankle. They must
really think I’m dangerous, he thought.
The two detectives left the room, and Simmer was left
to look at his dirty blue bag sitting on the table. A
sad and rumpled looking bundle under the bright light.
He only hoped they didn’t find his bottle, for he
had the feeling he would need it if they ever released
him this night.
Henry,” said one of the detectives, a few minutes
later. “Let’s sit down and have a talk about
what happened. We can take this off you.” The cop
unshackled Simmer and gestured for him to have a seat
at the table. The cop sat opposite him. He had wide-open
blue eyes that stayed wide open as if he were continuously
surprised by something.
Simmer related to the detective what had happened outside
the store. He told of how he had come to be there and
about his hitchhiking trip west.
you don’t know the trucker’s name who dropped
you off?” the cop asked.
you’ve never been here before?”
I’d only been here a couple hours at the most when
it happened.” He mentioned the exact ramp the trucker
had dropped him off at.
The detective mentioned that he had talked with a couple
of the store employees, and a couple of them said they
had seen him with his pants down. Simmer explained that
he was actually pulling a pair of pants on, as he did
every night when it got chilly.
The detective wanted to see the color of Simmer’s
shorts (dark blue). He wanted to know why the fly to Simmer’s
pants was halfway down.
always does that,” Simmer said. “Thrift store
pants. They don’t fit right.”
And this guy thinks my whole story is as thin as my pants,
he thought. He knew they were doing a thorough check on
him in the other room.
Still, he knew the cops wouldn’t find anything on
him and he knew he was innocent of the charges against
him. His mistake had been to slip the pants on outside
the building and not inside in the bathroom, but he just
hadn’t thought of someone sitting in a car on this
The wide-eyed detective left the room for a few minutes.
Simmer felt like reaching into his bag that was next to
him and having a drink, but he figured they had a camera
The other cop came in and asked if he wanted a coffee
or a soda. Simmer accepted a coffee.
Then Wide Eyes returned and resumed questioning. He said
that a store employee claimed to have seen Simmer with
his ass showing. Simmer maintained that he had never exposed
his ass or his private parts at anytime; he mentioned
the fact that the lighting was poor under the shelter
next to the building. Perhaps someone thought they saw
something, he suggested.
I had done something wrong, why would I hang around?”
It seemed to him that he was making a positive impression
on the cop, although the guy was a hardened pro, no doubt
about that. He was the senior man of the team and had
most likely participated in hundreds of interviews like
this. He was looking for any weakness or crack in Simmer’s
story, and he also threw in questions about Simmer himself,
trying to get some kind of “personality profile”.
Simmer decided right away that the best course would be
to stick to his guns and be straight with the cop. He
had nothing to hide, so why act in any way to suggest
that he did? It was the cops’ job to try and dig
something out of him and the questioning would take some
time. Wide Eyes assured Simmer that he hadn’t been
arrested for anything. They just wanted to get to the
bottom of this. At one point, the cop told Simmer (a little
exasperated by that time) to calm down, that there was
no reason to get excited.
just asking you some questions, Henry,” he said.
“I’m trying to keep things at a certain level
here. If you keep getting worked up, I’m going to
have to turn things up on you. You don’t want that,
No, Simmer definitely didn’t want that. A real grilling
would probably involve the other cop too, and neither
of them friendly at all to this outsider thumbing through
their town. They could make things miserable for him,
he was sure of that.
you maintain that at no time while you were on store property
did you expose yourself to anybody or pull your pants
down?” the cop asked, for the third time at least.
“You didn’t wave your cock at that girl?”
And that is what Simmer maintained; he hadn’t wavered
from that. In fact, he hadn’t seen the girls until
after store security arrived.
well, we’re going to have to look at the store tapes
and see what they show,” Wide Eyes said, before
leaving the room again.
The other cop came in again and asked Simmer if he wanted
a refill. Simmer accepted some water and a pack of crackers,
for he didn’t know how long this was going to go
on. For all he knew he might spend the night.
The store tapes might show him taking a drink, but they
would definitely clear him of the exposure charge. The
tape would show the girl’s story for what it was,
and the same for the father’s reaction. A typical
small town redneck, Simmer thought. He had known plenty
of them growing up in his small town. The kind that were
quick to react, and violently, before they had all the
facts. Perhaps the guy had a few, after work beers in
him too, which Simmer wouldn’t have been surprised
Wide Eyes had suggested that Simmer had been alone with
one of the girls for a few minutes, which Simmer emphatically
denied. He could only imagine what kind of case they were
trying to build against him, fed by details from the self
righteous father and the young girl swept up in the sudden
excitement. Simmer hoped that the father, tired of the
whole thing and thinking about work the next morning,
would let it drop. He hoped that the girl would be honest
about what she saw.
As far as the store employee who supposedly saw him with
his ass out went, well that person was just a bullshitter.
No one has a navy blue ass, and that was the color of
his shorts. That person had strayed from the harmless
gossip of the store to false verification of a serious
charge. Simmer wondered if it was that woman who saw him
buttoning his pants.
Finally, after the longest wait yet, Wide Eyes returned
with a manila file in his hand – the official report
typed out, Simmer figured. The cop exhaled slowly as if
he were tired too and wanted to go home.
we’ve established now that you didn’t intentionally
expose yourself to anyone, or make any obscene gestures
at the girl.”
The daddy must have gotten the truth out of the girl,
know that now, Henry,” Wide Eyes said. “But
we think that at some time while you were putting your
pants on, somebody saw your ass. We’re not saying
it was intentional. Your shorts might have slipped down
accidentally. All we’re saying is that your bare
ass might have been exposed.” He looked at Simmer,
and now that look was almost a tired glare, as if he were
saying: “C’mon, Henry, let’s get this
over with. We’re all tired. Just admit to this one
Earlier, the man had said that one of two things could
happen for Simmer: either he could walk out of that place
or he could be taken to jail. Now the cop was asking him
to admit to this “accidental” exposure, yet
did that mean he would still walk out?
Besides, there was no exposure at all. Why should he compromise?
Simmer insisted that his shorts had never fallen down;
he had a belt around them. Wide Eyes repeated his questions
again, and then finally got up from the table.
right, Henry,” he said. “I guess we’ll
have to keep trying to get to the bottom of this.”
He sounded disappointed.
Simmer had become frustrated too. What did they have to
get to the bottom of? The charge of willful exposure had
been dropped, apparently, and so why cling to this other
Simmer did appreciate the fact that the other detective
– the younger one – kept checking on him as
far as refreshment went. He attributed this to the fact
that he hadn’t been officially arrested for anything;
he was a “guest” for the moment.
At last, Wide Eyes opened the door and stood there.
Henry, you ready to go?”
Simmer didn’t move, not sure what the man meant.
Was he being released or was he going to a cell?
time to go,” the detective said. “You can
Simmer picked up his bag (it had been quickly searched
by the younger detective) and stepped out of the room
into the hallway. He felt like asking what had happened,
but decided to let the detective explain.
give you a ride back to where you were,” Wide Eyes
So he was going to be released, or so it seemed. Simmer
didn’t want to get too excited until he was dropped
off and saw the cop’s tail lights in the distance.
He couldn’t help but wonder if the questioning wasn’t
over. Were they up to some kind of trickery? Were they
taking him back to the store to go over things again?
No, that was just his tired mind working overtime. Wide
Eyes did indeed take him back to the store, and then he
retrieved Simmer’s bag from the trunk and handed
it to him.
reason I’m not arresting you, Henry, is that I sensed
some truth in what you told me. I’m not saying I
was completely convinced, but I did sense some truth there.”
I didn’t lie to you,” Simmer said.
weren’t bullshitting me about anything here tonight?”
Wide Eyes looked just as serious as he had back at the
station. This man’s lifework dealt with people in
trouble, and many who lied about circumstances and details,
no doubt. It was his job to ferret out the truth.
Yet in this case he had it. Simmer looked him right in
know you have a job to do,” Simmer said. “But
I just want you to know – man to man – that
I didn’t do anything wrong here tonight.”
And that was good enough for the detective.
you going to spend the night?” he asked, for it
was still drizzling.
Simmer pointed to an all night restaurant just down the
think I’ll sit in there and drink some coffee.”
The detective nodded his head, wished him a good night
and drove off. Simmer turned and looked at the employee
shelter that a few hours earlier had been the scene of
his trouble. If he wanted to he could have stretched out
on one of the benches and rested, but he wanted to get
away from the place.
Actually, he just went down the street, close to the ramp
he’d be standing on in the morning. He sat behind
a hair salon, on some newspaper, and slowly sipped his
vodka. At least they had left him that. He had the feeling
that he wouldn’t sleep much, if at all, in the coming
hours, and he was right.