Friday, June 20, 2008

The Meteor

In was August in South Dakota, burning hot, the day had given ground to the night but the heat was surrendering only grudgingly.  The dispatcher sent us to a report of a fight in progress in a small town called Soldier Creek.  We rolled into town from the south at a little after 1:00 AM and discovered most of the population out in the street, watching the show.  Two brothers, under the influence of Jack Daniels, heat, and rampant testosterone were locked in a wrestling match in the middle of the street.

We moved up on them slowly, night sticks in hand, calling out to them, trying to get them to stop and surrender peacefully.  One did.  The other jumped up and made a run for it.  Val cuffed the first while I chased the second.  It was a short chase, he ran about fifty feet, stumbled and fell, then realized he'd trapped himself in the corner of two tall wooden fences.  I stopped about thirty feet back, shook out my mace can, and waited for Val.

While I waited, the entire town gathered to watch the show.  I mean the entire town - everyone from the little babes in arms up through the old grandmothers and grandfathers.  Nothing like an audience to fill a man already full of liquid courage with the desire to perform for the crowd.  Val came up alongside of me and we talked briefly with bowed heads and then moved out to come at him from two directions.  The plan was simple, as we neared, sooner of later he would have to turn and face one of us.  Whoever he faced would mace him, and the one behind him would night stick him on the knees and we would take him down, hopefully without anyone getting too seriously hurt.

We closed in slowly, like we were approaching a skittish horse.  Half of the crowd was cheering him on to fight us, then other half was telling him to surrender.  With the heat, it had the potential to spill over into other fights.  When I was close enough I started talking to him in a low voice, trying to talk him down, trying to talk him out of fighting, but I could see by the wild look in his eyes that he was going to go down swinging.  I could see the physics lining up, the tensing, the coiling, and I was half a breath away from macing him when suddenly there was this loud crackling noise and a brilliant red light, bright enough to cast shadows, swept through the night sky to the south.

Everyone stopped.

Everyone turned to lookat the meteor as it sizzled through the sky.  It took a full minute at least to chart its fiery course against the velvet darkness of the sky.  As it faded, Val took him by one elbow, I took him by the other, and we eased him against the fence and handcuffed him without a fight.  All told, I think the sight was so awesome, so awe inspiring, so humbling that whatever fight had be raging inside of him just simply...left.  We walked him up to the car, slipped him into the back seat with his brother, and belted him in.  They both began talking excitedly about the meteor. The whole town, assembled there in the street, minutes away from being a mob, was laughing and joking and pointing and describing.  Hands were moving through the air describing the arc of the meteor. Voices were raised in imitations of the crackling sound.  Children were running up and down the street jumping up and down.  The elders were clustered together remembering other meteors.

Val and I slipped back into the car, backed up the street, turned around and drove back toward Rosebud.  The brothers in the back seat were asking us questions about meteors, even as the headed off for a night in jail.  I was glad at least one call had ended without the realization of the promise of violence.

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