Thursday, July 5, 2012


For the most part the police officers in the city where I worked were great students of the people of that place. And like all students greatness came through studying. Patrolling the city for hours a day, week in and week out, over the course of years, and in every season had given them a profound inner sense of the place. This was all at once touching in its familiarity and awesome in its precision. It was almost like if you had gathered the entire department around some new technology that allowed their collective observations to be be joined into one whole they would have represented something close to omniscience as far the affairs of the city were concerned.

I remember one day at shift change someone cracked a joke about a woman who we had often observed walking around the city. As a result of some unknown medical condition she walked as though she had a pebble in her shoe. We all called her "Pebblefoot." Despite the fact that none of us had ever talked with her personally, we all had some piece of intelligence on her, and this despite the fact that she had never been mentioned in our database as victim, offender, complainant, witness, person of interest, or otherwise. She did not even have a motor-vehicle record. One officer knew her given name, another knew where she lived, I volunteered where she worked. How I knew where she worked I couldn't recall. Someone else somehow knew that her brother was a mechanic in the next town, which was mildly ironic because Pebblefoot possessed neither car nor driver's license to take advantage of his services, and another offered that her dog had recently died. From there the conversation moved to various personal experiences with pets dying, and then on to the necessity of killing animals in the line of duty. As the conversation followed its rabbit trails I sat pondering our collective awareness of this obscure woman- "Pebblefoot."

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