Good Intentions

I told the cop I was just out for a stroll. "Okay, I'm sorry," I said. "I shouldn't be on the streets in my condition. Now, would you please take me home?"

The cop said it didn't work that way. He took me downtown. They put me in a cell. They took all my money except a quarter, which was for a phone call. I sat down on a bench. I had all my phone numbers in a book at home. I knew my mother's number, but I couldn't call her. My ex-wife? No, her boyfriend might answer, and I didn't want to talk to him.

I know. I'll raise a ruckus. I'll tell them who I am. They'll have to let me go. I told them I worked for the college. I told them I was a tax-payer. They weren't impressed. One of the cops told me to sit down and shut up.

They fingerprinted me. They took a picture of my mug--front and side view. I asked to see my lawyer, but I was just bluffing. I didn't have a lawyer. Where were my friends when I needed them? If only I could remember Ben or Teddy's number.

Back in the cell, I grabbed the bars. "I have to pee," I yelled. A deputy took me by the arm and brought me downstairs. He put in a cell by myself. "Go to sleep," he said. The cell was completely empty. No cot, no wash basin. There was a hole in the floor to piss in.

"Hey," somebody said. My cell was like a box. The bars were on one side only. The person who had called out was in the cell next to me, but I couldn't see him. He asked what I was in for. I told him. I asked what he was in for. Vehicular manslaughter, he said.

Good grief! I was cheek to jowl with hardened criminals.

Actually the Invisible Man seemed like a pretty decent guy. We had a nice conversation. I asked him who was making all the racket. It was coming from someplace a ways away. I said it sounded like a party. It was a party, he said. "In here?" I asked. "Oh, sure," he said. "You can get anything you want in jail. Booze, dope, you name it."

I lay down on the floor and thought about it. Now what? Would there be a trial? Was I in for life? Thinking these and other cheery thoughts, I fell asleep.

In the morning, they let me loose. The cop who took me downstairs said he didn't want to see me around there anymore. I took it as a threat. I vowed then and there to give up drinking, and ten years later, I did.


- Jack Swenson