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Morning parade.

Smiling faces.

Squealing children.

Marching bands.

 

Turkey.

Pumpkin pie.

Eggnog.

Football.

 

Pistol. Badge. Vest.

Kiss the kids, please.

And save a drumstick for me.

I’m almost home.

 

Family.

Traveling.

Traffic.

Bumper-to-bumper.

Smiling faces.

Squealing children.

Grandma’s cooking.

Turkey.

 

Yams.

Pumpkin pie.

Crackling fire.

Football.

 

Kevlar. Radios. Sirens.

Kiss the kids, please.

And save a drumstick for me.

I’m almost home.

 

Drunk drivers.

Speeding drivers.

Texting drivers.

Careless drivers.

 

Aggressive drivers.

Sleepy drivers.

Depressed drivers.

Distracted drivers.

 

Reckless drivers.

Road rage.

Horrible crash.

An entire family …

 

Gone.

 

Tangled metal.

Little ones.

Mother and father.

A teddy bear.

 

A doll and a plastic truck.

Those poor children.

They’ll never go home again.

Yes, save a drumstick.

 

Hug our kids.

Tell them I love them.

I’ll be home,

Later.

 

10-4.

Send the coroner.

Five victims.

No rush.

 

I’ll stand by.

Nothing I can do.

Those poor children.

No turkey.

 

No pumpkin pie.

No football.

Never again.

They were almost home.

Almost home …

 

Graveyard Shift … 0246 hours

Thanksgiving Eve.

Weather … clear/full moon

Location … Abandoned factory Hwy 666

Victim … Unknown/TBD

Suspect … Unknown/TBD

“Caller reports seeing light, possibly flashlights, inside the abandoned factory on Hwy 666.”

“10-4. I’ll check it out.”

Radio crackles.

“I’m close, 2012. I’ll meet you there.”

“10-4, 2027.”

Cracked asphalt drive.

Tall weeds pushing through jagged openings.

Brick consumed by vegetation.

Still air.

Owl hoots in distance.

Rats scurry through honeysuckle.

Lopsided door. One rusty hinge.

Concrete floor.

Broken glass.

Fallen wood and metal.

Office.

More glass. Shattered.

A hallway to the right.

Breakroom.

Spider webs.

A painted sign.

SHIPPING and RECEIVING

Double doors on left.

Machinery.

Tall, and short.

Fat, and skinny.

Steel dinosaurs.

Rust and oil stains.

Mouse on metal table.

Roaches, the size of gumdrops.

Flashlight in the distance, beneath a closed door.

Quiet.

Eerie.

Guns pointed.

Slowly.

Shards of glass.

Crunching and cracking beneath shiny shoes.

Stop.

Listening.

Light, unmoving.

Ease forward.

Water drips from above.

Plop … plop … plop.

Owl hoots.

Flashlight, closer.

Heart, pounding.

Sweat on forehead.

Open doorway.

Storeroom.

I to the right.

He to the left.

“Police!”

Nothing.

Owl hoots.

Closer.

Light, a yellow triangle across floor.

“Police!”

Silence.

Water dripping. Rats scurrying. Owl hooting.

Heart, beating like a drum.

Far away train whistle.

A man.

Overturned chair.

Dirt floor.

Dress shirt.

Jeans.

Tennis shoes.

Flashlight.

Paper.

“I love you, dear wife. ”

“I’m sorry I failed you and our beautiful little girls.”

“Tell them I love them too.”

“This is the only way.”

“Always remember the good days.”

0342 hours.

Cause of death … possible suicide.

Weapon … shotgun.

Victim … unknown due to extent of injuries.

Next of kin … a wife and daughters … somewhere.

Owl hoots.


*Images by Maryland photographer Sunday Kaminski.

Our Thanksgiving trip south took us through the Harbor Tunnel in the Crab Cake Capitol of the World, Baltimore, Maryland (aka Bodymore, Murderland), and Washington D.C.

On the drive past D.C., the Washington Monument was slightly visible on the horizon. On the way back we were so close to it that we could almost count its bricks. As we drove through the area at a snail’s pace, I told Denene that I hoped the bumper-to-bumper barely moving traffic traveling in the opposite direction would ease up before our return trip. It did not.

By the way, in July of this year, the murder rate in Washington D.C. was up approximately 50%. Included in the 90 murdered at the midway part of the year was 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson, who was shot and killed in a quintuple shooting in Northeast D.C

Then came Northern Virginia where traffic moves at snail’s pace on a good day. But hey, the Commonwealth still boasts it’s for lovers. Tell that to the families of the victims killed in a state that can claim one of the highest murder rates in the country, per capita. In fact, in the 1990s, Richmond found its way to being ranked number two in the nation. As far back as 2012, there was a a 1 in 23 chance of being the victim of a crime if you lived in the city of Fredericksburg, Va.

I remember having to step across blood-soaked sidewalks to question suspects and witnesses in one Richmond housing complex. In fact, to simply question a man who had information about a stolen tractor trailer, well, we went in deep—several police officers and a K-9 unit just to be certain I’d make it to the front door and back. And that was in the middle of the day on a weekday. Weekends were worse, especially at night.

Anyway, next came our wonderful visit with family members. This Thanksgiving was the first opportunity in a long, long time that Denene and I had been together with all members of our immediate families. And, as many of you know, we have a lot to be thankful for this year.

While in the south we were reminded of things we’d left behind, such as cotton fields that stretched as far as the eyes could see.

And there were the BBQ restaurants featuring buffets piled high with black-eyed peas and stewed tomatoes, pigs feet and fatback, chicken livers, collard greens, homemade rolls and biscuits, and gallons of sweet tea.

On Thanksgiving day, among many other dishes, we feasted on smoked and fried turkey, corn fresh from the family farm, sweet potato casserole, country ham, and even homemade corn pudding, and a delicious chocolate chess pie baked by our daughter Ellen.

Since I’m not able to handle a lot of movement due to my failing and extremely painful hip joint (surgery is scheduled for January 3rd), my mother-in-law’s home was the center of all activity. My brother and his wife and Ellen and her family all visited with us there, in addition to Denene’s brothers’ families that now include several little ones (I received my very first lesson on how to make homemade “Slime” from a cute 7-year-old).

I cannot begin describe the intense warmness I felt in my heart when I saw both my mother-in-law and our daughter, two people who’ve faced terrific battles with cancer over the past year. And to have them prepare food for us and to see their smiles and to hear their laughter was nothing short of the miracle for which we’d all prayed.

Then came the time for our trip to end so we loaded the vehicle and made our way back through Richmond and Washington and Baltimore. The weather during the drive back was  not at all good. Raindrops the size of garden peas pelted and drilled at our vehicle the entire trip. Visibility was poor and for well over two solid hours we crawled along at no more than 20 mph.
There was a sea of brake lights in front and sea of headlights to the rear.

But we made it home safely. We even made it through Richmond, D.C., and Baltimore without seeing the first sign of gunfire.

Not a single bullet hole in our vehicle.